8 Common Problems To Watch For During Your Home Inspection

Published by liorwn at May 24, 2016

Young man inspecting the roof of an old house standing on a ladder

Much more than a community requirement or another hoop to jump through so you can close on your house, your home inspection is an insight into the hidden parts of your potential home. Don’t fall in love with a house until the result of the home inspection is in and you know much more about the condition of the house. Your home inspection is an opportunity for you to take a crash course from an expert in your home; don’t take it lightly.

1. Water Damage

Often, the sellers are not trying to cover up or hide water damage issue. Unless they have completed a recent inspection, they may not know that they have water damage.

Your inspector will crawl all over the house, looking into every closet, knee wall and storage space for evidence of water damage. As you will accompany him on this inspection, use your eyes to assist him. You do not have his experience, but your savings are on the line. Look everywhere he looks and if you see something curious, ask about it. You are paying him for this inspection, not for the inspection report, so get your money’s worth out of the experience by asking as many questions as you can.

2. Drainage/Runoff Damage

Drainage and runoff are water issues outside the house that adversely affect it. Your inspector will walk the footprint of the house scrutinizing where the house meets the ground. He’s looking for cracks, evidence of standing water such as accumulated mud and debris. He’s looking for a level intersection of walls and earth; any shifting or leaning is indicative of a problem, the severity of which he may attempt to estimate or say that he can’t tell without a longer inspection.

He will also look up to see how the water drains from the roof. Poorly directed rain water from the roof can cause substantial damage over time.

These two points are often listed as the most frequently uncovered problems in home inspections. Water is a necessity for life, but it has strong destruction power when improperly managed.

3. Roof Problems

If your inspector says he does not walk roofs, find another inspector. The only way to do a complete roof review and assessment is to get out on the roof and walk all over it. Though you should accompany your inspector for the entire inspection, not many homeowners are comfortable walking on their roofs. For this part of the inspection, you may have to trust your inspector or take a chance on the roof, with appropriate safety equipment, of course.

If your inspector finds roofing issues, there is an excellent chance that he will be able to point them out to you from the ground. You may be able to see them with binoculars.

Ask enough follow-up questions to know if you will need a complete new roof soon, some patching, or nothing for now. See if your inspector can give you a benchmark price for the damage as a basis of collecting estimates if needed.

4. Electrical Issues

You should be able to see all the inspector sees in the electrical system. As you walk the house, he should be able to estimate the age of various parts of the system such as the switch box. As you do this review, ask him if the system is balanced and if not how much of a job it would be to correct. Does it have the standard number of outlets and can more be added. Has there been recent work to the electrical and how old are the oldest and news sections.

His main focus is on safety. He would like to be able to assure you that he sees no danger of an electrical fire, no evidence of shoddy work or dangerous shortcuts and nothing so old that it presents a danger.

5. Heating and Cooling

You really want these to have an A+ rating from your inspector because they cost top dollar to repair. Again, get as much information from him as you can about age, longevity, possible repairs and replacements as you can.

Plumber working on sink


Of course he’s looking for leaky pipes here, but he’s also looking for recent repairs, poorly designed lines and evidence of leaking. As with the electrical system, he can’t see every inch of it, but he should be able to see enough to develop an understanding of the system and its problems.

7. Structural Problems

When house hunting, we can sometimes see the flooring more clearly than the roof line. Your inspector will focus his discerning eye on anything that hints of structural problems such as sagging joists, leaning walls, shifting foundation.

In this process, he also calls on his local expertise. He may look at a California neighborhood for evidence of earthquake damage, but for Vermont houses, concentrate on freezing damage.

8. Pattern of Deferred Maintenance

Your inspector may not find any large problems but may find damaged sheet rock that should have been patched, cantilevered flooring, old windows showing damage, doors that don’t close properly, ripped screens, leaky faucets and the like.

None of them very expensive to repair, but together they can require a considerable investment to correct. Ask about any irregularity you see. What about those rust spots in the sink? The tile in the bathroom has some cracks. Make sure every issue is recorded.

Your Home Inspection

Take ownership of your home inspection. Be an active participant. You are paying substantial money for the inspection so get value for your investment. When you have the report, feel free to call and ask follow-up questions. Take your own notes and review the inspection to make sure all the issue you have on your list are on that report.

You may not be able to get the homeowner to pay for the repairs uncovered by the inspection. However, it is best to know the good and the less than good about your future home.

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