What Home Inspectors Look For

On January 31, 2012 by Karen

What Home Inspectors Look For

Buying a home? Selling one? If so, you’ll probably be involved with a home inspection. What, exactly, do home inspectors look for, and why?

This post is a follow-up on Home Inspections – What to Look For.

The primary focus of a home inspection is the structural, mechanical, and electrical condition of the property. Inspections are designed to find major flaws or deficiencies in the home. Inspections will not, of course, find all flaws or problems that might exist, but they’re a great place to start and required by most lenders.

Therefore, unless a property is purchased with cash or “as-is,” an inspection is a part of the normal buying/selling process.

Your primary goal is to make sure the house is safe and adheres to government regulations. Typically, inspectors start by examining the structural integrity of the house. Things like cracks in the foundation, deteriorating support beams, and holes that can compromise the building and make it unsafe.

Items inspectors check also include:

Exterior features – such as outside walls, soffits, decks, the roof, chimneys and drainage conditions.

Water – Standing water or signs of water where it shouldn’t be (i.e., in basements or water stains on the ceiling).

Paint problems – rotted wood, cracking or flaking masonry, loose, missing or rotten siding.

Asbestos – is it present in the structure.

Plumbing systems – making certain they are fully operational – checking water supply, piping and drains – looking for visible rust or corrosion. They check sinks, tubs and showers for proper water flow from each faucet and make sure everything drains properly.

Electrical system – size and age of electrical service. Are the outlets grounded? Is visible wiring in good condition? Is it functioning properly and up to state code? Have there been upgrades? Inspectors check a “representative number” of electrical outlets to make sure they function properly

Roof – condition, age and life expectancy.

Attic, basement or crawlspace – whether they have adequate insulation and ventilation. They check for water issues (stains, mildew/odors, efflorescence, loose tiles etc.), structural damage, pest infestation.

Hot water heater – condition, age and life expectancy, and does it adhere to government codes.

Kitchens and bathrooms – They check that all fixtures are secure and note the condition of tiles and caulking in the tub/shower area. Are the faucets working? Do they leak? Is there sufficient water pressure? They randomly sample the operation of the cabinet doors and drawers. Appliances are checked for age and condition.

Windows – Are they new? Are they the original windows? How old are they? They look for problems with paint or caulking, and rotted wood components. A “representative number” of windows are opened to make sure they function and are not painted shut.

Insulation – Does the home have adequate insulation in walls, windows and doors?

Foundation – Cracks or settling in the foundation. They note any settlement or separation from the house.

Heating and cooling systems – Type, style and age. When were they last inspected or serviced?

Cracked tiles – may indicate water leakage or settling.

Inspections are defined as “visually based” meaning inspectors don’t move items or take things apart to inspect. Because of this, they can’t tell exactly how many years are left on the roof, appliances or heat and air systems, but they can tell whether they need replacing immediately and if they are new.

Likewise, you need to hire specialists to assess the conditions of swimming pools, septic systems, underground storage tanks for heating oil, for gases such as radon, or to assess health of trees and shrubs.

Inspectors prepare a written report and the party paying for the inspection will receive a copy of this report.

What’s been your experience with home inspections?

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