The Home Inspection
for Buyers
Everything you need to know about the home inspection as a buyer.
  
Once you’ve made an offer on a home, and it has been accepted, one of the things you should do is have the home inspected by a professional home inspector. Buying a home is expensive enough as it is, but I’ll delve into what a home inspection can reveal and why you don’t want to skip this optional procedure.
  
A typical home inspection includes a check of the home’s structural and mechanical condition.  It also includes tests for radon gas, asbestos, detection of wood-destroying insects and any other services requested by you, the buyer.
 
According to the American Society of Home Inspectors in the Standards of Practice , the ten critical areas to be inspected are the structure, exterior, roofing system, plumbing system, electrical system, heating system, air conditioning system, interior, insulations and ventilation, and the fireplaces.
 
A good inspector will examine these components of the home you wish to purchase and then create a report detailing their findings. A typical inspection lasts two to three hours and you should be present to get a firsthand explanation of the inspector's findings and ask questions. Also, any problems the inspector uncovers will make more sense if you see them in person instead of relying solely on the snapshot photos in the report.
 
The inspector should note:
  • 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 monitored closely
 
A really great inspector will even tell you about routine maintenance that should be performed, which can be a great help if you are a first-time homebuyer.
  

What to Expect

What will the inspector be looking at?

Exterior Inspection

Exterior walls 

Foundation

Grading

The inspector will check for damaged or missing siding, cracks and whether the soil is in excessively close contact with the bottom of the house, which can invite wood-destroying insects. However, the pest inspector, not the home inspector, will check for actual damage from these insects. The inspector will let you know which problems are cosmetic and which could be more serious.
If the foundation is not visible, and it usually is not, the inspector will not be able to examine it directly, but they can check for secondary evidence of foundation issues, like cracks or settling.
The inspector will let you know whether the grading slopes away from the house as it should. If it doesn't, water could get into the house and cause damage, and you will need to either change the slope of the yard or install a drainage system.

Garage/Carport 

Roof 

The inspector will test the garage door for proper opening and closing, check the garage framing if it is visible and determine if the garage is properly ventilated (to prevent accidental carbon monoxide poisoning). If the water heater is in the garage, the inspector will make sure it is installed high enough off the ground to minimize the risk of explosion from gasoline fumes mingling with the heater's flame.
The inspector will 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. He or she will also check the condition of the gutters.

Interior Inspection

Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) 

Plumbing 

Electrical

The home inspector will check all faucets and showers, look for visible leaks, such as under sinks and test the water pressure. He or she will also identify the kind of pipes the house has, if any pipes are visible. The inspector may recommend a secondary inspection if the pipes are old to determine if or when they might need to be replaced and how much the work would cost. The inspector will also identify the location of the home's main water shutoff valve.
The inspector will identify the kind of wiring the home has, test all the outlets and make sure there are functional ground fault circuit interrupters (which can protect you from electrocution, electric shock and electrical burns) installed in areas like the bathrooms, kitchen, garage and outdoors. They will also check your electrical panel for any safety issues and check your electrical outlets to make sure they do not present a fire hazard.
The inspector will look at your HVAC system to estimate the age of the furnace and air conditioner, determine if they function properly and recommend repairs or maintenance. An inspector can also give you an idea of the age of the home's ducting, whether it might have leaks, if your home has sufficient insulation to minimize your energy bills and whether there is any asbestos insulation.  

Water Heater 

Kitchen Appliances 

The inspector will sometimes check kitchen appliances that come with the home to make sure they work, but these are not always part of the inspection. Be sure to ask the inspector which appliances are not included so that you can check them yourself.
The home inspector will identify the age of the heater and determine if it is properly installed and secured. The inspector will also let you know what kind of condition it is in and give you a general idea of how many years it has left.

Laundry Room 

Fire Safety

Bathrooms 

The inspector will make sure the laundry room is properly vented. A poorly maintained dryer-exhaust system can be a serious fire hazard.
If the home has an attached garage, the inspector will make sure the wall has the proper fire rating and that it hasn't been damaged in any way that would compromise its fire rating. They will also test the home's smoke detectors.
The inspector will check for visible leaks, properly secured toilets, adequate ventilation and other issues. If the bathroom does not have a window and/or a ventilation fan, mold and mildew can become problems and moisture can warp wood cabinets over time.
Once you receive the inspector’s reports, you have a few options.
 
If there are problems that are too significant or too expensive to fix, you can choose to walk away from the purchase, as long as your purchase contract has an inspection contingency.
 
For any problem, large or small, you may ask the seller to fix them, reduce the purchase price, or give you a cash credit at closing to fix the problems yourself - this is why a home inspection can pay for itself several times over.
 
If these options aren't feasible in your situation (for example, if the property is bank-owned and being sold as-is), you can get estimates to fix the problems yourself and come up with a plan for repairs in order of their importance and affordability once you own the property. 

After the Inspection

In Conclusion...

A home inspection will cost you a little bit of time and money, but in the long run you'll be glad you did it. The inspection can reveal problems that you may be able to get the current owners to fix before you move in, saving you time and money. If you are a first-time homebuyer, an inspection can give you a crash course in home maintenance and a list of items that need attention to make your new home as safe and sound as possible.
 
 
You won’t want to skip this vital step in the home-buying process - it's worth every penny.  After all, you want to know exactly what you are purchasing.