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What is a Home Inspection, and Why is it Necessary?

written by: Deborah Rose•edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom•updated: 10/31/2010

What is a home inspection? Why do home buyers need a home inspection, and what should they expect from a home inspector? Here we take a look at your questions.

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    Why Home Buyers Need a Home Inspection

    For many people, buying a home is the most important financial decision they will make during their lives. The last thing home buyers want is to be faced with costs for unexpected repairs to their new home. This is why every buyer should hire a licensed home inspector to do a full home inspection before making the final decision to purchase a new home.

    There are several main areas that a home inspector looks at, and where any necessary repairs to a home could be very expensive.

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    The Roof

    In an older home, a roof which needs repair might be clearly evident. However, there some signs of an aging roof which are not immediately visible without closer inspection. A home inspector will examine the roof covering, the gutters, and downspouts. He will also check any skylights, vents, flashings, chimneys, or other roof penetrations. Finally, he will inspect the structure of the roof.

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    The Exterior

    Putting new wood or vinyl siding on a home will cost thousands of dollars, as will replacing defective windows and doors. A home inspector will thoroughly examine the exterior of the home in order to identify any problems. This includes the home siding, exterior doors and windows, fascia, and soffits. The inspection will also include any steps, porches, or railings.

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    The Foundation

    One of the most unpleasant surprises after moving into a new home is discovering that the basement floods. The foundation and basement or crawlspace will be checked for any sign of water leaks. This includes water stains, the presence of mildew, damaged floors or walls, or an odor of dampness. Another unpleasant discovery is learning that the house has structural damage. The home inspector will look for signs of foundation movement, such as cracks in the brick or Sheetrock, out-of-square door frames, or sloping floors.

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    The Electrical System

    The home inspector will make sure the electrical system works properly and meets current code standards. He will look for problems with the current electrical wiring, such as burned wiring, overused circuits, or improper connections. Receptacles, GFCI receptacles, and GFCI circuit breakers will be tested. The home will be checked for the proper number of smoke detectors.

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    Heating and Air Conditioning

    The home inspector will test the heating system and the air conditioning system to make sure both are operating properly. The condition of the piping and ductwork will be inspected. Any sign of previous malfunction will be investigated to ensure that repairs have been made. All safety switches will be checked to ensure they are working properly.

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    The home inspector will inspect the entire plumbing system and look for any sign of deterioration or leaks in the pipes. He will make sure all plumbing fixtures are working properly, including toilets, faucets, drains, and vents. Any sump pumps will be tested for proper operation.

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    The Final Home Inspection Report

    When the home inspection is complete, the home inspector will provide the buyer a written report of the home inspection. This report will detail any problems found in the home, and explain what should be done to correct those problems. With a home inspection report in hand, the home buyer can negotiate with the seller to either repair problems or to reduce the selling price. In some cases, the home buyer may simply wish to cancel the sale.