Congratulations, Mr. Seller! Your house is now under contract — but you may not want to start packing yet. Your contract may include contingencies, which are conditions that must be met before a real estate transaction can be completed.
Unless your buyers are paying cash, they will likely have a finance contingency to ensure that they are approved for their loan. Another common contingency requires that your home appraise at or above the agreed-upon price, often requiring renegotiation of the sales price if it does not.
The third most requested contingency is for a home inspection, which allows buyers to hire an inspector to outline the home’s positive features and scrutinize it for defects. Any subsequent repair requests made by the buyers may result in further negotiations and may ultimately affect your profit, so it’s often in your best interest to address some frequently encountered items prior to the home inspection or even before listing your home for sale.
First, when preparing for inspection, make the inspector’s job easier by having all utilities turned on. This is normally a requirement of your contract.
Next, create a path to fixtures and systems by moving your possessions, particularly in attics and basements. If the inspector can’t reach a critical item to check it, then he may have to make a second trip. This could extend the deadline of the contingency, leaving your contract in limbo longer, and possibly obligate you to pay the cost of a second visit.
An inspector will normally start his review by looking at the exterior of the home for roof, foundation and drainage issues, so clean your gutters and sweep snow and leaves from your roof. Remove dirt, mulch and firewood from direct contact with siding, divert water away from the foundation and clear basement exterior drains of debris.
Areas ripe for water penetration can also pose a problem, so if your budget permits, point up failing mortar joints in your brick or concrete block exterior. At a minimum, caulk around trim, chimneys, windows, doors and any exterior wall protrusions.
On the interior, check the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, windows and sump pump to be sure they are operating properly and put a fresh filter in your furnace.
Repair any plumbing leaks, ensure toilets and fixtures are secure, and apply fresh caulk around tub and shower fixtures.
Easy electrical fixes include replacing burned-out lightbulbs and installing ground fault interrupting receptacles near water sources in kitchens, baths and laundry areas. Make sure you also leave any remote controls for ceiling fans or garage doors in sight.
Below are some common requests that buyers make of sellers after home inspections. Consider whether to do some of these in advance or wait to see if they are even issues of concern to the buyers.
Professional cleaning of the chimney and fireplace.
Air duct cleaning, particularly if you smoke or have pets and your buyers have allergies.
Repair of windows with cracked panes or broken seals.
Cleaning and servicing of heat and air conditioning systems.
Removal of peeling lead-based paint on exterior wood surfaces.
Anything related to mold, such as sealing masonry walls in an unfinished basement or installing a vapor barrier in a crawl space to keep the area dry.
Even if you’re selling your home in “as is” condition, buyers will generally want to know what “as is” means for their budget, so expect a request for a “take it or leave it” inspection with the buyers ultimately deciding that they do or don’t want to proceed without asking for additional repairs or monetary concessions.
Alternatively, be prepared for a potential buyer to request a “pre-offer inspection,” a limited look at major systems by an inspection professional before an offer is made so that the buyer can eliminate the need for a home inspection contingency altogether. Since there is no contract in place at this juncture, you may wish to secure a written agreement from these buyers to release you from any liability and be responsible for repair of anything they damage before agreeing to allow a pre-offer inspection.
Finally, remember that buyers often inflate in their minds the price of a repair beyond its actual cost and may fear that a “honey-do” list of small items identified at a home inspection reflects a lack of proper maintenance in other areas. Making your home “inspection ready” will help to allay those fears, allow you to pack up your troubles, and speed you on your way to settlement.
Valerie M. Blake is a licensed Associate Broker in D.C., Maryland and Virginia and Director of Education & Mentorship at Real Living| At Home. Call or text her at 202-246-8602, email her at Valerie@DCHomeQuest.com, or follow her on Facebook.