No matter how much buyers love your property, a home inspection that reveals significant problems can turn them off. They may even be allowed to walk away from the sale if they have a contingency clause in place!
Because so much rides on a successful home inspection—that is, one that doesn't reveal issues with your home's major systems and physical structure—many experts recommend you have an inspection performed before even putting your home on the market.
“Hiring a licensed inspector to perform a prelisting inspection may identify any surprise issues you don't know about which could delay your closing date or, worse, cause your buyer to walk away,” says Taylor Willson, a licensed inspector at Willson Home Inspection in Tampa, FL.
But don't sweat it if a prelisting inspection is not in the cards. The most useful thing you can do to help your chances of having a successful home inspection is to focus on these five key areas.
Home inspectors will definitely check the heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) system—and for good reason.
“One of the most common concerns of home buyers is the HVAC," says Willson. If it's not working properly, an HVAC system can be very costly to repair or replace.
The average HVAC system's life span is about 15 years, says Richard Ciresi, owner of HVAC company Aire Serv in Louisville, KY. If it’s older than that, he says it should probably be repaired or replaced, especially if it appears damaged or there are performance issues.
“If you notice temperature differences, stuffiness, or drafts, there could be something wrong with the HVAC equipment, ductwork, or insulation levels,” Ciresi says.
Flickering or dimming lights could indicate your electrical system is not working properly, according to Don Russell, owner of Mr. Electric in Thornton, CO. This could be a poor connection that could lead to sparking, overheating, or even fire.
Russell says your electrical to-do list should include having any outlets in the kitchen that are within 6 feet of water converted to ground-fault circuit interrupter outlets.
"These outlets need to be outside, in bathrooms above sinks, and in the garage," he says.
“Many older homes have two-prong outlets, which are a safety hazard. This is an easy repair that can be done by an electrician,” Russell says. “Also, ensure your outside GFCI outlets have covers on them, since this is a requirement as well. Outlet swaps and updates to current code standards are a must.”
When home inspectors look at your roof, they’re inspecting everything from your roofing material to your gutters, vents, and downspouts. They’re also looking at the roof’s structure and the chimney. If there are any signs of cracks and leaks, or shingles have blown off, this will be problematic.
“If you have an older roof, I would recommend having a professional check it thoroughly in advance,” says Willson. “A small opening in a flashing or a portion of deteriorated caulk can be easily dealt with before turning into a leak—and once you have a leak, the inspector may be concerned that you have mold.”
The presence of mold can be a deal breaker and send buyers walking. To make sure you don't have any major problems on your hands, consider asking a mold inspector to take a look before your official home inspection.
“Hiring a mold inspector in advance can help you identify and remove any dangerous mold, and bypass the extra costs associated with structural repairs of your home,” says John Ward, account executive and mold remediation expert at Mold Busters.
He says the inspector should examine the whole area of concern; measure temperature, humidity, and moisture levels; perform a particle scan; locate a potential moisture source; perform a mold test if needed; evaluate the extent of contamination; and develop a removal strategy if necessary.
5. Windows and doors
Don't let those big-ticket items overshadow the simple home components that could prove problematic during a home inspection. A great example are your home's windows and doors.
During their review of the windows and doors, home inspectors will be looking for operability and defects, according to J.B. Sassano, president of Mr. Handyman, a remodeling services franchise business.
“Natural light, dust, and debris near the bottom of the door, or feeling a draft, are simple indicators you have a leak,” he says. “Ensure the caulking is in good repair, and (if necessary) add weatherstripping and door sweeps to provide extra insulation."