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What Do Home Inspectors Look For?

Nervous about what will be found in the home inspection? Here’s what to expect.

A home inspection by a state licensed home inspector is a critical part of the real estate process, whether you’re buying or selling. The results of the inspection report are the basis for the negotiations between buyer and seller regarding damage, repairs, and replacements.

Dylon Baker, real estate broker in Fairfield, CA, advises, “Sometimes a new home buyer will think they can skip the inspection if the place seemed in great shape. But an inspection is a critical part of the process and even properties in apparently great shape need a deeper look during escrow.”

Often contracts will indicate that the items being inspected need to be in “good working condition.” It is important to remember that all homes have defects—even most new homes! Any repairs to defects found by the inspector will be a part of the negotiated process between buyer and seller.

So what will the licensed inspector be looking at when he or she visits a home? Let’s start with some of the major points of interest on the outside:


  • Roof/chimney:  The inspection will include a close look at the condition of the roof. Do shingles on an asphalt roof show signs of deterioration? Are they loose, cupping, lifting, splitting, or curling? Is there adequate flashing around the chimney? Are skylights and other areas sealed against moisture intrusion?
  • Gutters:  Are the gutters adequately cleared and draining away from the house and foundation?
  • Ground-level drainage:  Are the landscaping, patios, sidewalks, etc. adequately graded and sloped away from house and foundation?
  • Siding: Any cracking in the siding or stucco that would allow for moisture intrusion?


The inspector will perform a thorough review of systems and surfaces within the home. These include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • Electrical:  Is the electrical panel outdated or not to code? Is there any faulty, inadequate, or unsafe wiring present? Does any visible wiring show signs of rodent activity? Are there GFI (Ground Fault Interruptor) outlets in all bathrooms and in the kitchen?
  • Plumbing:  Are there any unrepaired leaks? Is there adequate water pressure with multiple faucets and appliances in use? Any plumbing in need of repair or replacement?
  • Heating/Cooling: The HVAC (heating, ventilation, and cooling) system will be inspected and tested to determine if it is in good condition and functioning.
  • Appliances: Are the appliances that are built-in or included in the contract adequate?
  • Mold/water damage:  Will any mold remediation be required? Is there any indication of water damage or moisture intrusion to the interior of the home?
  • Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors:  Are there adequate smoke and/or carbon monoxide detectors present per local codes?
  • Attic and crawlspace:  The inspector will check the adequacy of the insulation, venting fans, and structural components of the home.

While not a complete list of every item that will be inspected and included in the final report, the above list gives the home buyer or seller an overview of the major factors that may come into play during a home inspection.

Jake Tasharski of Center Coast Realty in Chicago, IL says: “First, it’s important to understand the purpose of the inspection in the first place. Before a buyer is locked into a contract, they have the right to know about any significant issues with the property’s structure/foundation, or whether large fixtures or appliances need to be repaired or replaced. A good way to prepare is to go back and review the report your inspector gave you when you first purchased your home. If you haven’t addressed the issues outlined in that report, chances are they will come up again this time around during the buyer’s inspection.”

The home inspection will often lead to negotiation. Follow you real estate agent’s lead in deciding what your strategy will be.

“It’s common for buyers in today’s market to ask for small repairs anyway—even if all the major systems in the home are working properly,” Tasharski says. “It’s important to know that just because buyers ask doesn’t mean you as the seller are obligated to complete the repairs or grant the closing credits requested!”

An understanding of the purpose and process of the inspection and the resulting report can help both purchaser and seller come to a mutual agreement that will facilitate the sale.

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