• What Does a Home Inspector Look for During the Inspection?

    Brandon Cornett

    By Brandon Cornett, Editor
    © 2013 All rights reserved

    Want to know what happens during a home inspection? If so, you'll enjoy this video lesson. Here, the narrator explains some of the key items an inspector will look at when examining the property. The video was created in 2011, and the narrator is Brandon Cornett. There's also a full transcript of the video below.

    Video transcript: Today we're going to talk about the home inspection that takes place when you buy a house -- or, the inspection that should take place. In particular, we're going to talk about the different things the home inspector looks for when examining the property.

    I urge all home buyers to have a house inspected before buying it. Unless you work in construction, you do not have the kind of trained eye that's needed to spot flaws within the home. Sure, you can spot a window that doesn't open. But can you identify an overloaded circuit breaker or foundation erosion? Probably not. So hire an inspector. You'll probably pay less than $500 for the full inspection. That's not a lot to pay for peace of mind.

    The Purpose of the Inspection

    The purpose of the home inspection is to identify any problems within the house that you're not willing to accept. When you make an offer to buy a house, the offer should be contingent upon a successful home inspection. In other words, if the inspector finds something you're not comfortable with, you should be able to back out of the deal. That's what it means when the offer is "contingent" upon the home inspection.

    Generally, the inspection takes place after you've made an offer to purchase a home, and the sellers have accepted your offer. You should schedule it as soon as possible after this step.

    What the Home Inspector Looks For

    So, what does the home inspector look for during this process? While they might handle the process in different ways, most inspectors look at the same types of things.

    The inspector will examine the roof, to make sure it's in a good state of repair. He might do this by using a ladder to climb up on the roof. Or he might just look at the roof through a pair of binoculars, while standing out in the street. I've seen home inspectors do it both ways. They just want to make sure there's no major damage with the roof, since that's obviously a major cost that could be involved. They will check the condition of the shingles or tiles, the flashing around the chimney, and the overall integrity of the roof.

    The home inspector is going to look at the foundation of the house, and possibly the walls as well (since they connect to the foundation). Here, the inspector wants to make sure there aren't any cracks or water damage that could be a sign of serious maintenance costs down the road.

    The home inspector will check the electrical system in the house. He will ensure that the system is safe, and that there are no overrated fuses, overloaded circuit breakers, or faulty connections. And, of course, he will make sure everything works. He will go room by room and turn on all of the lights and electrical fixtures, throughout the entire house.

    The home inspector will look at the HVAC system, if there is one. HVAC stands for heating, ventilation and cooling. He will look for proper function of any system that's currently installed -- central air, furnace, baseboard heat, etc. When he walks into the house, he will probably turn on the air conditioner or heater to make sure it works. This is often the first thing they do upon arrival. The inspector will let the system run while he's performing the rest of the inspection. This allows him to test the thermostatic controls as well.

    The inspector will look at the plumbing system inside and outside of the house. This includes the sinks, toilets, bathtubs and outdoor spigots. He'll go room by room, systematically, to make sure all of these items work. He will also look for any leaks around plumbing pipes and fixtures.

    The inspector will check any installed systems inside the house. In this context, "installed" means anything that is attached to the home where its removal would require tools. Garbage disposals are a good example. If the house has a sump pump in the basement for removing moisture, he will check it for proper operation.

    The inspector will look for water leaks, or evidence of water leaks. He will check all the areas where water leaks generally occur. Inspectors know exactly where to look for this kind of thing -- on floors, along the foundation, in basements, etc. Leaking water can be a sign of two problems. First, it can suggest that the pipes need repair or replacement. Additionally, the water itself can cause damage and erosion to floors, ceilings and foundations.

    This is just a bare minimum. The inspector will probably look at some additional areas, above and beyond the items on this list. When he's done checking these things, he will give you what's known as the home inspector's report. He will sit down with you and go over each item on the list, noting any problems he found along he way. He will explain what the problem was, and what might be required to fix it. The potential repairs are obviously important to you, because they bring additional costs along with them.

    Negotiating the Repairs

    Next, you need to decide what you're comfortable accepting, and what you're not willing to accept. If you're not comfortable accepting a certain item on the list, you'll have to ask the seller to fix it. This is an important step in the process, because it will require some negotiating on your part. Seek your agent's advice, as they are experienced in these matters.

    How much you ask the seller to fix will depend on your market.

    • If you're in a seller's market, you might not be able to ask for much. The homeowner can probably expect another qualified buyer to come along soon. And the next buyer might not make any repair requests at all.
    • If you're in a strong buyer's market (where sellers go further to accommodate buyers), the seller might be willing to fix everything on the list. Chances are, they've been on the market for a while already. And who knows when the next offer will come along?

    So consider the market you're in, and consider how much you want the house. Remember, if it's something you can live with, be flexible. You don't want to lose the house over that particular item.

    This is what a home inspector looks for when inspecting a house. And this is how the process works. It takes place after the offer is accepted, and it gives you a way out of the contract if you find something that you're not willing to accept. Every buyer should have an inspection done. It doesn't cost much, in the grand scheme of things. And it gives you the comfort of knowing "what lies beneath."

    See also: 21 Questions About Home Inspections

    If you would like to learn more about this topic, please use the search tool located in the upper-right corner of the website. It allows you to search a library of more than 1,000 home-buying articles. Good luck.

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