Real Estate Today

House inspections for buyers and sellers

Don’t scare off prospective buyers with simple mistakes

Now that you’ve made the decision to move and have found a realty agent to sell your home, there are many steps to follow in preparing your home for sale.

A pest and termite inspection is not one of the more exciting tasks involved with moving. In fact, preparing for an inspection may never have crossed your mind. Aren’t you paying an inspector to rummage around through the mountains of stuff in your basement, attic and under your sinks and go where no one else dares? Well no, actually you aren’t.

What you are paying for is an inspector to inspect what he can see. Your home inspector won’t move boxes, piles of old lumber or fire wood, bikes, ski equipment, exercise equipment, or any of the thousands of other things homeowners store in their basements and garages. An inspector needs clear access to the interior and exterior walls, wood framing, and foundation of a building to do his job.

It may feel like a herculean task to liberate the area around the walls and foundation of your home, but there is no point in having an inspection where the report repeatedly states “area inaccessible.” When buyers see “area inaccessible” on a report, they inevitably ask why everything wasn’t inspected. Buyers immediately begin wondering what could be wrong. The unknown is far more damaging than the known in the
sale of a home.

Even if your basement or attic is not full, it will still benefit from some buffing up. The average homeowner does not spend time dusting in the basement – most people find it more than enough work to keep their living areas clean. The bottom line here is that all sellers need to spend some time improving the areas that a home inspector will investigate. Here are some small yet important jobs that will make a home inspection go more smoothly and impress buyers with the care you put into the maintenance
of your home:

  • Make a clear path around the walls and wood supports of your house.
  • Don’t just sweep the garage or basement; vacuum it from floor to ceiling, and be sure to find the cobwebs in the windows, doors and corners. The basement or attic of just about any home will have a cobweb or two, but there is no reason to cause a buyer to wonder if there is a spider problem in the home or neighborhood.
  • Replace missing light bulbs and, if possible, remove that electric cord hanging on a hook with an extra light in the basement or attic. Odd electric cords always start a buyer wondering about fire hazards and whether there is enough electricity available in the home. It is quite inexpensive to replace these with battery-operated fixtures.
  • Replace furnace filters. This gives everyone the sense that you are on top of simple maintenance items and buyers will feel secure in the home. Just imagine what you would think if a report said, “Furnace filter needs replacement, long overdue.” Wouldn’t you immediately wonder what other deferred maintenance is in the home?

Sellers need to keep in mind that most buyers will include a contractor’s inspection as well as a pest and termite inspection contingency in their offer. The benefits of a seller’s initial clean-up effort will be extended to buyers and other inspectors as they view the home.

The Buyer’s Turn

Buyers have a different task when it comes to home inspections. Finally, the prize of home ownership is within reach, and it is time to jump the last major hurdle. Buyers must be on their toes looking at the details when it is time for a home inspection. First-time homebuyers are always nervous and say they wish they
knew more.

When a buyer arranges for a home inspection, the inspector is there to do more than just ferret out dry rot, termites, and whether the water heater is properly strapped. This is the time for buyers to ask questions. Good inspectors are used to walking through homes, pointing out issues, and explaining whether they feel a situation is serious and whether it needs to be fixed immediately
or can wait.

The best state of mind at a home inspection is to think like a kindergartener, because in terms of inspecting homes, you are. You are paying for the inspection, so be inquisitive and ask questions until you don’t have any more to ask.

Once the inspection is complete and you have a report in hand, you can always call the inspector and ask for further explanation if there is a point you
don’t understand.

As a buyer, once all inspections are complete and you are satisfied with the results, it is time to sign off on contingencies and hold your breath for a couple of weeks until escrow closes and your new adventure as a homeowner begins.

Carole Isaacs is a Realtor with McGuire Real Estate (Lombard, Bluxome and Noe Valley offices), photographer and lover of all things San Francisco. Visit her online at or call 415-608-1267.
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