Home Inspection Checklist: 15 Things You Need to Watch Out For
As people buy and sell homes, more than 4 million home inspections are performed in the United States each year. While this seems to be common practice for most, many people are still unfamiliar with everything an inspection entails. So what exactly is a home inspection? Click to Tweet
The American Society of Home Inspectors defines a home inspection as the objective visual examination of the physical structure and systems of a house, from the roof to the foundation. Professional home inspectors are trained on more than 1,600 different things to look for in a home inspection and have the expertise to recognize issues that the average person may be unaware of. Click to Tweet
While this step is not required before buying or selling a home, it is highly recommended as a means of identifying any current or potential problems with the house that pose a threat to the safety or general well-being of the owner.
Buying a home is the largest investment most people will ever make, so it is not something to be taken lightly. When purchasing a new home, especially as a first-time home buyer, you want to be sure that nothing is overlooked and that you know exactly what you’re paying for. Spending $300 or $400 upfront for a home inspection can save you thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars in the long run and the headache of having to make repairs on your brand new home.
Home Inspections Benefit Buyers AND Sellers?
The following prices are the average amounts spent by homeowners when making the listed repairs. Keep in mind that when a home inspector discovers these problems, you can have the seller address the issue before buying the home or ask for a reduction in price to accommodate the repairs.
- Install Electrical Wiring: $1,270
- Update Electrical Panel: $1,071
- Install Carpeting: $1,505
- Remove Mold & Toxic Materials: $2,151
- Roof Replacement: $6,854
- Install A/C Unit: $5,238
- Install Blown-In Insulation: $1,346
- Install New Plumbing Pipes: $1,054
- Hire Termite Control Service: $550
- Install Garage Door: $1,063
- Remove Toxic Lead Paint: $1,836
- Repair Foundation: $3,857
Inspections are equally valuable to sellers and used as a maintenance and repair guide for what needs to be taken care of before putting a house on the market. By knowing what home inspectors look for and some of the most common and concerning problems they tend to come across, you can address these issues before even listing your home in order to make your house more marketable and eliminate the possibility of losing an offer due to a bad inspection.
Whether you are a buyer or a seller, both parties should be aware that while most licensed inspectors are reliable and can be trusted to perform a thorough inspection, it is still possible for problems to slip by unnoticed. It should also be noted that only about 30 states require their home inspectors to be licensed, meaning inspectors in the other 20 do not have any strict set of regulations they must meet or qualifications they must have in order to be in business.
One way to ensure the legitimacy of your inspector is to choose someone who belongs to a professional organization, such as the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) and the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI). Though no method is 100% foolproof, professional organizations hold their members to a certain standard and encourage them to stay up-to-date on policies and practices within their industry.
When considering things to look for in a home inspection, a few additional points to remember are:
Benefits to Buyers:
No one is more concerned about what turns up in a home inspection more than you. This is going to be your home and your investment, so do not be afraid to ask the inspector questions and do additional research yourself. No one is going to think you look foolish; you will appear engaged, attentive, and well-prepared. Inspectors do multiple inspections each day and may miss things, so it’s important to be present when the inspection is performed and to know what to look for as you go.
Value to Sellers:
In order to save money and reduce the risk of losing a potential buyer to a bad home inspection, be proactive. Inspect your home, or have it inspected, and make repairs before ever placing it on the market. This will give you ample time and resources to make the necessary changes without pressure from buyers who are looking for a quick fix. There may be some things you can save money on by fixing yourself before ever placing the house on the market. If you wait until the issue shows up on an inspection, most buyers will insist that it be done by a professional.
Keep in mind that you will not be able to fix every little thing, but you should address the issues the buyer is going to find most critical and do as much as you can before attempting to sell. And even if there are things you decide not to fix when listing the house, you will be aware of them so that you can fully disclose them and price your home accordingly.
Top 15 Things To Look For When Inspecting Your Home:
1. Are There Any Shocking Electrical Problems?
Electrical issues are the number one thing found by home inspectors, ranging from problems as simple as outlets no longer working to those as serious as fire hazards caused by outdated wiring or breakers. Click to Tweet
Common wiring problems that will need to be addressed include double tapped breakers, underground wiring, reverse polarity of outlets, and lack of ground fault interrupters, which are all relatively simple and inexpensive to resolve.
The most dangerous and costly issue found in older homes is called knob and tube wiring. It was used in the United States in houses built between about 1880 and 1930 and has often resulted in serious house fires. If you know your home has this type of wiring, you need to have it replaced before selling, and if you’re buying a home that has this wiring, you need to insist it be replaced before going through with the closing. Click to Tweet
When selling, you also want to make sure to replace any burnt out lightbulbs and check if your outlets and electrical switches all appear to be working properly. If your home is older, you will probably need to replace your electrical panel to make sure it meets safety standards, otherwise the age of the panel is likely to be noted by the inspector regardless of whether or not it’s currently working.
Though it does not affect the electrical system itself, you should still replace any broken, painted, or damaged outlet covers and light switch plates, and some people prefer to replace them all for a uniform and updated look that enhances the overall aesthetic of their home. This is an easy and inexpensive way to increase the appeal of your house in the eyes of potential buyers.
2. What’s the Condition of Your Doors & Windows?
Aside from cleaning your doors and windows to give them a better overall appearance, you want to make sure that each one opens and closes properly and is not cracked, damaged, or broken. While it is not usually a point of focus for home buyers, you should inspect your weather stripping and replace it where needed.
Locks are another aspect of both doors and windows that an inspector will take into consideration. All locks need to be working, and there may even be certain lock regulations you are required to meet in order to be in compliance with the local housing code, as these can vary from state to state and city to city. As a buyer, you want to make sure that the lock hardware is in good repair, though it is always wise to rekey your locks after moving in to ensure that you are the only one who has access to your home.
3. Can You Spot Poor Grading & Bad Water Drainage?
Poor grading and inadequate drainage around a house are very common problems and can lead to several types of water damage, including water penetration of the basement or crawl space and mold growth. As a seller, this is an issue you want to pay close attention to as it is the leading cause of buyers backing out of a contract. Click to Tweet
As a buyer, this can be a more difficult problem to spot depending on the weather around the time of the inspection. When examining the grading around the foundation, it should slope away from the home in order to prevent water from pooling or leaking into the basement.
Look for the presence of some sort of drainage system, such as a French drain system or a sump pump, and beware water damage both around the outside of the home and on the inside, specifically in the basement. Click to Tweet
4. Are Your Gutters Doing Their Intended Job?
Gutters may not be something most people would think important to thoroughly inspect when considering a home, but they actually play an essential role in assisting proper drainage and protecting the home from the negative effects of water exposure. If gutters are not well-maintained, they will become clogged and ineffective, increasing the likelihood of water intrusion and mold growth.
As the seller, you will want to be sure your gutters have been well cleaned and all clogs have been removed. If your gutters are bent or leaking, make the necessary repairs to allow water to run to the downspout, and make sure it is channeled away from the house. Keep in mind that cleaning your gutters regularly is the best way to avoid having to remedy more serious issues with roof drainage before putting your house on the market.
A few additional features that can enhance the effectiveness of your gutters are splash blocks to direct the water run-off as it exits the downspout, a drip edge around the edge of the roof to ensure water runs into the gutter and not down the side of the house, and gutter screens to prevent clogging by leaves, twigs, and other debris. Though most buyers won’t consider these necessary in order to purchase a home, they can increase your home’s value and indicate that your home is well cared for.
5. How’s the Roof Holding Up?
This is one area in which it will greatly benefit you as a seller to be proactive. Roofs are costly to repair and even more expensive to replace, so you can often save yourself a significant amount of money by hiring a professional roofer to do maintenance and repair before having your home inspected.
Roofs wear out over time and have a limited life span. It is not uncommon for an inspector to say that a roof is nearing the end of its life, even though it may have a few years left. Unfortunately, this statement reads very differently to buyers. While a seller might understand it to mean that there are no immediate problems with the roof needing to be addressed, the buyers may be concerned that the roof is just waiting to collapse until the moment after they sign their names on the dotted line.
The main things you’ll want to have inspected and repaired are any damaged or missing shingles and the flashing around the chimney and other vents and pipes. If your roof needs more serious repairs and you do not feel that you are in the position to have them made before selling, be open with the potential buyers about the situation and willing to make price adjustments to accommodate for the work.
As a buyer, roofing is one area in which you need to be extremely cautious with your inspector. Some inspectors are not willing to actually go up on the roof to give it a thorough, hands-on inspection due to safety concerns with highly pitched roofs. This is something you want to find out before hiring your inspector and should be considered when deciding how much you’re willing to pay for an inspection. If this service is not included, you will need to hire a roofing specialist to come and inspect your roof before purchasing because this can be a costly feature of the home to repair or replace.
6. Is There Adequate Insulation?
The insulation used in most newer homes does a good job of maintaining the homeowner’s desired temperature, but older insulation and insulation that was not adequately installed means that the house is not likely to cool or heat efficiently in the more extreme temperatures of the summer and winter months. Some homes were built so long ago, when natural gas was much cheaper than it is today, that no insulation was used in the attic or walls.
As a buyer, you want to make sure that your new house is energy efficient and that you are able to sustain a comfortable temperature without paying a fortune. Aside from just checking insulation levels in your attic, your inspector should also be able to determine if your walls and floors are adequately insulated as well. You don’t want to wait until the first snowstorm of the season blows in to find out that your house won’t stay warm.
7. What Pests Might Be Sharing Your Home?
Pests can be a major concern to buyers and with good reason. Most people do not want to share their new home with uninvited guests that scamper, creep, or crawl, and they can do serious damage in and around a house. There are also certain types of loans, such as VA home loans, that require specific bug or termite inspections be performed.
Even if you do not currently have pests, a home inspector will still note any remaining evidence of pest damage, which is often a red flag to buyers. Mice, squirrels, termites, and other pests can impair or damage electrical systems by eating through wiring, damage insulation, and even compromise the structural integrity of the home in the most severe cases.
Termites are of particular concern and can cost thousands to eliminate depending on the degree of infestation. They can severely damage a home’s structure if not caught quickly, so both buyers and sellers need to be sure to address them immediately when discovered.
As a seller, termite troubles will only get worse the longer they are allowed to go on, meaning it is in your best interest to resolve this problem as soon as you find it. Have an exterminator eliminate the source, and then you can take the measures necessary to repair any damage already done.
A home’s structure can also be threatened by the presence of carpenter ants. While these insects do not actually ingest wood like termites do, they nest in wood softened by moisture or decay, through which they can easily burrow, and will build their home inside of yours. Though these ants will not do damage as quickly as termites, their long term presence can be equally destructive. Should you notice signs of an infestation, contact an exterminator as soon as possible. Professional eradication is usually necessary to make sure every nest is eliminated and the problem will not return.
8. How’s the Plumbing Flowing?
Plumbing is definitely one area you’ll need an inspector to help evaluate when buying a home because most of these issues are not visually apparent and require someone with professional knowledge and training to detect.
As the seller, take time to remedy smaller issues like slow drains and leaky faucets, which you can easily do yourself. Recaulk in bathrooms and the kitchen where needed and repair that loose toilet lever you have to jiggle to stop the toilet from continuing to run after every flush.
Due to unsafe building materials and outdated plumbing systems designed for lifestyles of a different time, older homes may require more extensive work by a professional plumber. This is still in a seller’s best interest to address before putting a house on the market because the last thing a buyer wants to deal with is the hassle of installing new plumbing right after purchasing a home.
9. What Are the Risks of Poor Ventilation?
It’s common for attics to be inadequately ventilated, sometimes even as a result of overzealous homeowners that sealed their homes too well in an attempt to be energy efficient. This can lead to an excessive amount of moisture, meaning that the number one problem caused by poor ventilation is mold.
One issue that’s commonly seen, especially in older homes built before housing code mandated otherwise, is for bathrooms to vent to the attic rather than to the roof. When the moist air from the bathroom dumps into the attic, the moisture collects, potentially damaging the wood and other structural elements and creating an environment suitable for mold growth. Buyers should be on the lookout for this and other signs of poor ventilation, taking into consideration whether or not the home has a mechanical ventilation system, what type of system it is, and whether or not it is working properly.
Good ventilation inside the home should allow for proper airflow through most, if not all, of the rooms in the house. There are several options for interior home ventilation, one of which is a solar chimney, and the key is to find the one that best suits your home, lifestyle, and the climate in which you live. In the long run, it can help prevent structural damage as a result of moisture, reduce energy consumption, and even result in a longer roof life.
10. Heating & Cooling Systems (HVAC) Running Efficiently & Effectively?
Your air conditioner and heater are major home appliances that need to be properly maintained for optimal performance, as well as safety and energy efficiency. A home inspector should evaluate this major mechanical system, so it is wise to change your filters and have a tune-up performed by a professional before the inspection.
As a seller, it is better to have any necessary repairs identified by your usual service provider rather than allowing the inspector to find issues that alarm potential buyers. This also gives you the ability to compare prices and make sure you’re not being overcharged for a repair that has to be performed last minute.
As a buyer, you want to make sure that the heating and air conditioning units are thoroughly inspected before closing on a house. You should take into consideration the number of units and capacity of each unit in comparison to the size of the house as well as their age and how well they have been maintained. Don’t be afraid to ask the sellers about the appliances and their maintenance history. Newer systems tend to be more energy efficient, but older ones can last a long time if regularly serviced and taken care of.
11. When Was the Last Time You Tested Your Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Detectors?
You can be reasonably sure that a home inspector will check both the smoke detectors and the carbon monoxide detectors, so replacing the batteries and making sure they are in good working order is something you can do as a seller to help prepare your home for the market. Now you can even replace your old detectors with new smart detectors that can interact with computers, mobile devices, and other smart devices around your home as a way of adding value to your home.
Buyers and sellers should be aware that pressing the button on a smoke detector is only testing its battery and not its ability to detect smoke. In order to determine whether or not an alarm is effective, real smoke must be used. Make sure that your smoke detectors have been thoroughly tested, so you know you will be safe should a fire ever take place in your new home.
12. Need Garage Door Repair or Service?
The garage door is the largest moving object within most homes and often the most utilized point of entry. Garage doors and openers can be expensive to repair and replace, so it’s something you want to ensure is not overlooked in the inspection. As a buyer, you may even want to bring in an additional garage door specialist to do a more in depth inspection, since some inspectors may bypass issues that do not pose an immediate threat but can affect the door’s efficiency and longevity over time.
Aside from a garage door that refuses to go up or stay closed, commonly detected problems include faulty safety sensors and doors that make an excessive amount of noise when going up and down (which can be caused by a number of issues including but not limited to worn out rollers, tracks that need lubrication, and loose hardware). You also want to make sure either your inspector or a garage door specialist checks the balance of the door, its force settings, the wear on the springs and cables, and the state of the track, as well as information about the age of the door and opener.
Before selling a home, it is wise to have your door serviced and inspected to give you an idea of what work might need to be done. Hopefully, this is not the first time you have had a tune-up, as regular garage door maintenance is the key to a long-lasting door and opener, but either way, this service should ensure your door is balanced and everything is running smoothly. Resolve any additional problems that may be uncovered for your own safety and that of the potential buyers, documenting any work done for the future buyer.
13. Are Environmental Issues a Hazard to Your Health?
While environmental regulations grow increasingly stringent, there are still several substances found in older homes that can pose a threat to the health of residents if not properly addressed. Radon, mold, asbestos, and lead paint are all still concerns that should not be overlooked when buying a home, especially if young children are involved.
Radon is a radioactive gas that is the result of decaying uranium in the soil and said to be the number two cause of lung cancer in America. If radon tests reveal its presence in your home, there are no laws requiring that you address the issue, but the buyer will expect action to be taken. The best way to adequately address the issue of radon is to hire a specialist to assist you in reducing the levels of the gas found in your home.
Mold is a hot topic in home buying today and something you must address before putting your house on the market. The presence of mold in a home can cause serious health issues, especially for people with upper respiratory problems, and is often a deal breaker if found during an inspection. If the problem is severe, its removal needs to be done by a professional mold remediation company to ensure nothing is left behind and the source of the issue has been addressed, so it doesn’t return later.
Asbestos was used as a building material for many years before anyone discovered the health problems it causes as it breaks down or is cut and released into the air. It is commonly present in older homes and should not be considered an issue if it is properly wrapped or undisturbed. However, if it does pose a threat and needs to be removed, do not attempt to do it yourself. There are companies who will send a professional to remove the substance and dispose of it properly.
Lead paint is another hazardous issue that requires full disclosure by the seller, who must state whether or not they’re aware of its presence within the home, and it is mandatory that a special lead paint form be signed by both the buyers and sellers during real estate transactions involving any homes built before 1978 (the use of lead paint in homes was outlawed in the 70s). The law also dictates that lead paint must be removed from a home if the buyer has any children under the age of 6. As a seller, it is in your best interest to completely eliminate the presence of lead paint in your home before selling.
Additionally, if the house you are planning to buy or sell uses well water, it is always a good idea to have it tested. Standard tests may only look for elements like copper, manganese, and iron, but you should be sure to have it screened for more dangerous substances like arsenic, E. Coli, salmonella, mercury, and lead as well.
14. What Should You Do About Foundation Flaws?
The foundation of a home is exactly that, its structural foundation. Foundation problems can disrupt the structural integrity of a home, making it a dangerous place to be, and are something that only a trained professional can fully evaluate.
There are, however, some signs you can look for that can indicate foundational issues. These include:
- Cracks in the drywall
- Doors and windows that are misaligned, stick, or do not latch properly
- Gaps between wall seams or the wall and ceiling
- Water in the basement, crawl space, or around the perimeter of the home
The presence of any one of these does not automatically mean a house has problems with its foundation, but they should serve as a red flag to be sure a professional does further evaluation, especially when several are present.
Foundation issues are the one thing sellers might want to stop and consider before repairing. If you decide to fix problems with the foundation, you are likely to need certain permits that will ultimately make your repairs a part of public record. Once your house is on the market, buyers will be able to see that your home has had foundation work done, which will cause many to blacklist it without ever setting foot inside.
As both a buyer and a seller, it can be beneficial to wait on resolving foundational problem until after the purchase is complete. If sellers are upfront with buyers about the severity of any problems present and willing to accommodate in the pricing of the home, buyers can take it as an opportunity to make sure the repairs are done by a trusted service provider and that everything of concern is adequately addressed. It is also a chance for you as a buyer to make any other structural alterations to the home that you may have been considering.
15. What About Seemingly Less Important Items?
No home is perfect, and there are going to be a handful of minor issues that surface in every inspection. Some are more serious than others, but rarely will these issues cause potential buyers to rescind their offer.
As the seller, it is normally left to your discretion as to whether or not you address these issues and which ones you feel warrant the investment of your time, energy, and money. Making minor home improvements, especially if they are not costly or overly involved, adds value to your home in the eyes of the buyers and will make it more marketable, but you shouldn’t feel pressured to try and fix every scratch in the paint or spot on the carpet.
While some of these problems are the result of natural wear and tear, others are due to poor upkeep of the home. These things may be points of negotiation between buyers and sellers if the seller chooses not to take care of them before the house goes on the market. For example, the buyer might think the carpeting is too dirty or worn out, but the seller does not want to have new carpeting put in. The seller could offer to come down on the price or cover part of the cost for new carpeting in the contract if the buyer is willing to compromise. Painting and other mainly aesthetic repairs (such as nail holes, damaged window treatments, and minor dents and scratches in the flooring) often fall into this category.
Please Don’t Skip a Home Inspection
Buying a home is both a stressful and exciting time, but you won’t regret the small amount of money spent on an inspection. As the seller, you want to make sure your home has been adequately prepared before placing it on the market to encourage a quick sale and to increase the chances of making your asking price. Buyers have a lot to consider as they try to search for a place to call their own, in the hopes of finding a place that meets all of their specific needs. And both parties can be significantly impacted by the results of a home inspection. Click to Tweet
The findings of a home inspection are invaluable to you as a buyer because they help you know exactly what to expect from your new home and alert you of any problems that could jeopardize the health, safety, and general well-being of you and your family before you buy it. It is no wonder that 99% of all realtors recommend that their clients have an inspection performed before closing on a house. Click to Tweet Though only 77% of home buyers heed the warning and have home inspections before making their purchases, the other 23% likely end up paying far more on repairs and maintenance in the long run than the inspection would have cost them.
As a seller, inspections can seem daunting as they point out all the imperfections in the home you are trying to sell, but they can also be utilized as a helpful tool as you prepare your house for the market. Rather than being intimidated by an inspection, use the information as a guide on how to make your home more appealing to potential buyers.
While Mr. Rekey does not perform home inspections, we can help you in the buying and selling process by repairing, replacing, and installing locks on doors and windows and checking your smoke detectors with real smoke. We also offer our rekeying service to new homeowners looking to secure the locks on their newly purchased homes.
Our sister company, Mr. Garage Door, performs garage door repair and replacements, as well as tune-ups and maintenance checks. If you feel your garage door requires a more specialized evaluation beyond the standard inspection, they will be happy to send out a qualified technician to determine the condition of your door.
As you navigate the home inspection process, the most important thing to remember is that the responsibility for the home is ultimately in the hands of you, the buyers and sellers. By staying well informed and engaged every step of the way, you can increase the odds of selling or purchasing a safe home for a fair price.