What Home Inspectors Look For

Home inspectors thoroughly examine homes from top to bottom, but some of the things they really pride themselves in finding may surprise you.

When you’re shopping for a house, making a careful decision about which place you’ll call your own can be a difficult one. Fortunately, home inspection professionals are there to help you along the way. Their job is to look at your potential home from top to the bottom as a neutral expert and note all the things that might be of interest to buyers.

“In many states (such as Texas) there is a defined standards of practice the inspectors must follow,” Casey Callais, owner of Constructiva Realty Inspections in Austin, Texas, says. “According to the SOPs, a cracked tile is just as important to document as a leaking roof.”

Buyers Get the Full Picture From Home Inspectors

When it comes to home inspections, everything is important and nothing is off-limits, but the reports are divided up in a way that helps potential homebuyers and current homeowners see the big issues at a glance. Realtors can tell you that certain items seem to pop out more readily for their home buyers due to how the reports are organized.

“In my experience, the top things home inspectors look for during a home inspection are how well the home’s systems are operating (HVAC, hot water heater, furnace and major appliances), structural/foundation issues, roof damage, electrical and plumbing. Windows, doors and proper insulation are also items a home inspector will review,” says Realtor Kisha Barnes, who works at Realty ONE Group Performance in Upper Marlboro, Maryland.

Some Things Home Inspectors Find Might Surprise You

Of course, home inspectors look at the big stuff but you might be shocked at the smaller things they’re watching out for on your behalf. For example, you might never realize there’s a thing wrong with a repair not done up to code that still seems to be working.

“We call them ‘Uncle Bob’ repairs,’” Eric Mohlenhoff, licensed home inspector and founder of Remedy Inspections LLC in Rockaway, New Jersey, says.

“These are haphazardly completed repairs/renovations to plumbing, electrical, structure, etc. that the homeowner had their trusted ‘Uncle Bob’ do because he said he knows how to fix homes and can save them money. The problem with these types of issues is they aren’t usually just one small thing, it winds up being years of poorly made repairs and ‘renovations’ all over the home that were all completed incorrectly and not according to modern building standards,'” he adds.

These types of problems can wind up costing thousands of dollars to repair correctly and add up quickly, especially when they start to multiply all over the home, Mohlenhoff says.

One inspector’s Uncle Bob, though, is another’s favorite challenge to uncover. Your home inspector is always looking for things that aren’t what they seem.

“Every inspection is like an Easter egg hunt,” Callais says.

“Once in a while you find something that makes you feel like you found the golden egg. For me, my favorite finds are the ones where previous homeowners have made repairs using whatever household items were at hand. For example, once I saw a series of plastic soda bottles with the tops and bottoms cut off and the bottles stacked and held together with duct tape as a replacement for an under-sink drain. There was so much tape and sealant that not even a drop of water escaped when tested,” he adds.

Problems Aren’t Always as Big as They Seem

Although there are a lot of things that home inspectors look for in your future home, some of the scarier-sounding issues may turn out to be almost nothing at all. Due to advances in technology and improved techniques, issues that might have been serious even a few years ago could be fairly simple to solve now. It’s important to consult with a specialist once a home inspector has uncovered these issues to learn what’s possible.

“Years ago, if there was a problem with the foundation it was a total deal breaker as that’s what the entire home is built on,” says Mohlenhoff says. “Today there are many systems and solutions to repair and fix many of the structural issues that just a few years ago we didn’t have. I explain to my clients when we find these large issues that most of the time it is fully repairable and sometimes for not as much money as one would think.”

Other common issues home inspectors flag sometimes sound really major, but aren’t a big deal at all. Realtors regularly have to explain these items to homebuyers, especially if the buyer wasn’t able to be present at the inspection.

“Although a roof can be a major expense if it’s in need of repair, the presence of a few missing shingles or a small patch of moss isn’t usually a cause for alarm,” says Boyd Rudy, team leader and associate broker with MiReloTeam/Keller Williams Living in Brighton, Michigan.

Another example Rudy offers includes components of the electrical system. “If the home’s wiring is outdated, it’s important to have an electrician check it out, but small problems like exposed wires and dim switches can usually be addressed quickly,” he says.

Home Inspectors Are Unbiased Experts

Remember that no matter how scary or sublime your home inspection or report may seem, your home inspector is working for you to help you better understand how your future home will work and what you can expect from it.

“The buyer should view the inspection as a learning opportunity,” Barnes says. “There aren’t any homes that are void of defects. Even new construction homes may require repair.”

If you’re nervous about attending the home inspection or asking your home inspector questions, don’t be. They’re there to help you.

“One thing to remember is that the home inspector is the only one in the transaction whose paycheck doesn’t depend on the transaction going through,” Callais says. “This gives them a certain neutrality and trust that they are looking after their clients’ best interests. So, ask lots of questions and trust your home inspector.”

By Kristi Waterworth