No matter how well you've cared for your home, the thought of a home inspector examining it to determine if it's a good buy for your prospective buyer can be unsettling.

Unless your buyer is paying cash, the finance people he's dealing with will require a professional inspection. Even if he is financing the purchase himself, he might pay for an inspection to use as a bargaining tool during your price negotiations. And while most home inspections last only two to three hours, they can be some of the most stressful hours of the selling process.

Give yourself some peace of mind and bargaining power by preparing as thoroughly as possible for the exam, just like you did in high school for those algebra tests. You did study, right?

One way to really be prepared is to hire an inspector yourself way in advance of listing with a broker, so you get a heads up on any problems your home has. Still, the buyer will get his own inspection.

Most advice regarding home inspections is aimed not at sellers, but at buyers hoping to ensure their new home gives them no problems after purchase.

But let's look at some tips geared for sellers like you to make sure your home inspection process goes smoothly. You want your home sale to move along without any delays, surprises, or any reduction in your sale price.

What will the inspector check?

The standard inspection covers the important infrastructure systems -- heating and cooling, plumbing, electrical, the roof, chimney, visible ductwork and insulation, attic, walls, ceilings, floors, windows, doors, foundation, and other structural elements. The inspector also checks to see if all appliances that convey with your home are in working order, including smoke alarms carbon monoxide detectors.

It's important to note that a home inspector is not appraising the value of the property or the cost of repairs needed. Those tasks belong to an appraiser and to specialists, respectively. 

If your home has a crawl space, you should have
plastic covering the soil there. Photo: Today's Homeowner

What to do to prepare

Even though you won't be tagged for having a bit of clutter or messiness here and there, a less-than-tidy home can put a lot of preconceived notions in the mind of the inspector. Cleanliness will inspire confidence.

Clean your house inside and out before an inspection. It's a good idea especially to tidy up areas that the inspector is likely to see first. Inspectors usually start by checking the exterior of the house. His first impression will be based on that. Although the work he'll do is calculated by objective ratings, we're all influenced by our subjective observations.

Tidiness will also make it easy for an inspector to do his work. You want him to be able to see behind appliances like your water heater and furnace. You want him to be able to test all electrical outlets. If you haven't decluttered your home, a good time to do it is before your inspection.

The person paying for the inspection is the party that gets to follow the inspector around (without getting in his way or asking too many questions, please), and that's who will get a written report of the inspection. A buyer may or may not share the report with you the seller, usually not.

If you don't like the idea of vacating your home while an inspection is underway, have your Realtor be present. Generally, it's best if sellers and buyers don't meet up until the closing. Rules about who gets to see the printed report actually vary by state. Your Realtor can advise you.

An inspector will note clogged or leaking gutters
and downspouts, a roof that's mossy, or shingles that are loose. 

Don't neglect the important stuff

Although a professional inspection does not cover the land, or things like outbuildings or pools, an inspector will look at exterior conditions like grading for problematic drainage, and landscaping that is hanging too close to the roof or closer than 12 inches from the siding, or firewood stored less than  30 feet away from the house.

After you've taken a walk around your home to perform a visual inspection of the roof and siding, double-check your home's security, particularly, the locks and deadbolts. Did you know that as recently as 2013, victims of burglary offenses suffered an estimated $4.5 billion in property losses, and burglaries of residential properties accounted for 74% of the total reported? Yikes. No wonder inspectors check these things.

Plumbing problems can be a deal breaker. Even minor issues like an incorrectly installed outdoor spigot, slow-draining shower stalls and bathtubs, or a leaking kitchen sink can look serious enough for a buyer to pull back his purchase offer. Some inspectors will check for water quality, especially if the home has a well or water filtration system.
No home is perfect, but you need to be
prepared for a thorough going-over.

Make his job easier

Be sure an inspector has an easy time during his stay. Utilities should be on, including water, gas, and electricity. Are pilot lights working as they should? Will he need the garage door opener? A key to a storage room or an exterior electric box? A remote for a ceiling fan?

Your prep list should also include replacing filters in your HVAC system and checking that all lights have working bulbs.

When an inspector can't check a system or appliance, he has to note that on the paperwork. He's checking off boxes on his boilerplate report. If too many entries note "unable to inspect due to ..." or "recommend further evaluation by licensed... " plumber or electrician or pest control contractor or other professional, a buyer can get discouraged. No one wants to pay for another inspection or worry about what's been hinted at.

Finally, if you have invoices documenting major improvements and repairs, you might as well make them available. You can leave them with your Realtor in case any questions come up about the age or material or capacity of things such as plumbing pipes or electric wiring.

Get more advice on selling your home quickly and profitably in my homestaging eBooks. I want you to be happy with the sale of your home!