Doing a home inspection is a very important part of the homebuying process. While looking at a property online or even during a walk-through might seem extensive enough, you don’t want to buy a property only to discover you’ll have to sink thousands more into repairs. (Read about my renovation story here.)
Home inspectors check and catalog potential home issues and repairs for both the seller and buyer so that the two can make further decisions about the home purchase, such as whether to lower the price or complete repairs.
It is recommended that the buyer attend the inspection to get a better idea of what they would be purchasing, but what should you be looking for? I know for me it was really hard to be fully present during the inspection because I didn't know what I was looking at or what to ask.
What's Included in a Home Inspection?
24-48 hours after your inspection, your inspector will provide a report of the condition of the following items in your (potential) future home:
It's important to note unless expressly visible, termites, and other “additional” systems such as security, satellite, and smoke may not be tested by home inspectors and may require additional inspections. Because inspections can vary by inspector, it's important for potential homeowners to attend the inspection and ask lots of questions along the way.
7 Most Important Things to Look For in a Home Inspection
Defects in the Structure
When buying a home that you’re hoping to live in for an extended amount of time, you want to make sure that the structure is sound. You should keep an eye out for any damage to the foundation or flooring as well as making sure that there is no water damage to ceilings or walls that could escalate to serious problems down the road.
Potential Roof Issues
Ideally, a roof should not leak, have loose tiles or shingles, or be touching any trees or branches. Roof repairs become costly quick, and it’s not like you can live in a house comfortably without a functional roof over your head. Trees and other debris can allow rodents and other infestations access to your home in addition to the danger they pose in storms.
While up in the attic or crawlspace, take note of the condition of the insulation. Improper or missing insulation means you’ll be paying big time on your energy bills in the winter. Additionally, insulation is often a cozy place for unwanted roommates like rats or raccoons, and once they make a home you'll need a full or partial replacement of soiled insulation.
Broken Window or Door Seals
If a door or window does not lay flush with the surrounding structure, you could be letting money slip through the cracks. There’s a reason your dad has probably said “Close the door, I’m not trying to air condition the whole neighborhood!” at some point. Beyond that, broken seals on doors and windows can lead to water damage. This is typically a simple repair, but be sure to also check for mold or the previously-mentioned water damage if you do find this issue during inspection.
Faulty Electrical Work
Depending on the age of the home, electrical outlets may be in short supply. This may not seem like an issue initially, but if there are exposed wires or extension cords running throughout the house you should take a closer look at potential electrical issues. Exposed wires can lead to electrical fires, and do-it-yourself wiring should be corrected by a licensed electrician.
Condition of the Plumbing
It is important to check the condition of all pipes for leakage and proper fit, and find out if the home connects to a septic tank or public sewage. Problems with sewage pipes or septic tanks can be lengthy and costly repairs, so catching them early will save you a lot of trouble down the road. Leaks in the plumbing inside the home can contribute to mold and other rot in floors and ceilings.
Related: 4 Ways to Pay for Home Renovations
Are there dimples or gaps in the siding? What about gutters that don’t drain correctly? Simple improvements like this can help both the aesthetic appeal of the home and protect against issues such as water drainage into the home.
It's easy to spot cosmetic upgrades and start daydreaming about those fixes and how you'll make the home your own upon move in. Still, I urge you to pay attention to those less-sexy, less-glamorous parts of a home. These are the big money pits, (and they're not very fun to fix either) so go into your inspection with eyes open.
If you don't, it could end up costing you thousands of dollars and loads more in buyer's remorse.