Your guide to understanding home inspections

Buying a home can be an overwhelming process and can leave many people questioning if they are making the right decision. One way to increase your confidence level and guarantee you are buying the right home is by performing home inspections. These will help identify any unforeseen but necessary repairs and help you negotiate your official offer.

Most financial institutions require home inspections before they grant you a home equity loan. This is especially true if you are not buying a newer home. Below we have provided some areas that you should have inspected before you sign any contracts or checks.


Be sure about the home. Be sure to weigh the pros and cons of the purchase because you are making a big investment. Try not to over think minor esthetics because you can always change looks later. Try to concentrate on things such as the square footage of the home and its location in relation to your work. If you have children, consider how far away schools are located.

Do your homework on the home. How old is it? Understand the market value of the home. Calculate the cost of potential repairs. Most importantly, determine if you are paying the right price versus what is listed. Don’t over pay the true value of the home. Saving money can also allow you to put funds towards other areas such as esthetic improvements or repairs.

Make a budget. Consider what loan payments are each month and decide if you can manage those payments. Just because a financial institution approves your loan does not mean they know your spending habits. Set yourself up for living comfortably, not paycheck to paycheck. If you intend to make a lot of changes to the home after the purchase, budget realistic updates.


Exterior inspections are just as important as interior inspections. Moreover, inspection costs are much lower than paying to have them fixed yourself. Allow yourself to negotiate costly repairs with the seller by conducting the following inspections.

Roofing and gutters

One of the largest and most expensive repair projects is putting a new roof on a home. If a home inspection identifies that the house needs new roofing, the repairs could be calculated into the purchase price of the home. Gutters are a related component to have inspected. Outdated gutters and poor water collection can lead to foundation issues. If the roofing and gutters are in horrible shape, the foundation should be a priority check.

Driveway or asphalt

Consider having the driveway evaluated. If a paved driveway is in bad shape, the seller might consider repaving it for you. You probably won’t be able to negotiate having a long back lane paved if it is gravel, but you should also inspect the garage floor. Soil shifting beneath the foundation can cause major cracking that can turn into costly repairs.

Doors and windows

Individual windows and doors are not a major repair, but replacing a lot of them can add up. If you have doors and windows that do not fit and are not energy efficient, you might want to consider having them replaced to save money in the long run.

Chimney (opt.)

If your home has a chimney, have it inspected for structural damage. Since chimneys are part of the home’s structure, major gaps or cracks can lead to water and structural damage. The other thing to check for is creosote. Creosote is built up particles from fire embers (tar and soot) that attaches themselves to the walls of the chimney and are very flammable. Even after you purchase the home, get in the routine of having an inspection every few years so that you do not have a chimney fire.


The last thing you want to face is plumbing or sewer backups, structural catastrophes, or electrical fires. Interior inspections can identify key areas that need fixed right away. Interior home inspections are not only valuable for saving you money but also to keep you safe.

Plumbing and sewer

Plumbing is a vital feature of a home that must work properly. If anything, this is one area that must be up to code before you can even move-in. This includes the use of water in sinks, showers, toilets, and external faucets outside.

Inspections are particularly important for checking water flow for toilet flushing or draining. If toilets are unable to flush properly, you might not be able to move in until the issue is corrected. The reason being, bacteria and disease can develop if sewage is not properly disposed of.

Many of your home appliances may also run on water. This includes items like your dishwasher, clothing washer and perhaps the refrigerator. Workable plumbing and sewer should be at the top of your list of inspections before purchasing your home.

Structural damage

There are three areas you should have inspected in the interior of your home for structural damage. Inspect the attic for things like water damage (leaking roof). See if past flooding or shifting soil show damage to the foundation. And look over your flooring for cracks and creaking. The last thing you want is to be walking through your foyer and fall through the floor. Structural damage could be a large price to pay if you do not have these inspections done.


More and more electricity is used with the evolution of technology. Don’t overload your breakers. Keep yourself safe and up to code with an electric home inspection. There are various codes that must be met before you can move-in. So, electric should also be at the top of your inspection list.

While on the topic of electrical, have your heating and air conditioning (HVAC) systems checked. These use both electricity and water. And while you are at it, have your water heater checked so that your home can function at capacity.


Inspections for asbestos, radon, lead, and mold are important because the costs to remove them are expensive and should generally be covered by the seller to save yourself what could be very costly removals. You should also have these inspections done because the health of you and your family could be at risk.


You do not need to worry about asbestos if you are purchasing a newer home. Most asbestos was used in homes before 1989. But if you are purchasing a home that has popcorn ceiling you should consider an inspection. Constant exposure to asbestos over time can lead to asbestosis, pleural disease, lung cancer, and mesothelioma according to the Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry (ATSDR) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Radon mitigation

It is kind of scary when you think of the gas called Radon. It is radioactive and something you cannot smell, taste or see. The CDC reports that Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. resulting in over 20,000 deaths each year. You can expect to find Radon coming through microscopic cracks or gaps in the foundation of your basement. Radon mitigation costs can vary depending on the characteristics of your home and the climate. But a simple inspection can inform you of any risks to your health.

Lead hazard

The problem with lead is that it can be found just about anywhere. It can be found in the air, the water, and in the ground. Luckily, the government bans the production and use of all lead-containing products to protect you.

Lead is often found in paint or pipes of older homes built before 1978. This means lead on the walls, window sills, doors and frames, stairwells, banisters, and the list goes on. Lead-coated pipes can sometimes contaminate water because it can breach the interior of the pipe. Whether you breathe-in, swallow, or absorb lead particles through your skin, your body stores the lead in your bones, blood, and tissue according to the CDC. This leads to complicated health issues later in life. Protect yourself and learn more from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) online lead protection.

Mold residue

Just like lead, mold can be found almost everywhere. You can expect mold being present anywhere there is moisture. Areas could include the attic or basement where water leaks in. Traditional areas could also include doorways, vents, HVAC systems or piping.

According to the CDC, mold can cause nasal stuffiness, throat irritation, coughing or wheezing, eye irritation, or, in some cases, skin irritation. If you have allergies or are allergic to mold, you could experience worse symptoms. Long-term diseases could occur if gone untreated, such as lung disease.


Save yourself extra time and money. Major updates or repairs that are identified through home inspections can be negotiated with the seller. The seller either considers making the repair or deducts the repair cost(s) from the purchase price of the home. If you are not thorough with your home inspections, you may end up paying additional repair costs plus the original purchase price of the home.

Home inspections teach you two things. You learn how much work a home really requires and how much things cost to be repaired if something goes wrong. Again, you are making a large investment. Be sure to create the best-case scenario for yourself by doing your homework and following your budget.

If you have additional questions or concerns regarding home inspections, speak to one of our staff. We specialize in mortgages and the home buying process. If you need more information and checklists for home buying, read our First Time Home Buyer Program. It is a great guide for you to accomplish your goal of purchasing a home.