5 Costly Defects That Must Be Repaired Before a Home Inspection

Home Being Repaired to SellIf you are selling your home and are worried about what defects the buyer’s inspector will uncover; you are not alone. We all worry about the unknown and our imagination can get the best of us. If you’ve been maintaining your home and you’ve priced it right you’ve done the best that you can. However, there are five defects that I highly recommend that you have repaired before the arrival of your buyers home inspector if you want to avoid re-negotiating the cost of th

Major defects like a failing structure, a failing roofing system, or widespread termite damage will undoubtedly complicate the closing of the home.

However, what disappoints me most is when I find costly defects that could have been repaired for much less, had the sellers known or took the initiative before my inspection.

To help you save money and untold aggravation, I am going to share with you 5 costly defects that must be repaired before a home inspection.

Have the HVAC Unit Serviced & Repaired Before the Buyers Home Inspection

HVAC technician Repairing Outdoor Condenser on a HomeIn a cooling dependent environment, like Texas, if your cooling system is older than 12 years, it is statistically at or near the end of its typical service life. The potential for a major system to need a full replacement or costly repairs will increase your buyer’s risk to purchase.

Worse, if the buyer’s inspector evaluates the system and finds a secondary drain pan full of water or the unit is not producing an adequate temperature differential; your buyer will assume the worst case scenario.

That assumption can lead to requests for complete replacement or a significant reduction in the asking price. In some cases, when the home is listed well above market value, this is reasonable; but most home prices are set with this in mind; which may deter a seller from agreeing to re-negotiate the price.

If neither party wishes to concede, the sell of the home may be in jeopardy.

Actionable Advice: The heating and cooling systems are one of the most expensive components in your home. If it’s not working properly, it’s a legitimate major red flag! To avoid this common problem, I strongly recommend that you have your HVAC system serviced by a qualified professional at least one year before the home inspection. Once you’re asked to provide disclosure on the home, make sure to provide all relevant documentation about the units(s), which should include previous maintenance and repairs.

Additionally, be upfront about the age of the HVAC system. If a buyer is provided with accurate information about the unit and they move forward with an offer, they’ll lose negotiating power if the inspection report comes back clean. The age is the age, and that does add risk for the buyer, but if the unit is properly functioning at the time of inspection, it makes it harder for a deal-seeking buyer to re-open negotiations.

Trust me, a lot of today’s buyers are looking to renegotiate the original offer!

Repair Leaks and the Water Damage Caused

Home Inspector Finding Water Damage on a Ceiling of a HomeIf roof leaks, overflowing cooling systems, bathroom plumbing leaks, or leaks from any other source has caused visible damage to your home; have the damage repaired.

Repairing the water damage once you’ve fixed the leak can help prevent unnecessary concerns about the home. Your buyers may have enough to worry about, adding a list of unnecessary defects to a home inspection report because you neglected to repair the old water damage sabotages your repairs and invites speculation and anxiety.

You may ask “why would a home inspector write up a dry stain?” Good question. The answer is because a home inspection is a visual only, non-destructive inspection. Inspectors work on evidence and won’t take a sellers word that a documented water stain was a holdover from a repaired roof leak, for example.

Further, a lot of leaks are intermittent, they are dry one day and wet the next. The inspector will share this genuine concern with your buyer, and they may process that as meaning “the roof is going to leak in the future.”

Finding and repairing water leaks goes beyond the material damage and repair costs. If the buyer thinks the home is leaking like a sieve, they’ll start wondering about mold growth, and fear of future costly renovations. This fear is amplified if your buyers are younger or just starting a family. We want to find and eliminate these water leaks the right way and before the home inspection!

Actionable Advice: Properly treat and paint all areas of the home that have sustained water damage after you’ve found and repaired the cause of the water leak. Using an oil-based paint like KILZ and then painting with color-matching latex paint will prevent the stain from “bleeding through” the sheetrock. A good inspector will see an improperly treated stain and may think that the seller is intentionally masking defects. That always leads to more suspicion and scrutiny.

Bonus Tip: Another option to detect and repair water damage is by using an entry-level thermal imager.  With improvements in thermal technology and lower costs, performing preventative maintenance at the homeowner level with a thermal camera is easier than ever. There are many benefits to having a thermal camera, but if you’re able to find just one leak and make the repairs before the home inspection; you’ll avoid the negotiating hassle and have an awesome new toy!

The Ballad of the Well-intentioned Do-it-Yourselfer

untrained man cable suffering electrical accident with dirty burnt face in funny shock expression

The Ballad of the Well-intentioned Do-it-Yourselfer is a song I sing with my clients during many home inspection reviews.

Unfortunately, this song is played on the blues scale, and the lyrics in the final verse are “this is gonna cost you.”

If you’ve taken shortcuts to reduce repair costs on your previous home repairs, it’s not going to save you money. Once your home is on the market, there is a reasonable expectation that the systems and components are in good working order and that they are safe.

Unless you plan on listing your home below market value and crossing your arms at the negotiating table, the buyers will likely wish to see certain defects repaired.

The Most Common DIY Mistakes

  • Ineffective plumbing repairs, particularly with the drainage system
  • Improper and dangerous electrical repairs
  • Failing roof repairs

Actionable Advice: If you know that your home is a handy-man special, I recommend hiring a home inspector to perform a basic pre-listing inspection. From there, you can consider hiring a general contractor to make the identified repairs for you before listing the home.

If you choose to wait until the buyer’s inspector finds these problems, you’ll risk re-opening negotiations that want more than necessary or, your buyer’s expectation of the home will dramatically differ, and they may strongly re-consider purchasing the home. Both of these outcomes will cost you.

Make Sure All of Your Appliances are Clean & Functioning

Upscale Kitchen-Aide appliances with breakfast barHome Inspectors, spend the majority of their time evaluating the major systems and components of the home. That’s where the risk to purchase resides because if those systems are deeply flawed, the cost to repair can be very high.

On numerous occasions, I have carefully explained to my clients that one or more of these core systems are deeply flawed.

A common question that I get from some of my clients after I explain these problems is, “did you check all of the kitchen appliances?”

That’s how vital your appliances can be. It isn’t always the structural flaws, the electrical nightmares, or the plumbing problems. Sometimes folks move in and need to cook. The systems that clients complain or compliment the most are ovens and dishwashers, so be sure those are fully functional. 

Actionable Advice: There are benefits to cleaning the entire home before the home inspection, but spend extra time in the kitchen. Most inspectors conduct their review with the clients in that very space, and it tends to be the gathering area throughout the process. Try and make the kitchen feel warm and welcoming.

Also, if you have a broken kitchen appliance, repair or replace it with a similar unit. Non-functioning appliances are often included and accepted in the buyer’s counter-offer, which can cost you more money than if you’d had the repair done with more time to plan and shop for bargains.

Bonus Tip: I’ve done thousands of inspections, and I’ve seen many thousands of appliances old and new. For a higher-end replacement, I fully recommend Kitchenaid’s ovens and dishwashers. If you need something more low-cost, most of the lower priced dishwashers are about the same as long as they match the look of your kitchen.

Grading, Drainage, & Gutter Systems

Man Improving Landscaping by Placing PaversGrading and drainage is not just a cosmetic improvement; it’s a structural necessity. If you live in the North, a leaking basement wall is a significant problem. If you live in the South, flooding and structural movement from adverse soil conditions is always a concern.

Also, a poor guttering system leads to water staining and damage around the upper portions of the home. If the inspector finds advanced water damage on the exterior cladding, the gutters may need to be removed and then re-installed to correct, increasing the cost of the repair.

From a cosmetic perspective, standing water leads to mud and dead grass. Also, damaged and leaking gutters ruin curb appeal and tell an approaching inspector that the home is likely not well maintained.

Actionable Advice: Monitor your yard after moderate to heavy rainfalls. Pay attention to areas where water collects and devise a plan to re-direct it away from your home. Installing a catch-basin system is most often the best approach.

Also, try reducing the grade height around the home if it’s within 4 inches of the exterior cladding. Adjust flower bed heights as well if you notice they are too high against the home. If you already have underground drains, be sure to clean and unclog them.

Bonus Tip: Once you’ve made the needed repairs to the grading and drainage, improve on the existing landscaping by pruning trees, adding mulch, trimming bushes and hedges, and improving pavers and walkways. Adding a low-cost landscape lighting set can add tremendous value and appeal to the home as well. Purchasing easy to install lights helps to highlight the improved landscaping, and will make your home stand-out in the listing photography.

Well, that’s my list. I hope that you were able to get value from my writing and can benefit from my experience. I wish you all the best with the sale of your home.

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