Q: We plan on selling our house in the spring. This is the first time we have had to do this in 30 years. Are there any tips you have that can give us an advantage?

A: There are two things I advise all sellers: Get the advice of a real estate professional and have the home inspected for unknown defects. A home inspector can locate and identify potential problems that might cause a buyer to think twice before making an offer. The inspection will also point out items that could cause you major problems should you decide to remain in the home. It’s a win-win situation.

Most homeowners are responsible with the care and repair of the areas of the home they can see. It’s the areas less visited where I find defects that can cause a buyer to think twice or to look at other properties without making an offer. I’m talking about the crawl space and the attic. In the dark recesses of a crawl space I might find decay and rot, structural defects or damage, loose ductwork, plumbing leaks, termites, rodents, reptiles and the list goes on and on. In an attic there again may be structural damage, roof leaks, damaged ductwork, unvented bath fans, a damaged chimney or flue pipe, debris and damaged or missing insulation.

Inside the home the inspector will check the electrical panel, outlets and switches, the water heater and the heating and cooling systems. You may have problems you are not aware of that need immediate repairs or a report that everything is working as intended. Items that are professionally repaired do not have to be disclosed on the seller’s disclosure to a buyer. The point of a home inspection is that you will receive an unbiased opinion. Make sure you choose an experienced professional inspector who is licensed (where required) and certified by the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) or the National Association of Home Inspectors (NAHI). A real estate professional will help you stage the home and present the exterior and the interior to attract buyers. They will advertise the home in their publications and news services, and if they are members of a real estate group you may have hundreds of professionals doing their very best to sell your home.

C. Dwight Barnett is a certified master inspector with the American Society of Home Inspectors. Write to him with home improvement questions at C. Dwight Barnett, Evansville Courier & Press, P.O. Box 268, Evansville, Ind. 47702 or e-mail him at [email protected].

By C. Dwight Barnett, Tribune News Service (TNS)