What Do Home Inspections Actually Inspect?

There is no better assessment of a home’s health and present livability and safety condition than a professional home inspection.

For prospective home buyers, a home inspection is a must and a great State of the Home Report. Home inspections allow perspective owners to avoid buyer’s regret, offer leverage to negotiate a lower asking price, and increase a home’s longevity by addressing troublesome issues early on.

But, as Nerd Wallet’s Kate Wood cautions, “A standard home inspection provides you with a detailed report on the home you’re hoping to buy, but it doesn’t tell you everything.”

For new or longtime homeowners, additional home inspections may be needed to determine the true overall health of their home.

Variants such as the age, location and condition of your home or the home you’re considering purchasing may warrant follow-up inspections. Radon testing, termite inspection and foundation inspection are the most popular and needed types of specialized home inspections.

“A home inspection includes information on nearly every part of a property, but in some cases you may want separate inspections covering radon, pests, mold and foundation issues,” Wood advises.

What is and what isn’t included in a standard home inspection? Let’s inspect the standard home inspection closely and find out.

The Standard Home Inspection

Home inspectors visually analyze all parts of a property that are readily accessible. This omits hard to view areas and issues like pest infestations and areas that are difficult to safely reach like wells and chimney interiors.

Home Areas that are commonly included in a home inspection include:

  • Structural Components (floors, walls, ceilings stairs)
  • Exterior components (siding, attached decks, porches)
  • Roof
  • Plumbing
  • Heating and Air Conditioning
  • Major Appliances
  • Ventilation
  • Insulation
  • Fireplaces and wood stoves
  • Windows and doors

Depending on their findings, a home inspector may recommend additional inspections and repairs by a certified tradesperson (like wiring issues).

“(Home inspections are) a lot like a mechanic looking under the hood,” Scott Bergmann, an Omaha, NE-based agent with Real One Group Sterling, told Realtor.com’s Erica Sweeney.

Now that we’ve thoroughly inspected the standard home inspection, let’s dive into the follow-up specialized inspections that your home or prospective home may need.

Radon Testing

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has sounded the unnerving alarm: One in 15 homes as an elevated radon level.

This odorless, colorless gas generates from the gradual breakdown of radioactive elements in the Earth. Radon is released from well water, building materials and soil and can enter homes through cracks.

Alas, radon is also everywhere. The U.S. Surgeon General estimates that radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S.

To detect this invisible threat to your family and home’s health, long-term (over 90-day) Radon Testing is recommended. But for home buyers on a close clock, professional radon inspectors may be able to give reports after a 48-hour test.

If test results reveal elevated radon levels in the home, contact the National Radon Profiency Program or National Radon Safety Board to find a pro.

On average, professional radon testing costs a few hundred dollars.

Wood-Destroying Organism (WDO) Inspection

An inspection that takes direct aim at termites, this investigation is designed to ensure your future or current home doesn’t have six-legged tenants crashing without paying rent. Termites, wood-boring beetles and carpenter ants are the most common home invaders. WDO Inspectors are also on the look out for dry rot caused by fungi.

Most states require a WDO inspection to close on a home. The National Pest Management Association and International Association of Certified Home Inspectors license WDO inspectors. Termite inspections don’t eat up a lot of cash, usually just around $100.

Mold Inspection

The EPA’s general rule on mold testing is if you see mold, you’ve got mold, and further inspection is advised.

A mold inspector utilizes a moisture meter to locate dampness in drywall, insulation and other materials. Mold inspectors also test air samples from inside and outside the home. Costing $200-$600 on average, you can locate a local certified mold inspector through the National Organization of Remediators and Mold Inspectors.

Foundation Inspections

Is your potential or current home sitting on solid ground? A foundation inspection (which runs $150 on average) can set your mind at ease and root out potential issues like drainage problems, nearby tree roots, cracks or other indications of foundation movement.

Any troublesome findings can be turned over to a residential structural engineer, who can deliver a comprehensive inspection of the foundation, diagnose the cause of any issues, and offer a remedy plan. The National Society of Professional Engineers’ website offers an in-depth list of links to certified foundation inspectors and residential structural engineers.

Other Specialized Inspections to Consider

  • Roofs
  • Chimneys
  • Electrical
  • Crawl Spaces
  • Lead-Based Paint
  • HVAC
  • Septic Systems
  • Soil
  • Asbestos
  • Plumbing
  • Pools and Spas

All Homes Have Secrets

All homes, even those who have starring roles on HGTV renovation shows, have secrets, including potential serious health and livability issues that aren’t noticeable on first glance or open house walkthrough.

“It’s easy to get swept away in the excitement of buying a new home, but it’s important to know the different types of home inspections before you close the deal,” QuickenLoans.com cautions. “A home can look perfect on the outside, but have underlying issues that impact its value and longevity.”

For you don’t truly know the home you have or would like to buy until you professionally inspect it roof to floor.

“An inspection contingency allows buyers to make a more informed decision whether to cancel a purchase or request repairs,” Raj Midha, senior vice president and general manager at American Home Shield, told Realtor.com. “An inspection provides a better understanding of the current condition of the home and its systems and appliances, so that the buyer can adjust their offer accordingly or plan for future repairs.”

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