The Case for Pre-Listing Home Inspections

By MICHAEL EDLEN | Special to the Palisadian-Post

In most of the higher-end areas of Northern California, it is part of the usual sale process for most sellers to pay for a pre-inspection before putting their home on the market. In other areas, pre-inspections are very uncommon, with the prevailing attitude that all inspections are done by the buyers.

In strong “sellers’ markets,” such as we had from 2014-18, sellers did not have much risk in either selling or getting a fair value whether they did a pre-inspection or not.

It is now mid-2019 and the market has definitely changed. With the rate of sales steadily falling and inventory of homes for sale steadily increasing, the odds of even selling a home are not nearly what they have been for the past several years. In fact, at this time, sellers have a 37% chance of not selling at all, based on recent evidence of expired and withdrawn listings.

Also, contrary to what many people expect based on what they see on television, the opening of escrow is often just the start of a challenging process that often ends up costing the sellers much more than they had planned on or expected.

Although a seasoned real estate agent is often able to resolve issues and conflicts that come up during that process, it is far easier to do if they have coordinated a pre-inspection.

One of the main advantages of a pre-listing inspection is that the seller learns what the key issues are before going on the market. This gives them the opportunity to fix any items ahead of time, or to get two or three quotes from reputable contractors so that potential buyers will know the costs to do those repairs. The seller can then disclose all they know before buyers write an offer.

Most buyers really don’t know how much things might cost to repair, and often they “horribleize” every defect and envision several times the actual cost in making requests for credit from the seller.

Sellers often fear that buyers will pay less for the home if they learn all of the things that an inspection will discover. All homes have things found during inspections, even brand new construction.

The fact is, a buyer will find those out anyway after they are in escrow, and it could lead them to asking for a substantial reduction in the price or worse, they could simply cancel the purchase.

By being pro-active, a seller can minimize the stress of the unknowns and increase their chances of ultimately selling for more money and sooner.

As a general guideline, sellers might find it worthwhile to fix such items before their agent puts it on the market: safety issues such as environmental situations or electrical system defects, broken steps, missing or loose handrails, plumbing leaks, and inexpensive or simple items to fix.

Replacing worn or damaged carpeting, fresh coat of paint, thorough cleaning, etc. are other action items a seller might choose to do before having any prospective buyer see the home. Depending on the agent’s experience and resources, many of these actions can be coordinated by them to make the process smoother for the seller.

This pro-active approach is a normal part of the high level of service that many agents are now providing to their clients. People who would like to sell their homes faster and for more money will do well to seek an agent who has the discipline and courage to propose and then follow through with a comprehensive marketing and escrow management plan that assures the seller receiving the fullest of benefits.

Michael Edlen has been involved in over 1,400 transactions through three full market cycles. He and his team provide a comprehensive level of expertise that has resulted in 98% success for their clients. They have also contributed nearly $1.5 million from commissions received to numerous schools, local programs and a wide variety of charitable organizations. You can reach him at michael@edlenteam.com or 310-230-7373.