Before selling problem house, check it over

The Inspector's Eye

Real estate agent and appraiser best professionals to ask

September 09, 2001|By Dean Uhler

The other week I got a letter from Margaret Drakopel of Baltimore who simply stated: "I hate my house and I want to sell it."

Usually it is "home sweet home," but not for Ms. Drakopel, who is 57 and says retirement is just eight to 10 years away.

She wrote that her house, built in the 1930s and purchased by her in 1980, has had a number of problems. In 1996, a new roof was put on. In 1997, she refinanced her mortgage to pay for a new gas furnace and water heater. Each of her "fix-up" projects only revealed more problems.

The straw that burst her "fix-up" bubble happened just the other week when her "avocado green stove bit the dust" when it developed a gas leak.

Her main question was: "Can I contact someone who can come to my house, check it out and tell me what I should or should not do to prepare the house for sale? Does a home inspector do this or an appraiser? I would need to know repair cost estimates or would I be better off selling `as is.'"

Margaret, consult a home inspector if you want to identify what repairs are needed, and to approximate costs of repairs. However, be aware that the focus of the inspection report will not be what repairs will be a worthwhile investment in order to sell, but rather, what repairs will keep it in good shape to live in.

Fees for home inspections typically start in the $200 range and vary depending on factors such as selling price, size and age.

You can have an appraiser determine the current value of your house. The appraisal will be based on the improvements present on the property, its general condition and recent selling prices of comparable properties. Appraisals are based on existing conditions only, and typically do not provide estimates of value based on hypothetical repairs or improvements you may be considering.

A real estate agent familiar with properties in your neighborhood may be best qualified to help decide what repairs are worth making.

An agent is likely to know what buyers are looking for in your neighborhood and should know how a property's condition, updates, improvements and appearance affect its market value.

Agents often provide advice to clients in preparation for listing their homes, such as suggested repairs, cosmetic improvements and even decorating ideas that will increase appeal and maximize selling price.

An agent may recommend a "pre-listing" home inspection. This can help identify defects that may impede sale or lower the property's perceived value, so that appropriate repairs can be mapped out.

Inspector's Eye

Dean Uhler has been a home inspector for more than 12 years and is president of Baltimore-based Boswell Building Surveys Inc. Uhler is a member of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) and is the treasurer of the Greater Baltimore Chapter of ASHI.

Questions, with name, address and daytime telephone number, about homes and home inspections can be faxed to 410-783-2517, e-mailed to or mailed to Inspector's Eye, Second Floor, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278-0001.

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