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Home Inspections - What to Know

What do home inspectors look for?

Here’s a full list of what the inspector will review, according to the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI):

  1. Heating system

  2. Central air conditioning system (temperature permitting)

  3. Interior plumbing and electrical systems

  4. Roof

  5. Attic, including visible insulation

  6. Walls

  7. Ceilings

  8. Floors

  9. Windows and doors

  10. Foundation

  11. Basement

  12. Structural components

No home is perfect

A home inspection checklist can be a valuable tool when you’re selling a property. If you know what an inspector’s going to be looking for, you can sort out minor issues in advance.

Of course, nobody’s expecting perfection. It’s very rare to see a blemish-free home inspection report. And it may be you’ve already negotiated over some known issues and they’ve been reflected in the price.

However, cherry-picking small problems that are quick, easy, and inexpensive to fix can drastically shorten the list of defects a report turns up. And the shorter that list, the better the chances of your sale closing without quibbles.

My report lists dozens of defects! What should I do?

Most reports list dozens of defects. Some defect lists run into three figures. That’s because there’s no such thing as a perfect home, especially if the property is a few decades old.

Don’t worry too much about the length of the inspector’s list of problems; instead, pay attention to the severity of the problems.

Many issues, such as loose doorknobs or cracks in the paved driveway, will be so minor you won’t bother fixing them right away, even though you know they’re there.

But some issues can be deal-breakers: problems with the physical structure of the home, for example, or safety issues such as lead pipes or an improper installation of a furnace or water heater.

Talk to your home inspector and real estate agent about the best path forward if you discover these types of issues.

Next steps after a home inspection

If the home inspection report showed only minor and expected problems, the home buying process should continue as planned.

You may choose to give the seller, or the seller’s Realtor, a list of minor issues to fix. Getting the owner to fix a leaky faucet, replace a missing doorstop, or re-attach a downspout will shorten your to-do list after moving in.

After these repairs have been completed you may want to do your own walk-through inspection to make sure all the items on your list got fixed.

Addressing serious issues

If your home inspector uncovers safety or structural issues, you’ll have a more important decision to make: Should you still buy the home?

If you do want to move forward, you’ll need:

  • Additional inspections — Home inspectors are not necessarily specialists on any one aspect of home construction. A specialist such as a structural engineer should assess the condition of the home to determine what work and cost will be needed to fix the problems

  • Negotiating — You’ll need to request repairs as a condition of buying the home. The seller may agree to lower the price if you’ll still buy the home in its current condition. Or the seller may agree to fix the problems before closing

  • Following up — If the home needed significant repairs such as foundation lifting or water diversion, get the expert who diagnosed the problem to come back out and check the quality of the repairs.

Using the home inspection as a guide

Home inspections provide valuable information before you buy a home. But they can help you make decisions after closing on the home, too. Your home inspection report could serve as a guide to scheduling and planning future repairs.

For example, if the report noted the HVAC system was 15 years old and uses an inefficient blower, you’ll know to start planning ahead for replacing the system in the next few years.

If you’d like to buy a home warranty to protect systems in your home, your home inspection could help you decide what level of protection to buy. Some warranties let you choose which systems in your home to protect. Your inspection should show your home’s most vulnerable systems.

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