Buying a home has lots of steps. Once a home buyer is “under contract” on a property, it’s common for them to hire a professional home inspector as the next step. This contingency allows the home buyer to determine whether anything is wrong with the property before purchasing it.
A home inspection typically takes 2 to 4 hours and can reveal plenty of problems with a home. This article covers the top problems discovered during a home inspection.
HVAC Needs Servicing
The average home inspector will not do an in-depth job of inspecting the furnace and AC. If you purchase a home with an HVAC system over ten years old, hiring an HVAC specialist to perform a complete system check is wise. This step will help you determine the remaining life of the unit and project future repair costs.
Some common HVAC issues include:
- Dirty Filters (most common issue)
- Improper Flue Installation
- Dirty Coils
- Unlevel Pad
- Cracked Heat Exchange
- Broken Condenser
Water Leak Evidence
Water damage can be tricky to identify. Thankfully inspectors are fully trained to find this issue and recommend repairs.
Your roof will often be the first spot for water to leak and will travel downwards. Inspectors will usually start in the attic when looking for water damage, from the top of the house down. Some of the signs of water damage include the following:
- Cracks and holes – Cracks or holes on the exterior walls are prime spots for water to enter your home.
- Warped floors and damp carpets
- Stained walls and ceilings – Even if the stain results from an old leak that has been repaired, inspectors will still check for mold buildup.
- Peeling paint and wallpaper – This issue may be an indicator of a leak behind the walls.
- Musty odors – This problem can be an indication of mold buildup, often caused by leaks.
Some water intrusion may result from small leaks, but your inspection report will include details on the breadth of the problem. In addition, it will explain the steps to take to remediate the situation if needed.
The condition of your roof will be affected by many factors, some of the main ones being the weather. If you live in an area with a harsh climate, your roof will require more attention than one in a mild climate.
Here are some of the everyday things an inspector will look for during a roof inspection:
- Sagging – This problem occurs when the joists of your home are weakened and cannot properly hold the roof in place. This issue can be exasperated by large amounts of snow or poor drainage from your roof.
- Overall condition of the roof sheathing – Particularly in areas around chimneys or other roof penetrations and valleys of the roof.
- Soft spots that indicate leaks – These can be further identified by a deeper look in your home’s attic.
An inspector will assess your roof in two different ways. First, if the weather allows and provided that the environment is safe, they will walk the roof to understand its condition.
Second, they will enter your attic. Working in the attic allows them to see any areas where current or past leaks have occurred. They will also see signs of roof sagging, spreading, and twisting of the rafters.
Electrical Wiring Issues
Some of the most common electrical issues an inspector will find are as follows:
- Exposed wiring and fraying
- Painted outlets – which can cause overheating. Common in properties once used as rentals.
- Reversed polarity – Meaning that the hot, neutral, and ground slots for plugs have somehow been mixed up.
- Aluminum wiring – Aluminum was considered more cost-effective than copper wiring in the late ’60s and early ’70s, but it can contribute to the potential for a fire in your home.
- Improper modification of electrical panels – This issue can cause intermittent flickering of lights or your switches and outlets not working correctly.
- Missing knockouts – or rectangular shapes missing in a panel
An inspector will check the condition of your electrical panels and outlets, your light fixtures, and the type of wiring present in the home. If they feel that a system needs to be updated, they will include this suggestion in your report. However, if they think that a specific area is of high importance to be fixed upon move-in, they will flag it as such.
Some electrical fixes will be of relatively low cost. For example, if the entire home needs to be re-wired, it can cost up to $30,000+.
Poor ventilation is an issue that home inspectors look for during inspectin. While you likely will not run into issues with the ventilation in newer builds, older homes usually do have problems with ventilation. Simply put, poor ventilation will lead to moisture buildup, which can lead to wood rot, termite infestations, mold development, and foundation issues. Home inspectors will take a trek into your attic to determine the state of your home’s ventilation.
Why is ventilation important? Poor ventilation can result in a lot more work for your HVAC system to keep your home cool and comfortable.
If there is not enough ventilation within your home, there will be a large amount of heat that builds up in your attic, raising the overall temperature of your home, sending your cooling system into overdrive. Proper ventilation equals more energy efficiency.
Poor Drainage and Grading
In an ideal world, the grading surrounding your home is anywhere from three to five percent slope away from the property. In other words, for every two or three feet you step out from your property, the land should drop by two or three inches.
How can you tell if your home might have some issues with the grading on your lawn? Here are some signs to look for:
- Windows that are not square or that look off-kilter
- Interior doors with significant, uneven gaps at the top when closed
- Interior doors that visibly swing to one side or the other when left ajar
- Floors that visibly slope to one side or the other
Correcting grading around your home can be costly. However, depending on who you choose to hire to help with the issues, they may re-grade the land. This step will involve adding fill near your home’s foundation and tamping it down.
The inspector may also recommend that you install a French Drain in a low point in your yard. Water is directed into the drain and out to a different part of your yard that can handle it.
Grading your yard is a tough job. Although it can be costly to fix, you will face an even heftier price tag if it is left unattended and does damage to your home’s foundation.
Plumbing issues are often notated in homes inspection reports. Plumbing issues within a home can be common and very costly. Unfortunately, homeowners may not even realize an issue until inspection, as most plumbing issues present themselves in the form of low water pressure or a slow drain.
Most of the time, an inspector will pay attention to the following when inspecting your plumbing:
- Whether or not water flows from your taps effectively
- Whether or not your drains work properly
- And whether your toilets flush
A home inspector will not be as detailed in their plumbing inspection as a professional plumber would be however, they will be able to give you an overview of the issues that need to be addressed upon move-in, if there are any.
If they think that there may be a more significant issue outside of their realm of expertise, they will likely recommend a professional plumbing inspection. However, rest easy knowing that most of the plumbing issues found during a home inspection are minor.
The following factors can cause foundation issues:
- Drainage problems – If the sloping or grading of your yard is off, water can settle near your home’s foundation, leading to damage.
- Missing or inadequate steel reinforcement in the foundation
- Intrusive tree roots
- Installation of a second story without reinforcing the original footings
- Natural occurrences like earthquakes, sinkholes, or landslides.
How can you tell if your home may have foundation issues? One of the most significant signs will be cracks in the interior or exterior walls of the house. Some more minor signs include cracks in the tile, bowed walls, siding separation, or an uneven floor.
In a perfect world, the seller will have done their best to uncover any foundation issues before listing their home, as not doing so could result in costly negotiations. However, some sellers will choose to wait to see what the market will offer for their home and not worry about fixing an issue that could cost them thousands of dollars.
Therefore, a thorough inspection of your foundation is a good idea when buying a house.
Blocked Gutters or Downspouts
Blocked gutters can cause damage to your roof. Many people do not stop to consider the importance of gutter conditions. When inspecting your gutters, the inspector will look for the following:
- the guttering system is adequately sized for your home to protect against runoff,
- that the channels are free of rust, cracks, and holes that will cause leaking, and
- that the downspouts divert water away from the home’s foundation
Why is it so important to look at your gutters during a home inspection? Because they play a massive role in keeping your home safe from water intrusion.
If your gutters are blocked, cracked, or are not diverting the water far enough away from your home, it will settle near your home’s foundation. Over time, erosion will occur, and you will likely develop cracks in your home’s foundation, which is the perfect environment for water to enter your home.
This component of the home inspection is heavily tied to issues with your plumbing and ventilation systems. For example, if a leak is present, you live in a humidity-heavy climate, or the ventilation systems in your home are outdated, you will be at high risk for developing mold within your home.
When looking over your home, inspectors will be on the lookout for the following signs:
- A musty, mildew smell
- Signs of warping or cracking around of materials such as tile, caulk, etc.
- Moisture buildup in areas with low light or visibility (prime spots for mold)
- Visible mold that will lighten upon application of bleach
Why is it essential to identify whether there is mold in your home?
If mold is found in the home, there are many ways in which you could try to remove it on your own. However, if the problem is too severe, hiring a professional for mold remediation in your home is always recommended.