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Jul. 17, 2018
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What to expect in a home inspection

By Bev Knight
 
The lake real estate market has definitely picked up, and homeowners are finding it much easier to get offers on their correctly-priced properties. 
 
However, getting an offer is only half the battle. Once you go under contract, your buyer is going to order a home inspection. These inspectors spend hours checking out every system in your home, the attic, the roof, crawl space, often the septic system, and sometimes even the dock. Even though you disclosed all previous problems, inspectors always find something. Once he generates a list of “issues,” the buyer’s agent will prepare an Amendment to Address Concerns with requests for repairs.
 
You have no contractual obligation to perform the requested repairs; however, if it is a leak or dangerous problem, the buyer will probably walk away if you don’t. Alternatively, they may ask for a reduction in price so they can make the repairs themselves. This reduction is often higher than the cost of the repairs, so it’s in your best interest to minimize the issues before the inspection.
 
In recent years, the most common cause of a contract that doesn’t close is a problematic home inspection. There are certain findings in an inspection that consistently scare buyers away from the purchase. Even if the problems can be fixed, they are often deal-killers because buyers perceive them as signs of bigger issues. If the buyer asks for the problems to be fixed before closing, they will almost always cost more than if you proactively fix them before the inspection. 
 
First of all, you’ll take out the “rush” cost of the job, and you’ll be able to use yours or your agent’s contractor. Plus, you’ll be able to minimize the worry factor for your buyer and set the stage for a stress-free, efficient closing.
 
Here are some of the most common findings that you might want to address before you put your home on the market:
 
  • Leaks – When you list your property, you will be required to disclose any leaks you’ve had in the home and what you did to fix them. This includes roof leaks, plumbing leaks, overflowed tubs and toilets, anything! Don’t let that worry you because almost every house has a leak at some time. You should definitely have leaks fixed, but also be sure to fix the evidence of a previous leak. Even though you’ve disclosed the leak and described how it was resolved, buyers obsess over water spots and stains. Inspectors will find every one of them and usually suggest further evaluation (which you may have to pay for). If it’s a spot on the ceiling, paint it with Kilz (or comparable product), then repaint the ceiling so the old leak doesn’t show. If it’s in the basement, they’ll think it’s a leaky foundation. Even if it’s concrete floors or walls, make sure the leak has been resolved. Paint the affected area so it doesn’t show the old water stains. Of all the preparations being suggested, this is the most important.
  • Rotted wood – We live in hot, humid Georgia where most exterior trim wood will rot sooner or later. Inspectors will use a sharp object to poke trim that looks iffy. If the wood gives away, then he will report it as rotted wood. A good handyman or carpenter will be able to fix this for a few hundred dollars, and it is virtually guaranteed that a buyer will want it fixed. Go ahead and take care of it. The sooner the better because it’s probably letting moisture seep into your walls. That can cause additional rotted wood not to mention mold and potential pest infestations. 
  • Broken seals on energy-efficient windows – Typically, today’s windows have two panes sealed together to provide added insulation. If that seal is broken, whether by time or overly intense pressure washing, then the insulating property of the window is compromised. You can tell when that seal has been broken because the window looks fogged or cloudy. An inspector will make a list of every fogged window and suggest replacement. If a window is just dirty, they’ll still think its seal is compromised just based on the appearance. In other words: clean your windows. Then replace the ones that are fogged. This will help your power bill, too, so don’t wait until you’re selling your home. Also, when you have your home power washed, make sure the contractor lowers the pressure on windows. Too much pressure in a power wash is one of the most common causes of broken seals. 
  • Critter residue – Sooner or later, some family of critters is going to find its way into your attic. You’re not alone. It happens to most of us, especially on the lake where we are so convenient to water and rodent food. Chances are you’ve had them, paid to have them removed, and forgotten about them. Unfortunately, if the evidence of the infestation has not been removed. An inspector will flag it in his report and suggest that the owner have that evaluated by a professional pest control company. That can cost big bucks, and you’ll want to avoid it if possible. When you have your attic treated, make sure they vacuum up the droppings. The feces is a health hazard, and it’s also a big red flag to inspectors. In addition, if your insulation has been disturbed by the nesting rodents, consider replacing it. That’s another red flag. Once the varmints are gone, remove any left-over traps before you put your house on the market. There is nothing more disturbing than thinking that there may be pests in the attic. Take away that negative before your buyers can even have that thought.
  • Decks – If your deck is more than a few years old, chances are it was secured to your house with screws or possibly even nails. Not only will this be flagged in an inspection, but it is not safe for your family. There is a type of bracket that is required by current building codes and much better for securing a deck. These brackets are relatively inexpensive to install and a minor investment for the safety of your family and guests. This problem is flagged on most of our inspection reports, so it makes sense to take care of it ahead of time. Check with your real estate agent to find a contractor who knows how to secure a deck in the proper way. For a few hundred dollars, this is worth the hassle.
  • Fungal growth – If an inspector sees anything (ANYTHING) growing on your walls, in your attic or even in your crawl space, he will flag it and recommend that it be tested by a qualified mold inspector. Again, big bucks! If you see anything like that, make sure the product is designed for the targeted surface, then spray it with a good mold/mildew/fungus spray. The best of these are available at hardware stores. If it comes right back, you may have a real problem, and you should get it tested right away for your family’s sake. But if that kills it, it might have just been dirt or inconsequential mildew. Note that any time you believe there is a mold problem, you should have it tested immediately. That can be deadly, so neither you nor your buyers should take it lightly. 
  • Septic – Many lake buyers are from the city and not familiar with septic tanks. Consequently, they think of them as big, smelly monsters that are going to back up and make their lives miserable. Most purchase contracts call for the septic tank to be pumped, and many ask for a septic tank inspection. For a lot of reasons, it might be in your best interest to have your tank pumped and inspected before you put it on the market. Use a company that your agent knows, has a good reputation, and will put your yard back in its original shape after the inspection. There is a little digging required to do an inspection, but they are required to return the yard to its original state. Some are better than others, so it’s good to control that process. Note that the requirements for septic systems have increased significantly over the past few years. You have no obligation to bring your system up to today’s code; however, the buyer will want to know it is in good working order.
  • Lights – This is an easy one. Inspectors will check every light to see if it’s working. If not, they’ll recommend additional scrutiny. It’s almost always a light bulb that’s out, but they still flag it. Go ahead and put working bulbs in all sockets. It’ll brighten the house during showing and save one line of suggestions on your inspection.
  • Docks – Not every buyer gets a dock inspection, but some do. For liability reasons, be sure there are no rotted boards that create a hazard for buyers. Whether they have a formal inspection or not, they will walk out on the dock before they write a contract. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it does need to be safe. It’s not that expensive to change out a few boards. It is very expensive to get sued for allowing buyers to walk on a rotted dock and get hurt. If this is not in your budget, be sure to block access to the dock and put a sign telling buyers not to walk on it.
  • Water drainage – Another common complaint we see on inspections is improper water drainage around your house. This usually means that instead of sloping from high to low carrying water away from the house, the dirt around the house slopes inward toward the foundation. This is often the cause of foundation leaks, so inspectors check it every time. This is a fairly easy fix. Over time as you work on your landscaping, build up the dirt at your house so it slopes away from the foundation. Be careful not to cover up a French drain if you have one! The idea is that if water runs around your foundation, the gravity of the slope will carry it away from the house. 

If you take care of these issues ahead of time, you’ll be in great shape when that offer comes in. This is an area where it really helps to have a good, active real estate agent. The contractors he or she uses will be motivated to get your work done quicker and with the best possible quality, or else they won’t get called again. Also, most of these fixes are a help to you, anyway. There’s no need to wait until you sell your home. Go ahead and get the work done and enjoy the benefits. Then when you do decide to move, you’ll be way ahead of the game.

Written by Bev Knight, lead agent for The Good Life Group, Lake Lanier specialists with Keller Williams Lanier Partners. Her team has sold over $100 million in homes over the past three years, mostly on the lake. For more articles: www.HousesOnLanier.net

Posted online 6/29/18
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