Seller’s Guide to Home Inspections

The challenge of the home inspection process is that there is so much relying on the outcome. The seller is almost always biased; he or she believes the residence is in better condition than it probably is. Thus, a pre-inspection might make sense and could be potentially more profitable.

A lot of sellers consider doing an inspection of their home before it is listed. Doing so enables the seller to fix any issues that would come up during the buyer’s inspection. Most major defects that are found were not known to the sellers and unfortunately one out of every 20 real estate transactions hits this bump and almost a third don’t even make it to closing because of issues that turned up during the buyer’s inspection.

While each inspector will bring a unique point of view to an inspection, all professional home inspectors cover the same areas. They will inspect the exterior including walking the roof to inspect the roof covering materials and
the other components above the roofline when it’s safe to do so. They will examine the eave gutters, downspouts, chimneys, grading, drainage, driveways, walkways, porches, decks, balconies, patios, exterior wall
claddings, and other exterior components.

They will inspect the plumbing, electrical, heating, and cooling systems including the operation of plumbing fixtures and water heaters. Inspectors examine the interiors of the electrical system main and sub-distribution panels
and the operation of heating and cooling equipment including, in some instances, removal of heating and cooling equipment access panels to permit closer examination of interior components. They will inspect solid-fuel heating
appliances such as wood stoves and fireplaces. Inspectors may enter under-building crawl spaces and attic spaces; open closets, cabinets, and cupboards; and enter and inspect every room of the home including garages and the function of automatic garage door operators.

Reasonable buyers should not expect a home to be perfect. However, they do expect it to be habitable and in decent shape. That means that some major defects will be a problem—possibly big enough to kill the sale if a home inspector finds them. There are three types of repairs that sellers are usually required to take care of after an inspection:

Structural Defects – any physical damage to the load-bearing elements of the home, including a crack in the foundation, roof framing damage, and decaying floorboards.

Safety / Health Problems – all homes must meet certain safety standards including mold, wildlife infestations, and exposed electrical wiring.

Building Code Violations – the absence of smoke detectors, use of non-flame retardant roofing material, and use of lead paint after 1978.

Once the inspector’s report is in hand there are two basic choices: Make the repairs or put it on the market at a lower price. Making certain repairs before you put your house on the market makes sense when the repairs are relatively small and inexpensive. There are cases when doing a repair before putting a house on the market won’t make sense. For major repairs, like fixing a crack in the foundation, it might be better off to have a contractor take a look and estimate the cost of repair, then lowering the sale price accordingly.

The Bottom Line: Sellers may use a pre-listing home inspection as a way to streamline the sale process in hopes of closing faster. Already knowing the issues that are going to come up during the buyer’s inspection, the home can be priced accordingly, which will give you stronger negotiating power.

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Smooth Closing

Buying a home can be chock full of complications and setbacks, or it can go remarkably smooth and fast if it is planned carefully.  The end goal needs to be addressed right from the start, and that goal is to have a smooth closing. Be sure to choose a Realtor that is experienced and one that you trust to stay focused and be the voice of reason as they facilitate the process at closing and make sure all parties have completed all unfinished business prior to coming to the “closing table”. Here are a few tips that can help you make it go as smoothly as possible.

Repairs: It’s a good idea to have a complete inspection done so that any issues can be addressed before closing. You may want more than just a code inspection, because there may be issues that don’t have to be revealed since they don’t have anything to do with building codes or laws regarding seller disclosure.

The Realtor should check on the status of all repairs that were to be made on the home the day before closing. If there was an agreement that something needed to be fixed by closing, make sure that it is. If there was an arrangement for repairs to be taken care of after closing, make sure all the necessary paperwork shows this as fact.  A final walk-through should be done with the buyers. The sellers should make sure, with their Realtor, that the property is in the condition promised and all of their personal items are removed. 

Title Insurance:  Your title company plays an essential role in closing your real estate transaction. All of the title work should be checked to ensure a clear title and that the property can be transferred without any obstructions.  Should there be any title issues that might include judgments or liens,  they must be settled prior to the hour of closing.  The moment of truth in a real estate transaction happens at the closing table. Title First Agency will work hard to ensure a seamless experience for you and your clients. From contract to closing, we handle all the details to help a transaction run smoothly and close on time. 

Financing: The lender should be contacted the day before the closing to be certain that all the documents they need have been received. Occasionally, the closing is delayed due to one document or one final verification.  The interest rate for the loan should be locked as well as the final mortgage and monthly payments.  The Realtor should make sure the buyer has all the funds available and ready to close.  Having everything in hand the day before gives both the buyer and the seller 24 hours to review everything. If there are any questions, you can have them ready and any issues addressed.

The Bottom Line: A thorough Realtor will make sure the buyers are ready for the closing. First-time buyers may not realize all the people that could possibly be at the closing table, and all the paperwork there will be that needs their signature. The buyer needs a cashier’s check or arrangements made to wire the closing funds to the escrow company.  The seller should bring all the keys, garage door openers, alarm codes, and any other controls to the settlement. The Realtor should make sure and confirm that all utilities have been disconnected by the sellers and set up ready for the buyers upon closing. 

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Buying a Foreclosed Home

Buying a foreclosed home has its benefits; most importantly because it’s often cheaper than buying a home the conventional way. In a foreclosure, you’re buying from the previous owner’s mortgage lender because the owner has defaulted on their loan. The reason a foreclosure is more affordable is that while a homeowner wants to make as much profit as possible, the bank mainly wants to recoup the remainder of the mortgage and any holding costs. Buyers need to be careful: Purchasing a home that is in foreclosure can lead to big problems.

Banks are in the business of lending money, not maintaining homes. That means when a bank owns a home, it will not make any repairs to the property, regardless of any damage.

Still, as the buyer, get an inspection, even though you shouldn’t expect to receive any money from the bank to make repairs or any repairs to be made for you. In some cases, you can use the inspection report as a way to negotiate a lower sales price, but only if there aren’t multiple offers willing to pay more for the property.

Make sure that you get the home inspection from a licensed inspector before closing on the property. One way to do this is to make the offer to purchase contingent on the home inspection. The home inspector will reveal to you items in need of repair, such as a leaky roof as well as items that are not up to safety code, like a water heater that’s not strapped up. Then, you can decide whether or not you are willing to purchase the property based on the new knowledge that the inspection report showed you.

Not every bank-owned property needs repairs, but many do. So, take into account the cost of all the necessary repairs when buying a foreclosure. Some may be major, such as roof repair, while some are likely to be purely aesthetic like painting the walls or pulling out carpet.

Can you do the work yourself? How much time will it take you and what is the cost of materials? If you’ve never done repairs on a home before, get a professional estimate, preferably a free one from a local contractor or a home improvement store.

The Bottom Line: Buying a foreclosed home can turn out to be the best deal, but you should be able to handle the risk. Make sure you get your home inspected and figure out how much other homes in the area are going. That way you don’t end up paying more than you should.

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Don’t Scare Homebuyers Away. Be Prepared.

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Putting your home on the market? There can be the normal challenges you might face (lowball offers, competition, slow market) and a few things that will outright scare people away from even considering your home. Before you list your home, consider having the following inspected:

  • Windows: Ensure all windows are opening, closing, and locking correctly.  Older windows sometimes will not remain open and may need to have the sash cords replaced. An experienced Realtor will point out things that may drain the homebuyer’s bank account, and windows are on that list. You might want to replace them before listing the home or consider adjusting your asking price to compensate for the old windows.
  • Furnace / Air Conditioning: Have a professional HVAC contractor clean and inspect your furnace prior to listing your home.  An HVAC contractor will ensure the heat exchanger is not cracked.  Make sure the contractor places a sticker on the furnace and provides a receipt and report so you can provide that to a homebuyer.
  • Electrical System: It’s not a good idea to try and sell a home with questionable wiring and electrical systems. This is a big one and vital to the value of your home. Problems will be found during the inspection and will have buyers moving on. Have a professional inspect the service entrance cable to ensure there is no fraying or splitting as well as assuring that there are no double-tapped circuit breakers.
  • Water Damage: An inspector will be looking for signs of leaks or water damage, so it’s in your best interest to get those issues repaired before listing your home. Trying to sell a home with water damage is daunting so it is best to have expert guidance. Additionally, mold is one of the biggest deal-breakers so consider getting a professional mold inspection.

The Bottom Line: The last thing you want to happen when a buyer decides he wants your home is to have one of the above situations occur. Properly preparing your home to sell makes a huge difference. Get the advice of an experienced Realtor who will have a list of contacts that include all types of specialists you will need to handle any of the problems. Buyers are not expecting perfection, but they want to know there aren’t any expensive burdens.

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Home Inspection Deal Breakers

Before you buy a new house, a qualified home inspector is always your best bet for a thorough home evaluation, but you should also have a general understanding of what to look out for. A bad home inspection has the potential to derail a real estate transaction, especially if what’s uncovered is an expensive problem. Here are four issues that have been deal breakers, according to some Realtors.  

Faulty Electrical Wiring:
The electrical system is an important, and potentially hazardous, part of a home, which is why it is included in every thorough home inspection Newer homes have more supply of power and electrical outlets. Older homes do not. A good inspector should check the outlets throughout the home as well as check the interior of the electrical breaker/fuse box assuring that there are no “double taps” – two electrical circuits attached to a single breaker – as it is a fire hazard. The wires, conduits, and boxes should be securely fixed to the building. There should be no visible signs of damage or deterioration. There should be at least one ground rod or other approved grounding means present at the service.

Plumbing:
Some of these issues are obvious. Skilled inspectors are trained to find obvious, like a clogged toilet as well as the not so obvious, like illegal pipes that could result in being cited for plumbing violations. He will look around the entire home for signs of mildew, fungus or mold related to water leaking from broken pipes and cracks in the ceiling or floor.    

Grading Toward the Home:
Water in the basement, damp or wet crawlspaces, foundation movement, cracking and settlement may all be caused by grading. Water in the foundation could lead to rot in the walls, framing members and mold. Some indications of foundation movement include windows that are out of square; interior doors that have large, uneven gaps at the top when the door is closed; or floors visibly out of level. Some of the most experienced home inspectors believe that the most common issue they find during inspections is the lack of grading (improperly sloped soil) away from the home. 

Roofing:
A roof usually lasts about 30 years, so you will need to find out when it was installed. A home inspector will look at the quality of the shingles and know if any are curled, broken, or even missing which are signs that you might need a new roof soon.

The Bottom Line: Whether any of these issues are deal breaker depends on your preferences and needs. Any issue such as the four listed might be too expensive or time-consuming to fix. However, you might find these issues acceptable and have the resources to get them fixed. The home inspector should not tell anyone to buy or not to buy a home. It’s just his job to provide all the information needed so that the home buyer can make the right decision for them.   

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Home Appraisal

A real estate appraisal is an essential piece of the buying and selling of property most notably if a buyer is going to need a loan to buy the home. No legitimate financial institution will lend money without an appraisal. The appraisal value of a home can make or break a sale, leaving this part of the real estate process one if not the most important, critical steps.

A home appraisal is different from a home inspection even though both an appraiser and an inspector will walk inside, outside and around the property to check everything with a fine tooth comb. The appraiser is finding the value of the home and the inspector is looking for problems or defects with it.

During an appraisal of a home, the appraiser will look at the state of repari, the features, square footage, number of bedrooms and bathrooms. It is good to give a list of repairs and improvements made such as a new roof, water heater, air conditioning, etc. Basically, anything the owner of the home can think of that will help the appraiser decide the general market value of the home.

The home will then be compared as accurately as possible by way of recent sales, homes sold that are similar, and a search will be done for properties that are identical to yours and what’s been sold or what is on sale in the neighborhood. The appraiser will also provide whether values of home are on the rise, decreasing or stable. If there are any concerns that he feels will harm the property’ value, it will be noted as well as flagging any bigger problems he may see in the foundation, the roof or any noticeable water leaks in ceilings or floors.

Again, an appraisal can make or break a sale of the home so it’s a nerve-wracking time. If the appraisal comes back higher or lower than the sale price, there will need to be more negotiating. If the seller isn’t happy with the outcome, a good Realtor will discuss with the appraiser why certain decisions were made. With the help of a Realtor, the seller can put together a valid argument as to why the appraisal is not correct.

Appraisals are valid for six months unless the home is in certain markets where homes are selling fast and prices continually change. At which point, lenders usually like an appraisal every three months.

The Bottom Line: Any good Realtor will press on the point that pricing the home correctly is most important. If a home is overpriced it’s not going to appraise and the sale usually falls through. Pricing issues are the number one reason homes don’t sell.

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Are You Ready For Your Interior Home Inspection?

It’s in a seller’s best interest to make sure their home is as ready as possible for inspection. All homes that have been lived in usually have a bit of damage from simply living in it.  After your home has been on the market and someone is interested in buying it, you have to pass the inspection.  Home inspection seems nerve-wracking but they are necessary before any sale. There are a few things you can do to be prepared for the day when the interior of your home is being inspected. 

Heating, Cooling, Water Heater: Each should have a date of their last inspection on them. If not, they could be flagged by the inspector.  If you can’t find a sticker, have your Realtor give you the name of a licensed contractor to come to have a look to see if any repairs or changes should be made and make sure all are running properly. 

Bathrooms: How is the grout in the shower, around the sink and in the tub looking? This one is an easy remedy if you see any cracks – match the grout color and fill in the damaged areas.  Make sure any pipe work that was performed meets legal standards and guidelines. For example: If you put in your own custom shower, note that the inspector will check below the surface to make sure that the membrane was installed properly and there isn’t water leaking below the shower that could damage the sub-floor and drywall.  The inspector will flush all the toilets and listen for any leaking sounds. Often you will just need a flapper valve if you hear a sound.  Cheap fix. 

Electrical: Test your outlets. For as little as $10, an outlet tester can be picked up at a home improvement store. An inspector will try every single one in your home. Be sure the cover plates are not cracked – another cheap and easy fix.  Every light fixture should have a working bulb and your smoke detector should work. 

Plumbing: Fill all your sinks part of the way and then pull the plug to see if they drain normally. Did it take a long time to fill the sink? It might be because you have low water pressure and is often a really easy fix. Occasionally, this could be an indication of a bigger problem within your plumbing system. It’s best, at that point, to hire a professional to come to see before an inspector. Check inside cabinets under sinks for moisture or around the valves.

Kitchen Appliances: Repair any that may need to be fixed as the inspector will run the dishwasher, the stove, oven, garbage disposal, vents, and fans. If you bought a new appliance while you lived in the home and installed it yourself, mistakes may have been made during setup. Check the water and drainage lines from a new dishwasher or refridgerator

Windows & Doors: Each window should be able to open, close and lock. If you find any hard movement, it can be easily fixed using spray silicone from the hardware store. Repair any caulking around the doors and make sure all the knobs/deadbolts are working properly. 

The Bottom Line: This is just a quick checklist of some of the things that you, as a homeowner, can look for and fix before an inspection inside your home.  Some of the issues may need the help of a professional.  The best advice we have heard is if you want the inspection to go smoothly, have your home inspected before it even goes on the market. This way, anything you can’t fix yourself, you will have time to find a reasonably priced contractor instead of rushing and paying top dollar after the fact. 

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Do I Need A Realtor to Buy a House?

Contract

“Do I really need a Realtor to buy a house?” If you are having doubts, here are a few reasons that a Real Estate Agent is valuable during the home buying process.

Sure, you can look through the many internet real estate listings, but a knowledgeable Realtor can cut through all the fat, plus have access to other sites, know the neighborhood comps, have contact with other agents in town with “pocket listings” and sometimes know the background (or the “skinny”) on a few homes. A Realtor is going to do all the dirty work and guide you through it all.  They are going to research the market trends and other important information that can be tedious.

The housing market is immense, there are literally thousands of options available and it can prove to be difficult to narrow down which homes are even worth looking at.  Your Realtor will have data about crime rates, education options, local businesses, commute times, zoning codes and a lot of other information that will influence your final decision.

Once you fall in love with a home, a skilled Realtor will have been through many homes and is trained to look for issues that might be hidden to you. Once the problem  identified it can be addressed and the Realtor can ask for it to be repaired.

The vast knowledge of market conditions and comp sales coupled with the Realtor’s knowledge will help put together a competitive offer at the best possible price.  You will be given information on at current home conditions to find any issues that could be leveraged during negotiations. The Realtor knows how to navigate through the many documents plus be your voice when the negotiating begins.  If you end up with questions and concerns or are completely confused, your Realtor will be able to  clarify all the clauses, contingencies and jargon-filled fine print as well as find hidden fees and conditions that many people tend to skim over.

The Bottom Line: Anyone can shop for a new home without a Realtor. Buying and selling a house is one of the largest financial transactions people make in their lifetime. Realtors earn their commission by making sure you know exactly what you are doing. They are helping you through the many pages of documents required on the transaction. They are with you during the inspection (pest, foundation, furnace, sewer, electrical, plumbing, etc), appraisal and disclosure. It’s in your best interest to use the resources of a skilled Real Estate Agent.

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Ohio Disclosure Rules

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When selling your home, you are obligated to disclose problems that could affect the property’s value or desirability in Ohio. Sellers and their Realtors are required to document any known defects to potential buyers. Sellers also have to take a proactive role by making written disclosures about the condition of the property.  Disclosure of a problem doesn’t mean you must repair or correct it. A buyer has an interest in getting the deal closed as well and oftentimes will overlook minor issues. More times than not, the disclosed item can become a point of negotiation between you and your buyer.

The Residential Property Disclosure Form is designed so that prospective home buyers are aware of known problems with the property during your ownership for a period not to exceed the past five years. Once the buyers have this in their hands, they have the right to rescind the purchase contract if it is made before the closing, within 30 days of signing the purchase contract and within three days of receiving the form itself.

Not everything needs to be disclosed. Many problems are obvious – a water stain on the ceiling for example or a deck that is rotten and falling apart. As a seller, you don’t have to disclose it. You can’t conceal or prevent a buyer from investigating the problem. A defect that is open, observable and can be discovered through inspection and inquiry is called a patent defect. The buyer can be held responsible and liable for all defects that could have been discovered upon inspection.  The burden is on the buyer to notice these issues prior to purchase.

If there’s any doubt about whether something should be disclosed, the best policy is to err on the side of disclosure. Full disclosure will protect sellers from future legal claims.

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