I recently accompanied a home inspector on a 3-½ hour tour of a home we were considering purchasing, and these were some major points I picked up along the way.
In general, it’s good to have intimate knowledge of your house’s nooks, crannies, and weak spots. The following items are things you should consider before the inspector visits your home, possibly bringing up major and minor issues that could cost you money off your sales price or worse — the deal itself.
1. Clear Access
Ensure access to critical areas of your house are clear. Think about your electrical box, furnace, hot water heater, and air conditioning units, attic door, and any other possible locked spaces. Also make it easier to access under sink plumbing work and back access, as well as any areas blocked off by storage, etc. If the inspector cannot gain access, he or she will be unable to include them in the report, raising questions for your buyers.
2. Banish Clogs
Go through your entire house to all the sinks drains — one by one — and run the water. If you notice a slow drain, you can try using store-bought clog removers (consult with staff to find the right one). For very slow or even totally clogged drains, call in a plumber. Same goes with any slow flow or blockage at the water source.
3. Replace Bulbs
Examine your attached light fixtures. Make sure all the light bulbs are working. Inspectors only get an overhead view and cannot determine if the bulb itself is out or if there’s possibly an underlying electrical problem.
4. Filter Out
Replace your furnace return air filters. Not only do dirty filters impact the efficiency of your overall HVAC system, they also show neglect, which isn’t the type of impression you want to leave with your inspector.
5. Mind Your Monitors
Be sure to have working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in your home. Test before inspection day and look at the expiration dates. You should have a smoke alarm on every level of your home — including the basement. As for carbon monoxide detectors, there should be at least one in your home, in the sleeping area.
6. Observe Grading
Check to see that the earth slopes away from your home versus toward it to avoid basement water issues. Even if there’s no evidence of water entering your home, it’s a good idea to slope dirt away in flowerbeds and other areas that come in contact with your foundation.
7. Check Cracks
If your home has any cracked windows or broken screens, you may want to fix them before the inspector comes. Even if a crack isn’t a big issue on some basement window, it will still show up in your report.
8. Get the Bugs Out
Do you see a lot of carpenter bees hanging around? Or perhaps a steady line of ants near your home? Any sort of infestation — especially of wood destroying insects like termites — will show up on your inspection report. It’s best to take care of it proactively.
9. Cap It Off
Any sort of caps needed in and around your home should be there. Any unused gas lines — even if shut off — should be capped. As well, any chimneys or flues should be capped to prevent debris, including leaves and animals, from clogging off critical vents. For example, a home we recently had inspected had a clog in the water heater flue creating a dangerous buildup of carbon monoxide.
10. Trim Your Trees
Or at least take a look at any overhanging vegetation at your property. Trees that are over roofs can prematurely shorten roof life by inviting moss and lichen to take hold. Rodents can gain easy access to your chimney and other openings. And the obvious: If there’s a low-hanging or unhealthy branch, it could always fall onto the roof.
11. Think Big
If you know you have asbestos, lead, or other health and safety issues in your home, it’s good to disclose this information before embarking on the sale process to begin with. Otherwise, be prepared for these items to show up in a report. Though they are usually not confirmed without further testing, “suspected” hazards could certainly scare away potential buyers.
12. Go With the Flow
Flush your toilets to see if any aren’t performing as they should. Sometimes a fix is as easy as adjusting the water level in your tank. Other times, a clog or hard water (creating sediment) might be to blame — or perhaps a faulty design.
13. Spark Interest
Go to each outlet in your home to see if any aren’t working. It’s also a good idea to note any weird issues with your electrical system that you have observed and lived with in your time at the home. Any flickering light fixtures or slow switches, etc., can be signs of a problem for an electrician to investigate.
14. Crack It Open
Many older homes, especially those with plaster walls, have hairline cracks. Many of these cracks are not concerning, as they mostly indicate the expansion and contraction of the wall material with normal house settling and temperature fluctuations. If you have cracks in your foundation or exterior, or your doors and windows aren’t closing from misalignment, you may want to have them checked before inspection.
15. Swing Around
While you’re at it, open and close all your windows and doors to look for anything that’s creaking, loose, or otherwise not functioning properly. Look at hinge pins, door knobs, and anything else that seems amiss.
16. Address the Issues
If you bought your house only a few years ago, chances are you still have a copy of your old home inspection from purchase. Go through the report and look for any unaddressed issues you’ve come to live with over the years. It’s almost like having a cheat sheet.
17. Hire a Professional
If there are any issues in this list that you’re not familiar with fixing, it’s best to call a certified professional before your inspection date to do the work. Not only will amateur fixes not fare well on inspection reports, but you could also put yourself in harms way, say, if you’ve never climbed onto your roof or trimmed a tree before.