Home inspection

Home inspections are visual examinations of houses that include all the major components to make sure things are operational and to note if repairs are necessary

man and woman in a kitchen looking at documents on a clipboard

A home inspection is exactly what it sounds like: an up-close examination of a house. During an inspection, the inspector may examine the:

  • Physical structure, such as the roof, ceilings, walls, floors, windows, and doors.

  • Mechanical systems, such as the HVAC unit, water pressure, and electrical systems.

  • Major appliances, such as the oven, refrigerator, and garbage disposal.

The purpose of the inspection is to let a prospective buyer know whether or not the home needs any repairs or has issues that may cause problems in the future.

When do home inspections occur?

Buyers normally have a set number of days to complete inspections once they have opened escrow on a home. The timeline varies from state to state but is usually somewhere around 18 days. The sooner the initial inspection is complete, the sooner the buyer can tell if they want specialized inspections.

Specialized inspections take the information from the basic home inspection and go deeper. This might include something like calling a plumber to take a camera through the plumbing system to see if there are any worrisome issues. However, all inspections must be completed by the timeframe set in escrow or an extension must be approved by the sellers.

Many home inspections are conducted as part of mortgage underwriting, as lenders want to make sure the collateral they’re lending against is valuable enough to justify the loan. However, you may also need an inspection specifically for insurance purposes. These may happen when:

An older home may also need a four-point inspection to assess its heating, ventilation and cooling system; electrical and wiring; plumbing, and roof. Four-point inspections are fairly routine in coastal areas.

Home inspection checklist

Every home inspector has a home inspection checklist, and knowing what’s on it can help you ask questions about any damage the inspector finds. Moreover, self inspections are becoming more common when you buy insurance. Either way, understanding what’s covered in a home inspection is a benefit to you.

Most home inspection checklists start with the home’s physical condition to determine how well it’s been maintained. Key structures the inspector examines include:

  • The roof. Is it in need of repair? How old is it? Does it need to be replaced?

  • Ridges and facia boards. Are there any notable problems with roof ridges? Any rot in fascia boards? Is flashing installed properly?

  • Windows and doors. Do these work properly and lock appropriately.

  • Floors, walls, and ceilings. Do these appear level? Is there evidence of pest infestation?

  • Exterior walls. Is this in good repair? Are the bricks cracking or the paint peeling?

  • Basement and foundations. Are there any signs of water or leaks? Is the foundation sound? Are there places where rodents or other pests might get in.

  • Attic. Is there any notable water intrusion? Is there proper ventilation?

  • Kitchen. Are appliances in good working order? Are there any signs of fire or water damage? Are ground fault interrupters properly installed near water sources?

The inspector may point a temperature reader at the exterior of vents while running the unit and note the temperature of the air forced out of the unit.

Next, the inspector goes down a systems checklist. This typically includes checking

  • Heating and cooling systems. Are these operating? Are the air filters clean? Is there any rust?

  • Plumbing. How is the water pressure from the faucet and shower heads? Is there any rust or evidence of leaks?

  • Electrical. Is the wiring up to code? Are there any exposed wires or electrical splices?

When the systems are done, the home inspector checks the major appliances that are included in the sale of the home. They will turn on your range, check the temperature in your refrigerator and freeze, and run your dishwasher and make note of any problem. Good inspectors also note the year, make, and model of the appliances in the report with the serial number to help homeowners get the right type of appliance repair needed.

Why are home inspections important?

The home inspection is one of the most important steps in the process of buying a home. Without it, a home buyer has no way of knowing if the home is a money pit or not. After all, someone can slap on new paint and stage a home nicely to hide problems.

This is why having a good home inspector is important. Your real estate agent can often recommend someone they have used in the past. Ask what’s included in their inspection and see if you can get a sample report. Remember, however, that once you start escrow, you’re on the clock and need to get the inspection done quickly as well as make decisions on whether or not you will ask for repairs, credits, or a reduction in price.

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