It’s funny how things sometimes work out. After getting a request for an article about how to get your home ready for the home inspector if you are selling your house, I got a call to help out with a seminar for first time home buyers and what they can look for when shopping for a home. Crazy! OK, it’s not really all that crazy but it times up well. The whole two birds with one stone thing and all. So let’s give it the old college try and I can do a first draft here for my beloved readers or tag surfers with a shout out to Brent (Sounds like you had fun on your Guy Weekend) & Lisa.
The original idea was something along the lines of “10 Things You Can Do To Get Your House Ready For A Home Inspection”. I don’t know if I can come up with 10 easy things to look for and not have this read as long as The Iliad so maybe I will just talk about a few things and make you keep reading the monthly “SFH In Search Of Loving And Inquisitive HO” to elaborate on some other topics. The old bait and switch. If I gave you everything in one fell swoop you might never tune back in and my life would be an empty void. Let’s get you on the right track, though.
This is going to be very basic. Go to your local home improvement store and buy an outlet tester with a GFCI trip button on it. I covered this in one of my first posts (https://thathomeinspectorguy.wordpress.com/2010/11/ and look for the Speed Dating article). Go around your house and plug it in to EVERY outlet and make sure they are wired correctly and test ALL your GFCIs to make sure they trip when the button is pressed. I am gobsmacked at how easy this is but homeowners never do it, if not for their own safety while living there then at least when selling their home. The beauty is that you can then use this tool when you are looking for homes to buy after you have sold. The last tip about electric is to check out the panel and find the main breaker that will shut the whole house down. First of all, there should optimally only be one. Look on that breaker and see what Amp panel it is. You should shoot for at the very least a 100 Amp panel. I think this is a bare minimum unless it is a 2 bedroom condo and you have no children.
2) HVAC and Water Heater
Look on your furnace, AC condenser outside and your water heater and either find the manufacture date or the serial number. If you can only find the serial number you have a little homework to do. If you call the companies they will usually be very happy to tell you the manufacture date (By the way, you can play a little game by trying to decode the date in the serial number. It is usually the week number followed by the year number. For example, 5294###### would be the last week of the year 1994. Good luck and may the force be with you!) When you find out the age of these mechanicals you can decide whether you will need to address anything such as replacement or pricing your home accordingly. Your realtor should be able to guide you here after looking at comps for the neighborhood.
Stick your head up there and take a look around, there’s a whole other world up there. It’s like the wardrobe closet in the Narnia Chronicles. All right, not that cool but another world that you have probably never looked at. Basically I would say just make sure you have enough insulation for your region (Maine requirements will be much different from my Mom’s house in Key West, for instance). While you’re up there take a gander at the underside of your roof. Do you see any water stains which might indicate a leak? Are there any raccoons? (Don’t laugh, I’ve run into them during a home inspection and it scared the bejeezus out of me and Rocky the racoon both!) Do your bath vents empty right into the attic (Boo!) or vent in a duct out of the roof or right to a roof vent (Yay!). If they dump the air right into the attic you are adding hot and humid air to your attic which can cause mold or wood rot. Basically, be inquisitive and if anything looks hinky take a pic and send it to me. I’ll do my best to give you a “Fix it” or “Don’t worry”. (See Low Hangin’ Fruit at https://thathomeinspectorguy.wordpress.com/2010/11/ )
This is time to really be inquisitive. Most of the time when we look at a house we pay attention to surface stuff like the color and how pretty it looks. You need to develop a critical eye. My thought to help you with this is to get your father-in-law to give you a hand. Give him a pair of binoculars and have him walk around the house one way and then when finished go around the house the other way. I learned this during my home inspection classes. Sometimes you see something coming the opposite way that you didn’t see the first time. Why do I say you father-in-law btw? If he is like mine he would just love to point out all the problems with your house that you should have taken care of and, in this case at least, it would be very helpful. You can let him get it out of his system and you look like the bigger person. Just get a beer ready first before he starts, always makes things easier to deal with. 😉 The binoculars will help him (And you) check out the roof, chimney, soffits, second floor windows and trim, etc without getting up on a ladder.
Patience is a virtue. While you are going around the house checking all the outlets with your tester, open and close EVERY door, window, vanity cabinet drawer and door, kitchen cabinet drawer and door and test every light switch. I like to make sure for my clients that they are aware of every sticky door or one that won’t lock, windows that won’t latch or damaged glass and window sills or light switches that don’t control anything. Don’t forget exterior doors, garage doors and car garage doors. Why are these things a big deal. Well let me give you the 411. If I as a home inspector find a general lack of caring for simple things it makes me wonder what else you have neglected. I try to use other senses when inspecting. Smell and sound for instance. I try to get a general vibe of the place. I don’t go around licking things but you get the idea.
6) Be Honest With Yourself
You know if you have a slow draining sink, a toilet that runs periodically, an outlet that is loose in the wall, a loose handrail, etc. As Judge Judy says, “Don’t pee on my leg and tell me it’s rainin'”. No excuses and no B.S.! Now is the time to fix it! We get so used to walking through our own house and can easily get to a point where we will put up with small inconveniences but a home buyer doesn’t want to deal with it. It is much easier to fix things in a leisurely manner now than when it is on a remedy list coming from the buyers agent and all you want to do is pack up and move to your new place.
6.5) Hire a Home Inspector For A Pre-Sale Home Inspection!
Look, I’m really not trying to plug my profession but there are SOOOOO many things that I find that a home owner will have no clue about. I do a walk through for people selling their homes and give them a list of stuff to consider and talk with their realtor about. They can either decide to fix them or not and reflect the choice in the price. The cost of this type of inspection is usually a little over half of the full home inspection price and you get the full monty, so to speak, without the full report with pictures. More a list of findings. An inspector WILL be rooting through your house eventually and it is best to be prepared. I equate it to a bit of lawyerly advice when asking questions during a trial. Don’t ask a question that you don’t already know the answer too. You want to know the answers before the buyers home inspector asks the questions. Look, this analogy makes sense in my mind and that’s all that matters.
Well, I hope this gets you started. As I have said previously and gratuitously, stay tuned for future “SFH In Search Of Loving And Inquisitive HO”. I view that as continuing ed for home owners. At least that is my intent.
As always, thanks for reading,
That Home Inspector Guy