what does a home inspector look for during a home inspection


You put your house up for sale and you got an offer.  That’s great news but the offer is only the beginning of the road to closing the sale. Sometimes, the offer is conditional on inspection by the buyer which may involve obtaining a professional inspection.  A home inspection contingency allows buyers to renegotiate the offer, request repairs be completed prior to finalizing the sale or withdraw their offer completely.  Understandably, you might be apprehensive about the home inspection report, as there’s a lot riding on the home inspectors’ findings. Many sellers conduct an inspection prior to listing their property in order to inform themselves about the condition of their home before putting it on the market and give potential buyers confidence in order to maximize the sale price.

Expecting a perfect home inspection is not realistic, as very few houses are in flawless condition and the home inspection report will almost certainly include a list of issues to be addressed.

An unfavourable report may put your sale in jeopardy but there are some options to keep things on track.  As a seller you may choose to complete the necessary repairs before the sale or negotiate with the buyer if they bring up potential issues.

It’s important for both parties to know what a home inspector will be looking for and to have an idea of what can be expected.

To help shed some light on the process, we sat down with some of our top realtors and trusted home inspectors to get a sense of the what problems usually have the most effect on the sale of a house.  The list we created will help you understand the home inspection process and allow you to keep the sale of your home on schedule.

Check out our home inspection page.


What is the home inspection process?


the home inspection process


The home inspection process provides valuable information to buyers and sellers about the condition of the home’s components and systems at the time of inspection.

The home inspector will perform a visual inspection of the home’s interior and exterior components including its various systems.  The process typically takes about 2-3 hours to complete, but if problems beyond the scope of a regular home inspection are found, additional evaluation may be recommended.

Upon completion, the inspector will provide a copy of the home inspection report.

Buyers and sellers can then negotiate with confidence knowing there are no surprises waiting in the form of hidden damages and the associated costs.


What do home inspectors look at?


A complete home inspection checklist is quite lengthy, as your entire house is observed, evaluated, and noted in the report.  Most importantly, a home inspections purpose is to ensure the safety of the home and make buyers aware of its current condition.  Anything that is significantly deficient, not functioning correctly, nearing the end of its service life, or deemed unsafe will be listed as an issue in the report.  Inspectors focus on major issues that could cause a safety concern or affect the home’s value.

General house inspection checklist

  • Roofing – including flashing & chimney(s)
  • House exterior – gutters & downspouts, wall surfaces, soffits & fascia, porches, decks, lot grading
  • House structure – foundations, footings, walls, floor sills, joists, beams
  • HVAC systems – including distribution piping
  • Electrical systems – distribution panel, GFCI, wiring around the home
  • Smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors etc.
  • Plumbing – water supply, drainpipes, fixtures, sewer connection, septic systems if applicable
  • Insulation – attic, walls, basement area
  • Interior inspection – floors, ceilings, walls, windows, stairs, basement area, crawl space, fireplaces & wood stoves used for heating
  • Swimming pool, hot tub & spa
  • Inspectors look for – water damage & mold, signs of pest infestations, safety of the home


Most buyers and sellers aren’t sure what to look for in a home inspection, which isn’t surprising as there are hundreds of individual items that make up a complete home inspection list.  However, there are generally 7 major areas which will affect the process of your sale or give buyers pause when they see the report.

The following are the issues that are most expensive to repair and those that threaten the safety and functionality of the house:


The structural integrity of your house


foundation home inspection


Your home’s foundation is one of the most important aspects that a home inspector will look at during the inspection.  Over time, water can cause the soil around your home’s foundation walls to expand and shrink which allows your foundation to settle.  This can cause the foundation to shift, which creates cracks in the home’s structure that act as pathways for water to get inside.

Damages to the structure can be common and range from minor to severe.  Regardless of severity, if the damage isn’t repaired it will get worse over time and eventually impact the safety of the house.

How to tell if your home might have structural issues

  • Cracked walls in the basement and around door frames
  • Gaps around door frames or windows
  • Floors are uneven or seem bouncy
  • Gaps between the floor and walls
  • Nails are popping out of the walls
  • The front porch, back patio, exterior walls or outdoor stairs are leaning
  • The chimney is cracked or leaning

Home inspections prior to listing can help identify these issues and give sellers the ability to address them proactively. It may result in additional expenditures upfront (for example, having a professional attest to the structural integrity of the property) but also result in significantly increasing your sale price and prevent buyers from locking up your property with an inspection condition only to negotiate the sale price significantly lower than what they offered.


Is there water damage?


water damaged ceiling during home inspection


If water has gotten inside the house there could be related issues that are red flags for buyers.  As already mentioned, houses can sustain structural damage from water outside the home or in the basement, while roof leaks or plumbing issues may cause problems with drywall, plaster and ceilings.  If water stains and markings are visible on walls or ceilings, there’s a good chance significant water damage could be hidden beneath the surface.

If overlooked and not repaired, water damage can cause mold to form and create a very unhealthy environment inside the home.  Mold remediation and waterpoofing for severe cases can be very expensive and can drastically affect the sale of your home.

If severe water damage is reported or the buyer requests that any damage be repaired before the sale closes, hire a professional to investigate straight away.


Issues with the electrical system of your home


electrical system during home inspection


There’s lots of things that can go wrong with electrical systems and this area of the inspection often uncovers problems.  Electrical system issues in houses are also a major safety concern and one of the most common causes of home fires.  This is an area that home inspectors pay close attention to and will alert both you and the buyer to any electrical issues in your home.

Most electrical problems require a professional electrician for repairs – these are not repairs for the DIY’er.  Hire a licensed electrician to help you determine if the issue is a simple fix or if a partial or complete rewiring of your home is required.

Electrical issues are often easily repaired but they can also become quite costly.  Regardless, as a seller you need to take any problem with your electrical seriously as there is very real risk of fire or electrocution. Buyers are particularly concerned about electrical issues as knob and tube wiring or aluminum wiring can affect their ability to obtain home insurance and their premiums.

The most common electrical problems home inspectors uncover during home inspections include:

  • Exposed wiring and faulty splices
  • Double tapped circuit breakers
  • Three prong plugs that are ungrounded
  • Reversed polarity
  • Electrical panels that have been improperly modified
  • Aluminum wiring
  • No GFCI protection
  • Knob and tube wiring
  • Unprotected wiring against sharp edges
  • Federal Pacific breaker panels
  • Painted outlets
  • Missing knockout panels
  • Multiple neutral wires in a single slot


Roof damage


roof damage during home inspection


The main job of a roof is to protect your home from the weather.  A well-built roof can last up to 25 years but should be inspected annually so that repairs can be done quickly, before additional damage can occur.

Roof damage can have an adverse effect on the sale price of your house and is a major aspect of the home inspection checklist.  A house with a damaged roof is susceptible to water damage (ceiling leaks, mold), pest infestations and less than ideal insulation for the home.

If the home inspection report lists roof damage, it can hopefully be repaired because a roof replacement isn’t cheap.  Hire a professional to provide a quote and speak to your real estate agent.

Signs that your roof needs repairs or replacing:

  • Loose or missing roof shingles or tiles
  • Shingles that have lost their texture
  • Curled or buckled shingles
  • Cracking or rust on flashing
  • Mold or algae growth
  • Visible unevenness or soft spots
  • Moisture or leaks in the attic
  • Celling leaks or water damage


HVAC system problems


examining the hvac during a home inspection


These systems control the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) in your home.  Regular service is necessary to maintain efficient performance and ensure healthy air quality inside your home.

HVAC systems typically last 15-25 years but often require maintenance if system components break down or malfunction.  A system that needs repairs can have a drastic effect on the movement and quality of air inside a home.  This will be especially noticeable during summer and winter when the air conditioning or heating systems are most active.

A home inspector will verify that the HVAC system is functioning correctly and will report on anything that’s amiss.

Possible issues with your home’s HVAC system include:

  • Dirty air filters that need replacing
  • Rust inside or outside of HVAC units
  • Cracking or other damage in the ductwork
  • Open seams in flues, intakes, or slopes to the chimney connection
  • Combustion gas order

Depending on the age of your furnace or air conditioner, you may consider replacing them prior to selling your property as going from a low efficiency to high efficiency furnace will have a significant impact on your utility bills


Plumbing issues


plumbing during home inspection


Plumbing issues can be a homeowner nightmare because they are often expensive to repair or replace and have the potential to cause lasting damage in other areas of the home.  A leaky faucet or clogging toilet are easy to spot but are also often associated with larger plumbing issues that can be hidden away out of sight.  Homebuyers will want to know everything about your home’s plumbing and inspectors pay close attention during a home inspection.

Some common but often hidden plumbing issues that home inspections could uncover are:

  • Broken or rusty pipes
  • Clogged sewer line
  • Hidden (behind wall) leaks
  • Damaged or malfunctioning water heater
  • Water pressure issues
  • Build-up of sediment
  • General rust
  • Galvanized or clay pipes


Pest or insect infestations


home inspection for pest infestation


Many homeowners focus mainly on the mechanical aspects of their house before a sale, but pest infestations can also cause a lot of damage to the home and the sale price.

Insect infestations like wood destroying carpenter ants, termites and certain beetle species can wreak havoc on a home.  Termites are especially damaging and need to be taken care of immediately before they destroy the structural integrity of your house.  Rodents aren’t much better, as they can  carry salmonella and parasites like fleas, lice, and ticks.  They can also chew on your homes wiring increasing the risk of electrical fire.

Seeing insects or rodents is a bad sign and hopefully they haven’t had time to do damage to your home.  If you’re lucky and the home inspector finds a hazardous infestation before damage has occurred, you can hire a pest control service to take care of it.   If they’re discovered too late, then you might be faced with some expensive repairs to the homes foundational structure or wiring.

If you suspect your home has a pest problem, it’s vital to get a professional in to evaluate and control the infestation.


Those are the main things home inspectors look for


generic home inspection report picture


Very few buyers will consider purchasing a home without a home inspection report.  It’s also better for you as a seller to be aware of any issues with your home before you list, so that you are able to plan accordingly with respect to repairs and pricing.

Have a home inspection done, then enlist the help of professionals to inspect and quote on any repairs.  That way both you and the buyer understand the financial impact. Then with the help of your real estate agent, you can consider whether you should repair the issues listed on the home inspection report.  Your real estate agent is your best friend when it comes to negotiating after a home inspection has been completed.


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