Although it feels like years ago, it was only a few months back that I went under contract on my first transaction during the pandemic. It was a resale, and I remember it happened just as COVID-19 was beginning to ramp up. At the time, we didn’t have clear-cut safety protocols as far as meeting with clients, attending inspections or closings, or even wearing masks.
Admittedly, back then, I didn’t own a mask yet and was using a scarf instead, hoping the whole situation would soon pass. I did, however, wear gloves and started used disinfecting products, but I was unsure at the time if that was enough.
Flash-forward to the home inspection, and it was a whole new world. Things were changing rapidly, and we were forced to figure it out as we went along. Agents were told to limit face-to-face interactions and not to be in attendance at an inspection with buyers. These new rules took effect immediately.
During that time, everything in Northeast Florida (where I was based) was shut down. The sellers were older and had lived in the home for 30-plus years. It wasn’t exactly like they could disappear to the local coffee shop or the mall for a few hours as they were closed.
What could we do? I remember thinking that a “house party” of buyers, sellers, the inspector and myself as the agent was probably not a good idea. How would we “socially distance”? Where could I camp out so I wouldn’t be in direct contact with everyone, but still involved in the process? Eventually, we came to a decision: The inspector and one of the buyers (the husband) would be in attendance, along with the sellers.
Today, we know what to do and have protocols in place when entering a property. Sellers are understandably concerned about strangers entering their homes more then ever before — and inspectors are no exception. After all, this person (or people) will be spending several hours crawling around their property, touching nearly everything in it.
So, given the situation, how can sellers best prepare for inspections in today’s climate? Here are 10 things agents should advise their sellers to do to make the process go a bit smoother.
1. Set expectations
Sellers need to make sure they’re communicating and setting expectations, and managing inspector protocol. Whether or not it’s required in your market, sellers should request that inspectors wear masks, gloves and booties or anti-slip socks when going through the inside of their home. They should ask inspectors use hand sanitizer or wipes to promptly disinfect any surfaces they touch.
It may work best if your sellers have a supply of these items out and available to the inspector to easily use. Also, request that they sweep up any debris from their inspection after going in an attic, crawl space, etc.
2. Make space
Sellers need to make sure that inspectors can access the areas and spaces they need to check. This might mean moving a few belongings or clearing out an entire area.
Remember — inspectors themselves aren’t allowed to touch or move personal items. If they can’t access an area, they’ll likely wait and return after that space has been cleared. Obviously, not only does this prolong the process, it also causes frustration for everyone involved in the transaction.
Make sure an inspector can access electrical panels, water heaters, heating and cooling units and outlets. Remind your sellers to check the garage, and move any vehicles or golf carts out of the way. (It’s best if sellers take their cars off the property during the inspection. No one wants an inspector to accidentally fall off a ladder and into the car in the garage.) Inspectors should be able to walk through a garage freely and get into any attic or crawl spaces.
If there are any objects in the way of the motion sensors on the garage door opener, they may need to be moved so the inspector can check if this safety feature is functioning.
If there’s an attic access in a closet (as there often is in main bedroom closets), sellers need to clear items from that closet. Otherwise, they should make sure to protect them and cover them in plastic. Oftentimes, dust and debris may result from inspectors going into the attic.
3. Explain how systems work
Sellers should consider meeting with inspectors when they arrive to review how their systems, appliances and equipment work, and explain details and nuances before they leave.
Inspectors don’t want to risk damaging anything. So, if they’re unable to figure out how something works, they may note it as “inoperable” on the inspection. Sellers then have to troubleshoot and go over it with the buyers and their agent.
If sellers can’t (or, for safety reasons, don’t want to) be there, they should consider leaving an instruction sheet or checklist inspectors can refer to. This will hopefully prevent any mishaps with inspectors (like, potentially screwing up a system or setting), which can and does happen quite often.
4. Have the HVAC serviced
If sellers haven’t had their HVAC serviced, cleaned and the filter changed, they should consider doing that before the inspection. This item is often called out on inspections, so taking care of this proactively will result in one less thing on the list.
5. Check light bulbs
Check light bulbs to make sure they’re all on and functioning properly. If sellers have any lights or ceiling fans with remotes, they need to make sure the batteries are working.
6. Take care of missing caulking
Tell your sellers to caulk any obvious areas in need of attention around counter tops in the kitchen and bathrooms. They should pay attention to areas around sinks, tubs and any wet areas such as sinks.
7. Don’t forget the dryer vent
This is something that a lot of sellers forget or ignore, but often turns up as a common issue on inspection reports. So, remind your sellers to clean the dryer vent.
8. Turn on the ice maker
If sellers have an ice maker in the freezer, they need to make sure it’s turned on and making ice for the inspection. If it’s off, they’ll need to turn it on and demonstrate to the buyers that it is, in fact, making ice and working as it’s supposed to be. Obviously, this is not a difficult thing to do, but it’s one less thing to worry about.
9. Clean windows
Windowsills and tracks need to be cleaned. Dust and dead bugs can build up in these areas, which often get overlooked during the course of everyday cleaning. Wiping these areas down will minimize dirt and debris from the inspector opening and closing every window as part of the inspection process.
10. Test locks and the sprinkler system
If the home has a sprinkler system, sellers need to check it to make sure that the heads are hitting the areas they should, and that none of them are leaking when they run. Check locks, hinges and doors to ensure nothing sticks and everything latches properly.
Masks and hand sanitizer aside, this is a helpful checklist to run through before an inspector comes through your sellers’ home. Taking care of these items will hopefully shorten the time the inspector is in the home and minimize the need for a return visit to look at things they couldn’t access the first time around.