Having your home inspected is a necessary part of any real estate transaction. Sometimes the seller orders it, but most of the time it’s the buyers who contract someone like me, a certified home inspector. Here's how it works. Once the seller accepts an offer there is a contingency period of 10 days or so where the buyer can have the home inspected and back out of the deal without penalty if they don’t like what they see in the inspection reports. Often times, the buyer won’t back out but will instead use the report as leverage to get a better deal. With the clock ticking, sellers often offer the lion’s share of compromises because if the buyer backs out, they have to go through the whole process again only to have the next inspector find the same things.
Needless to say, the seller has a vested interest in the home inspection going well. An 80-page report detailing numerous defects can make any buyer nervous. Some are so put off by the extensive list of recommended repairs that they don’t stop to read the descriptions. If they did, they might see that any number of deficiencies have been repeated over and over for each bedroom, each bathroom, each whatever. Many inspectors list each thing they find no matter how many times it’s repeated. Sometimes it’s because of the way the software is organized and sometimes it comes from a sense of thoroughness. No inspector likes to get that phone call or email from a past client claiming they missed something or failed to report something. So even if each bathroom lacks the proper type of electrical outlet, the inspector may call out that defect for each bathroom rather than bundle the defect into a general statement regarding all or most bathrooms.
Minimizing the number of defects, recommended repairs, and safety hazards is definitely in the best interest of the seller. But how do you know what the inspector will find? Although each home is different, there are certain deficiencies we find in 80-90% of homes and many of these can be corrected with a modest output of time and money. Addressing these will shorten the list of items in need of correction and shorten the overall report. Rather than having 20 deficiencies, maybe you can reduce to 5 or 6. Below I’ve listed some of the items we always report on and are easily corrected
1. Install anti-siphon valves on your hose bibs.
A hose bib is the faucet on the outside of your house where you attach the hose. Current safety codes require an anti-siphon valve be attached to the hose bib. These are after market valves that prevent dirty or contaminated water from getting sucked back into the fresh water supply of your home by accident. They cost less than $8 and the typical home has two hose bibs for a total of $16. These can be installed in two minutes without any need for special tools.
2. Gas Fireplace Damper Clamp or Beam Clamp
Gas fireplaces are now required to have a clamp that prevents the damper from fully closing. In case of a gas leak this allows the gas to escape up the chimney rather than into the house. They cost less than $1. No special tools requires and it takes less than 5 minutes, including the time it takes to put down tarp.
3. Range Anti-Tip Bracket
Anti-Tip brackets prevent the range from tipping over if someone stands on or otherwise puts too much pressure on an open oven door. Sounds unlikely, but it’s not unusual for unsupervised children to do just that when they are trying to reach the cookies on the counter. They cost between $10 and $20. Although these are not specified in the codes, all ranges require them in their installation guides and following installation guide is code. These may be a little tougher to install largely due to the fact that you’ll have to pull the range away from the wall. After that, it’s just a matter of a couple of screws.
4. Synch The Water Heater
All water heaters in California are required to be secured with seismic straps. Just about every water heater I see already has them and yours probably does too. However, the water heater must be up against a solid surface without gap between the water heater and the wall or brace. Most water heaters I see do have a gap. That gap can be filled with a piece of lumber. An 8 foot 2x4 costs less than $4. Simply cut the sized you need and wedge them in. Be careful to not damage the water heater, then reattach the straps.
5. Torn Window Screens
Take out any torn window screens. If you’re unable or willing to repair or replace them, simply take them out. Why? A home inspector will see a torn screen in a second, but may not notice a missing one. (I probably shouldn’t have clued you in, but what the heck.)
6. Drain Stoppers
At least half the bathroom sinks I inspect do not have a functional drain stopper. Fixing these typically requires 5-10 minutes of time under the sink. If you need parts they cost as little as $8. You can do this one yourself too.
7. Windows, Doors, Garage Doors
Stiff windows, squeaky hinges and noisy garage doors are a warning sign for the home inspector. A perfectly good window or door may be identified as in need of repair or adjustment even though there isn’t anything mechanically wrong. Often times this can be avoided by going through the house with a silicone lube and making sure nothing is sticking or squeaking. There are several good products available, but I like Blaster Silicone. It costs about $4 and you can use it on just about any surface.
8. Adjust Your Self-Closing Hinge On Your Fire Door
A Fire Door is the door between the garage and the living area of the house. Code requires that this door close and latch on it's own. Most will be fitted with a spring hinge already, but if your door doesn't completely close on it's own it will be called out as a potential safety hazard. Adjusting these hinges is easy and you can find out how on YouTube. If your door doesn't already have a self-closing or spring hinge you can buy one for about $16 and install it yourself.
9. Caulk, caulk like your life depended on it.
Removing the old, stained, nasty caulk from the shower/tub enclosure, vanities and sinks can be a hassle, but if the home inspector calls out that grungy caulk they will use terms like ‘rot’, ‘mildew’, and ‘mold’ which may send the buyer running for the hills. Take a Saturday and dig out the old gross caulk and replace it with new, clean, fresh caulk. A few tubes and an applicator will run you less than $15. If you’re not used to doing this, watch a few YouTube videos to learn how.
10. Dead Light Bulbs
We see dead bulbs all the time; mostly in exterior fixtures, and bathrooms. The problem is that we have no way of knowing whether it’s a bad fixture, a bad switch, or if it’s simply a dead bulb. As a result, we have to write it up as ‘in need of repair’. Go through your house and replace all the dead bulbs. The cost is probably under $26 dollars and it might take an hour.
There you have it, $100 dollars and a few hours of your time and your home is ready for inspection. Sure, your inspector will find other stuff but you’ve taken a lot of the common issues off the table. Investing a little time and money upfront can be the difference between a smooth escrow and a trip back to ‘Open House’ land.