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What Do Home Inspectors Look For In a Home?

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If you’re selling your home, you can expect to undergo a home inspection before you finalize the deal with your buyer. 

A recent survey by Porch indicates that around 88% of buyers requested a home inspection before closing on a home sale. In most cases, mortgage lenders prompted this requirement.

This time-consuming process often leads to extra expenses and can cause the buyer to withdraw their offer.

As a seller, it’s helpful to ask yourself, ”What do home inspectors look for?” Then, find the answers, so you know how to prepare for this eventuality and streamline the procedure as much as possible. 

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What Is a Home Inspection?

Many home purchase contracts feature an inspection contingency. This provision gives buyers a chance to discover any serious problems before they close on a property.  

It’s their last chance to find defects in a home and get the seller to pay for them, withdraw their offer, or renegotiate before they close on the sale.  

For most buyers, especially in a seller’s market, it’s simply a chance to help them predict any extra costs associated with buying the home. It may also reveal less serious issues that the buyer should address if they want to avoid problems later. 

The home inspector isn’t going to dismantle the house in search of problems, it’s their job to evaluate easily accessible and visible aspects of the home.

In this way, they provide a reasonably accurate picture of necessary future repairs and maintenance issues. 

How Much Does a Home Inspection Cost?

According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, home inspections cost between $300 and $500 depending on the size and location of the house. 

The buyer pays for the home inspection and chooses the home inspector. So, the onus is on them to find a qualified, reliable, and experienced professional for the job.

In rare cases, they may ask the seller to pay for the home inspection. 

How Long Does a Home Inspection Take?

Most home inspections take two to four hours to complete, depending on the circumstances. 

The size of your home, the number of defects, and the thoroughness of the inspector are the main variables that affect how long a home inspection takes.

If you prepare your house thoroughly before the inspector arrives, they can get their job done quicker, too.

Home Inspection Checklist for Sellers

One way to prepare for a home inspection is by arranging for an inspector to visit your home before you put it on the market.

The buyer will likely insist on their own inspection. Yet, this exercise helps you find answers to the question, ”What do inspectors look for in a home inspection?” before the buyer’s inspector arrives.

It also gives you a chance to fix any defects in advance.  Be sure to address any minor, inexpensive fixes before they arrive; it will make things a little quicker and gives the buyer fewer reasons to haggle over the sale price. 

If you’ve kept your home well-maintained, you won’t have much to worry about in this regard, but you’ll need to put in a little extra work if you’re selling an inherited house with an uncertain past.  

Before the buyer’s home inspector arrives, there are things you can do to make their job a little easier. These are:

  • Labeling any relevant keys and making them easily accessible 
  • Turning on pilot lights for furnaces and fireplaces 
  • Tidying your basement, so they can easily view your water heater and HVAC unit 
  • Tidying your attic 
  • Cleaning up your yard for easy access to drainage access points, septic tanks, and crawl spaces
  • Ensuring the utilities are active and operational

These niceties won’t give you any extra leeway when it comes to the results, but a little courtesy goes a long way toward streamlining the process.

What Do Home Inspectors Look for During an Inspection?

According to the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), each state has its list of requirements regarding home inspections.

However, most home inspectors must review the following aspects during their visit: 

  • Basement
  • Foundation
  • Structural components
  • Walls, ceilings, and floors
  • Doors and windows
  • Central air conditioning system
  • Heating system 
  • Electrical systems and Interior plumbing 
  • Attic and insulation
  • Rain gutters and roof

The home inspector conducts a thorough surface inspection of the above items as far as possible. 

Of the above, five items typically present issues, and the inspector focuses most thoroughly on them. Let’s review them.

The Foundation

Defects in your foundation impact your whole home. This structure supports the framework of the house and everything in it. 

Foundation repairs are extremely costly and can amount to as much as $15,000, so any issues in this area can cause sellers to back out fast. 

What Do Inspectors Look For in a Home Foundation?

Home inspectors walk around the perimeter of the home looking for sloping, cracks, and settlement problems. They’ll also look for signs of moisture in the crawl space, like warping and mold or termite damage that could affect the wood supports. 

If you’ve recently had your foundation repaired, they’ll check the quality of workmanship.  

The Roof

Roof repairs range from $150 to $1,500, and replacing a roof can cost as much as $12,000. Most roofs last about 30 years before you’ll need to replace them, provided they’re well maintained. 

A good quality roof affects the home’s energy efficiency, will determine whether you can install solar power or not, and enables good ventilation. 

What Do Inspectors Look For?

Inspectors may evaluate the roof from a ladder, view it through binoculars, or climb on top of it.

They conduct a quick evaluation of its water-tightness and overall appearance and look for signs of potential problems, like:

  • Moss growth
  • Missing shingles or tiles
  • Broken or missing gutter, vents, and flashing
  • Attic ventilation issues

Home inspectors often recommend that a qualified roofer conduct a detailed inspection.  

Plumbing Systems

Water leaks cause high utility bills and can result in flooding, mold growth, and structural damage. They’re often difficult to detect, too, which can lead to massive water mitigation costs down the line. 

What Inspectors Look for When Inspecting Plumbing

Home inspections include anything to do with water flow, i.e. spigots, toilets, sinks, faucets, showers, and pipes. The inspector will make a note of any leaks, corrosion, cracks, and evidence of substandard repairs.

They’ll also pay attention to floors, walls, and ceilings to look for signs of moisture, cross-connection, or contamination issues.  

Electrical Aspects

A home’s electrical systems have a major impact on how safe it is. Electricity causes 51,000 residential fires every year. Electrical repairs can cost as little as $150 for a minor repair to $2,200 to rewire the house

What Do Home Inspectors Look For?

Home inspectors evaluate the electrical panel in minute detail to ensure everything is up to code regarding wiring and grounding. They’ll also check for correct amperage ratings and corroded wires. 

The house should have ground-fault circuit interrupters throughout the house to prevent electrocution, and all the switches must work properly.

If there’s any doubt about the safety of a home’s electrical systems, the home inspector will recommend a more detailed inspection by a qualified electrician.  

HVAC System

HVACs can cause ongoing hassles and high electricity bills and can cost as much as $12,500 for a new one. While regular repairs can keep an HVAC running smoothly for years, most older models don’t meet modern energy-efficiency standards. 

What Do Home Inspectors Look at When Inspecting an HVAC?

The home inspector will usually turn on the heater and air conditioner when they arrive at the house and leave it running. This enables them to gauge if they’re working efficiently. 

Things That Aren’t Included in a Home Inspection

While they’re only a small sample of the things home inspectors evaluate during their visit, the above items cause the most problems overall. They’re also among the most expensive issues for new homeowners to rectify.

Despite doing a thorough job, there are some things a home inspector can’t or won’t pass judgment on. These are: 

  • Anything they can’t access 
  • Compliance with local codes
  • The value of the home
  • Landscaping issues
  • Appliances
  • Septic systems and wells
  • Interior decor items like wallpaper, paint, and furniture
  • Anything behind a wall cavity

If you’re present during the home inspection, you can help the inspector access locked or blocked features.

If desired, the buyer can request separate inspections for things like septic systems, unpermitted work, and code compliance, and arrange for an independent assessor to evaluate the home on their behalf. 

They may also request further inspections for safety aspects, like:

  • Termite infestation
  • The presence of radon, lead, or asbestos
  • Water damage and mold 

The home inspector may offer some of these additional services or recommend someone who can carry them out. 

What Happens After a Home Inspection?

Depending on the buyer, the sale of your home could proceed without a hitch if the home inspection reveals only minor defects in the house. 

It’s good practice to agree to fix small issues like a leaking faucet or chipped paint before the buyer moves in, but you’ll need to engage in some negotiating if the home inspection reveals more serious issues.  

Safety and structural issues represent red flags for buyers, and they may request further inspections to put their minds at ease before buying the house. 

What Happens If the Inspection Reveals Problems?

Your home can’t pass or fail a home inspection. The inspector’s job is simply to point out areas for improvement or components that do not meet the minimum standards. 

Most home inspection checklists are pages long and full of recommendations to repair or replace items. 

It’s up to the buyer to decide what to do with this information. They have four options once they receive the report from the home inspector.

Ask the Seller to Pay for the Repairs 

If you can afford to pay for the relevant repairs and are keen to sell your home, it’s worth considering this option.

Keep in mind that small issues can sometimes reveal more extensive and expensive issues on further inspection. So you could end up losing more on the sale of your home than you bargained for.

The buyer can’t force you to pay for these repairs, but they can withdraw their offer if you refuse. 

Pay for the Repairs Themselves

In a competitive market, sellers are often willing to wait for another buyer to come along. Sometimes, they’ve already reduced their price to hasten the sale.

If the buyer is very keen on the home and can afford to pay for the repairs, they may opt to do so. 

Share the Costs

The buyer and seller can agree to meet each other halfway. They could either pay half of the costs each, or the seller might agree to reduce their selling price by half the cost of the repairs.

They could also each agree to pay for specific repairs. 

Back Out of the Deal

Lenders won’t mortgage a home unless they can get their money back in a foreclosure sale. So, it doesn’t make sense for them to give a buyer more cash for repairs.

So, if the buyer does not have extra funds to pay for any necessary repairs or doesn’t want to pay for them, they’re often forced to walk away from the deal. They’re entitled to do so within the time frame mentioned in the home sale contract.  

How to Avoid Home Inspection Hassles

There you have the answer to your question, ”What do home inspectors look for?”.

With this knowledge, are you doubtful about whether your home will make the grade if a buyer sends the inspector around?

There is an easier, less stressful alternative. An iBuyer won’t expect you to go through the anxiety associated with a home inspection. We can connect you with qualified buyers who pay cash for houses in less than perfect condition.

Try our home value estimator to receive a fair estimate of what you can get for your house right now.

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