Before the sale of your home is finalized, the home buyer will often request an inspection to identify any problems with the house. If the inspection comes back unsatisfactory, the buyer can choose to walk away from the deal. This is why it’s important to know what the home inspector will be looking for before listing your house on the market. This way, you can make sure it’s in good shape and ready to be sold. After all, major issues that come up in a home inspection can make it hard to find a willing buyer.

Do I Have To Fix Everything On A Home Inspection?

Prior to a home inspection, it’s natural to look around your house and worry about every little problem you see. It’s your house, after all, so you’re keenly aware of all of its shortcomings. But just because your home isn’t perfect doesn’t mean that you’ll need to repair every defect. Home buyers are usually only concerned about the big stuff, like the roof, the windows and doors, or the furnace. They want some assurance that they won’t be faced with thousands of dollars in repairs as soon as they move in.

The buyer can request that certain repairs be made, or if it’s something serious, they may just walk away from the deal. If that happens, you can discuss with your REALTOR® how you should move forward. If you’re in a seller’s market, they may advise you to leave things as-is, and perhaps lower your selling price, or they may recommend that you proceed to make the necessary repairs.

What Does A Home Inspector Look For?

Home inspectors are very thorough in their examination of your home. They are licensed professionals, trained to spot defects in your home’s structure, and across all of the major systems, such as plumbing, electrical and HVAC. Here’s a list of areas they will check during their visit:

  • Roof
  • Attic
  • Walls and insulation
  • Ceilings
  • Floors
  • Plumbing and electrical systems
  • Sewer system
  • Heating system including the furnace
  • Ventilation
  • Cooling system (central air conditioning)
  • Basement and foundation
  • Emergency equipment (smoke and carbon monoxide detectors)
  • Overall structure

Home Inspection Warning Signs

Below is a list of warning signs an inspector looks for when they visit your home. While it’s not an exhaustive list, the most expensive repairs will usually come from one or more of these areas. When deficiencies are found (and they likely will be), you’ll need to decide whether it’s better to make the repair yourself or see if it’s something the buyer is willing to live with. Often, problems found in a home inspection can be factored into the final purchase price.

Cracks In Walls Or Foundation

Cracks appearing in your walls or foundation could be superficial, or they could hint at larger structural problems with your home. This is something a home inspector will always look for. Depending on the issue, it may be worth repairing structural issues prior to selling your home, or if it’s something serious, you may be able to adjust your selling price to account for the repair cost.

Faulty Wiring

Your home inspector will need to check your home’s electrical systems, and there are several problems that can come up. Outdated knob and tube wiring, exposed wires, improper grounding, you name it. Rewiring an entire home costs thousands, but hopefully any problems that are identified can be fixed with relative ease.

Plumbing Issues

As with electrical problems, outdated or faulty plumbing can be problematic for a number of reasons. Leaky pipes can be the source of water damage, while old hot water tanks and faucets that drip constantly can make your water bill soar. While replacing all of the plumbing in a home is very expensive, smaller problems can be easy to fix.

Water Damage

Water damage can come from a number of sources – a leaky roof, cracks in the foundation, or faulty plumbing inside the home. Signs of water damage lead to something superficial, but they can also indicate a more major problem, such as mold issues, which can be toxic. If the home inspection finds mold, it’s something you’ll want to address immediately, as it will be a concern for any potential home buyer, and could affect the marketability of your home.

Roof Damage

Your home inspector will climb onto your roof to check the integrity of the shingles as well as the chimney. Even with no evidence of water damage, old, curled-up shingles could hint at future problems. At the very least, a potential buyer would have to account for the cost of a new roof when they’re making an offer. Depending on what the home inspector turns up, your REALTOR® may or may not recommend replacing your roof prior to putting your home on the market.

Insect Infestations

Insect and pest infestations are a very common problem in North American homes. Whether it’s ants, termites, or mice, if you wait for something to turn up during a home inspection, it may be too late. Pests can cause plenty of damage to wood, insulation, even electrical wiring. If the home inspection uncovers a pest issue, it’s something you’ll need to address before you find someone willing to purchase your home.

HVAC System Problems

The term HVAC stands for Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning, and it refers to your home’s heating and cooling systems. During a home inspection, the inspector will carefully examine the condition and operation of these systems. One of the largest expenses for any homeowner is having to replace a furnace or central air conditioning unit. Any serious buyer will want to be reasonably confident that this won’t be a concern when they move in.

How Much Does A Home Inspection Cost?

If the buyer is the one requesting a home inspection, they will be responsible to cover the cost. While the price will vary depending on the location and size of the home, expect to pay $300 – $400, on average. That might seem like a lot, but it’s well worth the investment.

How Long Does A Home Inspection Take?

A home inspection will take much longer than a home appraisal, which is often completed in less than 30 minutes. Because the inspector must make a detailed examination of all areas of the home, you can expect them to be there for 2 or 3 hours, on average.

How To Prepare For A Home Inspection

Before you put your home on the market, it’s a good idea to make as many repairs as you possibly can. Regardless of whether it’s a buyer’s or seller’s market, a well-maintained home will sell more easily. Let your REALTOR® know the issues you’ve identified and get their input as well.

When it comes time for the inspection, make sure all areas of your home are accessible. The inspector won’t be able to see everything, but they need to be able to move through the house to complete a proper report. They will appreciate your efforts in helping them out this way.

How Your REALTOR® Can Help

Your REALTOR® has a vested interest in you selling your home. They also have plenty of experience dealing with home inspections. They know what items can be left alone without affecting your sale. When you get the results of your home inspection, discuss them with your REALTOR®. They can advise you on the repairs that should be addressed immediately, and what can be left as-is.

Final Thoughts On The Home Inspection

While the focus of this article has been mostly on the seller, home buyers can benefit from understanding exactly what a home inspector is looking for. An important thing to remember is that ultimately, a home inspection benefits everyone involved. It gives the buyer peace of mind before making the biggest purchase of their lives, and it lets the seller know what they need to do in order to get the highest possible price for their home.

Tom Drake is an authority in Canadian personal finance. He is a financial analyst and has been writing about personal finance since 2009 at the award-winning MapleMoney. His work has appeared in MintLife, Canadian MoneySaver, and U.S. News & World Report, and has been quoted in The Globe and Mail, Yahoo Finance, and Financial Post.