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Finalizing Your Purchase: What to Look for in a Home Inspection

When you fall in love with a home, you sometimes overlook a few of the home's bumps and bruises. In a hot real estate market with overwhelming competition, taking shortcuts is tempting.

In June 2022, roughly 20% of buyers took a shortcut and waived their right to a home inspection. Of the buyers who requested an inspection, many were likely not sure which flaws they could overlook, and which ones were deal breakers.

In this article, we'll show you what to look for in a home inspection. Knowing what to expect and how to interpret the home inspector's findings will help you finalize your home purchase. Then, it's on to scheduling the movers.

Is a Home Inspection Even Necessary?

While it's true that waiving your right to a home inspection may make you look attractive to a home seller, in most cases, it's not the wisest move to make. So, while a home inspection isn't mandatory here in California, it's something you should strongly consider ordering as soon as the home you're buying goes under contract.

Home inspectors evaluate every aspect of a home, including the structure and mechanicals (wiring, plumbing, and HVAC). Your inspector may uncover a few surprises—some of them relatively minor—that may impact your home purchase.

Finding out the home you've fallen in love with isn't perfect may make you feel uncomfortable. However, it's a chance to get an unbiased, educational overview of the home you're purchasing.

A home inspection, while not required, makes sense if you want to know your home intimately before the seller turns over the keys.

What Are the Top Priorities of a Home Inspector?

As you tour homes you're interested in buying, you can watch for some of the same things as a professional home inspector. It's like a mini-inspection designed to help you know if a home has good bones.

However, you'll still want to schedule a formal inspection.

If there were a top five list of the most critical things to include in a home inspection, these are the ones most home inspectors prioritize:

  • Foundation
  • Roof
  • Plumbing
  • Electrical system
  • HVAC system

These are the things that, if they don't work correctly, significantly impact home safety and performance.

A Cracked Foundation Is a Problem

Think of the home's foundation the way you think about your feet. Your feet support your body's structure—bones and muscles.

The foundation of a home acts as support. It bears the weight of the home's frame, drywall, roofing system, and everything inside the house. Unfortunately, finding foundation issues often causes a buyer to cancel the purchase contract.

When evaluating the foundation, your inspector will walk the home's perimeter. They look for evidence of the following potential problems:

  • Settlement
  • Cracks
  • Sloping

The inspector will check for moisture, mold, and warping if the home has a crawl space. All of these can affect the wood frame. When water penetrates the foundation, it can result in foundation settlement.

Water penetration can lead to decay, mold, rot, and termite infestations.

Home inspectors check for the possibility of mold in the home. Some inspectors may also do a mold test. If not, you'll need to talk with a mold inspection specialist.

The Roof Inspection

One of the first questions on many buyers' minds is whether they're buying a house with a decent roof. If the foundation supports the structure of a home, the roof protects everything between it and the foundation.

The roof shields a home from the weather. It bears the brunt of the sun beating on it day after day. The roof also guards against damage from rain and wind.

A roof, if constructed from high-performance materials, helps insulate your home. It also provides ventilation—something critical to healthy indoor air quality.

Regarding the roof, age matters, especially if you're buying an older home. Age is another thing home inspectors try to determine as part of their report.

Remember that most home inspectors will not go up on a roof unless it's safe. The weather can also deter a full inspection. If the inspector doesn't climb up on the roof and visually inspect it, they will at least inspect from the ground, often using binoculars.

When evaluating the condition of a roof, a home inspector usually looks for broken, warped, and missing shingles. They also check the gutter system, flashing, vents, skylights, and attic ventilation.

Regarding age, you want at least 4-5 years of life remaining on the roof.

What Home Inspectors Look for in Plumbing Systems

There's nothing worse than discovering a significant plumbing problem after you've moved into your new home. It would be best if you did not ignore leaks and other plumbing issues found during the inspection.

While an inspection can't guarantee you'll never experience a cracked pipe or a sewer line backup, it will give you a good idea of the plumbing system's condition.

Home inspections should include a deep look at anything impacted by water flow. That includes:

  • Piping
  • Showers and tubs
  • Spigots
  • Sinks and faucets
  • Toilets

When they inspect the piping, inspectors look for leaks, corrosion, and cracked pipes. They also look at walls, ceilings, and floors for evidence of moisture. Moisture can lead to structural damage and mold development.

Home inspections always include the water heater. You don't want to wake up to a flood due to the inside of the tank rusting.

Electrical System Inspection

Did you know electrical systems cause over 50,000 house fires every year? Overlooking an electrical issue could cost you your life.

Since one of a home inspector's top priorities is helping to ensure you buy a home free from safety hazards, the electrical system is a top priority.

Your inspector should evaluate everything about the electrical panel. They usually make sure everything is up to code. Inspectors also note corroded wires, grounding issues, and amperage ratings.

If not already there, home inspectors usually recommend the installation of ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCI). They prevent injury and electrocution.

Heating and Cooling System

No matter where you live, temperatures have been higher or lower than usual. Last year, the average December temperature for San Diego was 55.6 degrees. Cool enough to wear a sweater, it's also chilly enough to turn the heat on.

Regardless of the outdoor temperature, you want your HVAC system to heat, cool, and ventilate your home efficiently.

You may notice your inspector turning on the HVAC system when they arrive at the home you're buying. It's because they want to allow the system to run for the duration of the home inspection.

Running the HVAC equipment allows them to see how well the heating and cooling system performs. It also lets them check the thermostat.

One thing to note about home inspectors and HVAC systems is that they won't cover every detail. If the system is older, it likely needs a closer inspection. In that case, you may decide to contact a heating and cooling contractor to conduct a more extensive evaluation.

Other Items on the Home Inspection Checklist

In addition to the structure, mechanicals, and roof, home inspections also include the following evaluations:

  • Doors and windows
  • Exterior paint
  • Smoke detectors
  • Carbon monoxide detectors
  • Stair treads, risers, and handrails
  • Siding
  • Masonry
  • Stucco

Whether the home has a vinyl or aluminum siding, brick, or stucco exterior, the home inspection should include an evaluation of the home's exterior covering. A check for rot, decay, cracks, flaking, dents, and other types of damage helps the buyer prepare for the possibility of future repairs.

Another critical item for inspection is home insulation if it's easily viewed. If the inspector finds areas where the insulation is absent or damaged, they will make a note in the inspection report. Since the insulation inside the wall is typically not accessible to view, it isn't part of the home inspection.

What a Home Inspection Does Not Include

As you can see, home inspections cover the integrity and performance of the vital systems in a house. However, an inspection doesn't cover everything. Here are a few examples of what your home inspection likely will not include:

  • Any inaccessible area
  • Landscaping
  • Well or septic system
  • Areas behind wall cavities

If you're buying a home with a well or septic system, you'll need an inspection done by a contractor specializing in those systems.

Inspections for termites and radon are also not included in most home inspections. Those inspections are handled by specialists as well.

If you're unsure about whether you need to worry about termites or radon in the home you're buying, talk with your San Diego real estate specialist. They can help you determine whether ordering these two inspections is worthwhile.

Comfortable With What to Look for in a Home Inspection?

The items discussed in this article don't make up a comprehensive list of items found on a home inspection report. However, now you should have a general idea of what to look for in a home inspection.

Are you ready to buy a new home? Perhaps, you're interested in listing your current property as well. We want to talk with you!

Contact Team Steele today and let us help you.

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Buying or selling a home is among the largest financial decisions a person makes in their lifetime. We are here to ensure that you are confident in your decision. Reach out, and let us show you how we can help!

John and Melissa Steele, San Diego Real Estate Agents

John and Melissa Steele