A leading real estate expert indicates that while appraisals are often used to a point of excess, sellers and prospective buyers can never go wrong with a home inspection.

Recently, a reader of the The Wall Street Journal sent in a question to the paper's real estate guru, June Fletcher, about a situated she and her ex-husband had encountered. She pointed out that ever since she and her former spouse separated, she had been living at home alone because her children had grown and was considering selling it as a result, thinking the place was too big for just one person. Prior to putting up for sale, she figured she would have the home appraised and inspected. However, a friend of hers cautioned her not to, saying that both were a waste of money.

To a certain extent, Fletcher indicated she agreed with the woman's friend.

"Getting an appraisal is a waste of money since you don't need it to list your home," said Fletcher. "There are many other free ways to get a general sense of what your house is worth, including various web-based automated home-price estimators that rely on recent sales."

Home inspection can make it easier to sell

But as it pertains to a home inspection, Fletcher pointed out that nine times out of 10 it's worth the investment. She noted that while sellers aren't required to have a home inspection done, it's something that ought to be done, as it will provide the seller with a better understanding of what needs to be repaired.

"Typically, the inspector will uncover many items that you can easily fix yourself, like a broken window latch or a clogged bathroom drain," she said. "You may not be able to fix everything on the deferred maintenance list, but you'll net much more if you can pare it down before the buyers' home inspector arrives."

In summary, Fletcher recommended using any money that the reader had intended on providing to an appraiser and putting toward a contractor, who could fix whatever the pre-listing home inspection discovered.

Recently the American Society of Home Inspectors produced a more in depth guide for inspectors, detailing some of the things that every home inspection should check before a property goes up for sale. Some of the more specific updated guidelines pertained to the proper inspection of swimming pools and spas, which often serve as attractive buying enticement for home seekers.