I suspect that this might be a topic of some controversy amongst Realtors®. Advising a homeowner who is listing his home to spend the $300-400 to get a home inspection up front is a tough sell and may slow things down, at least at the front-end. Some homeowners might also retort that what you don’t know, you don’t have to disclose about the house. While that may be true, it is also a bad practice that will usually come back to bite that homeowner. The more you know (and can honestly disclose up front) the better off you are likely to be in the long run. You can also make the repairs that are needed or remediate the issues that will be found later by the Buyer’s inspector at a panic-free pace.
Most homeowners make honest disclosures about what they do know about the house. Many just don’t know that there may be mold in the attic or that some component of the infrastructure has failed. If they did, they would probably have done something about it. In many areas Radon is a common issue, but few homeowners have ever had a Radon check done on their house. Homes that are on wells and septic systems also may be harboring problems that the homeowner is just not aware of or has gotten used to living with, such as failed bladder tanks on the well or a marginal or failed septic field.
What the home inspector will find are all of the things that go beyond the obvious things that the homeowner can see. The roof with missing shingles or that needs replacing may be obvious to the homeowner from the ground, but perhaps they don’t see the deterioration in the valleys or the flashing around the chimney that needs to be redone. They may not be able to spot all of the wood rot that has occurred, because they don’t get up and walk around on the roof like the inspector does.
Many other things that a home inspector might find are relatively easy and inexpensive to fix and getting them done ahead of listing will mean that they don’t become distractions for would-be buyers. Buyers make lists (mental or otherwise) of the things that they notice and each item on that list is something that they may take a little off the offer price because they’ll have to fix it. Certainly when they get their own inspection report all of the major items become negotiation points for repair or concessions.
You can get some good advice from your Realtor, if they’ve done a good job of walking through your home with you to point out the things that they see that need work; however, they are not home inspectors and won’t be climbing on the roof or looking into the attic space. The Realtor is more concerned with clutter and cleanliness and obvious minor condition issues, like missing plug or switch plates or paint that needs a touch-up.
A good home inspection will uncover the major things that the homeowner may not be aware of and equip the homeowner with a good to-do list to get the house in shape for the market or at least a good idea of the points of possible concessions that he/she will have to negotiate with the buyer. It may also help the seller in setting a more realistic sale price for the house.
So, is investing $300-400 at the front end a good idea? It does allow a homeowner to react to a major issue without being under the gun of having to make a big decision on a repair or concession while under the gun of a deal on the table. It give the homeowner time to call and get quotes from several companies that might do the work, rather than just taking the first bid so that the deal can move forward. Yes, it might require disclosure on the Seller’s Disclosure form; however, that same form has space to explain what was done to fix the issue, so that is out on the table, too. If the issue is one that might require some negotiation with the buyer over splitting the cost of the repair, it is also good to have 2-3 quotes for the work in-hand, so that the seller knows what he/she is negotiating. That investment at the front end may be one of wisest things you do to get ready for listing your home.