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  • Alexander Wissel

Is A Pre-Sale Home Inspection Killing Your House Sale?

How Far Down the Rabbit Hole?

  • The benefits of getting a pre-sale home inspection, including setting realistic expectations, increasing buyer confidence, and enhancing negotiation power.

  • The potential drawbacks and challenges of pre-sale home inspections, such as uncovering unknown issues, varying concerns among inspectors, and the impact on disclosure requirements.

  • Alternative proactive steps to take before listing your home, such as involving professionals like plumbers and electricians to address specific areas of concern.

Should You Get A Pre-Sale Home Inspection? - Source:
Should You Get A Pre-Sale Home Inspection?

We work with a good number of individuals selling their home, and we often get asked ‘Should we do a pre-sale home inspection?’ It’s a great question. After all, a home inspection is designed to uncover all of the hidden issues with a home. It sounds like something that a prepared homeowner would want to do in the months before they list their home for sale.

But they would be wrong. In this article, we’re going to discuss why you don’t want to have a home inspection before you get you home listed to sell.

No, it is not recommended to get a pre-sale home inspection. While it may offer benefits, such as boosting buyer confidence, the potential issues and uncertainties raised by inspections, along with disclosure obligations, outweigh the advantages.

What is a Pre-Sale Home Inspection?

When a buyer is putting an ‘offer to purchase' together, they will often request a home inspection as part of their due diligence. Their inspector will thoroughly evaluate the property. They will identify any potential issues, defects, or safety concerns. These might affect the final selling price or jeopardize the sale.

A pre-sale home inspection involves hiring a professional inspector to do the same before your home even goes on the market. The logic behind this is to prevent any surprises when your home is inspected. You will have a clear understanding of your home’s condition and you can make necessary repairs to items you find if needed. You can also adjust your listing price based off your findings.

Pre-Sale Home Inspection Pro’s

When potential buyers see that you've done a pre-sale home inspection, it can significantly boost their confidence in the property. It demonstrates your transparency and that you’ve taken the necessary steps to make sure your home's condition is known to all parties before they make an offer.

If a homeowner finds a number of items in their inspection, they can proactively address them and show potential buyers that they have fixed all of the potential risks.

Buyers may feel more comfortable proceeding with the purchase… And in a competitive environment it might encourage a buyer to feel more comfortable making an offer that waives inspections.

By identifying any major issues or repairs needed beforehand, you have the opportunity to address them on your terms, potentially avoiding costly repairs that could delay or jeopardize the sale.

These aren’t bad reasons to get a home inspection. It seems like there is a lot of benefits to having this done before you list your home. But let’s dig a little further.

Home Inspections Can Uncover Unknown Issues

As a real estate agent, I really dislike home inspections on my listings. You never know what is going to be found. It could be a minor list of small things a buyer wants to nickel and dime my clients with, or it could be a disastrous discovery of asbestos in the blown attic insulation.

The fear of a home sale falling apart from the inspection is real and something we as agents try to minimize for out clients however we can.

Home inspectors are generalists. They cover themselves in many circumstances and defer to a specialist. You will often hear things like: ’This toilet is old, it looks like it might have had a leak, you might want to get a plumber to take a look at it.’ More often then not a home inspector isn’t going to guarantee anything… and they shouldn’t. It’s not their job. Their job is to raise questions.

It’s worth understanding that home inspections are as much of a health report card as they are a checklist of items that are not functional.

An inspector might say, ‘Your roof is old, but it’s not leaking. It probably has 2-5 years left.’ Or ‘The code has changed for this electrical panel… it’s still safe and fine, but it might be something if you have an electrician coming to your home, you might have them update it.’

These are very typical statements that a home inspector might make. But they leave some grey areas as to whether the homeowner should immediately address the item or not. That grey area is part of our issue with pre-sale home inspections we’ll get to in a moment.

The Problem with Pre-Sale Home Inspections

So we’ve already alluded to the grey areas that a home inspection can create. It makes sense to repair something that could be fixed for a few hundred dollars or less. That decision should be easy. But what about proactive repairs to items that might cost tens of thousands.

How about that older roof with only a few years left on it. The roof is fine and functional. But you’ve just discovered that it needs to be replaced sooner than later… Do you update it? You’re not going to get that money back, and some buyers may not care about it.

A little repair request insight. In a standard home inspection if an item is broken, you can make a contractual ‘Request for Repairs’ for it to be repaired or ask for a credit. But... a buyer doesn’t have a contractual ability to ask for money simply because something is old or unstylish.

Home Inspections can create a situation where questions are raised about what the homeowner knew needed work and what they did with that information.

Inspectors All Have Different Concerns

If you’ve been in real estate long enough you’ll have had an inspection kill a deal. The home will be put back on the market and another home inspection will be done. You would think that the repair and ‘items of concern’ lists would be the same from inspector to inspector. They aren’t.

Every inspector uses their own experiences and playbook to inspect and tell clients what the most important thing is. It can create wildly different repair request lists on the same property.

I know agents that fixed a full repair request list only to have the deal fall apart. The next home inspection had a totally different and also incredibly long request for repairs… The sellers were suitably exasperated.

What are the chances your home inspector will find the things that other home inspectors will care about. What are the chances that the things you spend your money fixing will be the items that a potential buyer might care about?

As a listing agent I don’t tell a buyer what should be important to them. I let that individual tell me (through their agent) what they care about through their requests and address the concerns. Home inspections and the requests to repair are as unique as the inspector and buyer they come from.

Are You In a Disclosure State?

Some states have a very clear ‘buyer-beware’ environment that benefits the sellers. In Maryland we have very strong buyer protections that require a seller to disclose everything. I like to say disclose early and often. The legal guideline is anything that is a ‘material fact.’

A material fact is: anything that a reasonable buyer would want to know before they purchased a property that isn’t visible or apparent.

So if you have a pre-sale home inspection, that entire report would be considered a material fact. All the warts and issues of your home uncovered by your home inspection would be required to be disclosed as part of your listing documents.

So even if you did some the repairs, a buyer would be able to figure out which ones you didn’t do. ‘Why didn’t you replace that roof for $15k… you knew it only had 2 years left?’ Your decisions and repairs will now be called into question. Was your contractor licensed and insured? Did they do the work to code?… The questions could be endless.

A growing list of questions could create doubts from potential buyers – Before they’ve even set foot in your home.

If you decide not to disclose the existence of an inspection, and they find out later… you’re putting yourself in potential legal jeopardy. If you have an inspector come to your home, I guarantee a neighbor saw it, and somehow this fact will be relayed to a potential buyer.

Imagine if you had an inspection and the buyer decided not to… What if the your inspector missed something that was later found to be a major issue. Do you think the new buyer is going to trust that was an honest mistake, or try to sue you because you were ‘hiding’ this problem.

Should You Get a Pre-Sale Home Inspection?

No. If you couldn’t already tell. I’m of the mindset that you should not get a pre-sale home inspection. A home inspection report is a specific document that has material meaning once it’s created. They raise too many questions and create many opportunities for problems you don’t want to deal with.

A pre-sale home inspection becomes a material fact that can be used against you if you don’t disclose, or if you don’t fix something based of a buyer’s arbitrary wish list. It can create opportunities for a buyer to question your repairs and the workmanship.

A home inspection doesn’t fix the inherent issue of inspections on a home, it merely provides the opportunity for your potential list of repairs to grow with each new inspection. I won’t tell someone they can’t get a pre-sale home inspection, but I will try to explain the potential issues they are creating for themselves.

I love inspectors and inspections… truly. I learn something every time I’m in a home with them. I trust my inspectors and their judgement. But they should be for buyers.

We try to be proactive at all costs – to save our clients money and time. My job is to be fair to all parties and protect my clients. So is the answer to stick your head in the sand and not do anything? No. Not at all.

The Solution Instead of Pre-Sale Home Inspections

There are a number of professionals I’d suggest you bring into your home before you list. Chief amongst them is a plumber and an electrician. Have your plumber check your water pressure, your toilets and water hookups. Have them make sure your drains empty quickly. Have them check to see if there are any leaks and issues they can see.

Next is an electrician. This is more important for older homes that might not have grounded outlets. Have them check your outlets and make sure that you have ground-fault-circuit-interruptor (GFCI) in bathrooms and your kitchen. Have them check your electrical panel and the rest of the home for issues.

If you have a chimney, have it cleaned. If you have a septic system, have it pumped. If you have a pool, have it serviced. Have your HVAC or furnace serviced. If you uncover a specific material item that needs to be disclosed, disclose it.

These professionals will help get your home in a market ready condition. Then you can give these receipts from these licensed and insured professionals to whomever asks. If someone asks about any of the work you’ve had done, you can give them itemized receipts and refer them to the professional who did the job.

What you didn’t do was hand potential buyers a laundry list of potential issues and concerns.

If you’ve worked hard to get your home market ready, then let it shine. Don’t try to fix everything, because that perfection is an illusion. Let a buyer hire their own inspector to do their own inspection, with their own priorities. Good luck on your home sale!


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