The 3 Most Important Things to Lookout For in Your Home Inspection

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When my husband and I were forced to miss the home inspection of the first house we’d ever purchased because of an unforeseen and unavoidable family emergency out of state, a couple fairly important things fell to the wayside or went undetected.

For starters, missing the home inspection meant my husband didn’t actually get to see the home we were buying until we showed up to sign the papers on closing day, at which point it was far too late to back out (oops). Additionally, although the home was listed as having central air, it in fact did not, something our inspector had picked up on and included in his report, but that in all the hubbub we failed to notice ourselves.

Of course our particular circumstances were unavoidable, and at the end of the day, we knew missing the inspection meant potentially letting go of some of the rights we would have had had we been able to show up and actually pay attention. For other homebuyers, however, participating a home inspection — where the sole purpose is to identity and call out any unknown or undisclosed defects with the home — could potentially mean saving thousands.

“I always advise my clients to attend the end of the inspection — since being there the entire time may slow the inspector down or distract him from focusing on his job — so that the inspector can review their findings with them,” says Morgan Franklin, MBA, realtor. “Also, if the client is unfamiliar with home systems, like HVAC and plumbing, they can review the maintenance points with the inspector for clarification.”

Of course it stands to reason that missing out on certain findings of your home inspection (like missing air conditioning, for example) will be a costlier mistake than others (like a chip in the banister), so it’s a good idea to keep in mind some of the higher-cost things you’ll want to verify with your inspector while you have the chance. If you can catch these problems before closing, it’s usually possible to try to negotiate the repair cost or the overall price of the house with the seller. For example, as it turned out, the roof on our new house had some hail damage, but luckily this was caught in our home inspection report, and our relator was able to negotiate with the sellers to have them cover the cost of the repairs.

According to Morgan, here are three of the more expensive things you should pay attention to when it comes to your home inspection, if you don’t want to get stuck with a massive bill after the fact.

1. The Roof

What to look for: When it comes to your roof, particularly if you’re in an area frequented by rough weather like wind and hail, Morgan suggests looking out for aging and/or deteriorating shingles and/or flashing (or the metal corner pieces where the roof has a joint, like for a chimney or roof vent) that isn’t in proper order.

What it could cost you: The average reported cost of replacing an entire roof was approximately $6,794, with most homeowners spending somewhere between $4,663 and $8,951, according to HomeAdvisor.com.

2. HVAC (a.k.a. heating and cooling systems)

What to look for: While your home inspector will test the air temperature of your place, if they find issues with it you can always have an HVAC technician inspect your home, as well, to get further information. Morgan recommends looking at the serial number on your HVAC unit and running a quick Google search to find the manufacturer year — don’t just blindly believe the age on the disclosures (or, in our case, that one even exists!). “Once an HVAC unit reaches 15 years old, it’s likely close to the end of its useful life,” he said.

What it could cost you: If your HVAC is just in need of some simple repairs, most homeowners spent between $165 and $492 to fix them, according to HomeAdvisor.com. However, installing a new air conditioning unit is an entirely different story. Again according to HomeAdvisor.com, most homeowners spent between $3,693 and $7,146 to do so, with the national average being about $5,234.

3. Structural damage

What to look for: Your inspector will be looking for cracks and settling in the foundation of your home, to start. Of course the older your home is, the more likely these issues are to appear. “However, another contributing factor is water,” says Morgan. “For example, if the crawlspace is wet, look out for structural issues.” Any structural items noted by your inspector should thoroughly inspected by a professional — like a structural engineer or contractor — to assess exactly what damage is there and what the repairs will entail and cost.

What it could cost you: Foundation repair issues will vary widely based on what they are and where you live, but costs range from about $3,822 on average, with most homeowners spending between $1,763 and $5,880, according to HomeAdvisor.com.

The truth is that by the time you get to your home inspection, your head might be spinning from everything else you’ve already gone through (you know – finding a realtor, looking at houses, saving for a down payment, putting in an offer, etc.), but this is a super important step in the home buying process, so it’s important to not lose steam now. The good news? Your home inspection will be one of your final steps before closing day, so take heart in that fact, at least!

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