West Chester realtor Gregg Sutter

When a Home Inspection Could Threaten the Sale

As the housing market is booming, more buyers and sellers are getting familiar with one of the most nerve-racking rituals in real estate: the home inspection.

An inspection, which usually occurs after a buyer has made an offer, is an objective analysis of a home’s condition. Twenty years ago, 75% of purchased homes were inspected; today, it’s 95%, according to Bill Loden, president of the American Society of Home Inspectors, a Des Plaines, Ill.-based industry trade group.

Inspections aren’t a big financial burden: A review of a 2,000 square foot home typically costs around $500, with the buyer footing the bill. What can make an inspection so stressful is that a long list of trouble signs, without proper explanation, can sabotage a deal. Real estate pros complain that some inspectors themselves are overzealous. Many of the nation’s 25,000 inspectors used to work in construction, or still do, and their expertise can lead them to bombard buyers with encyclopedic lists of minor problems.

What a Home Inspection Doesn’t Tell You

A home inspection should be an objective analysis of the condition of a home that hopefully minimizes surprises or big repair bills for both sides down the line. A thorough pro will look at the foundation and the framing to make sure nothing is cracked, warped or rotting, and examine the roof for problems with shingles and gutters. Inspectors should also look for plumbing leaks and make sure the water heater, wiring, heating systems and fireplaces are safe.

So what constitutes going too far? A less helpful inspector might dwell on things like surface mold, chipped paint or other superficial problems, or present buyers with a long litany of issues, with no context about their relative importance and no estimate of the cost of fixing them.

The trick is finding an inspector who can relay the critical information and put it in context, says Dave Moersen, of HomeCheck Home Inspectors in Gaithersburg, Md., who’s a veteran of over 4,500 home inspections. “I used to think this job was 95% technical knowledge and 5% communication, but now I think it’s the other way around,” says Moersen. “Homeowners just want answers.”

Bohdan Mastykaz, a Redfin real-estate agent in Miami, says the best inspectors take pictures and include them in their report to the buyer: “Pictures make everything black and white, and it’s far less subjective that way.”

How to Prepare

First and foremost, no home is 100% perfect, even when it is newly constructed. There will always be something to furrow your brow at. Most prospective home buyers know this going in. However, as a home seller, there are things you can do to help the process.

  • Check All Plumbing – Run water in every place and make sure everything is draining well.
  • Clear the Clutter – If the inspector can’t get into an area, they will mark it as “uninspectable”, which will prolong the process and/or make prospective buyers skeptical.
  • Organize & Display all Receipts – Make a list of all major improvements you have made ever since your purchase and gather the receipts so they are all in order and easy to show.
  • Trim Trees Away from the House – Trim tree branches that are hanging over or touching the roof. Roof damage or rodent intrusion can be a possibility when access is easy.
  • Repair Windows & Screens – You don’t have to get a new install, but repair any broken windows or screens.
  • Replace HVAC Filters – Dirty filters will raise a red flag.
  • Slope Dirt Away from the Foundation – This is one of the biggest things inspectors look for when it comes to the foundation. Don’t give them a reason to expect water intrusion.

Bottom Line

Home inspections can be stressful, but they are not the end of the line. If something bad comes up there is always the possibility of negotiation. If they walk away, you’ll have a better idea of what to do for the next one. Take it in stride, but be prepared! One of the best ways of being prepared is having a great real estate agent. Gregg Sutter has been a great resource in helping sell homes in the Greater Cincinnati area for over 45 years. He knows the process inside and out. Contact Gregg today to get your home sold tomorrow!