An integral part of the home-sale process is preparing your home for inspection. Getting your home inspected before it has been listed for sale, known as a pre-listing home inspection (usually paid for by the seller), can help expedite your sale as any problems can be addressed prior to closing.
There are several ways homeowners can help their inspections go more smoothly.
For starters, says John Fryer, owner of Fryer Consulting, a home inspection company in Oakland, Calif., disclose your home’s issues. “Whatever is wrong with your house will be found out anyway,” he says. “If you disclose [problems] in advance and provide potential buyers with an inspector’s report, it can go a long way to diffuse anxiety and help the transaction go through.”
#1. Go away and take your kids and pets with you
“It’s best for the sellers not to be present because the buyers and the inspector will be more comfortable and can speak with more candor,” says Fryer. “It’s best not to have dogs around, especially if they’re aggressive.”
Leopold suggests leaving an hour before the inspection appointment since many inspectors arrive early to get ready for the homebuyers.
2. Remove the clutter
“It’s frustrating not to have good access to electric panels, so move your boxes or your clothes or other belongings out of the way so the inspector can get to it,” says Fryer. “We also need access to your heating and cooling system, any place with mechanical equipment, so move anything that blocks that access.”
Also, Fryer suggests cleaning out the space beneath your bathroom and kitchen sinks because an inspector will need to check there for leaks and moisture damage.
3. Empty your appliances
Make sure there’s nothing in the washing machine, dryer, dishwasher or stove, says David Leopold, owner of Pillar to Post Home Inspection in Fairfield, Conn. No inspector wants to touch your family’s underwear and socks and you don’t want to have your smoke alarm go off when the inspector tests your stove, he says.
4. Provide attic access
“If you want to be your home inspector’s new best friend, set up a ladder to the attic,” says Brian Koepf, founder of Gatekeeper Inspections in Leesburg, Va. “In one place the attic access was through the garage, but a car was parked directly below the hatch so we had to contact the seller to come home and move it.”
5. Unlock your doors
After letting the inspector inside, Fryer recommends unlocking any gates and doors to a garage, shed or crawl space. An inspector needs to have access to everything on the property.
6. Disclose your home’s flaws
Fryer says sellers should disclose any issues they’re aware of in their home, such as a leak or an air conditioner that only works intermittently.
“Don’t imagine that people will react strongly to a flaw in your home,” says Leopold. “It’s better to disclose everything upfront so you avoid surprising the buyers. They react more negatively if you’ve kept something secret.”
Leopold suggests leaving a note if something isn’t working but you intend to have it fixed. Better yet, have everything fixed before the inspection, he says.
7. Provide documentation of repairs and maintenance
If you’ve had something repaired or regularly maintained, put the receipts in a binder or a folder so the inspector can see it, says Koepf. Insurance claim reports are also helpful if you had storm damage that’s been repaired.
“If you’ve had an engineer inspect a crack in your foundation and there’s nothing wrong with your structure, display that report so the home inspector doesn’t have to be concerned about the crack,” he says.
8. Check your light bulbs
“If a light bulb is out I have to report that and I don’t know if it indicates a wiring problem or just a burned out bulb,” says Fryer.
9. Don’t make more work for the inspector
“A seller recently left an entire set of weights in front of the attic access, so before I could get into the attic I had to move 200 pounds of weights,” says Leopold. “As a seller, you want the inspector to be in a good mood.”
A neat and accessible home can result in a more favorable impression for the inspector which could help your home sell a lot faster.
The Importance of Using an Agent When Selling Your Home
When a homeowner decides to sell their house, they obviously want the best possible price with the least amount of hassles. However, for the vast majority of sellers, the most important result is to actually get the home sold.
In order to accomplish all three goals, a seller should realize the importance of using a real estate professional. We realize that technology has changed the purchaser’s behavior during the home buying process. Today, 92% of all buyers use the internet in their home search according to the National Association of Realtors’ 2013 Profile of Home Buyers & Sellers.
However, the report also revealed that 96% percent of buyers that used the internet when searching for a home purchased their home through either a real estate agent/broker or from a builder or builder’s agent. Only 2% purchased their home directly from a seller whom the buyer didn’t know. Buyers search for a home online but then depend on the agent to find the actual home they will buy (52%) or to help them handle the paperwork (24%) or understand the process (24%).
It is true that the percentage of buyers that are using the internet to search for homes and information on the home buying process has increased dramatically over the last decade. But the plethora of information now available has also resulted in an increase in the percentage of buyers that reach out to real estate professionals to “connect the dots”. This is obvious as the percentage of overall buyers who used an agent to buy their home has steadily increased from 69% in 2001.
If you are thinking of selling your home, don’t underestimate the role a real estate professional can play in the process.
When a home seller tells me she would rather not have a lockbox on her home, I get a feeling of dread. It’s not because no lockbox means fewer showings, which it does, but because I suspect that trouble lies ahead. Sellers talking to buyers and buyer’s agents almost always spells trouble.
Sellers are apt to say the wrong thing. Buyer’s agents are trained to gather information and use it against the seller. Agents who are REALTORS® are not allowed to talk to the seller in a manner that would be deemed unethical or as interference. Not every agent is a REALTOR®. However, even an innocent question could turn into a complicated answer, some of which could affect the seller in a bad way.
Types of Questions a Seller Should Not Talk About With a Buyer
Sellers never think they are saying anything that could come back to bite them. They want to be friendly and informative and helpful. I can tell them to keep their mouths shut but it doesn’t do any good. Instead, I suggest they say,“Please discuss that with my agent,” as a way to defuse and deflect questions. They can also let the buyer and the buyer’s agent know that they are not being impolite but their listing agent has advised them to not answer any questions, whatsoever.
Here are questions that can cause problems in a transaction if the seller talks to the buyer about them:
- How long have you lived in the house?If you’ve lived in the home for only a few years, the buyers might think you’re selling because the home isn’t what you thought it would be when you bought it; that something is wrong with it. If you’ve lived in the home for a long time, buyers think you have so much equity that you don’t know what to do with it.
- How many offers have you received?If you have received a lot of offers and your home is not sold, buyers will wonder if there is something wrong. If you haven’t received any offers, they will also think there is something wrong. You don’t win anything by answering this question.
- How much was your highest offer?Hey, if you never ask, nobody ever tells you. That’s the thinking behind this question. Sometimes, it is slipped in so quickly that a seller will respond without realizing it. You don’t ever want to show your hand.
- How fast do you need to move?If you tell the buyer that your wife has been transferred out-of-state and you wished you had sold last month, you are telling the buyer that you are desperate for an offer. Desperate sellers get lowball offers.
- Where are you moving?If you’re moving to a less expensive community, buyers will think they don’t have to pay your list price because they might decide you don’t need it. If you’re moving to a higher priced area, buyers might be afraid to make an offer because they worry it won’t meet your net requirements.
- Why are you selling?If you answer this question, you may as well stencil on your forehead write a lowball offer. Even joking about it and saying, to make piles of money can backfire. Agents and buyers will judge you on this question and try to use the information against you. Just don’t answer it.
- What are your neighbors like?People are judgmental. Don’t give a buyer a reason to eliminate your home from their list of possibilities. If they want to know about the neighbors, let them talk to the neighbors without your input. Unless there is something about your neighbors that make them a material fact, a reason not to buy, don’t talk about them. If you say they are wonderful and the buyer later believes that to be a false statement, they might sue you.
- How much do you owe?Whether you have a mortgage, how much is owed on your mortgage, is really nobody’s business but yours and your agent’s. Unless the mortgage balance turns your sale into a short sale, it’s not important and is insignificant to the transaction.
- What kind of repairs have you made to the house?Many seller disclosure documents discuss repairs. There is no reason to discuss them prior to an offer. Sellers often remember repairs as costing more than the repairs really cost. In many cases, the cost of a repair does not add much to the value of the home. You don’t want a buyer to wonder if your home is falling apart.
This is why sellers should not be home when a buyer comes through to tour. Not only does a seller’s absence allow the buyer privacy and time to consider the home as her own — which she can’t do if a seller is present during the showing — but it prevents the buyer from talking to the seller. It also stops the buyers’ agent from talking to the seller.
Let your agent talk to the buyer’s agent. That’s why you have hired an agent to represent you. Let your agent do his or her job, and you’ll be a lot happier at closing.