NEW YORK (MainStreet) — If you’re thinking of putting your home on the market this spring, you have plenty of challenges in front of you. Prices are down, there are vastly more homes for sale than buyers, those buyers are likely to be tight-fisted, and even when they step up with offers, their lenders may deny them the money.
So maybe you should spend a little extra to make your home especially appealing: get a “pre-listing home inspection.”
Like any inspection before a sale, it means paying a professional to look over the furnace, the roof, the plumbing and wiring, search for termites and generally make sure the place is safe, sound and up to code. But while pre-sale inspections are paid for by the buyer, the pre-listing inspection is covered by the seller, probably for between $300 and $500.
That may seem like a lot to spend on something few buyers request or expect. So why do it if the marketplace doesn’t make you? Because it can give you an edge over the competition and can reassure wavering buyers, says HSH Associates, the mortgage-data firm.
“If you choose to fix problems before you put your house on the market, a home inspection can help you pinpoint where the real issues lie,” HSH says. “For instance, that touchy wiring in the kitchen might not be a loose connection, it could be a more serious issue with your home's electrical box. A good home inspection helps you get to the root of the problem instead of pursuing a band-aid fix.”
While serious buyers are likely to want inspections done by professionals of their own choosing, a seller’s inspection report can tip the balance for a buyer deciding whether to take the next step. After all, the buyer doesn’t want to spend money on an inspection that may find the home isn’t worth buying.
A pre-listing inspection can also reduce the seller’s anxiety. “If there is a serious problem with your home, it is better to know about it before you put the house up for sale rather than discovering the issue within a few days of the closing,” HSH says. “Knowing the problems lurking in your home can give you the option of fixing them yourself or lowering your asking price.”
Occasionally, an unscrupulous inspector for a nervous buyer will offer to find enough problems to allow the buyer to bow out of the contract without penalty. This is less likely if the buyer’s inspector knows another pro has already pronounced the property sound.
The National Association of Home Inspectors has a referral service on its site, as well as information on what consumers should expect. One thing you should not expect: tips on how to cover up safety problems or code violations. The pages on Standards of Practice describe how an inspection is performed.
As the customer, be sure you know what will be done, how much it will cost and what kind of report you will receive. To make the inspection as thorough as possible, and possibly reduce the cost, you should tidy the home, make sure there’s easy access to all the areas the inspector will need to see, and, if possible, assemble maintenance records for things like the furnace and air conditioning system.
“After you have your report in hand, consider the findings,” HSH says. “If there are repairs to be made, now is the time to make them. If you choose not to do so, you can work with your real estate agent to adjust your asking price before you put your house on the market.”
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