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What do home inspectors look for? Typically, these 9 things

In a competitive market, it can be tempting to forgo a home inspection. But failing to identify potential problems could cost you in the long run.

LC

Lindsey Chase

10/28/2022 · 4 min read

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Key Takeaways

  • Inspections can benefit the buyer — shop around for the best fit at the best price. 

  • A home inspection can run between about $300–500. Costs may vary depending on the square footage of the home and the scope of work.  

  • Each state has its own requirements around inspections and who's qualified to perform them.

Normally, home inspectors evaluate accessible, observable systems and components of a home. Afterward, they provide a written report which details their findings. Some mortgage lenders might not require a home inspection, but getting one done is still a good idea. 

Buyers are more likely to forgo a home inspection in a hot housing market, as it may make their offer more competitive. But you could get stuck with a house with significant structural or safety issues. Let’s examine what home inspectors may look for when determining the condition of your potential future home. 

9 things home inspectors look for 

1. Structural elements

Checking the structural integrity of a home is a key part of the home inspection. This may involve examining the home's foundation and framing. The inspector may check crawl spaces and attics during this process to look for instability of any kind. 

2. Roof

Buyers may be wary of purchasing a home with an old roof. However, inspectors aren't necessarily concerned with a roof's age but its materials and condition. They may inspect for leaks or deterioration in the flashing, drainage systems, chimneys, and skylights.

3. Grounds

There are a lot of factors to review when inspecting a home's exterior: doors, adjacent decks or balconies, walkways, garages, and carports, to name a few. Soil, fences, boundary walls, and outbuildings may not be inspected. It can be a good idea to talk to the inspector beforehand to see what they can do.

4. Attic, garage, basement

During the interior stage of the inspection, inspectors may examine walls, ceilings, floors, stairs, and railings. They may also look for signs of mold or water damage, which can often occur in unfinished areas of a home. The inspector will often test the garage door but may not go over the home's finishings, such as window treatments or flooring. 

5. Plumbing

The inspector typically makes sure the interior water supply, along with the distribution systems, are in working order. This may include any faucets, fixtures, vent systems, and water heating equipment in the home. They may answer questions such as: does the water run hot and cold? Are there any obvious signs of leaks?

6. Electrical system

An electrical system that's safe, effective, and up to code may also be part of a home inspector's checklist. Inspectors typically point out the location of the breaker box and subpanels, along with any smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. They may test electrical outlets and switches as well as overcurrent protection devices.

7. HVAC system

Inspectors may examine the control panel of the home's heating and cooling system to make sure it’s in working order. Additionally, they may inspect ventilation systems, chimneys, and distribution systems to check for potential blockages. 

8. Appliances

A home inspector usually tests installed appliances such as the oven, dishwasher, microwave, garbage disposal, and range to make sure they work. However, they probably won't check every feature, like the self-cleaning function on an oven.  

9. Insulation and ventilation

Inspectors may examine the insulation and ventilation in any unfinished spaces — looking for any signs of moisture or deterioration. Additionally, they may inspect the exhaust systems. This typically includes exhaust fans often found in kitchens, laundry rooms, and bathrooms. 

Questions to ask your home inspector

Can I attend?

Attending the home inspection as a potential buyer can offer plenty of insight into the state of the house. This allows you to ask questions as you go and discover potential problems in real time.

How long will it take?

Most home inspections for a single-family home can take between 2-3 hours. If your inspector estimates significantly less time, they may not be able to do a thorough job.

When will I receive the report?

Inspectors should provide a written report of their findings. Know when you can expect to receive this write-up so you can plan for the next steps.

What are the next steps?

Some home inspectors can perform follow-up work based on issues they discover during the inspection. Either way, you'll have more information when deciding whether to move forward with the home-buying process. 

This content is meant for informational purposes only and is not intended to be construed as financial, tax, legal, or insurance advice. Opendoor always encourages you to reach out to an advisor regarding your own situation.

LC

Lindsey ChaseAuthor

A graduate of the Hubbard School of Journalism at the University of Minnesota, Lindsey has written for print and online publications as a freelancer since 2018. In her spare time, Lindsey enjoys pottery, spending time with her family, and running her A-frame house account @chaseaframe.

JG

Jena GreeneEditor

Jena Greene is the Managing Editor at Opendoor. She covers real estate, personal finance, money management, and market best practices. Jena is passionate about empowering people to find their dream homes and making the home-buying process a delightful one.