A home inspection is traditionally known as a part of the due diligence process when a home is under contract with an intended buyer. A professional home inspector will visit the home and conduct a thorough review of the structure, noting any deferred maintenance, defects in the building and the remaining useful life of major appliances and systems such as the air conditioner and water heater.
Depending on what the inspector finds, the results can have a powerful impact on the sale of the house. The buyer can ask for repairs or updates to be made, try negotiating on the sale price or walk away from the deal.
To avoid the unpleasant surprises a home inspection may bring to light, homeowners looking to put their house on the market can opt for a prelisting home inspection, which provides sellers with a thorough report before the home goes on the market. Sellers have the opportunity to make necessary repairs before potential buyers start touring the property and to avoid a deal that falls through due to structural or maintenance problems that could lead to other potential buyers steering clear of a property that has issues.
"The homeowners would do the same diligence as if they were going to buy the house," says Frank Lesh, executive director of the American Society of Home Inspectors.
A prelisting inspection costs the same as one conducted while a property is under contract – ranging between $200 and $475, according to HomeAdvisor, depending on location and whether the inspection includes special checks like those for radon or termites.
Even in a hot real estate market where buyers are snapping up available homes quickly, a prelisting inspection can help reduce the chances a deal could fall through and get you closer to selling your home for the price you want in the time frame you need. Here are five reasons you should consider a prelisting home inspection before putting your house on the market.
Advance notice. Every house comes with its fair share of quirks and problems, and you're probably at least vaguely aware of a few of them – a window that lets water in when it rains or bowing floorboards in one corner of the dining room, for example. If you're planning to put your property on the market, an inspection report ahead of time will help you see all the potential problems together, including some you may not have known about.
The prelisting inspection gives you the knowledge to do with it what you will – make repairs or updates or reflect any deferred maintenance in your sale price, explains Drew White, founder and owner of AmPro Inspections in Colorado Springs, Colorado. "[Sellers] have all the cards – they're not going to be blindsided by any major finds from the buyer's inspection," he says.
There is a caveat: Once you have the report in your hands, you can't completely ignore a problem. If your inspector finds cracks in the foundation, you'll be required to disclose that information as a known defect to the buyer, or fix it before anyone puts an offer in.
"You know the old saying, 'Ignorance is bliss?' Now you can't do that," Lesh says.
DIY option. For simple repairs, however, the prelisting inspection gives you the added benefit of being able to take on projects yourself. When negotiating with a buyer, necessary repairs will typically require you to bring in professionals for all work done, even when the fixes are simple.
"There's a lot of do-it-yourself projects that the homeowner can do where it's satisfactory, it's not going to be an issue," White says. "If the buyer's inspector finds it – let's say there's an electrical outlet that needs to be replaced or some simple plumbing – they're going to typically mandate that a professional electrician or plumber do it."
An outlet replacement or tightening a washer on a faucet – both simple projects homeowners can do – could be a couple hundred dollars for a pro to complete, White says.
Contractor of choice. For those bigger projects that do require professionals to come out, time is also on your side when your home isn't yet on the market. "They get time to use the contractors they want," White says.
Rather than needing to find a roofer in a specific time frame to appease the buyer, you can shop around for the right price, availability and skill to ensure you're satisfied with the work.
Informed pricing. Of course, there are some projects you're just not willing to take on. If you can't afford to fix a foundation issue with your house or you don't want to invest the money to replace cracked tile in a bathroom when you know a buyer will completely renovate it anyway, you don't necessarily have to take care of the repairs. Instead, "that can be reflected in the price," Lesh says.
Work with your real estate agent to establish the right sale price, taking into account whatever issues you can't – or aren't willing to – fix before putting the house on the market. Your final sale price will be lower, but it may be better than paying for repairs that won't be fully recouped by a buyer's offer.
Buyer may accept results. The fact that your house has already had an inspection can have its own appeal for buyers and can serve as a plus if included in marketing descriptions of the house. Especially in a tight seller's market where buyers have to fiercely compete with each other, you may see more buyers willing to accept the prelisting inspection report and forgo an additional inspection during the due diligence period, moving the process along faster.
Some home inspectors provide a warranty with their inspection reports. AmPro Inspections is one such company, White says, which helps some buyers feel more comfortable because the warranty can be transferred to the next owner. He says homebuyers accept the prelisting inspection roughly 50 percent of the time.
That doesn't mean you can expect buyers to accept the prelisting report as the only inspection. It's like buying a used car from a private individual, Lesh says. While the seller's mechanic may say the car is in great shape, you'll likely want a mechanic you trust to look at it, too.
Plus, if any significant amount of time passes between that first inspection and the buyer's offer, more problems could have popped up, especially in winter, Lesh says: "Are the conditions going to be the same in April as they are in January? Probably not."
Be ready for things to go wrong.
No one loves shelling out money for unexpected expenses, but sometimes that seems like a rite of passage in homeownership. “Most of the time, the unhappy surprises are simply due to people being unaware of the things that can crop up,” says Brad Hunter, chief economist for HomeAdvisor. First-time homebuyers in particular may not know what to expect after closing on a home, and there’s nothing worse than developing buyer’s remorse about one of the largest investments you’ll ever make. Here are eight headaches to prepare for if you’re looking to purchase a house.A suddenly less-than-desirable location
A suddenly less-than-desirable location
Buying a house across the street from a high school didn’t seem like such a bad idea when you saw how nicely renovated it was. But when you don’t have kids and Friday night football games are keeping you up later than you would like, you realize you should have made a pros-and-cons list regarding the location. Don’t let a charming interior override a location you dislike or a lot that will give you flooding problems. “If you don’t like your lot, don’t buy the house, because you cannot change that,” says Kim Wirtz, a Realtor for Century 21 Affiliated in Lockport, Illinois.A high monthly mortgage payment
A high monthly mortgage payment
One of the most crippling headaches to deal with is a monthly mortgage payment you find you can’t quite afford. Lysette Portales, a real estate agent with Century 21 Jim White & Associates in Treasure Island, Florida, says she stresses to clients that they should shop around for a mortgage with multiple lenders and inquire with each about different program options. “A lot of them might be able to do 100 percent [financing],” she says, noting that many homebuyers typically only know about a couple mortgage programs and settle for one without considering what would be most affordable option both now and down the line.Items that are on their last legs
Items that are on their last legs
Whether it's the roof, water heater or furnace, aging home systems will need replacement. And that may end up being sooner than you’d like, especially if you didn’t pay close attention to the age and condition of the roof, plumbing, electric and heating and cooling systems when your inspector pointed them out. HomeAdvisor’s 2015 New Homeowner Survey found that 75 percent of homeowners face an unexpected emergency within a year of purchase. To expect the unexpected, Hunter points to the survey’s recommendation that homeowners plan to spend 1 percent of the home’s purchase price on unplanned repairs. Maintaining at least that much in your emergency fund will help keep you from dipping into other savings from year to year.Old systems
It’s important to pay attention to a home's aging big-ticket items before you even make an offer. “A lot of homebuyers are distracted by how cute a home can be,” Portales says, adding that she makes it her job to point out the age of the roof, air conditioning unit, water heater and more to buyers. Then when it comes time to calculate an offer, you should factor in the cost of those pieces that will need immediate replacement when determining how much you think the home is worth.An air conditioner that's not the same
An air conditioner that's not the same
Wirtz says one of the things in a home that seems to always break or have issues within the first year of its purchase is the air conditioner. But it’s not always because it breaks down – she says it simply might not be as effective as the new homeowner wants it to be. “It may not be cooling like they’re used to,” Wirtz says. You can either learn to deal with a little less cooling, bring in an HVAC pro to inspect and fix any problems or research any DIY fixes that might get it cooling better – like air conditioner cleaning spray.Unseen leaks
Home inspectors aren’t able to see through walls, so the discovery of a pipe leak isn’t uncommon after you’ve moved into the home. But this is one repair you want to make as quickly as possible. “When there’s water that is not stopped, it can create mold – and mold remediation is extremely expensive and extremely difficult,” Hunter says. Mold growth in your home can cause serious health problems, so it’s imperative to address any moisture issues as quickly as possible to avoid it becoming any more dangerous, let alone more expensive.Surprise renovation expenses
Surprise renovation expenses
Fixer-uppers are all the rage these days, as many homebuyers are willing to take on renovation projects in exchange for a slightly lower price tag. But when budgeting for your renovations, leave plenty of room for the discovery of existing problems once your contractor looks behind the walls. The HomeAdvisor survey found 51 percent of homeowners spent more time on home projects than they expected. “Even if you have a fully vetted, well-reviewed contractor … they still might uncover issues that maybe a previous contractor left incomplete,” Hunter says. He recommends leaving around 10 percent extra space in your budget for surprise problems of any kind.Problems that pile up
Problems that pile up
All too often it feels like the problems in a home have a snowballing effect, but you don’t have to go broke tackling them all at once. “Day one, [homeowners] won’t have to tackle all those projects,” Hunter says. “They can use the list of items found by the home inspector as a checklist and prioritize the items on that list and create a budget.” You should immediately address those problems that create a health or safety issue, such as a broken step or leak in your roof that could lead to mold. But replacing an older dishwasher can wait until next year, when you have more room in your home repair budget.Read More
She has appeared in media interviews across the U.S. including National Public Radio, WTOP (Washington, D.C.) and KOH (Reno, Nevada) and various print publications, as well as having served on panels discussing real estate development, city planning policy and homebuilding.
Previously, she served as a researcher of commercial real estate transactions and information, and is currently a member of the National Association of Real Estate Editors. Thorsby studied Political Science at the University of Michigan, where she also served as a news reporter and editor for the student newspaper The Michigan Daily. Follow her on Twitter or write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.