What Is a Home Inspection Like?

by Kaia Koglin
A document labeled Home Inspection Checklist and bearing a small drawing of a house as well as a list of inspection related questions sits on a blue surface with a mechanical pencil and a pair of eyeglasses resting on top of it, document, home inspection checklist, home inspection, inspection checklist, eyeglasses, glasses, pencil, pen, mechanical pencil, blue background

You’ve found your dream home, signed the contract and planned exactly where your dog’s bed will go. But don’t move too fast; a house is one of the most expensive purchases you’ll ever make, so you have to do your due diligence. That means having a home inspection.

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A professional assessment from a home inspector ensures any problems are identified so you can make an informed decision about your purchase. Most real estate contracts include a home inspection contingency clause, which allows you to renegotiate or back out of the sale if serious problems are discovered. That’s why it’s important to have a home inspection and know what to expect from the experience.

What Happens During a Home Inspection?

Essentially, the home inspector inspects the house, looking for anything of concern. They take notes about any issues. Many also take photos and videos of problem areas to be able to show the current owner and prospective purchaser.

Inspectors also go to hard-to-reach areas, such as the attic crawl space. However, they’re only looking for problems visible to the naked eye; they don’t cut holes in walls to see what’s behind them.

After identifying any problems, the inspector will suggest fixes and prepare a written report. It can be a good idea to be present at the house for the inspection. This allows you to ask questions as the inspection is taking place so you can make sure you understand the issues.

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What Is a Home Inspector Looking For?

Essentially, an inspector is looking for any problems, big or small, in the home. However, they're generalists. If the house has any special features, such as a swimming pool, well or septic tank, they won’t be inspected. It’s a good idea to have these inspected by a specialist before finalizing any sale.

People certified by the American Society of Home Inspectors work from a home inspection checklist to ensure nothing is missed. Below are some of the items included in the checklist.

Structure

Inspectors look at both the interior and the exterior of the home. They make sure walls are straight and there’s no evidence of cracks or sagging. On the outside, they check the foundation, chimney and roof. Inside, inspectors will make sure doors open and latch properly and that stairway risers and treads are in good condition. They also check for mold and other signs of moisture or water damage.

Plumbing

During the inspection, the inspector will examine all visible plumbing to make sure it’s in good condition. They also check to ensure there's adequate water pressure and that water drains smoothly in the kitchen and bathrooms.

Electrics

Inspectors will check to make sure the wiring is good, the service panel has normal capacity, there are an adequate number of outlets and all cables are secure and protected. Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors will be checked to make sure they're working and located in appropriate places throughout the home. Most inspectors will also check that any appliances included in the sale are working properly.

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How Long Does a Home Inspection Take?

The duration of a property inspection depends on the size of the house, but you can expect it to take at least 2 hours. The report generally arrives after a few days. Reports tend to be extremely detailed and include any pictures and videos taken.

What Kinds of Things Fail a Home Inspection?

It’s important to understand that inspectors don’t give pass or fail grades. Instead, they provide you with the information you need to make an informed decision. The report lists everything that’s considered a defect, and as no house is perfect, there’s almost always something listed.

Most defects are very minor. Issues such as loose doorknobs and cracks in the driveway are unlikely to make you change your mind about a purchase. However, there are other faults that may make you think again. These usually relate to the safety of the property and include:

  • Toxic materials, such as lead pipes or paint, asbestos and radon
  • Large cracks, especially those in the foundation
  • Unsafe electrical wiring
  • Plumbing issues
  • Pest infestation
  • Mold
  • Building code violations
  • HVAC problems

Whether the issues are big or small, the inspector will note them all. It’s up to you to read the report and decide whether you can accept a particular issue. You may choose to back out of the purchase. Alternatively, you can renegotiate with the seller. This usually involves getting a lower price so you have additional funds for repairs or asking them to fix the problem before you move in.

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