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Using the power of pre-inspection

Published: Oct 14, 2009

Imagine finally finding a buyer for your home, negotiating the offer, opening up escrow and beginning to pack your prized spoon collection when disaster strikes. The home buyer's pest and dry rot inspection has revealed issues that have caused the buyer to panic. Your sale is now in danger of failing!

While most states require that sellers disclose all known defects to a buyer, it's the unknown issues that inspectors are hired to find. These paid consultants have the tough job of crawling into the nooks and crannies of your home, the places most of us rarely if ever visit, to identify problems that can haunt the home buyer if not addressed prior to closing.

So how can you avoid a nasty surprise? One popular way is to consider the power of pre-inspections. A pre-inspection simply means you have your home inspected before you receive an offer from a buyer. The advantage to this approach is that if your home does have some challenges you can fix them before you receive an offer. Also by having a pre-inspection you may be able to outflank your competition by advertising the fact that your home has a "clean" bill of health which will potentially help you sell faster and for more money.

So what kinds of pre-inspections might you consider? There are a wide range of inspections that can be performed on any home and choices vary by region, which is why it is always best to consult with a local agent before deciding on which pre-inspections are right for your home. All of that being said, some of the most popular inspections include:

Whole home inspections - A top to bottom review of your home from the foundation to the roof. These inspections are often very extensive and include detailed reports on all of the systems of the home including plumbing, electrical, heating and cooling, and structural components.

Pest and dry rot inspections - These inspections are focused on identifying evidence of active (and inactive) wood destroying organisms like carpenter ants and termites and the damage they may have caused. In addition inspectors will identify issues that can cause rot in a home like leaking water pipes, poor ventilation, earth to wood contact, and moisture problems.

Well and septic inspections - In rural areas many homes use well and septic systems for drinking water and sanitation. Inspections of wells focus on gallons per minute production and the safety of the drinking water while septic inspections focus on making sure the tanks and lines moving the waste water away from the home are functioning properly.

Pool inspections - In areas of the country where pools are popular it is common for buyers to request a pool inspection. These inspections often review the area around the pool for safety including the pool itself, the pool deck, pool liner, lighting, heating and pump systems, and filtration systems.

Roof inspections - A roof inspection will evaluate the current state of the roof system identifying problem areas such as missing tiles, valleys and flashing which may need repair, gutter systems, downspouts, and the estimated life span of the current materials.

Foundation inspections - Often a foundation inspection may be called for if a home is built on a soil type or area that has a history of slippage, or if the foundation is showing signs of fractures. In addition many buyers order a foundation inspection if a home is older or if the home has beams which are sagging due to a lack of support.

One word of caution: anything you learn as a result of a pre-inspection will no doubt need to be disclosed to a potential buyer (even if you don't fix it) because of disclosure laws. Check with a local agent or attorney for details in your state.

So where can you find a reliable inspector? One source is the American Society of Home Inspectors, the oldest trade group in the nation specializing in overall home inspections. In addition you may be able to find a trust-worthy inspector simply by asking for a referral from your friends, neighbors, or a local agent.

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