How To Prepare For The Home Inspection - Avoiding Subtle Negatives

During more than 12 years as a home inspector I have seen and heard clients say many things. I have been in fine homes and in distressed homes and I have heard everything from quiet whispers to loud cries from my clients. I am not referring to deficiencies in homes, but subtle and some not so subtle observations of the buyers.

I have made several observations over the years. We all know how important presentation is for the showing of a home, but some small things that create subtle negatives are left unchecked when it is time for the buyers to re-enter the home for a home inspection. These subtle negatives don't necessarily impact a home inspector's report, but can have a profound impact on the buyer's attitude. Remember, the buyer may have only spent 20 minutes in a home before deciding to write a contract on it, 1-5 days to deal with buyer's remorse and at the inspection they will have 2-3 hours to look around.

Subtle negatives can start at the front door and go all the way to the attic. I will list some of the things I have heard comments on and hopefully demonstrate how they affect a buyer's attitude.

1. Upon driving up to the home the grass should be neatly cut, flower beds and driveway and side walks neatly edged, shrubs trimmed, trash cans picked up washed out and put away.

  • Having these things done avoids having the prospective buyers from having that souring face. I know it may have been that way when they decided to write an offer, but you will be amazed of people will overlook when they are excited and in a buying mood, but things change most clients have shifted from a buying mood to a more critical mood.

2. Clean the front door and glass. I mean wipe it down and make it shine oil the hinges and fix the door so it is easy to enter. Remove the cob webs and bees nests, some people freak at the thought of spiders and bees. Clean the gutters, gutters are no place for an organic herb garden. If something is growing out of the gutters it will send strong message of neglect.

3. Pick up the house as if it were still in showing mode; because lets face it, they're still looking. Have the clothes put away and don't leave a pile of dirty clothes on the floor topped with slightly used unmentionables. Put them in a laundry basket. Don't stick them in the washer, all clients open the washer and dryer and I have never seen a client open a laundry basket. Clothes in a dryer say clean and that is ok.

  • You want the buyers to simply see the laundry area and have no comment on it but leave them with a sense that they would wash their clothes here too.

4. CLEAN THE BATHROOMS! Prepare it like a hotel. That means no hair in the sink and tubs, fresh soap and hand towels, cap on the tooth paste, clean mirrors, brightly lit with matching vanity bulbs, a new roll of toilet paper, use subtle air fresheners (too strong and too many is a turn off), use some drain cleaner to clear those slow draining sinks, de-clutter under the vanities, wash the bath mats and if you sprinkle when you tinkle be a sweetie and wipe the seaty.

  • Chances are that the buyers will use the bathrooms after being in the home for a couple of hours. You want them to jealous of how clean it is kept.
  • If the house has a whirlpool you must fill it, run it and sanitize it. Nothing says "YUCK" more than when I test the tub and the scum from the jet lines start swirling around the water. This is known as "Other People Soup". Who wants to see themselves relaxing in that? Click here to learn more on cleaning a whirlpool tub.

5. Fix all the doors so that they work easily. I have seen clients get injured trying to open a sliding door that falls off the tracks and whacks them in the head. The same goes for window blinds. It is fine to include the window treatments with the home just make sure their not booby trapped.

6. Put a sold sign on the yard sign. It makes the buyers feel pumped up when they see it. This is often the first thing a buyer says when they get out of the car "Why doesn't the sign say sold? The sign makes a persons offer to buy feel validated. And we all want that.

7. Hide all the unmentionables from those special boudoirs parties and extracurricular paraphernalia from the master bedroom, closets and other places. I suggest they put them in their trunk and take them away. What your sellers do in the privacy of their home is one thing, just don't advertise it! I have seen things that have made me question my status as a man and/or simply scared the pants off of me. You can only imagine where the buyer's minds and emotions are.

8. Shampooing the carpets is an inexpensive option that can go a very long way. Traffic marks and stains will often translate into replacement costs in the buyers mind. You can often avoid this by renting an inexpensive cleaner from your local hardware store. If the carpet is trashed...clean it anyway. I watched my father for my entire life, a mechanic for 45 years, take $1500 cars that run great but look like a day old fecal mass and with a couple hours of elbow grease and wax turn around and sell it for $3500. The car was always worth every penny, it was just not able to be seen through the layers of neglect.

9. The kid's room is often a place where the buyer compares their children to the sellers. If the kids room is neat as a pin and well organized. The buyers have a tendency to fantasize that when they move into this house the mystical forces that surround the dwelling will inspire their children to keep their room the same way. Give them hope and a warm fuzzy feeling, it can be worth thousands.

10. Don't let rover and Garfield run free. I would say that 25% of my clients are not dog friendly and 75% are not cat friendly. Personally I would like to see the cat number reach 100%. Leaving your pets run free is fine, but some clients are deathly allergic and the having Kitty and Spot rubbing themselves lewdly on a leg is not the best way to say that our house is fresh and clean.

11. De-funkify the basements. Basements are often a place for couples to fantasize. The wife sees a place for the kids to play and the husbands see a place to keep the kids out. Regardless of who wins all areas of basements should be clutter free and left as empty as possible. A cluttered basement prevents buyers from fully projecting themselves in this space. Their focus will turn from fantasy to how someone accumulates so much stuff or live like this. Remove all signs of Rovers mishaps and for goodness sakes clean the cat box.

12. Attic access should be made readily available. The buyers want to see how much stuff they store up there. If the attic is capable of storage, just simply have it straitened up. This is not an area that has caused too many negatives over the years.

13. The garage should be swept, well lit, cob web free and odor undetectable. Remember those washed out trash cans? Having storage in the garage ready for a move is expected, just don't pile them along the wall. Leave access for the buyers to see all the walls so the thought of "Are they hiding something" does not enter their minds. Neatly stacking boxes along a 20 foot wall may look nice but that can create 20 feet of questions.

14. Make sure every light switch works and all bulbs are working. If there is a switch that may seemingly do nothing-Label it! It may be a switched outlet, a spare fan switch or to some outside flood light. Take the time to label these.

15. The outside condition of the home is critical nobody wants to see green algae on white siding, unkempt shrubs, stains and algae on a deck, loose or missing siding and trim, broken shingles pieces in the yard or bushes, holes from rover or his strategic placement of organic mines, evidence of the existence of children should be kept to a minimum, wash and sweep the driveway (even little Suzie's latest chalk art), plant grass or buy some sod patches from Home Deport for the spots in the yard, leave out clean door mats for everyone to wipe their feet. Having all these things and more ready will allow the buyers to see themselves doing the weekend barbeque thing. That can be very powerful.

16. Now to the most important area of the home. The kitchen will can make or break attitudes. Let's face it when Mom wants the house because at first glance the kitchen was perfect and she's going to go though it like the IRS through my 1999 returns. Clean everything now! Don't wait to clean the day before you move out, it will cost you. The kitchen should shine like it was new. That means cleaning the knobs handles, gaskets, drawers, sink drains, faucets, hood vents and the filter on top of the refrigerator. Don't leave week old food in the fridge-YUCK! Keep it organized and odor free. Allow mom to see how much space is in there.

The overall message of this is to prevent a litany of subtle negatives to form in the buyer's mind. So when it comes to presenting the findings the buyers will have on a positive feeling about the home and not mix their negative experiences when they think of what to ask for repairs. If these things were not addressed, and I have seen these scenarios happen time and time again:

  • Some cracked roof shingles or old water stains can quickly turn from a request for repairs or further evaluation into asking for a new roof.
  • Traffic marks and stains in carpets quickly go to "replace carpets".
  • A non working light over the tub will turn into an electrical evaluation.

Don't underestimate the power of subtle negatives. A dirty bathroom in a five star restaurant can turn into someone telling their friends "Do Not eat there". A subtle negative can diminish the reality of a situation. I'm not saying that doing these things will get you more money for your home, but they seem to always do. Allow the buyers to focus on the task and see the reality of situation.

Nothing I mentioned in this diatribe will affect the findings of the inspections, but it may affect the light by which the buyer chooses to view them in. Reality in sales is only 20% the other 80% is how the product makes the other person feel. Sellers, don't relax just because you have a signed contract.