As a home inspector I help buyers look through the house they want to buy.
But who’s helping the seller?
Of course the seller’s real estate agent is helping, and maybe the seller has used a stager to decorate better and make the home look more enticing. But generally nobody is helping the seller with the technical aspects of selling a home and getting it ready for an inspection. So here are some thoughts and ideas on how to prepare your home for its inspection. Of course it would be a great idea (if not necessarily cost effective) to fix all of the problems, but these are things that a seller can do easily to get the house ready.
One of the most important things that I’m looking for is any type of water flow problem. There’s not much a seller can do to easily improve water flow, but it is usually easy to improve how your sinks drain. So check each drain (sink, bathtub, shower) to make sure that water drains out faster than it fills up. When I see a clogged drain it makes me think that the seller doesn’t take care of routine maintenance issues, and that’s a check against the house. Most slow drains are caused by hair, and there are many simple devices that allow you to pull hair and other gunk out of a drain. Don’t use any type of liquid drain cleaner, as these chemicals can cause harm to an inspector coming by later.
Just before you leave the house before the inspection you should run hot water at all the sinks, tubs, and showers. This is a little sneaky, but if it takes a long time for hot water to arrive at a sink or shower that can bother a buyer and make them think twice about the house. So prime all the fixtures with hot water to try to avoid this problem.
Don’t store a bucket under a sink so that it looks like the bucket is there to catch a leak. This always makes me think that the seller has something to hide.
If you have more than one thermostat then you should label them with their purpose. For example, in my house I have three thermostats: two of them control the heat in different parts of the house and one controls the AC, which only covers part of the house. Sometimes it takes me quite a bit of effort to determine during an inspection what each of the thermostats does. It takes a lot back-and-forth and up-and-down the stairs. This usually annoys me, and so I’m more likely to make a big deal out of a small problem. Adding labels to the thermostats not only helps the inspector and the buyer but it also makes the inspector think that the seller is knowledgeable about the house, which is always a good sign.
As the seller you should clear the way for the inspector to get into the attic. Sometimes there’s nothing to do in that regard, but if, for example, the access to the attic is through a ceiling hatch in a closet then you should clear out the closet and the shelves. As an inspector, I’m going to look in the attic. It’s an extremely important part of the inspection. I don’t want to move the seller’s personal items in order to get to the attic, but if I have to I will. And I try hard to be very gentle with the seller’s items, but accidents happen. And I’m also not making any promises about putting things back in the correct place (although I try hard to do that). Moving your own personal items to make way for the inspector is a courtesy that you should extend. Once again, when this is done it’s a good sign that the seller is knowledgeable about the house and wants me to see everything. I appreciate that and it makes the whole process go more smoothly.
You should put soap in the dishwasher if there are any dishes in it. I’m going to run the dishwasher, so you might as well make it worthwhile.
You should remove anything from the clothes washing machine. I’m going to run that too, and I don’t want anything in there when I do, so I’ll just grab your unmentionables and dump them on the floor. I don’t like doing this and the seller probably doesn’t like it either, but I need to test the washing machine for my client. Or, if you want me to run a particular cycle, then load the detergent and leave a note telling me which cycle to run.
Replace any burned-out lightbulbs. It’s awkward if the inspector doesn’t know if the circuit is bad or if it’s just a burned out bulb. And most inspectors aren’t going to give the seller the benefit of the doubt, leaving the buyer and the seller to argue about whether the light really works. And if it’s not clearly obvious, labeling the light switches is a good idea too. Plus, in some rooms the light switch controls a receptacle outlet instead of an installed light fixture. If this is the case you should make it clear which receptacle outlet the switch controls. Again, the inspector isn’t going to give the seller the benefit of the doubt, and so the seller should make it clear in order to avoid confusion and a lot of back-and-forth questions.
If you haven’t done so lately you should replace the filter on your forced air HVAC system. An older and dirty filter is a sign that the seller doesn’t take good care of the house and isn’t attentive to doing the maintenance needed to keep the house in good condition. And that’s another strike against the house.