What Does a Home Inspector Do?

Key Points

  • Inspectors let you know if there are any existing problems with the house, or if there are any problems that may arise in the future.

  • While they do not actually fix any issues with the house, they can refer you to a specialist who can.

  • Getting an inspection before you sign a purchase agreement helps you, the borrower, in case the seller tries to conceal any defects with the house.

Home inspectors are like diagnosticians: their primary role is to tell you what’s wrong. They may refer you to a specialist, but their main job is just to tell you what the problem is.

Inspectors help you by letting you know if there are any existing problems with the house, or if there are any problems that may arise in the future. This protects you, the buyer, in case the seller is not “forthcoming” about any issues with the property. It also lets you know what repairs you will have to make in the future so that you can budget accordingly.

What does a home inspector look for?

There are thousands of things that home inspectors are supposed to look for. A typical home inspector checklist will include:

  • Grounds
    Home inspectors check for current and future water issues, such as faulty grading or downspouts. They inspect and evaluate pathways, retaining walls, sheds, and railings.
  • Structure
    Inspectors check to see if the house foundation is solid—appearing straight and with no significant cracks. Home inspectors also check walls for bowing and sagging. Lastly, they make sure that the windows and door frames are square.
  • Roof
    Inspectors check for deteriorating shingles and roof coverings. They make sure that there aren’t any ceiling drips, loose gutters, or chimney defects. Then they ensure that the flashing around the base of the chimney is watertight, and that the mortar and bricks are in good condition. They will also check to see if there are any branches or bushes touching the house or hanging over the roof.
  • Exterior
    The home inspector will look for siding cracks, rot, or decay; cracking or flaking masonry; cracks in stucco; dents or bowing in vinyl; blistering or flaking paint; and adequate clearing between siding and earth (which should be at least six inches to avoid moisture damage).
  • Windows, Doors, and Trim
    The inspector will check that wood frames and trim pieces are secure (with no cracks, rot, or decay) and that frame joints are caulked.
  • Interior Rooms
    Inspectors are mostly concerned about leaning walls, stained ceilings, and insufficient insulation and heating vents. They ensure that paint, wall coverings, and paneling are also all in good condition.
  • Kitchen
    Inspectors make sure that exhaust fans vent outside and that electrical outlets have ground fault circuit interrupter protection. They also check for leaks and make sure that cabinets are working properly.
  • Bathrooms
    Home inspectors want to see toilets flushing, drains draining, and tubs securely-fastened. They check for caulking conditions and any signs of leakage.
  • Plumbing
    Inspectors check pipes, drains, and water heaters for water pressure and temperature.
  • Electrical
    The home inspector will check that visible wiring and electrical panels are in good shape, that light switches work correctly, and that there are enough outlets in each room
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