Home Inspection

A web log for homeowners, prospective homeowners and home sellers in the subject of Home Inspections, presented by I. G. "Zack" Lilienfeld, PE, Licensed New Jersey Home Inspector and Consulting Engineer


Selling? How to Prepare for a Home Inspection


Will your home be inspected shortly at the request of the buyers of your home?  The home inspector is required to perform this inspection following a set of State or Association standards.  It is a visual, generalist inspection, along with the use of some testing equipment including a moisture meter, outlet tester, combustible gas detector, and perhaps other diagnostic tools.  During the inspection, the home inspector will need to have safe access to the front of the electrical panel(s), entry areas for crawlspace or attic, as well as having access to the water heater, and heating/cooling equipment. 

It is in your best interest to have your home "inspection-ready".   Home inspectors cannot perform their job properly if components or systems that they need to evaluate are either inaccessible or unavailable to operate. And, more importantly for you, the buyer of your home can be left with unanswered questions and uncertainties as to conditions of equipment or areas that cannot be inspected, which may create doubt about their moving forward with the purchase of your home.  When a home inspector reports that a key component is "inaccessible" or "out of service", and the buyer asks the inspector to make a return trip to inspect these items after they are made available, the seller is often looked upon to pay for the inspector’s return visit fee.   Do not expect that the home inspector will move your furniture, belongings or laundry to access appliances or key inspection areas; they are not required to do so by the home inspection standards of practice, as this activity can lead to damage of flooring, possessions or furniture.

To assist you in preparing for the home inspection, here is a checklist with some important tips:

  • Clear out clutter and supplies from bathroom vanities and under the kitchen sink, to allow the inspector to view pipes and valves when checking for condition, and for leaks.
  • Remove clothing, shelves and clothes racks from closets containing the attic access hatch, to enable the home inspector to reach the hatch with a ladder, and to prevent dust and insulation from the attic from dropping down onto your possessions and clothing.
  • If one is installed, remove the insulating blanket from the water heater to permit a visual inspection of the tank, and provide access to the manufacturer's nameplate on the side.
  • Remove laundry from washing machines and dryers, in the event the home inspector elects to optionally test these appliances.  If the laundry equipment is not going with the sale, it is recommended that you place a note explaining this on the laundry equipment.
  • Ovens (including built-in microwaves), cook-tops and ranges will be tested for function, so remove any decorative burner covers, pots, pans, plastic and wood items and other combustibles that do not belong in, or on these appliances
  • Open all of the blinds, shades and curtains on windows and doors.  These are considered decorative items and are not part of a home inspection.  Window or door blinds can fall off or break when attempting to open them, and sometimes window blinds fail to retract after opening.  Blinds and shades can be fragile or improperly mounted, and when they detach or collapse, can cause consequential damage to breakables below.
  • Remove trinkets, ornaments and collectables from harm's way, including the top of the range, windows sashes and sills, doorways and other areas the home inspector will access.  
  • If the home has a natural gas fireplace, be sure it is set up and ready to go with the flip of a switch or press of a button.  Home inspectors who are following the standards of practice will not turn on primary gas valves or ignite pilot lights.
  • Clear out the area in front of fireplaces, including andirons, logs, and screens.  And, open any hinged glass doors to permit free access to these areas.
  • Place all remote controls for ceiling fans, fireplaces and ductless split system air conditioners in plain view, so that these fixtures and appliances can be tested.
  • Open all locks on outside showers, garage doors, keyed bolt locks, outdoor electrical main disconnect compartments, crawlspace or attic access hatches, storage rooms and closets, to enable these areas to be opened up and visually inspected.
  • Clearly label any defective appliances, garage doors or other components that you are aware of, so the home inspector does not attempt to operate them without this knowledge.  While home inspectors are liable for negligence (and most have liability insurance), do not expect a home inspector to assume responsibility for direct or indirect damage caused by attempting to properly operate a defective component or system.
  • Be sure that all circuit breakers are switched on in the panel.  Home inspectors who are following the standards of practice will not turn on breakers, and appliances or outlets that are inactive cannot be tested.  Also, be sure to turn on water valves to the washing machine, and outside shower & hose bibs (winter months excepted) so these items can be tested.
  • Where practical, consider moving furniture away from electrical outlets behind them, since home inspectors following the standards of practice will not move furniture or possessions to reach blocked outlets.
  • Dogs and cats and other house pets should be caged or removed from the home, otherwise they may escape via an open door during the inspection.
  • Lastly, remove child-proof devices from electric receptacles and cabinet doors & drawers.

Attending the Inspection?

If you are purchasing a home, do you plan on attending the home inspection service?  If so, I am sure that you want the best possible inspection.  So, I recommend that you avoid some inspection day pitfalls.  here's what you need to know:
  1. Please always keep in mind that this is still someone else’s house.  You have hired your inspector to test and operate systems and components within and outside the home, so there is no need for you to spend your valuable time doing what I will be doing (or have already done).  I unfortunately have stories of clients who damaged something in a home I was inspecting.  For example, attempting to operate a powered garage door that is latched shut can result in significant damage to the door or hardware.  Likewise, sliding out a refrigerator from the wall can cause the icemaker line to disconnect or tear, causing a flood.  And, tearing a window blind off the wall.   Please be aware that should you (or one of your guests) cause damage to the home or its contents, you will be responsible for any repairs.  Bringing food into the house will cause some sellers to go ballistic if it is not clean.  Also, testing or operating appliances may make it more difficult for me to properly evaluate conditions.  For example, opening the door to the dishwasher that I am testing will shut it down, so that it does not complete its cycle before the end of my inspection. 
  2. Your home inspector realizes that you are excited and may want your family and friends to see the home.  However, the day of the home inspection is not intended for family gatherings.  To the extent reasonably possible, please limit the people you bring to your “significant other”.  Toddlers and curious parents (and grandparents) can create unintended consequences, not the least of which is damaging furnishings and the seller’s family heirlooms which are likely irreplaceable.  Children can get into places they don’t belong in a matter of seconds, with injury or damage a real possibility in a home they don’t know.  Friends and family can re-open exterior doors I have already locked, so I may inadvertently leave the home unprotected when I depart.   Operating an oven that I have already tested may result in it being accidentally left on, a safety concern and potential for high utility bill charges.  Turning thermostats up or down will adversely affect my testing process, and I will not be able to put everything back the way it was if I don’t know the original setting.  And, while answering your questions is welcome, having multiple people who are not buying the home asking me questions can become a distraction which impairs my ability to do a thorough job for you.  Lastly, kindly leave your pets outside, in your car, or at home; the day of the home inspection is not the time to introduce your new home to your pet. 
  3. The most important part of the home inspection is the very end, when your home inspector can go over their findings.  If I find something significant that warrants pulling you aside during the inspection, rest assured that I will show you.  Otherwise, I will concentrate on doing the most thorough job I can in evaluating the systems and components of your now home, and cover what I find at the end.  If you don’t have the time to attend the entire inspection, consider arriving about an hour before your inspector plans to be done.