All About Home Inspections

Home inspections identify problems a prospective buyer may not know about. They can alert buyers to maintenance issues that must be addressed immediately or to costly repairs that should be made before selling the property.

A home inspector examines the details that most buyers and sellers wouldn’t think to check on their own, from wiring in an electrical panel to insulation in an attic. However, there are some areas a home inspector will leave alone.


As the name implies, an exterior home inspection examines a property’s outer structure and components. It covers the roof, chimneys, gutters, downspouts, and surface drainage. An inspector will also check the exterior wall-covering materials (like vinyl, brick, stucco, wood, and aluminum), their condition, and the adequate clearance between them and ground level. Inspectors typically don’t comment on cosmetic issues like scratches, dents, or rust, unless those are indicative of larger problems.

A property’s grading and driveway are also inspected to ensure that they effectively route water away from the foundation and into a drain or storm sewer system. If the slope is insufficient, an inspector may recommend that a person hire a professional to grade and/or install proper drainage solutions.

The exterior of a house is also inspected for any signs of rot, insect infestations, water damage or structural issues. A potential problem found in the septic tank or well system can often be discovered by conducting a separate, specialized inspection.

Insurance companies also conduct external home inspections. They do this in an effort to avoid any liability claims and to keep home insurance rates low. Any liabilities that are found can cause a carrier to increase premiums or cancel the policy altogether.

One of the most common reasons to conduct a home inspection is to prepare for selling a property. If a property has major exterior issues, those can derail or delay the sale. A preemptive inspection can give the seller a chance to fix these issues prior to selling, saving time, money and hassle.

Homebuyers can also benefit from a preemptive inspection. A property that has been properly maintained can often go unnoticed, but a problem that isn’t addressed can lead to expensive repairs down the road. An inspection can help a buyer avoid surprises and determine whether the property is worth the investment they are about to make. Regardless of why an inspection is being conducted, it’s always best to have it done by a licensed home inspector. Unless the person performing the inspection has the necessary training and experience, it is very difficult to accurately assess a property’s condition.


Inspecting a house’s interior is a good way to find problems that might not be apparent from the outside. For example, the inspector can check the plumbing for leaks and look at the condition of drywall and insulation. He or she may also be able to tell whether the roof is in good shape, or whether there are any signs of a chimney fire.

An inspector won’t tear apart walls or take down light fixtures to inspect the underlying piping or wiring, but they will do everything within their power to get a good picture of what is there. A professional home inspection usually takes a few hours, and the inspector will take lots of pictures, jot down notes, and examine every part of the house. He or she will be able to identify things that aren’t functioning properly, like the toilets and faucets, and make recommendations for maintenance.

Depending on the size of your house, it might be helpful to be present during the inspection. This will give you a chance to hear comments that might not make it into the final report or ask spur-of-the-moment questions. If you aren’t comfortable being there, you can always ask for a written report later on.

It’s important to remember that no home is perfect, and even a new construction will have problems. A home inspection will help you understand the severity of the issues and negotiate with the seller accordingly. Getting the seller to fix these issues can be a big part of your negotiation strategy.

You should also expect the inspector to point out things that are cosmetic but not necessarily serious. This is why it’s a good idea to hire an inspector who has been doing this work for a few years, since he or she will be more familiar with the broad range of issues that might come up.

It’s not unusual for an inspection to uncover more than a few problems, so don’t think of it as a “failure.” You can still buy the house if you agree on the price and terms with the seller, and then get the necessary repairs done before moving in.


When inspecting a home, the inspector will check for a variety of issues. This includes checking for things like water leaks, faulty toilets and shower heads, and malfunctioning garbage disposals. They will also look at the exposed pipes, as well as check that all water shut-off valves are functional.

They will also examine the ventilation system, including ductwork and flues, as well as the furnace and air conditioner. They will make sure that vents are free of obstructions and that the airflow is as it should be. In addition, the home inspector will take a close look at the roof, checking for damage to shingles or other materials and looking for signs of moisture penetration or rot.

The plumbing and electrical systems are also inspected, as well as the hot water heater, sump pump and the attic (if accessible). In addition, the inspector will look at the foundation for cracks or other structural problems. The inspector will also test the water pressure and temperature in sinks, tubs and showers to ensure they are functioning properly.

A good inspector will be able to explain all of the findings in a clear, concise report. This allows the buyer to have a complete picture of the property and decide on how best to proceed. The report will also contain a list of recommended repairs.

While a home inspection can reveal many potential issues, there are some things that a home inspector will not be able to find. For example, a structural problem that could cause the foundation to shift cannot be detected by a visual examination.

It is important to hire an InterNACHI-certified home inspector. This is because these inspectors adhere to the highest standards of practice. They will have a more thorough knowledge of what to look for and be able to identify even the most subtle problems.

Getting a home inspection can help you avoid costly repair bills and unexpected surprises down the road. However, it is not a replacement for regular maintenance and care. You should always keep up with routine maintenance and follow a plan of regular care for your new home.


Home inspections are a critical step in the buying or selling process. They can reveal safety hazards and maintenance issues that would be costly to correct later. These problems can also be deal-breakers for some people.

When hiring a professional, look for one who is certified by a recognized home inspector association. He or she should have at least several years of experience, as that gives them more opportunity to encounter a wide range of issues. You can find out more about a potential inspector by doing a web search using their name and words like “complaints” and “reviews.” The Better Business Bureau chapter in your area may also have information on a home inspector you’re considering.

A typical home inspection report will cover the exterior, interior, plumbing and electrical systems. The inspector will examine the exterior to see if there are cracks in the foundation or siding and look for signs of water damage and pest intrusion. The interior inspection will check walls and floors for damage and determine whether the plumbing, electricity and heating are working.

The electrical system will be inspected to ensure that the wiring is up to code and that there are GFCI outlets where needed (kitchens, bathrooms and below-grade outlets). Switches will be checked to make sure they’re wired properly so that you won’t have a shock hazard. Wires will be inspected to make sure they’re not too old or too thin and that the gauge is appropriate for the amount of amperage they’re carrying.

The home inspector will also look at the furnace and air conditioning, if present, to make sure they’re in good condition. In addition, the home inspector will look at the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to ensure they’re functioning properly. The inspection won’t include information on swimming pools, septic systems, mold, radon or pests because they require additional expertise and specialized equipment. If any of these items are a concern, you can hire a specialist for an extra fee to inspect these items separately.