What is a pre-listing inspection?
A pre-listing inspection is a general home inspection a seller gets before listing their house for sale. They cost $340, on average, and any general home inspector can do the job.
Getting a pre-listing home inspection could make sense in certain situations: for example, you suspect your home has a major issue that could make it hard to sell. Or you have to move ASAP and can’t afford any delays or the buyer backing out at the last minute.
But pre-listing inspections aren’t very common. Many sellers can’t or don’t want to cover the additional out-of-pocket costs. And it’s often just not worth it – especially right now, when sellers have the upper hand because of all the competition among buyers for homes.
This guide will help you wrap your head around when and how a pre-listing inspection can be helpful (and when it can be just the opposite). But ultimately, it’s a case-by-case decision that you should discuss and make with your realtor.
» Need an agent? Clever can help! (and save you thousands on realtor fees)
Who should consider getting a pre-listing home inspection?
Pre-listing inspections are less common right now, simply because sellers have the upper hand over buyers in most markets across the country:
- There are far more active home buyers than properties for sale, which should drive nationwide home prices higher in 2022.
- Most homes are getting multiple offers or bidding wars and selling within days of hitting the market.
- Some buyers are purchasing homes as-is, waiving their right to negotiate for repairs, or foregoing inspections altogether.
Even with all that leverage, there are still some situations where it might make sense to get a pre-listing inspection.
You suspect your home has a serious issue
A pre-listing inspection can highlight major safety issues or expensive repairs that could impact your home's ability to sell.
Examples of major issues that can appear on a buyer's home inspection and derail sales include:
- Foundation and structural issues
- Basement flooding
- Roof leaks
- Major electrical risks
- Significant mold infestations
It's more likely your home has major issues if it's older (10+ years), and you don't know the age or condition of its major components (roof, HVAC, electrical, plumbing, and so on).
You need to avoid delays, or a deal falling through
If you're on a tight timeline or juggling a contingent home purchase, a pre-listing inspection could help you increase the odds of a fast, smooth transaction.
Making repairs doesn't guarantee a smooth closing, but it should reduce the risk of a buyer discovering major issues on their own inspection report. Home inspection issues were responsible for 11% of delayed contracts and 9% of terminated deals in 2021.
Issues that come up during buyer inspections can delay or derail deals for a few reasons:
- They may lead to additional negotiating: Who fixes what, does the buyer get a credit at closing, or does the seller reduce the sale price in lieu of repairs?
- You might have to make repairs on a tight timeframe (1-2 weeks before closing), and contractors can be hard to lock down that fast.
- Buyers may get cold feet – or maybe they can't afford to make the repairs after closing, so they back out of the deal.
Your area has a lot of first-time, military, or veteran buyers
First-time, military, or veteran buyers often use government-backed loans (FHA and VA loans), which have strict inspection criteria during the loan approval process. Issues like a deteriorating roof, a moldy basement, or plumbing leaks, could surface on an appraisal and result in a loan not being approved.
If there are a lot of first-time, military, or veteran home buyers in your area, getting a pre-listing inspection can help you get out in front of these common FHA and VA inspection issues, and avoid delays or deals falling through.
Your real estate agent will know if this applies to your area, home type, and price point.
You're trying to sell fast and high
The benefits: Showing potential buyers that your home has no issues ups its appeal. And you can potentially list your home at a higher price, get more offers from buyers, and have smoother negotiations.
The risks: In addition to the cost and hassle of the inspection, you need to be prepared to deal with any issues the inspection surfaces, which may hurt your ability to sell.
The inspection could discover costly issues – a cracked foundation, termite damage – which you'll likely need to disclose to buyers (even if you fix them, due to state disclosure laws).
Check with your agent to see if the investment is worth the time, money, and risk – or if you should just sell as-is.
Who definitely shouldn't get a pre-listing inspection?
- Major components (roof, HVAC, plumbing) are brand-new or recently replaced, and are unlikely to cause any problems for years to come.
- Your home is well-maintained, and you're confident a buyer's home inspection won't surface major issues.
- It's rare for buyers in your area to ask sellers of newer homes to make repairs (check with your agent).
- An as-is contract means the buyer can't request any repairs, negotiate a lower sale price, or back out of a contract due to issues they discover before closing – so a pre-listing inspection probably isn't worth it.
- Investors get their own inspections and expect to find issues, which are factored into their offer price. Investors also prefer to use their own contractors for repairs, and won't be scared away by anything discovered in your inspection.
- If you're confident in your home's condition and your agent's negotiation skills, you probably shouldn't get a pre-listing inspection.
- If you're not in a rush to sell your home – closing delays or contract terminations aren't an issue – you may also want to pass.
3 possible benefits of getting a pre-listing inspection
1. Increases the odds of a smooth, successful closing
The buyer is less likely to be surprised by the results of their own inspection, since you've already completed an inspection and addressed major issues.
A pre-listing inspection could help prevent drawn-out repair negotiations with buyers, and may also reduce the risk of the buyer getting spooked and backing out of the deal because of surprise issues uncovered by their inspection.
Pre-listing inspections also help lower the risk of the lender requiring repairs for loan approval, which is more common on FHA and VA loans.
2. Ups your home's appeal, could help attract more offers
A clean bill of health makes your home a less-risky purchase for buyers, while disclosing your home's past issues and repairs can make you seem more trustworthy. It gives buyers more confidence in your home and can win them over when choosing between your home and another.
3. Could save you money on repairs
Identifying and dealing with issues upfront and on your own terms likely costs less than waiting to negotiate repairs with buyers.
If you're handy, you can tackle smaller repairs yourself, and you can shop around for contractors for larger projects (versus a buyer insisting on using a specific contractor).
Pre-listing inspection risks
Pre-listing inspections are an additional upfront cost ($300 – $500) that, in some cases, can end up doing more harm than good. Here are some key risks to consider.
Your inspection may discover major issues
Your home inspection could surface one or more major issues that cost big money to fix. If you don’t have the cash to cover the repairs, the unresolved issues could make your home less appealing, resulting in fewer offers, a lower sale price, and a longer timeline to closing.
Issues must be disclosed
Even if you address any issues your home inspection uncovers, you’ll probably still need to disclose them to buyers, per your state’s disclosure laws.
Unnecessary for as-is sales
A pre-listing inspection might also be unnecessary, since as-is purchases have become more common as buyer demand has skyrocketed. Some buyers won't care about smaller issues your inspection may surface, or maybe they're handy and can make the repairs themselves.
Buyer's home inspector may still find issues
No two home inspectors are the same – the buyer's inspector could find something your inspector missed, which could still derail your sale or result in additional repair costs.
How much should a pre-listing inspection cost?
A pre-listing inspection typically costs the same as a general home inspection ($340 on average, and $300 – $500 nationwide).
Inspection costs can vary based on a number of factors, including:
- Age of the home: Older homes have more quirks, and may cost more.
- Home size: Based on interior square footage (larger houses take longer to inspect).
- Features: Hard to reach places like crawlspaces may add to its cost.
- Experience: Seasoned inspectors may charge more, as well as inspectors with special licenses and areas of expertise.
- Market rates: Cost of living adjustments by area (New York inspections cost more than South Carolina).
Tips for saving on pre-listing inspection
Get a specialized inspection: If you’re only concerned about one specific type of issue, it’s sometimes cheaper to get a specialized inspection. For example, a roof inspection ($210 average) and an electrical inspection ($185) usually cost less than a general inspection ($340).
⚠️ Be aware: But some specialized inspections are actually more expensive – for example, mold ($649) and foundation ($650). So if you’re unsure about these types of issues, get a general inspection first and see if an additional specialized inspection is actually necessary. Your agent will also be able to advise in these situations.
Consider your needs: Some inspectors charge more than others because they have additional licenses or certifications – structural engineer, certified mold inspector, or radon tester, for example. If you aren't worried about your home's foundation, don't hire a structural engineer (who probably charges a premium).
You never know how much you can save by shopping around. Websites like HomeAdvisor and Angi make it easier to find local inspectors, read reviews, and request estimates. You can also search for certified home inspectors in your area on NACHI.
Next steps for pre-listing inspection
Talk to an agent: They're going to assess your situation, local market conditions, and your home’s condition to give you the best advice on how to proceed.
If you decide to move forward with a pre-listing inspection, your agent may be able to recommend local inspectors they work with and trust, and may even save you money if they have a referral partnership.
Get online quotes: Websites like HomeAdvisor make it easy to find vetted service providers like home inspectors, get multiple quotes, read customer reviews, and make an informed decision.
Assess inspectors before reaching out to gauge experience and qualifications, compare pricing, and to make sure they're a good fit.
Set up the inspection and get your house ready: Once a time and date is set, you can do a few things to make the most of your inspection.
- Make a pre-listing home inspection checklist: Write down all of the items you need the home inspector to cover (roof, HVAC, electrical, plumbing, etc.) and issues you think your home might have.
- Clean and declutter your home so the inspector can easily inspect all areas.
- Turn on all appliances and utilities for the inspector.
- Make sure the inspector can access the attic, crawlspace, and other hard to reach areas.
- Plan to leave the house after the inspector arrives, so they can focus on doing their job (the inspection likely takes 2-3 hours).
Pre-listing inspection FAQs
A pre-listing home inspection can help sellers uncover and address potential problems before listing their house for sale. It may be worth the time and money if you think your home has a serious issue, or if you absolutely need to avoid closing delays or a deal falling through. But it it probably isn't necessary for most sellers given current market conditions. Consider the various pre-listing inspection benefits and risks and talk to an agent for more help.
A pre-listing inspection is completed by a home seller before a house is listed for sale, while a full home inspection is typically completed by a buyer after their offer has been accepted. Both are general home inspections which provide a visual inspection of the home's major components (roof, HVAC, foundation, plumbing, electrical) as well as its smaller components (appliances, drywall, windows and doors).
Keep in mind that general home inspections typically don't inspect for termites, asbestos, radon gas, lead paint, or toxic mold (those issues require a specialist).
A pre-listing inspection typically costs the same as a general home inspection ($340 on average). Factors impacting the cost of the inspection include the age of your home, its size and features, and market rates in your area. If you're trying to gauge a specific issue (mold, radon, septic), it could make sense to get a specialized inspection to save money – although some of those inspections may cost more than a general inspection. Learn more about pre-listing inspection costs and how to save.
You can prepare for a pre-listing inspection by setting up an appointment with an inspector, making a checklist of all the items you want the home inspector to cover, cleaning and decluttering your home, providing access to hard to reach areas, and planning to leave your house after the inspector arrives.
National Association of Realtors®. "Realtors Confidence Index Survey 2021."