Imagine if everyone knew what to check for before the dreaded pre-close inspection. Baffled inspectors would be greeted by move-in-ready houses while eliminating much of the stress from the listing and selling process.
People listing a house for sale often assume they’ll need to replace the windows they’ve been propping open for the last five years. Most of the time, they’re wrong. Making the necessary repairs early on will save you from last-minute headaches and panicked, unnecessary purchases. As a hardware replacement company, our phone calls often seem scripted due to how similar they are.
Customer: “I’m having a problem with my windows.”
SWISCO: “What’s wrong with them?”
Customer: “They’re 30 years old and don’t stay up!”
In reality, the necessary repairs are often inexpensive and relatively simple. The conversation is often followed by a heavy sigh of relief that new support balances, which cost about $20 per window to replace, will rectify the problem. This is just one example of many similar situations in which a potential disaster turns into a mild bump in the road once the homeowner determines the repairs needed to sell their house.
Imagine if everyone knew what to check for before the dreaded pre-close inspection. Baffled inspectors and happy buyers would wander around the move-in-ready house in shock. Not to mention the amount of stress that would be eliminated from the listing and selling process.
The first step to making this seemingly unattainable dream a reality is to start preparing the house for sale as early as possible. If you’re planning on listing a house for sale in the spring, take advantage of the fall and winter months leading up to your listing date to get the house in tip-top shape. People may not be buying as heavily during the winter season, even though they probably should since listings tend to drop in price. Take advantage of the lag in buyer interest and any nice weather to repair various parts of the house that might have become worn over the years. Gaining advice from seasoned buyers and sellers is invaluable information. Luckily, SWISCO employees have no shortage of wisdom to spare when it comes to selling a house and making room in your wallet for the two-bedroom condo or cozy cottage of your dreams.
The funny thing is, the idea of moving back to my hometown didn’t come from me. It came from my wife. We had lived in a town about 35 miles away from “home” for 26 years. No matter where you live, or for how long, the place you spent your school years will always be “home”.
One night we’re walking the dog, and my wife says she’s ready for a change. Just like that, we ended up moving back to my hometown, where much of my family still resided, seven years ago. No matter how experienced you are at the sell-a-house, buy-a-house thing, there’s always the surprise or two (or ten) in route to your next best home ever. That buyer and seller inspection is right at the center of it all.
Whether you’re the buyer or the seller, I guess the inspector’s report could be aptly labeled “the panic report.” Both sides are hoping for a rubber-stamped, thumbs-up endorsement of the home, the sale price, the neighborhood, and while we’re at it, the color of the curtains. Well, it sadly doesn’t work that way.
Instead, what you get is a real-world reality check in the form of a list of problems neither side knew they had. That list can go to 35 pages, with a fixed closing date, movers who want to be paid, landlords who want to move on with their property, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in motion. And that’s where the panic sets in.
But take a closer look and maybe panic is unnecessary. With the right resources and frame of mind, that 35-page report becomes a nuisance summary. More importantly, a very fixable one.
That list was in our hands more than seven years ago, and gee whiz, I wish we’d kept the report. Well, we did keep the digital download of the report. On a computer that died. Backup? Sure, I have a backup. Uh… right over here. Or maybe that was over here… But I do remember certain things. And those things tend to pile up quick enough.
The biggest thing I remember was the inspector of the house we were selling suggested changing the window midway down the steps to shatterproof glass. You see, there was a right-angle turn at the midway point, and the inspector said if someone falls down the stairs, they could cartwheel their way through the glass. Pretty gruesome imagery, I know. Still, we rejected that one.
Shockingly, you can do that. If the seller doesn’t want to make changes, the buyer may have the right to walk away from the deal or start negotiating on a compromise. The shatterproof glass wound up being a non-issue in our deal.
Every house in America has a window that won’t stay up, or so I am convinced. We were blessed with two. I’ve learned that those are pretty easy problems to solve, but that didn’t comfort us at the time. Yes, we shopped for windows to replace the non-performers. But we didn’t need windows; we just needed some parts. I’m not too proud to admit: we sliced a few hundred dollars off the sale price and moved on. If I had known that our solution was a $20 per window do-it-yourself job, well, anyone could use an extra “few hundred dollars” at some point.
We also had a patio door with a tic. Every time you opened it about a foot, it would hop as if there was a stone on the track. Quite the opposite, there was a gouge. We had just learned to live with it. Just like we learned to live with the difficult roll for that patio door. We didn’t know at the time that the door wasn’t the problem, it was just time for new rollers. Slice another three hundred dollars off the price, again, for a repair that would have cost $50 if we knew where to get the parts.
And the list went on and on. Two kitchen drawers required drawer sockets. A real downer for home shoppers, but we had learned to live with opening the drawers with a gentle hand. Who knew we could have fixed those drawers for under five dollars each when they started deteriorating years ago?
In the house we were buying, our inspector actually found there was no chimney damper to keep the house’s temperature-controlled air from escaping. Nothing at all! That was probably the most eye-opening revelation on the buying or selling end of our most recent move. That was one of the few things we insisted on getting fixed, and it was done. True confession: after making that demand for the installation, we’re guilty of leaving that sought-after damper open most of the time.
There must have been a dozen cases that the inspector cited that didn’t cost us anything at all; we just had to tighten up here and there. Kitchen and bathroom faucets leaked unless we set the knobs in just the right position. We had learned to find that position. (Hey, it beats spending that 42 cents before we have to, right?) The inspector is going to turn on all the lights, looking for bad switches or flickering fixtures. He’ll turn on the ceiling fans too, even in rooms you don’t use. Garbage disposal, range hood fan, ground fault circuit interrupters, they’re all going to get on-camera, close-ups from a quality home inspector.
All in all, a home inspector’s report is not to be feared, as it is a good thing for both the buyer and the seller. For the seller, it helps identify nit-picky distractions which can cut short a home shoppers tour of your home. A house that’s buttoned up tight gives a buyer confidence to push forward with a purchase. For the buyer, it’s a no-brainer. A professional set of eyes will help buyers know they’re not walking into a money pit, blinded by something like a breathtaking view, a man cave, or an award-winning garden. But when that buyer’s “panic report” comes in just days before closing, things get a little exciting, and that’s when the negotiations really get started.
Our goal is to help you keep the panic report short and your potential buyers secure in their decision to buy your home. The best way to do that is to look at the house from a buyer’s perspective. If you didn’t have years of memories and sentimental value invested in your quirky home, would you buy it outright?
As we touched on earlier, do your windows stay up? If not, you might need new balances.
Do you have tilt windows? Are the tilt latches still in one piece?
Do your sliding glass doors have trouble sliding? Make sure the track and rollers and free of wear and tear.
Home security is vital to potential buyers. Do all of your window and door locks work?
Does your weatherstripping allow outside air into your cozy home?
Do you know what kind of glass is in your windows? Will the buyers want to know?
Do your drawers stick or cabinets creek when you open them?
Nothing has to be broken or damaged to wind up on the inspector’s report, which can come off as rather tragicomic. The kitchen cabinets could be outdated, or your staircase railing could be “unstable” as it has been for 20 years. The bad news is, there are no set criteria regarding what this list can contain. The good news is, you don’t have to fold to all of the inspector or buyer’s requests. You have the right to say, “It’s not broken and I’m not fixing it.”
After all, how many of these minor inconveniences do families live with? And they’ve been living with them so long they don’t even think about them anymore. Even though many of these minor inconveniences are easily remedied, many first-time sellers and buyers aren’t aware of the appropriate steps to take. In most cases, the first step should be finding the right companies to help you isolate the problem areas in your house and the most efficient ways to repair or renovate them.
In closing, (Haha, real-estate joke!) take a deep breath, get your documentation in order, and have your local hardware gurus on speed dial when preparing a home for a smooth transition to its new family.