Jul 17, 2019
You’ve lived in your home for years and haven't exactly been on top of regular maintenance tasks. Now, your windows are covered in plastic wrap to cut down on the cold drafts, your ceiling seems to be leaking, and those shrubs you planted to conceal a few small cracks in the foundation just aren’t cutting it anymore.
Hey, we’re not judging! But if you’re ready to put your home up for sale, know this: Buyers and their agents are going to zero in on all those things that need doing—as well as some things you hadn't even noticed yourself.
So why not get ahead of the curve by hiring a licensed home inspector who can pinpoint what needs fixing?
Of course, most sellers don’t get their homes inspected before listing them, because the buyer usually orders an inspection during escrow, says Marc Lyman, a Realtor® with Pacific Sotheby's International Realty in San Diego. And who wants to pay for something they don't have to?
But if you're willing to invest the time and money, a thorough inspection before listing your property can make it easier to price your home, manage repairs, and even help sell it faster—and for more money.
So what are the some of the reasons why a pre-listing inspection makes sense? Let's take a look.
It can save you if you've neglected home maintenance
If you have a busy life—or maybe even if you don't—chances are that obsessing over regular home maintenance might not be your No. 1 priority during downtime. Trouble is, letting painting, roof repairs, and other routine chores slide can lead to bigger issues down the road, says Chicago-based Frank Lesh, ambassador for the American Society of Home Inspectors.
“In a lot of cases, people think, ‘I've been here for 30 years; the house is fine. There's nothing wrong with it,’" he says. "But they’re looking at it with rose-colored glasses.”
Instead of worrying what a buyer’s inspector will uncover—and which could potentially kill the sale—be proactive with a pre-listing inspection, Lesh says. This way, rather than being blindsided, you can then decide whether to make the necessary repairs or to account for that deferred maintenance by reducing the list price. Which leads us to…
You can make a bigger profit on your sale
Sure, a home inspection that you don't have to do is going to cost money. (An inspection for a 1,200- to 1,500-square-foot house in an average market, for instance, will cost between $350 and $600, Lesh says.) But as the saying goes: Sometimes you have to spend money to make money.
After all, if you invest a little more to repair and spruce up anything the pre-inspection reveals, you can justify listing your home at a higher price, Lyman says. Plus, he adds, in most states, home improvement repairs you carry out before selling your house are deductible from the profit you make from the sale.
Sometimes, just knowing that a pro has given the house a proper once-over can persuade a buyer to make a bid (assuming that you actually follow the inspector’s recommendations).
“It minimizes surprises for a buyer, and can give a buyer more confidence in the property," Lyman says.
You won't have to scramble to fix things at the last minute
Once a buyer’s inspector submits a report, sellers are usually faced with two choices: If problems are found with the house, they can then either slash money from the sale price, or opt to carry out repairs before the closing date. That often leaves sellers in the lurch, having to get work done pronto—and sometimes paying a premium for the rush work.
After a pre-listing inspection, sellers can research contractors and make the necessary repairs within a time frame of their choosing, so that everything is ready before potential buyers even visit the property.
It'll minimize back-and-forth negotiation
Buyers often use their home inspection as leverage, asking the seller (that's you!) for steep discounts based on what their inspector’s report reveals. Not surprisingly, the buyer’s inspection is often where the deal falls apart.
If you’ve already uncovered the issues and addressed them, you can raise the price of your home accordingly, Lyman says. “That gives the buyer less leverage in the request for repair process,” he explains.
Also, in red-hot markets where multiple bids come fast and furious, there's always a chance that buyers might accept your pre-listing inspection without insisting on doing their own. This can make for a quicker sale, Lesh says.
But make sure a pre-inspection doesn’t work against you
As advantageous as a pre-inspection can be, don’t forget that the inspector’s report could be a double-edged sword: Once you know about a problem, you can’t ignore it, Lyman says.
Sellers are legally obligated to disclose any problems that a home inspection unearths.
“For sellers unwilling to do repairs, their own inspection could be used as leverage to negotiate on price and in the request-for-repair process,” he says.
Before committing to a pre-inspection, find out what other sellers in your area are doing. Your agent can help guide you on whether it's necessary to sell for more, or if there's a better—and more affordable—strategy for getting your home sold.