What do home inspectors look for?

July 8, 2022 | 
What do home inspectors look for?

Often overlooked, a home inspection is one of the most fundamental steps when buying a home. Usually, it is initiated by the buyer to assess a house’s condition before making the purchase. It is a thorough process that involves actively searching for any safety or structural issues in the house and ensuring that all the essential systems are functioning to satisfactory standards.

By the end of a home inspection, a potential buyer should know exactly what they are buying. They’ll also get an opportunity to negotiate the price with the buyer or have them address any defects. So, what do home inspectors look for during a home inspection?

In this article, we shall address everything one can expect come inspection day. We shall look at what the home inspector is most likely to look for and how a seller can address the issues as they turn up.

What is a home inspection?

Knowing what to expect from a home inspection can help a seller and buyer properly prepare for the inspection. It will also help establish what questions to ask your home inspector. But first, it is important to understand what a home inspection is exactly.

Much like the name suggests, a home inspection is simply an examination of the safety and condition of a real estate property. Usually, it is conducted by a certified home inspector, who will examine a house. They will check various areas for any damage or alarming issues with the structure and aesthetics of the house.
Home inspections are especially important to potential buyers. As we established, they help them know exactly what they’ll get from the deal.

A comprehensive home inspection should allow the buyer to uncover any defects in the house and get the seller to fix them before closing on the property. If any serious problems are discovered, the buyer can either back out of the purchase or negotiate a reduced price to cover the cost of fixing it.

What does a home inspection consist of?

So, what is covered in a home inspection?

Your typical home inspection process begins when a buyer, seller, or real estate agent contacts a licensed home inspector. On arriving at the site, the inspector will start by scouting the home. They will analyze all the major systems impacting the space’s safety, health, and livability.

What do home inspectors look at exactly? They’ll scrutinize everything from the foundation, heating, plumbing, cooling, and electrical systems within the house.

While the main focus is on the more impactful features, sometimes the inspectors might note the less crucial defects like the broken door handles and window panes. However, these are considered minor issues and might not necessarily be deal-breakers.

It is important to note that the purpose of the inspection is not only to identify the defects but also to get a picture of the house’s overall condition. And this way, the buyer knows what they are purchasing.

What do home inspectors look for? 5 things to be aware of

Now, onto the question that homeowners and first time buyers wonder, what do home inspectors look for in a regular home inspection?

Well, as per the standards of practice by the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), evaluation can be done on basically any item in the home that is ‘visually observable and readily accessible.’

But this can be narrowed down to 5 major components. Call it the home inspection checklist:

Heating ventilation and air conditioning system (HVAC)

The Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning System (HVAC) has become a necessity in modern homes. It is what controls the cooling, heating, and general airflow in your home and can make your life considerably more or less difficult through the seasons.

To deliver and maintain the quality of air passing through, HVAC systems rely on regular maintenance or checkups.

While the systems are generally made durable, some components are prone to malfunction or breakages and might need to be replaced every so often.

What do house inspectors look for?

What does a home inspector look for in a HVAC system?

Well, during the checkup, the home inspector will examine your whole system, checking for any defects or signs that might point to a malfunctioning HVAC system. They include:

  • Dirty air filters
  • Asbestos
  • Rust in areas surrounding the unit
  • Cracked ductwork
  • Combustion gas order
  • Open seams
  • Carbon-monoxide and smoke detectors

Average cost to fix

If you detect any of the above, you are advised to have a HVAC specialist take a look. The cost of repair will vary depending on the type of system you are using and whether it is a basic repair or a full replacement of the unit. Let’s break it down:

  • Installing new unit (including labor costs) – $5000- 10,000
  • AC unit repairs – $120 – $450
  • Furnace repairs – $130-$1200
  • Labor costs – $75-$150 per hour.
  • Complete system tune-up – $130-$300 (filter cleaning, repair worn out arts and blow out dust)

Electrical systems

As it stands, compromised electrical systems are the 3rd leading cause of home fires in the country. It, therefore, goes without saying that inspection of electrical systems is critical in every inspection.

Both the seller and buyer should feel that the space is safe from the potentially life-threatening dangers that electrical issues pose.

What do home inspectors check:

What do home inspectors do when checking electrical systems?

During the inspection, the inspector will evaluate the entire electrical panel making sure the basic safety protocols are followed.

They’ll want to know that:

  • Bushes and trees are not tampering with the wiring
  • Wires are covered with insulation (are not exposed)
  • That the panel is connected using circuit breakers, rather than fuses
  • Your main breaker has enough amps to satisfy your home’s electrical needs
  • No wires are lose
  • Your panel has no rust
  • Your electrical outlets are safe
  • Light switches are working

Average cost to fix

After the inspection, you should have a solid idea of any electrical issue within the house. At this point, you can involve a licensed electrician to take a look and determine which issues can be easily fixed and which ones should be replaced.

Depending on the issue and size of the house, this can cost anything from $150-$500 for minor repairs. Naturally, the more demanding projects like full house rewiring will be more expensive, ranging from $3000-$30000.

Plumbing systems

The plumbing system is yet another equally system that’s crucial to any home. What makes plumbing systems stand out is that they are notoriously difficult to diagnose, which makes it easy for a problem to go unnoticed.

Something as trivial as rust on pipes or a minor leak can cause a much larger plumbing problem. It can affect the floor, walls, drywalls, and foundation of the house, ultimately causing all sorts of structural issues and water damage. And fixing this can be extremely costly.

What is checked during a home inspection:

What does a home inspector cover when looking at a plumbing system?
The inspector will take consider any structure that interacts with water in the house. They will go over every part of the home, checking for issues such as:

  • Rusty or broken pipes
  • Hidden leaks in pipes and hydrants
  • Galvanized popes
  • Clogged sewer lines
  • Running toilets
  • Clogged up faucets and tubs
  • Water heaters
  • The condition of the thermostats
  • Water pressure
  • Build-up of sediments

Average cost of repair

As we mentioned, plumbing repairs are not cheap. You might have to dig out pipes and break down walls to find a single leak. On top of that, you’ll need to fix anything damaged by the water.

Ideally, this will cost anything from $1000-$5000, but it can go might higher depending on the extent of the damage.


Often underrated, the roof plays an extremely important in every home. It is what shields the home from the elements, including the rain, snow, and wind.

With a quality roof, your home will remain properly insulated and generally have good interior air quality. On the other hand, a bad roof will cause leaks or a pest infestation, all of which can discourage potential buyers or significantly reduce the house’s value.

What does a home inspector do?

What does a house inspector look for in your roof?

When inspecting the roof, the inspector will usually climb up the roof to check on potential problems or anything that might indicate damage, including:

  • Loose or damaged shingles and gutters
  • Rust or cracks on the flashing
  • Walls, floors, and ceilings
  • Growth of algae and mildew
  • Unevenness or saggy sections
  • Water in the ceiling or attic

Average cost to fix

Fixing a roof also falls on the costly end of the price spectrum. Depending on the size of the house and type of roofing, an average repair can cost between $900 and $2300. On the other hand, replacing the whole unit will cost significantly more, ranging from $10000 to $20000.

In some cases, sellers are better off lowering the price of the house than repairing the roof.

Foundation/ structural integrity

While most homes’ foundations are built to last, they can still get damaged over time. This is mainly due to the expansion and contraction of soil as water seeps in. If left unfixed, foundation issues might end up causing more damage and posing serious safety issues.

Buyers often shy away from structural problems since their repairs can be really expensive. Inspection is more so warranted for older homes, which are more prone to such issues.

Things inspectors look for when inspecting the foundation include:

Inspectors usually start by checking the external structure of the house and then work their way in. As they scout the perimeter, they will try and spot any problems with the structure.

What do they look for in a home inspection? They’ll check for:

  • Cracks in the house’s basement
  • Bouncy floors
  • Sunken porch
  • Gaps surrounding door frames and windows
  • Crawlspaces and gaps between floors and walls
  • Nails protruding from walls
  • Leaning or cracked stairs
  • Leaning chimney
  • Signs of pests and termites

Average cost to fix

For most buyers, a compromised foundation is a deal-breaker. Therefore, any structural issues should be repaired first by a viable structural contractor or engineer.

Any additional structural elements, including the house’s framing, should also be checked. On average, a roof repair will cost anywhere between $1000 to over $10000.

What happens if a home inspection detects defects?

By now, you know what is included in a home inspection. So what happens after the home inspector detects defects?

Before anything, it is important to note that no home is 100% perfect. So chances are, the home inspector will have some defects to report. The steps you should take next depend on the severity of the problems detected.

Everything should be listed down in the final home inspection report. Once you spot any red flags, you can do one out of four things.

Have the seller pay for repairs

If there are only minor defects, the seller might agree to fix them independently. It can save the buyer a bit of time off their to-do list as they move in.

However, the downside to this is that the seller won’t be as invested in the quality of repairs. You might end up with substandard replacements.

Buyer pays

Sometimes, if multiple buyers are bidding for the house, sellers might not agree to take on the repairs. If you believe that the deal is still good, regardless of the defects, then you can pay for the repairs out of pocket.

Make sure to check on the severity of the problems listed and see how much they will affect your comfort and safety. It should give you an idea of how much more you’ll have to spend on home improvement after buying.

Share costs with the seller

Some sellers might be open to paying part of the repair bills. This can be either through a slight reduction in the purchase price of the house or direct payment for certain fixes. If this is the case, you want to insist that they tackle the most fundamental items.

Abandon the deal

In some cases, the inspection might reveal defects that are deal-breakers to you as the buyer. If the contract’s inspection period has not ended, you can back down from it and walk away without any penalty.

The inspection period is the time allowed in a purchase contract for potential buyers to inspect the property after making an offer.

Final points on what to look for in a home inspection

Buying a new home may very well be one of (if not) the most daunting decisions a person can make. A thorough home inspection will go a long way in helping make a more informed and regret-free decision.

Still, this all banks on getting a professional home inspector who knows not only what to look for but is transparent with their findings. What do they look at in a home inspection? In a nutshell, basically, everything that matters.

Hopefully, now you have an idea about what home inspectors do and what to look for in a home inspection.

If you need any further advice on home inspections or a quote, don’t hesitate to contact us at HomeGauge today and let us help you get the home of your dreams.

Faqs related to what home inspectors look for

Do I have to fix everything on a home inspection?

The short answer is no. you are not required to fix everything listed in the inspection report. However, major defects, such as structural or plumbing issues, can be deal-breakers to potential buyers. You might have to have them fixed for them to buy the house.

What fixes are mandatory after a home inspection?

Legally speaking, there are no mandatory fixes you or your realtor have to make after a home inspection. But if the repairs are crucial in making the home habitable, you might have to fix them for the buyer to accept the deal. This might include major foundational or plumbing fixes.

What are the things that most commonly fail a home inspection?

The most common things that fail home inspections are the major items inspectors check for. They include drainage issues, plumbing problems, faulty foundation, faulty electrical wiring, rundown roofing, failing HVAC systems, and pest infestations.

Can I decide not to buy a house after inspection?

Yes, if you discover serious defects, you can always walk away from the deal. However, if you have already signed the purchase agreement, you can only back out within the inspection period stipulated in the inspection contingency.

What are some tricks sellers use?

Some tricks sellers can use to create a good impression on the inspector include removing clutter, providing access to basements and attics, emptying appliances, unlocking all doors, fixing less serious problems like bulb replacements, and providing documentation of maintenance.

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