A home sale is usually a stressful event for both buyers and sellers, but while a buyer’s stress is usually centered around the mortgage loan, for sellers, the source of stress is almost always about the home inspection. Most mortgage loans require an inspection in order to close — after all, the lender will want to make sure that the home is habitable and in good shape — and depending on the terms of the home sale contract, the homeowner might be on the hook to make (or pay for) any required repairs before the transaction can close.
Some sellers even opt for two inspections, one before the house is listed on the market, and the other during the closing process to double-check everything and ensure that the mortgage loan is buttoned up entirely. There’s a lot you can do as a seller to make the home inspection process as smooth as possible if you’re willing to prepare your house, so keep the following options in mind as you’re gearing up for the home inspection.
The inspector is going to need to look at your attic, basement or crawl space, electrical outlets, electrical panel, and other areas of your house that you might not have visited in some time. If you can make sure the inspector will have easy, unimpeded access to those areas, it will make the inspection go more quickly, and you can feel reassured that the inspector was able to clearly see these important areas of your home and identify any issues that might exist.
Do your best to clean out any storage areas, and make sure the inspector can easily enter and exit every part of your house. In the attic and basement, the inspector will need to be able to look at the rafters and perimeter of the room, too, so don’t just push items up against the wall and hope for the best — try to make it easy for them to walk around and see everything they need to see.
Clear the perimeter around your home
The inspector is also going to need to look at the outside of your home and make sure there are no potential drainage or foundation issues lurking, so do your best to give the inspector clear, easy access to the perimeter of your house. This might mean trimming or removing shrubs so they can see what’s going on at the perimeter, or it might just mean raking up leaves or removing debris.
Check the grading
If you have puddles that collect around your home’s foundation, this can lead to serious problems in the future — even if you haven’t experienced any issues around the foundation yet. So you can and should expect your inspector to look at the grading around your home and note whether the soil or gravel around the perimeter slopes away from the house (ideal) or toward the house (problematic). Check and fix any grading issues yourself before calling in an inspector if you possibly can; this can save you time and money later on, especially if you want to avoid a rush job during the closing process.
Clean up inside
When was the last time you cleaned your oven? Even if you’re almost entirely certain that all your appliances are in perfect working condition, take a look at all of them and ask yourself if there’s anything you can do to make them look better — or at least more presentable. An oven might be operating perfectly, but that caking of burnt grease at the bottom could give an inspector pause, and the last thing you want is to have to prove to a buyer that you (eventually) cleaned up your act because you couldn’t be bothered to do it before the inspector arrived.
Check your windows and doors
Inspectors are going to check to see whether the windows and doors are operating properly (in other words, do they open and close?), and they’ll also check any weatherstripping. Broken windows or screens are going to get flagged, so before the inspector gets there, take a look at all of the windows and doors in your house — even the interior doors — and make sure they’re operating at peak condition and don’t have any issues that might get written down in an inspection report.
Test the water works
Faucets in your home, from the kitchen and bathroom sinks to showers and tubs, will all be on the inspector’s list of things to check, so before the inspector gets there, do your own quick rundown to ensure that everything is operating properly. Fix any drips and get a plumber out to look at any faucets that simply aren’t working at all — that’s definitely going to be something you’ll have to fix before the house sells, and you might as well get it addressed before the inspector gets there.
Turn on the fans
Both ceiling fans and built-in fans (like your kitchen hood) will be tested to make sure they’re in good working condition, so check them yourself before the inspector arrives to bypass any surprises. The hood fan in particular is an important one as a broken hood fan can be a smoke and fire hazard, so if there are any problems at all with its operation, fix them now.
Light up your house
It might seem or feel like overkill, but the inspector is absolutely going to check every light switch in the house to make sure it’s operating properly and get a sense for how the electrical system is connected. It’s time to do a quick roundup of every switch in your house so that you can label it (in case it connects to an outlet, a fan, or something else that’s not a light) and make sure the inspector can easily check all of your switches.
Check garage doors
A sticky or just plain non-operational garage door is an inconvenience that many of us will put up with for longer than we should, but it’s entirely reasonable for a buyer (and an inspector) to take note that the garage door doesn’t work the way it should and ask for a seller to fix it before the transaction closes. To that end, triple-check your garage door — whether or not it uses a remote opener — to make sure it’s working perfectly, and if it’s not, this is something you can address pretty easily before the inspector arrives.
Examine ducts and downspouts
Some ducts and downspouts are going to be more easily accessible than others, but it’s a good idea to check whatever you can before the inspector arrives. Ducts should be debris-free and operating well according to their nature, and your downspouts should also be clean and free-flowing, plus you should make sure that any water runoff that diverts through the downspout is directed away from your house instead of into your foundation. You may want to hire a heating or air conditioning expert to check your ducts if that’s beyond your own capabilities, and if you can’t safely climb a ladder to look at your downspouts, this is also something you can contract out.
Brush up on smoke and carbon monoxide detector functionality
Another obvious home feature that the inspector is going to spend some time examining includes smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Most of these devices (especially the newer ones) will beep or otherwise alert you if they’re running low on batteries or if they aren’t functioning properly, but while you’re doing your home inspection due diligence, it can’t hurt to take a look at the safety features in your house, including these detectors, and testing them to ensure they’re working and have sufficient battery power to carry you through the inspection and beyond.
Replace furnace filters
If you had a heating professional come out to check your ducts, they probably took a look at your furnace filter, but if you decided to skip that expense, then you’ll want to take a look at the filter yourself and decide whether or not it needs to be replaced. Depending on the type of furnace and filter you are using, you’ll want to replace filters either quarterly, biannually, or annually … so if it’s been a while and you don’t remember when you last replaced your filter, it’s probably best to err on the side of replacement.
Label the fuse box
The inspector will be spending some time taking a look at your fuse box to ensure it’s in good working order, and you can make their job easier and allow them to complete it more efficiently and effectively if you label it clearly before they get there. It might have been some time since you took a look at the fuse box yourself, and labels fade, so open it up and ask yourself how easy it is to read those labels, then act accordingly!
Fix faulty cabinets and drawers
Sticky drawers and cabinet doors that don’t quite shut all the way aren’t usually a big deal — especially once you get used to them — but again, these are little things that inspectors will notice and that buyers might ask you to repair before they take ownership of the house. Give your cabinets and drawers a quick once-over and do what you can to help them operate more smoothly before the inspection, and you could bypass at least one little request (they do add up).
Get rid of pests
Not every inspection includes a pest inspection, but if the inspector sees signs that there’s an infestation of any kind in your home, they’ll have to note that in the report and then you may have to bring in a specialist to identify the pests, then another specialist to eliminate them. If you suspect (or know) that you’ve got a spider problem, a snake issue, or there’s anything else that indicates there are pests around, do yourself (and the buyers) a favor and get it taken care of upfront so that nobody has to think about it or deal with it at all. It might seem like a pain, but compared to the problems that emerge when actual pests are involved, you will thank yourself for having good foresight.
Fix water damage
Inspectors will be seeking out signs of water damage, including stains on ceilings and walls, so if you can, get any roof leaks or pipe problems managed before the inspection, paint over the stains, and give your house the best opportunity possible for a totally clean bill of health, so to speak. Water damage is one of those issues that can seriously delay a home closing — it can turn into a very big deal, very quickly — and if it’s at all possible to handle it before the inspector arrives, you’ll save yourself a lot of time and possibly a lot of money moving forward.
Look under the sinks
Small drips underneath the sinks can cause wood or plaster to rot or flake, and inspectors are definitely going to check under every sink in the house — both kitchen and bathrooms, plus any garage or wet bar or other sinks that exist — to ensure that the area under the sink is totally dry. Dampness or drips are going to be an issue that should be fixed before the buyers can close, and it’s in your own best interest to eliminate that issue before the inspector ever sees it.
Replace light bulbs
If you’ve been living with burnt-out bulbs in the hallway or bathroom for so long that you don’t even notice them anymore, you’re a very normal homeowner — but nonetheless, these are easy fixes you should make yourself before the inspector arrives so that they can check every light switch to make sure it’s operating properly. Do a quick sweep of your house to make sure that all of the bulbs are operational, especially the ones you don’t use very often and tend to forget about, such as porch lights or lights in pantries or crawl spaces.
Ensure the roof is good to go
We’re definitely not suggesting that you get up on your roof and walk around yourself, but asking a contractor to take a look — or getting up in the attic and poking around for leaks or damage — is always a good idea so that there aren’t any surprises. Replacing a roof is a big expense for any homeowner, and it can be especially painful if you’re about to sell the house, so just go ahead and examine it in advance and save yourself that particular migraine of a headache.
Repair windows, if needed
Not only do your windows need to open and shut as designed, but screens and windowpanes themselves should also be damage-free. If there are cracks in your glass or holes in your screen, fix them prior to the inspection — it’s something you’ll be asked to do anyway, and you’ll once again be saving yourself some time and money by addressing it before the inspection instead of after.
Clean out gutters
You might have already tackled this when you checked your downspouts, but if not, spend some time clearing leaves and twigs and other debris out of your gutters — something else the inspector is definitely going to check. Gutters should allow runoff water to flow freely through them, so if they’re packed with snow or ice, that’s something else you should address before the inspector arrives.
Trim trees and shrubs
Any trees or shrubs located close to your house should be trimmed so they aren’t brushing up against the house and so the inspector has easy access to the perimeter of the building. Spend some time pruning and hacking to give your inspector a good impression and make their job easier (and faster) when the day comes for the inspection.
Leave garage door openers out and access doors unlocked
This seems simple and obvious, but if you forget, the inspector might have to come back later — and nobody (even the inspector) wants that. Make sure that the garage door opener is available for the inspector, if applicable; if the manual garage door is usually kept locked, you’ll want to leave it open, and if there are any outside access points to the house (such as a fireplace door), ensure that the doors are unlocked or, alternatively, that the keys are clearly labeled and left where the inspector can easily find them.
Check the pilot lights
Pilot and utility lights must be operational, and that’s something the inspector is going to check walking through the house. You don’t want to have to triple-check something as simple as a pilot light, so take a look at any pilot or utility lights yourself before you leave the house to make sure they’re burning and operational.
Empty your appliances (except the fridge)
Inspectors will need to make sure the burners on your stove are working, and they’ll probably turn your oven on to ensure it’s working, too. If you make a habit of leaving empty (or full) cookie sheets or other items in your oven or on your stove burners, clean them up and make it easy for the inspector to check and make sure everything works. Thankfully, you don’t need to empty your refrigerator, but you should definitely make sure that your other appliances are empty and ready to test.
Make sure septic systems or wells are findable
Not every house has a septic system or a well, but in homes that do contain these features, they’ll definitely be part of the inspection process — and their location might not always be readily apparent. To save time, draw a little map and leave it out and visible that helps guide the inspector to the septic system or well.
Put any paperwork out and available
If you have warranties or other paperwork (such as receipts for recent roofing work that’s been done), leave it out on the kitchen counter, dining room table, or somewhere else where it will be obvious and easy to spot. This will make the inspector’s job easier, and they’ll appreciate having the information they need to make a decision about what needs fixing and what’s in good shape. Make it easily accessible to them and spare yourself a few rounds of back-and-forth questions and answers down the line.
Vacate — and take pets with you
The buyer may want to walk around with the inspector to hear about any issues that might need fixing, and it’s absolutely understandable that sellers would also be tempted to listen in on the inspection and hear full explanations for any suggestions or mandates that the inspector is sharing. But if you know you might be tempted to argue with the inspector or you might be at all unwilling to hear what’s being said, just do everyone a favor and remove yourself from the equation entirely. You’ll get to see the full write-up after the inspection is over, and the whole thing will be over more quickly if you’re not there to nitpick the results.
You’ll also want to make sure that your home is pet-free, or at the very least that your pets are secured and can’t get out. (Don’t just stash them behind a closed door; the inspector is going to need to look everywhere, and if they’re loose in a room and the inspector lets them out, it could cause trouble.) Put them in a kennel or take them with you so they don’t appear underfoot at the worst possible moment.
Prepare for surprises, and swallow your pride
Even if you’ve taken a look at everything on this list and you’re certain your house is going to get a 100% passing grade from the inspector, it’s a good idea to scale back your expectations and swallow your pride a little bit before the inspection actually happens. It’s an inspector’s job to find anything — however small or insignificant — that could cause a bigger problem down the road, and it doesn’t mean you’re a sloppy or neglectful homeowner if they do find something that needs to be fixed.
Think of it in terms of avoiding trouble (like a lawsuit!) later on and try to stifle your impulse to argue. Of course, if you think the inspector is wrong, you can always ask for a second opinion, but ask yourself whether it’s really worth several hundred dollars to get that second opinion or whether you’d rather just fix the problem. Sometimes it’s easier to mentally prepare yourself for the fact that there will be at least a few things to fix, then go ahead and fix them — it will get your home sold that much more quickly.