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Steve McLinden, the Real Estate AdviserSeller: Get home inspected before marketing

Dear Real Estate Adviser,
Should you have your own home inspected before putting it on the market for sale?
-- Sandra W.

Dear Sandra,
There are many compelling reasons to do so. Traditionally, inspections have been paid for by buyers as part of the due diligence in accessing a property. But a seller inspection, also known as a prelisting inspection, is always a prudent practice.

That is particularly true in the buyer's market that prevails today in many regions of the country.

Such an inspection takes some of the fear and distrust out of the equation for the buyer and helps establish you as a conscientious seller. And the aboveboard image you'll project doing this just might give you the edge over other competing sellers. What's more, if there are problems you are not aware of, it's better to find out earlier rather than later. That way, you can shop around for the best price to remedy the problem, rather than accept the price tag an inspector, the buyer or a closing agent might attach to it.

The earlier you get the inspection the better -- well before you put your house on the market -- because it may reveal underlying flaws and problems -- i.e., "defects" -- that must be addressed to make the place more palatable for a buyer.

It may also keep you from wasting money making minor repairs to an area that in the end requires larger-scale work, should a more significant underlying problem be discovered. Make sure you leave yourself at least a month or so after the inspection to perform needed work.

Ideally, your inspector will be comfortable with you following him or her around during the inspection to allow you to observe and ask any questions about your home's condition and how to address any flaws. This way, the written report the inspector produces when the process is completed will make more sense to you and you'll find it easier to point out the needed repairs to contractors.

In some cases, buyers would rather accept a cash credit on the purchase price and perform their own repairs, particularly if they involve areas they would prefer to establish their own tastes in wallpaper, built-ins and paint-color schemes. If you have already conferred with a listing agent, ask her which repairs buyers typically want to handle themselves.

Of course, a prelisting inspection will not necessarily replace the need for buyers to have their own inspections performed, even when you produce a copy of your own inspection for the buyers as part of disclosure. Nor will it guarantee that a buyer's own inspector won't find other defects that will have to be addressed. But it does signal your willingness to make things right and should promote better-faith negotiations and a faster and smoother sale.

Happy selling!

To ask a question of the Real Estate Adviser, go to the "Ask the Experts" page, and select "buying, selling a home" as the topic.'s corrections policy-- Posted: Dec. 2, 2006
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