The home inspection is a thorough but non-invasive examination of the condition of a home. Typically, buyers have a home inspection performed on the home before firming up a deal, to educate themselves on the condition of the property. Sellers can also hire an inspector so they are aware of any major problems and can correct them before they list their home. In hot real estate markets, it’s common practice for sellers to provide a pre-list home inspection to prospective buyers.
To keep the home inspection quantitative rather than qualitative, many inspectors uses a checklist, checking off which elements exist in the home and their status based on the condition of each feature.
At the beginning or end of an inspection report, the inspector usually lists a summary of suggested work and a ballpark/minimum budget allowance to cover repairs needed. They will also note the average amount spent on repairs for similar homes of a similar age, to show how your prospective home compares to others. Finally, they’ll recommend when you should have these repairs completed—immediately or within the next few years.
Although there are hundreds of elements an inspector will look at, below are some of the most common areas. Check out our downloadable home inspection checklist for a full list.
This includes the condition of the visible finishes: drywall, plaster, hardwood, tile, carpet. It also notes any water stains that could be conspicuous of a more serious problem. This is a general category, yet these finishes will often lend clues to what is going on underneath.
Not only will an inspector consider the condition of the windows and doors themselves, but they’ll also look at thermal insulation, quality of installation, and insect screens, to prepare for hot summers and cold winters.
Because an inspection is non-invasive, it may be difficult to effectively evaluate the condition of the plumbing. If they have any concerns, an inspector often recommends that the buyers have a camera inspection performed by a licensed plumber.
That said, a home inspector should look at drains, accessible interior pipes and joints, exterior pipes, the hot water tank, and any other exposed plumbing to get an idea of its condition. They also know the age of the home, and will infer the condition of pipes they can’t see.
HVAC systems can differ greatly from property to property. This is a major mechanical component to a home, (especially in Canada). An inspector will examine the type of system, its condition, and the effectiveness of the air circulation. There are a lot of moving pieces including thermostats, vents, fans, boilers, and ducts.
The inspection will rate voltage, wiring type and workmanship quality, the electrical panel, and general component structures. It’s important that the inspector not overlook anything in this category, as improper electrical can lead to fires, outages, and serious damage.
The foundation/structure section typically covers construction and material type, columns, basement condition and ventilation, and anything else associated with the structure of the home.
The inspector may also include a leakage control and prevention checklist to inform of issues that should be monitored or immediately fixed. This includes eavestrough maintenance, grading the slope of outdoor landscaping away from the house, and cracks in the foundation wall, to name a few.
Exterior inspections include the foundation wall condition, outward-facing doors, windows, exterior plumbing, porches, holes/entrances critters may be entering from, chimneys, etc. They should also be looking at any outbuildings/structures including carports, garages, and sheds, to make sure they’re structurally sound.
Homeowners discuss “getting a new roof” all the time, but there’s much more to a roof inspection than that. An inspector will consider drainage, skylights, vents, and nearby trees when recording its quality.
Style of roofing is important to a roof’s durability, so an inspector will consider its shape—low pitch, high pitch, flat,—and materials, like shingles, modified bitumen, clay, or slate. Often different sections of the roof will age differently, so it’s important to understand where maintenance will be required and when. It’s possible in the winter months that the roof will be covered in snow or ice; this means the inspector will not be able to do a thorough inspection, and that will be noted.