Confused! Inspector, Roofer, Termites, Oh My!

Asked by Jb, USA, Mobile, AL Sat Sep 22, 2007

We are preparing our home in the SF Bay Area for market with the intention to sell in June 08. We know we have issues such as needing a new roof, possible termite damage, and some plumbing that should be checked. We have no idea in what order to do things. Do we hire an inspector to come in and look at the house to find out what needs to be repaired and then move forward? Will an inspector be able to say, "Hey there is termite damage in the eves and it needs to get fixed?" I want to avoid doing things twice. For instance since we know we will replace the roof, I would want to get the eves fixed if needed vs. replacing the roof and then calling someone back later when I if find out that the eves need to be fixed from a termite inspection?

On the visual end of things we are trying to figure out if we should be updating some things a bit such as the bath (tile floor/tub surround, new vanity top), tile FR fireplace and add a mantle, remove popcorn ceilings? Thanks in advance!

Help the community by answering this question:

+ web reference
Web reference:


Paul Slaybau…, Agent, Scottsdale, AZ
Sat Sep 22, 2007
Vicki makes excellent points. You must disclose all defects with the property, but the repairs on most items are negotiable. While I generally recommend that my clients take care of as many deficiencies as possible, I prefer they to spend the money where a buyer will see it first. For instance, a new roof or new A/C is nice ... if the buyer likes the rest of the house. If you have shiny pink tile and purple formica countertops that are a complete turn-off, the buyer won't even bother to find out about the structural condition of the home. I would bring in both a respected local agent and a home inspector prior to doing any repairs/updating. Let the inspector find the majority of issues for you, and let the agent tell you which ones are critical to fix. If it is in the budget to do the big items, like the roof, do so. You'll most likely get hit for it in the buyer's inspection otherwise, and by correcting it up front, you get the advantage of marketing a new roof. One less objection for a buyer to cling to when assessing your property versus others. It may seem like an overwhelming process, but locating a good agent now will help you to share the burden. Best of luck!
2 votes
Vicki Moore, Agent, Roseville, CA
Sat Sep 22, 2007
Your obligation as a seller is to disclose, not necessarily to repair. My suggestion is that you meet with a local realtor to help determine whether or not you'll recoup the money you invest in any of the work that is done. That person will gather all of the information with regard to current condition of the house, visual and structural, then be able to help you decide what work, if any, needs to be done.

For instance, sometimes you'll gain more of a profit with a re-tile as opposed to re-roof. It depends on the whole condition of the house, the market, and the particular buyers your agent expects the property to attract.
2 votes
Keith Sorem, Agent, Glendale, CA
Sat Sep 22, 2007
I would first suggest talking with a Realtor. An experienced agent can help you in sequencing what needs to be completed and when.

There are two schools of thought on inspections:
Some say that having an inspection before the sale is good because you will know what needs to be repaired. However, others will say, now that you know your property's faults, you are bound to disclose them to the buyer. Without the inspection, what you do not know, you don't have to disclose.

You obviously know that you have some termite damage. Most homes in warmer climates do. My bigger concern is regarding the updating you are thinking of doing. Having a Realtor that knows the local market could be a real plus. They would know what steps you could take that would add the most value...and also the correct order.

For example, the popcorn ceiling may have asbestos, a common building material in the 1970's, now declared a harmful substance. As long as it is encapsulated (meaning stable, and probably painted white on your ceiling), it's of no danger. However, removing it can be expensive. Although it will probably look really nice! A Realtor that knows that market can help you gauge whether or not tackling the popcorn ceiling is worth it...along with your other thoughts.

Good luck!
2 votes
Jim Walker, Agent, Carmichael, CA
Sun Sep 23, 2007
I like to go 180 degrees from the other posters just to balance things and keep you consumers on your toes. My suggestion is to seriously consider selling the house as a "fixer" - Calculate up what all those costs you anticipate and consider offering the house at a discount by that amount of money. You may net more than you would by doing all the fixes. Ask your listing agent {s} what they think. Do what you did here. Get more than one opinion. -( locally)

On the other hand.... Of course if the roof is that bad - Hmm it rained today...any leaks?
1 vote
The Hagley G…, Agent, Pleasanton, CA
Sat Sep 22, 2007
As a Realtor and an investor, I have a couple of thoughts.

The first thing I would do is find a local Realtor to work with you through he process.As far as updating, you'll most likey NOT get 100% of your investment back.. Your Realtor will guide you through the essentials to maximize the value of your home.

As far as inspections, I recommend getting them done beforehand. I would much rather take care of repairs in advance so that there are no suprises for either side.

Good luck!
Web Reference:
1 vote
Deborah Madey, Agent, Brick, NJ
Sat Sep 22, 2007
I am not a fan of pre-sale inspections, but am not opposed to them. The apprehensions of these rest with the fact that 3 inspectors are likely to deliver 3 reports with variables. If the buyer relies upon your pre-sale inspection, and your inspection report fails to address a problem the buyer later discovers, it casts a potential liability in your direction. Many inspectors will hold their reports as confidential and for the use of the seller only and prohibit distribution to potential buyers. If a buyer hires their own inspector (which they should), and there are discrepancies, these have to be resolved.

There are areas of the country where pre-sale inspections are common and looked upon favorably. That is not true where I practice. I have discussed the potential merits of pre-sale inspections with both real estate attorneys and inspectors, with overwhelming advice against such.

You mention known problems, such as a roof and possibly termites. Buyers look for problem free homes. You may consider, instead of a general inspection, simply calling in professional help for the known areas of concern.

Before calling in a roofer and pest control company, your first call could be to a few Realtors. Get feedback from Realtors about the buyer demand in your specific area. While I defer to the advice of your local RE Pros, a general statement is that buyers generally want the corrections made. In most cases, you will be better off correcting defects and present your property accordingly. Of course, you will want to disclose that you made recent pest control treatments or roof repairs. Save your receipts for presentation to buyers if requested.

Realtors see your property through the eyes of the buyers that look in your area. Gain their insight on recommended property updates. The advice they provide may save you money in repairs, or add money to your sales price according to local buyer wants and needs.

On an earlier thread, it was recommended that sellers have specialized inspections; a septic tank inspection was provided as an example. I agree w/ that.

While there may some pluses to making a general pre-sale inspection, unless it is a common practice in your area, I would not recommend. I do recommend addressing known problems, taking corrective action, and providing complete disclosure. For your own protection as a seller, do not warrant an item based upon a general inspection, and insist that your buyer perform their own inspections.

This is not legal advice, and is only a Realtor opnion.
1 vote
Ute Ferdig, Agent, Newcastle, CA
Sat Sep 22, 2007
Hi Jb. Congratulations on making the decision to start preparing for the sale of your home now. Many home sellers make the mistake of waiting too long or not wanting to make necessary repairs in hopes that the buyers will look the other way. These days, buyers have choices and they are picky.

I agree with Keith that there are some that do not favor pre-sale inspections because the inspection reports have to be disclosed to potential buyers. To me that raises a red flag as it suggests that somehow ignorance could be a bliss. It does not make sense to take risk of escrow falling out because the buyer discovered something during inspections that could have been discovered and taken care of before the property ever went on the market. I think you can tell by now that I favor pre-sale inspections.
Put the cards on the table and fix what you can and if you decide not to fix everything, give the buyer a credit or adjust the asking price.

It sounds like you would be very open to have inspections done and you just want to know in what order you should do them. Have you already chosen a listing agent? I would start out with chosing your agent and obtain a comparative market analysis. You may even ask several independent agents to prepare a comparative market analysis for you so that you get a rough idea of how much money you can expect in the end as this may factor into your decision on what repairs and/or improvements you want to undertake. The agent can also provide you with names for reputable inspectors.

As far as inspections are concerned, I would start out with a whole house inspection as that's the most comprehensive inspection and the inspector can point out things that should be further inspected. Home inspectors are at this time not state regulated. I would recommend that you choose an inspector that belongs to one of the Home Inspector Associations that have developed quality standards for Home Inspectors. You can go to and get a lot of information on home inspections. They also have a sample home inspection report that you can review. Depending on the size of your home, the fee for the home inspection will probably run somewhere between $350 - $400. Once you have done the repairs, you can ask for a reinspection and the fee should be lower than that. One more thing, home inspectors cannot give you repair estimates as that would be a potential conflict of interest. However, a lot of home inspectors have a construction background and some either were or still are licensed contractors.

I would also recommend that you have a pest inspection done. Again, ask your agent for a recommendation and don't be afraid to ask why he/she recommends the inspector.

Once you have the home inspection report and the termite report, you should make a list of all the items that you are willing to get fixed. Then obtain bids for these items from a licensed contractor. Ask your agent for a recommendation if you don't already know a contractor you trust. Once you have all the bids, you can establish a budget for all the repairs that you want to do. Once you know how much it costs to take care of the needed repairs, you'll know if there is still money to make improvements (tile floor, vanity ...).

Since you already know that you'll replace the roof, the only question is when it will be done. I would get a bid from a roofing company just so you know how that cost fits in your overall budget. If your roof needs to be replaced because of leaking problems in the past, I would take care of the roof first as a leaking roof can cause water damage that will then unnecessarily drive up the cost of necessary repairs. If your roof is not leaking, you can wait until the spring and get it done just before you put the property on the market.

Without having seen your home and other homes in your neighborhood, it's difficult to say which improvements may make a difference. I would again defer to your agent who can also bring in a staging consultant who can make recommendations on how to improve the visual appearance of the home without spending a lot of money. You can go to to get information on what staging is.
Lastly, the popcorn ceiling. As Keith has already pointed out, this can be costly, especially if it contains asbestos. I personally would probably opt for leaving it, but that's just my personal opinion.
Good luck with preparing your home for sale.
Web Reference:
1 vote
Sylvia Barry,…, Agent, Marin, CA
Thu Sep 27, 2007
Hello Jb:

Coming in late in this discussion and I see you have gotten a lot of good answers from Realtors in different areas.

I am a Realtor in the S.F Bay Area. Knowing how diversified the Bay Area can be, it will be helpful if you can tell us which area your house is in; the age, construction, style and general condition of your house. Of course, if in the city, knowing which district also helps in determine what needs to be done.

The reason is, how much work you should do, in part, depends on the competition in your area. If your are in an upscale area, where most of the house are in pristine conditions and that’s what buyers are expecting and you have the means to do so, then you will want to think about an extensive remodeling job to bring your house up to par with the competitions.

However, if the neighborhood does not demand that, then you can loosen up some of the work you are doing. If your house is really in need of repairs, then you might want to take Jim’s suggestion and sell it as a fixer.

If I only look at what you have described, it sounds like your house at least dates back to earlier than the 70ths (pop corn ceiling fell out of favor after that); and if you can afford to invest the money before selling your house, I would recommend getting minimum a termite inspection (yes, they will be able to determine if there is dry rot or termite damage in the eve or other places) and a roof inspection and fixed all that when you replace the roof. Plumbing can be quite expensive, but if something is leaking, then you will have to do that.

Pop Corn ceiling was mentioned below; but that fits with what Paul said, a pop corn ceiling can turn quite a few buyers away – I had a buyer who spent over $500 doing an EPA approved asbestos test because it was popcorn ceiling even though the house was built in the early 1980s.

In Marin, if you remodel the bathroom, you will have to put in regulator to regulate the hot water flow; there is a new HAVC/Ducting requirement in CA; and things like that are local government regulated, which can be quite involved if you do it. Each town also has required inspection which might be mandatory.

A fresh coat of paint and staging might help your house to attract more buyers but a good bone helps you close the deal.

Remember to always get a couple of estimates for the work.

What and where you want to put your money really depends on how important the items are in the scheme of things. There is so much to this, I can write forever.

My recommendation (sounds like old tune) is to find a reputable local realtor and have him/her walk through your house with you to recommend the best places to spend your money as they know about the local market condition and inventory, and they can also help you find the best inspectors; plan the activities, whether it’s repair, remodel, update or staging; and market it to sell the house. This is the best way to get the biggest bang for your money.

0 votes
Jean Powers, Agent, Castro Valley, CA
Thu Sep 27, 2007
I live in Alameda and we have homes that are similar to San Francisco homes. Our Gold Coast area comprise of homes that were built by the wealthy San Franciscans as vacation homes who spent the summer here because of better weather. The first thing I will do when I sell my home is obtain a Pest report. By law the pest inspector can only report on certain conditions of your home. They will report on section I conditions (actual damage) and section II conditons (conditions that are deteriorating but does not have actual damage). A pest report will also give a price on work to be repaired. A buyer in this market always want a pest certification. Only a licensed pest inspection company can give a certification. A home inspection will report on all conditions of your home without a price for repairs. Replace the roof if it is past its life expectancy. A good agent can also give you advice regarding upgrades that will help you to sell your home for the best price. Mist important is to always get permits to do any repairs or work on your home. There are companies that now give you a reduced fee if you hire them to do all the reports. (roof, home, pest, chimney etc:)
0 votes
Patti Philli…, , Carlsbad, CA
Mon Sep 24, 2007
JB- Your answers here certainly have run the gammit, haven't they? Eeryone has given you a lot to think about! I am from the school of not being a fan of pre-listing inspections, beause I have seen where 10 different inspectors find a list with 10 different things that need doing! Whatever you do, no matter how thorough you think you are, the next inspector will find something that needs doing!

I would definately get inspections on the termite- as it HAS to be done in any case, and the roof, as you know if is a problem. Get both of those before you do work on either, to see that you don't do work twice, as you mentioned.

I also agree that you would be VERY smart to speak with a reputable agent and get their feedback on what you should/could do, to help make your decisions.

Jim also has a very valid point in considering selling it as a fixer, depending on how much you determine needs to be done.

In any case, good luck in your sale process!

Patti Phillips
0 votes
Denise Stuart, Agent, San Jose, CA
Sat Sep 22, 2007
Property and Termite would be the first choice, but make sure the reinspection doesn't expire before you list, because if the market stays the same the Buyer may request you pay for another inspection even if you know everything is done and you don't want this to be the reason your home doesn't sell.
Good Luck, let me know if you need assistance on who to use for these inspections.
0 votes
Search Advice
Ask our community a question

Email me when…

Learn more