What to Expect when Inspecting
The inspection period and the appraisal are those 2 moments during a transaction that everyone holds their breath and finds religion… cause there is a lot of praying going on.
When selling a home, know that inspectors WILL make it sound like the house is about to fall over any second. It’s the justification for their job. You will see words like “the end of it’s functional life”, or “be prepared to replace” all over the inspection report. Loosely translated, “Here are all the ways the home will murder you and those you love, while you sleep”. There are many issues that I see on nearly EVERY inspection, so lets get ahead of those! When a buyer asks for you to make repairs, they will likely ask for a licensed individual, and if the total job estimates over $1,000, it is your legal duty to hire a licensed professional… not a handyman. That’s Arizona law, not Real Estate, so don’t take that out on us.
Here are the top items that show up on most inspection reports and are most likely to be requested by the buyer in order to close on your home.
- GFCI protected outlets. Back in the day, they were not required, then it was only required if the outlet was within a few feet of water. Now inspectors call it out if they are missing anywhere in the kitchen, bathrooms, garage and exterior. The outlets themselves may be $25 at the hardware store, or less in bulk. But if you hire an electrician at $75 an hour, that cost can add up. Most homeowners can do this fix by themselves, or hire a handyman to make this repair at a substantially less amount. Just don’t get crazy, they all need to be GFCI protected, that doesn’t mean changing all of them.
- Dishwasher high loop. There is a tube that connects your dishwasher to the garbage disposal. This tube should have a ‘hump’ for lack of a better word. It’s to prevent the dishwasher from backing up into your sink and vise versa. It’s an easy fix, as you typically can put a loose zip tie around the tub, creating a ‘high loop’ or reverse trap, like under your sinks.
- Shower Diverters– You know that ‘switch’ that changes it from tub flow to shower? They are always corroded, unless a week old, it’s Arizona, and we have hard water. Typically, you can clean them out with a razor blade or a descaling product. Need be, this piece twists off and you can replace it for under $20 at the hardware store.
- Non-working outlets or light switches that do nothing– It never fails… there’s always that one outlet or switch that ‘just never worked’. It never seems to bother the person that owns the home, yet always bothers the person buying the home. The inspector will call out “potential electrical issues”. Nothing scares a buyer more than potential electrical or plumbing issues. Plug a lamp or clock radio into every outlet in your house… top and bottom. If one isn’t working, replace it. If there is a switch that never worked anything, delete it. Drywall patching kits can be found at Home Depot and Lowes, or if you choose, you can also cap the wires and put a blank cover on it. If you cover it with a blank, just expect that you may be asked to patch the drywall anyway. Just make sure that that non-working outlet and switch aren’t actually working together
- Fire Hazards– I’m going to combine a few here…
- Fire alarms.It used to be code to have one in the hall and in the kitchen. Now, inspectors will call it out if any missing from ANY sleeping area. Just go to the Home Depot and grab a few and put them up on the wall.
- Attic Scuttle hole– This has to be sealed and fire rated in the garage. This can usually be resolved with the right size board, covered in sheet rock. Yes, sheet rock (5/8″ drywall) is fire rated.
- Garage– a few things to mention… the garage door should have self closing hinges and be ‘fire rated’, that means, not made out of wood, and no cat door in it. (It’s more common than you think). The garage itself can often times have holes everywhere… who hasn’t hit the garage ceiling with a ladder or rake? Not a big deal, except the inspectors will explain to the buyer that “if there is a garage fire, it will immediately be sucked up into the attic and the whole house will burn while you sleep”. Now, since buyers typically hate the idea of burning in their sleep, they will ask that those drywall repairs be made. (and I recently had a client experience a garage fire, so this is higher on the priority list these days)
- Windows and Doors– Door seals and window locks are easy enough to fix… open and close everything. If something is hard to move, oil it or clean the tracks. If you can see light, replace the seals. Also an easy and inexpensive fix.
- Cracks in tiles or grout– Probably one of my biggest pet peeves! It’s Arizona, and we have settling. There is not one single house anywhere in this valley or probably anywhere period, that doesn’t have a crack in the concrete. Despite what you think you know, it’s not that flimsy concrete that’s holding your home up, that’s being done with the stem wall around the paremeter. As one of my inspectors put it, the concrete is just there to keep the carpet from getting dirty. lol. So, yes, it will crack. Unfortunately, the inspector will still call it out as being possibly a foundation, or structural concern. There is always that chance it could be serious, but typically, it’s just a crack from settling. Unless it’s a serious concern, patch the grout or replace that tile (if possible). If it’s a large or concerning crack, have it checked out and given a clean bill of health.
- Evil Anti-siphons and Backflow devises– the bane of my existence can be summed up in one (two part) word, “anti-siphon”. This little $4 part at Home Depot screws on to the hose bib. If you use the car wash or herbicides that attach to the hose, these devices prevent those chemicals from ending back up in your drinking water. (but who uses those?) The Backflow device is the same theory, except it attaches to your sprinkler system. This one is more understandable, ALWAYS asked for and can run a couple hundred dollars to have it professionally installed.
- Light Bulbs and Batteries– To an inspector, if it doesn’t turn on, it’s broken. If a light bulb is out, or a battery in the thermostat or fire alarm isn’t working… change it. Easiest thing you can do to cut down on buyer alarm.
- Bathroom sink plugs– You know the little thing you pull up to plug the sink? Under the sink, this ‘pully thing’ attaches to a lever. When you pull, it pulls the plug down. Often times, the connection just comes lose. If your sink doesn’t plug, get under there and see if this is the problem. If your plug is missing, and they OFTEN are, replace it for a couple bucks at Home Depot or Lowes. **side note- make sure your sinks and tubs drain well. Draino is a lot less expensive then a plumber.
- Anti-tip bracket– This little metal bracket keeps the stove from tipping over. As explained by most inspectors… “if a child climbs up on the stove, or you set your turkey on the door to baste it, that bracket will prevent the hot oven from falling on you.” Like I said, buyers hate stories where they get burned, so those brackets are just good to have installed ahead of time.
- Older AC’s– No, I’m not going to tell you to replace an aging AC, but just know that even though your AC is 25 years old and working perfectly, the inspector will tell the buyer that they only have a 10 year lifespan and therefore that baby will go out any second. It’s always advisable to pay that $60 fee to have your AC inspected and serviced. Leave that documentation out for the inspector, because even though they will advise… they are NOT AC inspectors. (which is why they’re over cautious in their words). A clean filter and recent servicing will put everyone at ease.
- Drywall cracks– Same as foundation… some are simple settling cracks, but also can mean that your house will fall over any minute. Minor cracks should ALWAYS be patched and painted. Concerning cracks should get a clean bill of health by a professional and left for the buyer/inspector to see.
- Grading and drainage– Every home that sits on a concrete pad (which is about all of them in AZ), has about 6 inches of concrete that shows between the ground and the siding on the home, whether it’s stucco or wood cladding. There should not be garden beds against it, as the constant moisture will eat away at that concrete. This is bad because then your house really will come crumbling down. You should be aware of this and avoid planters against the home (no matter how pretty), and if possible, keep everything back about 6 inches. If you do notice some degrading to the concrete, you can easily patch this with any number of materials at the Home Depot (they can guide you depending on the project size) and paint it!
- Wood to Ground Contact– Welcome to Arizona, if you don’t have termites, you will, that’s just how it is. That being said, inspectors hate to see any wood or plants that touches both the ground and the house. This includes vines, gates, siding and porch posts. A lot of times, you can’t do much about this, but be aware, as some lender will not allow the loan to fund on a house that is “prone to wood destroying pests”. Side note, just because they only call out the wood to earth contact, doesn’t mean that’s the only place those suckers get in. More than not, I see them climb the concrete, not the wood.
- Aluminum Wiring– The scariest words uttered in real estate. As someone married to an electrician, let me just say… I have some aluminum wiring and it works the same as all the other wiring. We don’t rip plugs out of walls or run industrial generators off our outlets, so maybe that’s why, but anywho…If you have aluminum wiring, hire an electrician to check out the house, and give it a clean bill of health. GFCI protection for the garage, bathrooms, garage and outside must happen AT the electrical box, as GFCI outlets are not ALR rated for aluminum wiring. (or at least, not sold in box stores that way) This pre-inspection will not only cover you when you’re in the inspection period, but if you have it IN your listing docs, you will likely have more buyers look at the home, having settled their fear.
- Garage Door– Your garage door should reverse when there is resistance. The inspectors will put a 2×4 in the way and test the theory. If it does not reverse, they will explain to the buyer how this will kill their pets and/or children. So, get a ladder and a small flat head screw driver and adjust the sensitivity on the head unit itself, it if it doesn’t reverse during your own test.
- Toilets– For the most part, these solid porcelain items are hardy, and unless pink or blue, are similar across the board. The two biggest issues with toilets is when they either rock slightly, in which case, they need a new seal and possibly new bolts. Or, they tend to run constantly, in which case, they just need a new float kit installed. The nice people in Orange or Blue (or red, if you prefer to go to ACE) can explain how to do these repairs if you have never done one. If in doubt… hire a handyman that can do the job.
- Electrical panel– Take the 10 minutes and label this bad boy, trust me, it will save you a lot of heart ache. Also, if there are any holes in the bottom, go buy a $.25 plug so that the inspector doesn’t report to the buyer that at any minute, there can be lizards in there eating wires. (On the more extensive side… if your wires in the panel are a hot mess, or aluminum… just expect that an electrician may have to be called out now, or later)
The biggest take away from this list should be this… if it seems like it could be a structural, electrical or plumbing issue, get it dealt with now. Not only will you save lots of money, but your home will sell faster, with less hassle and for more money, when buyers minds are put at ease prior to ever writing an offer on your home.
For the Buyers out there, I beg of you not to look at every home as if it’s going to be brand new… it’s used, and you should expect a little bit of a honey do list. We will always ask for some repairs to be handled by the seller, but the more educated you are, the better it will be for all parties when we get to that point.
Contact me for more information!
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