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What is a pre-listing inspection?

A house with a for-sale sign in the yard
Juice Flair/Shutterstock
A house with a for-sale sign in the yard
Juice Flair/Shutterstock

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If you’re preparing to sell your home, you already have plenty of items to check off your to-do list. One more task you might want to consider before putting your home on the market is a pre-listing inspection, also sometimes called a pre-sale inspection. Here’s what to know about this special type of home inspection.

What is a pre-listing inspection?

Pre-listing inspections are exactly what they sound like: Before you officially list your home for sale, a professional home inspector examines your property to identify any potential problems or repairs that need to be made. Think of it as an opportunity to know what the buyer might request before an offer is made or a purchase agreement is signed.

“A pre-listing inspection will make sure the seller is aware of any issues prior to the buyer becoming aware, allowing them more time to prepare for negotiation or time to fix the issues,” explains agent Angelica Olmsted of Denver RE/MAX Professionals. She adds that this can help sellers understand the cost of any repairs, too: “It can also assist the seller when it comes to determining a price to sell or accepting an offer.”

What does a pre-listing inspection cover?

You can decide how thorough you want your pre-listing inspection to be. If you have one main concern, such as a crack in the foundation, you can limit things to just that area. Or, you might opt for a comprehensive job similar to a standard home inspection.

Other areas a pre-listing inspection could cover include:

  • Evaluating the anticipated lifespan of the roof
  • Certifying that a DIY remodel was done properly
  • Investigating the presence or absence of hazardous materials, like lead paint and asbestos
  • Assessing water quality, especially if the home uses well water

Home inspection vs. pre-listing inspection

The key difference between a pre-listing inspection and a typical home inspection is who’s paying for it. If you’re selling your home and you’d like to do a pre-listing inspection, you’ll be footing the bill for it. For a home inspection, it’s generally the opposite.

“The main difference between a pre-listing home inspection and a traditional one is whom the report is being completed for,” Olmsted says. “A pre-listing home inspection is typically completed by the seller, while the traditional home inspection is for the buyer, so they know what they are getting into.”

It’s important to note that neither type of inspection is a substitute for an appraisal. An appraisal is an assessment of the fair market value of your home, which includes external factors such as the neighborhood and local real estate market. In most cases, a mortgage lender will require one in order for the buyer to obtain a mortgage.

When to get a pre-listing inspection

While it can be beneficial for a seller to do, a pre-listing inspection isn’t always necessary. For example, if your home is relatively new and you’ve been the only owner, you’re most likely already aware of any big issues that could impact a sale. But if your home is older, failing to get a pre-listing inspection can be a mistake.

It can also be helpful to get one if you’re hoping to close quickly, Olmsted points out. “If the seller needs a quick timeline to close or is putting in an offer that will be contingent and with tight deadlines, a pre-listing inspection may help them stay a few steps ahead in the process,” she says.

How much does a pre-listing inspection cost?

According to HomeAdvisor, the current national average price for a home inspection is $340. But the cost of a pre-listing inspection is extremely dependent on local market conditions, as well as the size and age of the home. A 5,000-square-foot historical home in Boston, for example, will obviously cost more to inspect than a new-construction, 800-square-foot condo in a rural area.

If you are limiting your pre-listing inspection to a specific area (ie, the roof), you can expect to pay less than a full home inspection. If you want a comprehensive evaluation, expect to pay the same rate as a standard home inspection in your area.

Pros and cons of a pre-listing inspection

Pros

  • It can eliminate buyer requests for credits. Let’s say your pre-listing inspection turns up some issues with the home’s plumbing. If a buyer finds those same issues and asks for a $3,000 credit or concession, you’d ultimately be making less on the sale. With a pre-listing inspection, you can fix it yourself and potentially build those repair costs into your list price.
  • It can augment your home’s marketing to attract buyers. If your pre-listing inspection report looks like an A+, advertising this to prospective buyers can be beneficial to you as the seller, because they see that your home is in excellent condition.
  • It can speed up the selling process. Closing a real estate transaction can take some time, even in a seller’s market as fast-paced as we have right now. A pre-listing inspection can help you proactively fix issues that could otherwise create hiccups as you near the finish line on the deal.

Cons

  • It’s another cost. Selling a house comes with plenty of costs already, so tacking on one more might not be worth it to you. In today’s hot market, many buyers are waiving inspections entirely, so a pre-inspection may not be needed.
  • It could conflict with the buyer’s inspection. It’s likely a buyer will still hire an inspector to do a regular home inspection, and that inspector might have a different view of your home than what your pre-listing inspection revealed.
  • It might mean paying for unnecessary repairs. For instance, if the buyer’s home inspection is less thorough than your pre-listing one, you could wind up paying to fix some items that would have otherwise gone unnoticed.

Are you required to disclose your pre-listing inspection?

When you sell your home, you’ll likely need to sign a disclosure form that indicates your knowledge of potential issues. In some states — Illinois, for example — the disclosure form requires the seller to acknowledge any defects in walls, water leaks and issues with the HVAC system. With that in mind, sharing the pre-listing inspection report with the buyer can provide additional evidence to support why the home is a good purchase.

What if the pre-listing inspection turns up issues? Should you proactively pay to address them? Olmsted calls this a tricky question: “Each situation is different when it comes to a pre-listing inspection,” she says. “The seller should review each line with their real estate professional in detail to determine what issues should be addressed or disclosed to the buyers.”

Written by
David McMillin
Contributing writer
David McMillin is a contributing writer for Bankrate and covers topics like credit cards, mortgages, banking, taxes and travel. David's goal is to help readers figure out how to save more and stress less.
Edited by
Senior real estate editor