One of the most common – and important – contingencies that buyers insert in their real estate contracts is the home inspection. Without it, buyers will never have a chance to identify any major underlying issues with a home before they buy it.
If you’re a buyer, you’ll certainly want to have a home inspection conducted on the home you intend to purchase. This will give you the opportunity to see if there are any problems with the home that will need attention.
If there are, you have the option to hit the negotiation table again to either ask for the repairs to be made before you move in, ask for a credit to help cover the cost of repairs, or renegotiate the purchase price. If the problems are significant, you may even decide to walk away from the deal altogether.
But what exactly does a home inspector look at when scoping out a property?
The actual structure of the home will be looked at to see if there are any signs of deterioration. This is a critical component to be assessed, as any sign of major damage could translate into significant costs required to fix it.
Your home inspector will make way through the crawl space to look for any water penetration or condensation, mold, or damage caused by pest infestation. The foundation wall will be assessed to see if there are any cracks that could be a sign of soil shifting, poor drainage, or water leakage.
2. Exterior Components
Inspectors will take a walk around the exterior perimeter of the home to check for any signs of damage to exterior components. Windows and doors will be inspected to see if there are any broken seals on the glass, inadequate caulking, or cracks. Attached decks, porches, and balconies will be looked at to make sure they are sturdy enough to handle excess weight, and handrails on stairs are scoped out to see if there are any that are loose or missing.
Other components of the exterior that will be inspected include exterior flashing and trim, walkways, driveways, attached garage doors, landscaping, and grading.
The roof is one particular exterior component that is closely examined for any signs of potential issues. The inspector will look for any loose tiles or shingles, and the flashing is examined to ensure it is not allowing any water seepage. The eavestroughs, soffits, and fascia are assessed, and all drains are tested for adequate connection to the home.
Skylights and chimneys are also indicated on the inspection report in regards to how well they have been sealed to prevent any roof penetrations. Any tree limbs that touch the house are noted, as they can potentially damage the home during severe storms and provide a means for pests to make their way to the roof.
The interior of the home will be inspected in great detail with nothing left out. Just about everything you can think of will be assessed, including the floors, walls, ceilings, countertops, and cabinets. Each of these components will be inspected for things such as water damage or cracks. Windows and doors will be opened and closed to see if they “stick,” which could be a sign of structural issues including soil shifting, as mentioned earlier.
All faucets and showerheads will be turned on and off and all toilets will be flushed to test out the water pressure. The inspector will look under the sinks to see if there is any water leakage after water has been running. All drains are examined for any mineral deposits and to ensure that all filtering equipment is fitted properly. If there is a sump pump present, that will be inspected too.
The electrical panel of the home will be looked at for any insufficient clearance and corrosion to any of the parts. Circuit breakers are assessed to ensure they’re properly sized and operating efficiently; if not, this could be a real fire hazard, as overloaded circuits can overheat the wires and break down the insulation.
Conductors and grounding equipment are tested for efficient operation, and all electrical outlets are checked to make sure there aren’t too many appliances plugged in that could overload them. Smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are assessed to ensure they’re properly wired to the home and are located in the appropriate spots.
Inspectors will also make sure that there are ground fault interrupters in areas where water and electricity are in close proximity, such as in kitchens and bathrooms.
5. HVAC System
The HVAC system is critical for keeping the interior comfortable, especially during particularly hot, muggy days. As such, the entire system will be inspected to verify that it’s in good condition and is operating efficiently. All pipes are assessed for any signs of corrosion, and filters are checked to ensure they’re not too dirty or have weakened. The units themselves will also be examined for any obvious signs of damage.
6. Insulation and Ventilation
The inspector will climb up into the attic to check for any signs of water damage or leakage and will assess the state of the insulation while up there. Any inadequate insulation and vapor retarders will be cited on the inspection report. Venting fans will also be examined to verify whether or not they are in proper working condition in order to prevent any unnecessary moisture build-up in the home.
Home inspectors will check out all appliances that are a permanent fixture of the home; in particular, stovetops, dishwashers, garbage disposals, washing machines, and clothes dryers. Appliances such as microwaves are not usually looked at as they are not permanently fixed to the home.
Inspectors will determine whether or not the appliances are operating efficiently or are significantly deficient. They’ll use their professional judgment to determine whether it’s safe to operate such appliances using normal operating controls and will cite such findings accordingly.
The Bottom Line
As a buyer, it’s important that you are fully aware of what exactly your inspector will be looking for. Afterwards, you will want to follow up with the inspector’s report to see where any problems may lie so you can deal with such issues appropriately. You should also make a point of finding out what will not be covered in your home inspection, as well as what areas require follow up with specialists.
Knowing the state of the home you are buying will help you make a much more informed purchasing decision, and can arm you with the information needed to renegotiate if necessary.