Get a pre-listing inspection.

 A pre-listing inspection by a certified home inspector is designed to catch everything the buyer’s inspector will be looking for, and I highly recommend you get one before you sell your home. In bringing in your own inspector before listing your home for sale, you can learn about the condition of your home so you can take care of any necessary repairs to critical systems in your home. Never in real estate history has a home’s sale price increased following a buyer’s inspection. Kelly Laird-Smith, a top producing agent for Coldwell Banker Coastal Alliance, put it this way, I don’t like surprises; the more I know up-front, the more I have to leverage and work with. So I get the inspection done ahead of time, then I can decide if we do the work or wait to negotiate with the buyer. Having a pre-listing inspection performed ensures you get as much money as possible for your home, and it also weeds out uncommitted home shoppers.


 Focus on health and safety items. 

Defects in the home that are dangerous will be top of mind to potential buyers and their inspectors. During your pre-listing prep, make sure your smoke and carbon detectors are installed in the proper areas and have fresh batteries. Check visible electrical equipment, outlets in your bathrooms, kitchen, garage, and exterior are supposed to be GFCI protected. Don’t forget about any exposed wiring; a junction box should protect all electrical connections. Take a look at all fixtures and exposed plumbing; if you have a leak, it will surely be a hot button item once the buyer’s inspector delivers their report.      

 Major systems. 

Verify all major systems and appliances are operating correctly. Some systems in your home are required to be functioning before you sell, such as the heating system.  Other components you want to take a good hard look at are your water heater, air conditioning system, and major appliances. All should be operating normally and have clean filters if applicable, and your water heater should be set to around 120º F.

 Exterior envelop. 

 Look around the outside of your home and look for small gaps in the siding. These gaps could allow pests into your home as well as unwanted moisture. Moisture and water damage is the single most expensive problem a homeowner can face. If the exterior check of your home reveals wood rot or deterioration that has already taken place in some areas, I recommend repairing it. The buyer’s inspector will be specifically looking for gaps in siding and flashing, so you must get to it first.

Unfinished spaces.

Take a look in your attic and crawlspace if you have one, and look for conditions conducive to mold growth. I’m talking about any plumbing leaks, lack of ventilation, or improperly exhausting bathroom and dryer vents. Poor airflow in unfinished spaces and, worse yet, venting humid air directly into an unfinished space, such as a bathroom vent, can contribute to microbial growth. Issues such as these are likely to alarm most buyers and cost you money during negotiations.


Why do foundations crack?


In our local area, we have a lot of older homes that were built upon a poured concrete raised foundation, and finding foundation cracks is a common occurrence. These older foundations crack primarily because of moisture sitting at the foundation over a long period of time. Most foundation movement is preventable by properly shedding water away from the home with correctly installed gutters and grading the surrounding landscape down and away from the home. But sixty to eighty years ago when they built many of these houses, long-term water management wasn’t an overwhelming concern, and the effects are starting to show.


Foundation cracks



Are all cracks bad?

Not all foundation cracks are a huge red flag or a reason to walk away from an escrow. Cracks that are vertical and thin are generally ok and are surprisingly common to find during a home inspection. Horizontal, diagonal, and diverging cracks are more concerning when it comes to the stability of the structure. When I see large cracks (wide enough o fit a nickel in) or a pattern of deflection, I always recommend contacting a structural engineer to determine if the building is still shifting around or if the damage presents a stability concern.




What to look for

If your home is exhibiting more than one indication of movement, such as: out of square doors, sloped floors, corner cracks in the interior walls, and large cracks in the foundation, I would certainly be looking for assistance. Your home is built upon the foundation, so when your foundation moves-so will the rest of the structure. It’s important to take in the whole picture and piece together the story that the home is showing you to determine the severity of the issue. As the building moves, the structure will undergo periods of stress and look for ways to relieve that stress.  This stress relief commonly shows itself through cracks in various areas of the home. Think of it this way; if you were to slowly bend a graham cracker, for instance, it would eventually break in half to relieve the stress- buildings will do the same thing.





Can foundation cracks be fixed?


Sure, they can. Anything in a home can be fixed. Repairs can range from sealing small foundation cracks to prevent future moisture penetration all the way up to structurally stabilizing large sections of foundation walls with steel straps and bolts. Unfortunately, foundation repairs can get quite expensive, depending on the scope of work. If you are looking for a trustworthy structural engineer or foundation contractor, reach out to your real estate agent or local home inspector, both will have a lot of contacts that could help you out.