Home Inspection

What Do Home Inspectors Look For?

A thorough breakdown of what home inspectors are on the lookout for so you can make informed decisions.

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Hubert Miles

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As a Certified Master Inspector, clients often ask me, “what do home inspectors look for?” when they inspect a house. As an expert in my field, I can tell you that home inspections are about more than just checking off boxes on a list – it’s about being thorough and making sure every part of the property is safe and up to code.

And while we check many things during our inspections, here are some of the most important components we always examine closely.

A home inspector thoroughly examines a house’s major components from top to bottom! Home inspectors look for things like:

  • Visible evidence of structural defects, damaged components, and inadequate maintenance.
  • Possible safety issues such as mold, improper wiring, and other hazards.
  • They inspect appliances, plumbing fixtures, and HVAC systems to ensure they function correctly.
  • They check insulation levels in the attic to ensure they meet energy efficiency standards.
  • Examine any exterior features, such as driveways or decks, for signs of damage or wear and tear.
what do home inspectors look for

What is a Home Inspection?

A home inspection is a visual, non-invasive examination of the accessible parts of a house performed for a fee. It is not a home appraisal and does not guarantee the condition of any part of the home. A home inspection aims to identify potential problems that might be costly regarding repair or replacement.

The inspection process is established by a set of Standards of Practice (SOPs). Most license states adopt the SOPs of the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI or NACHI for short) or the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI).

In non-licensed states, the inspection process can vary from inspector to inspector, so hiring a good inspector certified by NACHI or ASHI is important.

The inspector issues a detailed home inspection report summarizing their findings with pictures of deficiencies.

Why Home Inspections are Important?

A home inspection is an important part of any new home purchase. Your real estate agent likely includes a home inspection contingency in the purchase agreement.

The home inspection process provides prospective buyers with knowledge about the property’s condition to make an informed buying decision.

It can also help sellers identify and address problems that could be costly to repair or replace to maximize their asking price. A professional home inspection can also help identify potential safety hazards that could put the buyer’s family at risk.

At the end of the day, a home inspector is dedicated to helping potential buyers make an informed decision when purchasing what is likely their largest investment. It’s important to find an experienced, qualified professional home inspector who knows what they’re looking for and thoroughly examines every aspect of a property.

What Role Does the Home Inspector Play in a Real Estate Purchase?

The qualified home inspector plays an important role in the real estate process. They are responsible for thoroughly inspecting the property before closing on the sale. A good home inspector will take the time to identify any potential issues that could be costly or dangerous down the road and be sure all major components of the house are functioning as they should.

Home Inspection Checklist: What do Home Inspectors Look For?

As a Certified Master Inspector, I understand the importance of performing home inspections to ensure all potential issues are identified upfront. When performing a home inspection, the inspector will look for problems that could be costly to repair or replace.

Here is what they typically include in a home inspection checklist:

Structure Inspection

A thorough inspection of the structure is essential for any home inspector. As a priority, I will evaluate the foundation, walls, and framing to detect any visible signs of damage or deterioration.

Structural or foundation problems are often directly related to moisture problems, poor drainage, or water damage. This is key because addressing structural issues can be expensive and could put those living in the house at risk.

Foundation issues are sometimes hard to diagnose, especially if no crawl space or basement is present. Termites can cause serious issues with the wood structure if left unchecked.

Roof Inspection

To ensure the safety of your home, a roof inspection is essential. This process involves looking for water leaks, damage, or deterioration signs. These issues can result in expensive repairs later down the line and pose serious health risks to anyone inside the property.

SOPs do not mandate that an inspector walk a roof to perform an inspection. Often this is left to the inspector’s discretion based on weather conditions at the time of inspection, roof pitch, and roof condition.

Exterior Inspection

Conducting an exterior inspection of a home is essential to guarantee the integrity and longevity of its siding, windows, and doors. During this assessment, an inspector will survey whether they are appropriately insulated against weather damage, securely sealed, and free from harm or degeneration.

Interior Inspection

To ensure the protection of its inhabitants, a thorough interior inspection of the property is conducted. This scrutiny assesses evidence of water damage and leaks, inspects walls, ceilings, and floors, and confirms that electrical wiring and plumbing systems are secure. All these steps are taken with safety paramount in mind.

Many interior items blend into other areas like structural, electrical, and plumbing. However, cosmetic concerns like carpet stains or poor interior paint jobs don’t typically fall under what a licensed home inspector looks for.

Electrical Inspection

To guarantee the safety of a home, an electrical systems inspection is essential. This includes examining all aspects of electricity, such as the electrical panel and sub-panels, outlets, and wiring. Any major issues must be addressed instantly due to their hazardous nature.

Electrical defects like old aluminum wiring, failed ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs), and missing smoke detectors can be dangerous and should be dealt with quickly to keep new owners safe.

Plumbing Inspection

A comprehensive plumbing inspection should never be overlooked; this includes fully evaluating the water heater, pipes, and fixtures.

Unrepaired leaks or any other damage can lead to extensive water damage and mold growth- both costly to mend and can affect the health of everybody residing at that property.

With a new water heater costing upwards of $1,200 to replace, it’s beneficial to maintain your current one and ensure it is in proper working condition. Inspect for signs of faulty plumbing materials, such as polybutylene or ABS, even if no immediate issues exist.

HVAC Inspection

When performing an HVAC inspection, it’s essential to inspect the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems of a property.

Most inspectors are prohibited from dismantling an HVAC system (unless they hold an HVAC license) to inspect its operation. Consequently, they will regulate the system via a wall thermostat to compare and contrast temperature readings from the air return and supply registers.

Although HVAC malfunctions or issues may be costly to repair and make uncomfortable living conditions, thorough inspections can quickly identify and resolve potential hazardous problems before they become more expensive.

What Home Inspectors Don’t Do?

Home inspectors are thoroughly trained to recognize potential risks and issues on a property. Yet, there are certain limitations or areas which they do not typically cover as part of their inspection process.

Home inspections do not involve destructive or invasive testing, which would cause harm to the property. Rather, professional inspectors rely on their visual examination abilities combined with non-invasive testing methods to identify any possible issues.

Home buyers should remember that they don’t possess the home yet; the inspection is a courtesy. Ultimately, it’s up to the inspector to ensure that everything will be left as-is once they finish their work.

Home inspectors are not responsible for what is or isn’t included in the sale of a property. They just want to ensure both parties know what’s going on with the house.

Consequently, the inspector’s opinion cannot guarantee that the current owner will fix any identified issues.

Home inspectors are not qualified to provide appraisals on the value of a property. While they can offer an understanding of any issues that might influence its worth, such as its condition and costly repairs needed, they do not possess the authorization or proficiency to supply a formal evaluation.

Home inspectors may recognize potential troubles and suggest fixes or further review by a specialist, but they are not contractors and cannot estimate repair costs. They don’t have the qualifications to appraise renovations or repair costs accurately.

It’s significant to recognize that existing homes don’t have to adhere to the current building codes. Home inspectors are not code inspectors and cannot legally enforce local regulations. All repairs, even those of dire necessity, merely constitute proposals rather than obligatory duties.

What if a Home Inspection Reveals Problems?

When it comes to what home inspectors look for, many buyers often worry about what would happen if the inspection reveals potential problems.

Fortunately, there are a few options available that can be explored in such situations when red flags arise:

  • The seller can agree on necessary repairs before closing the deal with a qualified contractor.
  • The buyer can negotiate a lower purchase price to cover the costs of addressing any issues found during the inspection.
  • If an agreement can not be reached, the buyer may choose to walk away after the home inspection if they are unhappy with what was discovered.

Key Takeaways

  • Home inspectors thoroughly evaluate a residence’s significant components, searching for any signs of structural damage, potential safety risks, and sufficient maintenance.
  • Home inspections are important for home buyers and sellers. They help you understand the condition of the property and if there are any problems with it.
  • Home inspectors are very important. They check a home very carefully to make sure there are no serious problems that could be expensive or dangerous in the future. They also check to ensure the house’s main things are working correctly.
  • Home inspectors cannot accurately predict the cost of repairs or gauge a property’s value, nor can they enforce local ordinances and building codes.
  • If a home inspection reveals any issues, the buyer can negotiate major repairs before finalizing the purchase or walk away from the deal.

Home Inspection FAQs

Do home inspectors always find something wrong?

No, home inspectors do not always find something wrong. Depending on the property’s condition, the home inspector may not find any major issues or flaws that need immediate attention.

However, even in cases where no major flaws are found, a home inspector may still make recommendations for minor repairs or improvements that could help improve the overall safety and value of the property.

Is it normal to be nervous about a home inspection?

Yes, it is normal to be nervous about a home inspection. Home inspections can reveal issues the seller may not have been aware of and could lead to costly repairs or other issues. It is important that buyers feel comfortable with the process and take their time to review any reports they receive thoroughly.

What pose the riskiest part of a home inspection?

The riskiest part of a home inspection is assessing the home’s structural integrity. A qualified inspector will evaluate the structure for any signs of damage or wear and may need to access difficult or hazardous areas to reach it. Additionally, inspectors must be aware of potential safety issues such as faulty wiring, improper ventilation, and hazardous materials.

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Hubert Miles

I've been conducting professional home inspections since 2002. I'm a licensed Home Inspector, Certified Professional Inspector (CPI), Certified Master Inspector (CMI), and FHA 203k Consultant. I started HomeInspectionInsider.com to help people better understand the home inspection process and answer questions about homeownership and home maintenance.
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