Real estate agents often allude to the hordes of inspectors and engineers that must visit any property that's put up for sale.  The idea is that it takes a seasoned real estate agent to navigate this difficult process.

Not true.

When selling my Sacramento rental, the only inspection I needed to arrange was the pest inspection.  Since I didn't want to wait around to let the inspector inside the house, I simply put a key in a lockbox that was attached to the front doorknob and gave the pest inspection company the combination.  The inspection was done within a week.

After I accepted their offer, the buyers arranged to have a home inspection and appraisal performed at their expense.  Once again, I left a key in a lockbox so that the inspector and appraiser could get into the house.

Pest (or termite) inspection

After you've accepted an offer, your buyers will usually need a recent pest inspection in order to get financing.  This is normally done at the seller's expense.

It's often best to get this inspection out of the way early on.  Here's why:  

  • If there is damage (dry rot, termites, etc.) that will prevent your buyer from getting a loan, you'll want to correct it.  If you put this off until the last minute, you might not be able to get the work done cheaply.

  • Prospective buyers often like to see clear pest inspection reports before they make offers.    

The downside to getting your pest inspection done right away is that the inspection reports are usually valid for a limited period of time, say 3-6 months. If your house doesn't sell within this time frame, you'll need to pay for a re-inspection.  Each inspection or re-inspection costs about $100 - $300. 

Along with their reports, many pest inspection companies will submit a bid to correct the damage.  Remember, you're under no obligation to hire them to do the work.  In my experience, you can save money by doing some of the work yourself, or by bidding it out to other contractors.  I like to get at least three bids on any home improvement job worth more than $5,000.

In California, pest inspectors separate damage into two categories:  Section I, which includes "active damage and infestation to wood by wood destroying organisms and pests," and Section II damage, which includes "conditions deemed likely to lead to damage or infestation to wood by wood destroying organisms and pests if the condition is not corrected. The seller is usually expected to repair all Section I damage and the buyer all Section II damage.  

Home inspection

After you've accepted an offer and the home goes into escrow, the buyer will probably hire a company to do a home inspection.  The inspector will look over the house inside and out, and prepare a report detailing any problems.  Most buyers and home inspectors won't want you to be in the house during the inspection.  If you choose to stick around during this inspection, don't tag along after the inspector and don't challenge his or her findings.

If the home inspection turns up problems (like faulty wiring or loose tiles in the shower), you usually need to negotiate with the buyer over whether these things should be repaired and, if so, who should pay for them.  I'll talk more about this later.

This article recommends that sellers pay for a home inspection before the house is put on the market.  If you choose to do this, you should accompany the inspector when he or she tours the house.  

Radon inspection

In some areas, buyers will require a radon inspection in their offer.  As with home inspections, the buyer normally hires and pays for this after the property has entered escrow.  

Useful resources

  • A California-specific website,, talks about different inspection reports and offers useful advice.


Next topic:  Preparations

ŠLori Alden, 2008.  All rights reserved.