Understanding Home Inspections
Inspectors vary in experience and ability, and a good inspector will examine certain home components and then produce a detailed report of their findings. A typical inspection lasts two to three hours, and you should be present to get firsthand explanations of the inspector’s findings, if necessary, ask questions.
The inspector should make notes about:
- Whether each problem is a safety issue, major defect, or minor defect.
- Which items need replacement, and which should be repaired or serviced.
- Items that are suitable for now but that should be closely monitored.
The exterior inspection will cover the outside of the structure including any crawlspace and the roof.
- Exterior walls – check for damaged or missing siding, cracks, and whether the soil is in close contact with the bottom of the house, which can invite wood-destroying insects. The inspector will let you know which problems are cosmetic and which could be more serious.
- Foundation – check for evidence of foundation issues, like cracks or settling.
- Grading – make sure the grading slopes away from the house to prevent water damage.
- Garage or Carport – testing garage door, framing, and ventilation.
- Roof – check for areas where roof damage or poor installation could allow water to enter the home, such as loose, missing, or improperly secured shingles and cracked or damaged mastic around vents, and the condition of the gutters.
The interior inspection will cover everything on the inside of the structure.
- Plumbing – check of all faucets and showers, looking for visible leaks and test water pressure.
- Electrical – identify the kind of wiring and test all the outlets, making sure there are functional ground fault circuit interrupters (to protect from electrocution) installed in areas like the bathrooms, kitchen, garage, and outdoors. The inspector will also inspect the electrical panel for any safety issues and electrical outlets to ensure they do not present any fire hazards.
- Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) – inspection of HVAC system to estimate the age and condition and determine if they function properly and recommend repairs or maintenance. The inspector might also assess the condition of the ductwork for any leaks and if the home has sufficient insulation to minimize your energy bills and whether there is any asbestos insulation.
- Water Heater – identify the age of the heater and determine if it is properly installed and secured. The inspector assess the condition and a general idea of how many years it has left.
- Kitchen Appliances – check to make sure appliances including in the purchase are in working order.
- Laundry Room – making sure the laundry room is properly vented. A poorly maintained dryer-exhaust system can be a serious fire hazard.
- Fire Safety – If the home has an attached garage, the inspector will make sure the wall has the proper fire rating and will test the home’s smoke detectors.
- Bathrooms – check for visible leaks, properly secured toilets, adequate ventilation, and other issues.
Not Covered in a Home Inspection:
- Inside walls (won’t cut open drywall or insulation)
- Inside pipes or sewer lines
- Inside chimneys
- Behind electrical panels
Worth the Investment?
The cost to hire a home inspector varies, depending on the size of the home and the region; the range is roughly $300-500.
It’s important to remember an inspection is:
- Not the sole determination for buying a house. Maybe you’re willing to make some renovations. The inspection is a tool to determine how much work might be needed.
- Never free and clear of problems. An inspection will always find problems with a home.
- Not about getting all the fixes done. No seller is going to fix everything for you. They may negotiate on some but expecting a resolution of all issues is unreasonable.