What Do Home Inspectors Look For?

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By Travelers
4 minutes
Home inspector pointing his finger and inspecting the roof of a house

You've researched and compared home listings, gone through the offer process and negotiated a price. Whether you’re buying or selling your home, you're nearly there. One of the final steps before closing the deal is the house inspection. But what is a home inspection, and what does a home inspector typically look for?

Buyers hire home inspectors to assess the condition of the house and often identify needed repairs that may not be apparent to them. Some sellers also hire home inspectors to help them find and fix any issues before listing a property for sale. Since many home buyers have questions about the inspection process, we’ll provide some information here.

What Does a Home Inspector Do?

Your home inspector evaluates the condition of the house and the property.1 Home inspectors receive training on how to inspect a home, including the house’s structure, roof, electrical, plumbing, HVAC systems, appliances and more. They look for potential problems large and small (and often not obvious to the average person) in the home.

What Does a Home Inspection Consist Of?

The home inspection typically includes a check of the house’s:2

  • Structure
  • Foundation
  • Heating system
  • Cooling system/air conditioning
  • Roof
  • Floors
  • Windows and doors
  • Plumbing
  • Walls and ceilings
  • Basement

Buyers should also consider an inspection for a newly built home before closing on a purchase. After all, the house’s new systems may not have been fully tested. And you wouldn’t want to find out during your first summer that the AC doesn't work properly.

After the inspection, home inspectors compile their findings and prepare a home inspection report. The report explains the condition of the house and may recommend repairs or additional actions.3

Need to Know

As a Buyer

You can and should choose your own home inspector. While hiring the inspector, ask if they have the proper licenses and/or certifications to perform home inspections and if they’ve worked for the property owner or real estate agent in the past. It’s best to avoid hiring an inspector that has a relationship with either the seller or real estate agent. Your real estate agent may have recommendations for local home inspectors, or you can find reviews of inspectors online. Additionally, consider checking to see if there are any professional memberships or associations in your area that can recommend a licensed inspector.

As a Seller

Getting your home inspected before putting it on the market can be helpful. A pre-listing inspection gives you a chance to fix any issues before potential buyers come through. This can help minimize surprises down the road that could delay or prevent your closing. If you provide an inspection report to potential buyers, don't be surprised if they still choose to get their own. This is a typical practice.

Preparing for the Home Inspection

For potential buyers viewing the home, take time to make your own initial evaluation of the conditions of the house. As you do, prepare questions about the property for your inspector (e.g., How old is the plumbing system? Is the crack near the foundation a problem?). For sellers, consider doing a pre-inspection of your own as well.4 This includes providing unobstructed access to spaces and systems as well as looking out for—and pre-mitigating—any issues that could concern the buyer and inspector.

Some things for both buyers and sellers to consider:

  • Foundation – Are there cracks, sagging, shifts or encroaching trees?
  • Roof – What’s the overall condition and age? Any encroaching trees? Are gutters and downspouts firmly attached? Does the chimney look ok?
  • Drainage and Leaks – Are there soggy areas near the house/foundation, or signs of leaks near ceilings and windows?
  • Doors and Windows – Do all doors and windows open and close properly? Do they have any damage? Any sticking points, peeling paint, apparent leaks or drafts?
  • Attic and Basement – Is it insulated? Is there any dampness?
  • Electrical – Are all wall switches working, and outlets grounded? Does the electrical panel box have circuit breakers? Any exposed electrical wires in or outside the home
  • Heating and Cooling Systems – After turning all systems on (or ask real estate agent to turn on), do they seem to heat or cool properly? How old are the systems and is there any visible rust? Have they been recently converted or upgraded? If there’s an oil or propane tank, how old is it?
  • Plumbing – Do all fixtures and pipes look to be in working order? Any sign of leaks, unusual noises or obvious malfunctions? What’s the age of the hot water tank? Any evidence of mold or mildew in bathrooms, kitchens, laundry rooms, basements or other areas where water is normally used or found?
  • Appliances – If included in the purchase, how old are they and what condition are they in?
  • Radon – Is radon gas present (long-term exposure to radon can pose serious health risks to people and pets)? Has a radon test been performed within the past year (ask your real estate agent)? Does the house have a basement and is the house located in a high-radon zone (EPA radon zones)? If radon has ever been detected in the house, does it have a radon mitigation system installed by a licensed radon contractor?

Buyers should write down any questions and give them to your inspector before the inspection begins and ask any additional questions during the home evaluation.

Getting the Home Inspection Results

House inspections can help protect both buyers and sellers from unpleasant surprises and help sellers increase the likelihood of a successful closing. When the inspection report comes in, buyers and sellers typically work through their real estate agents to negotiate who’ll take care of what and by when.

The seller may be responsible for fixing some things before the sale goes through. In other cases, the buyer may choose to handle repairs after closing. Either way, both parties can benefit from tips for hiring a contractor and using this handy moving checklist.

For buyers, once the inspection is complete and you decide to buy the house, it’s time to begin thinking about homeowners insurance if you haven’t already. This also applies to the seller if you’re purchasing another home. A homeowners insurance policy from Travelers will help you safeguard your new home and personal belongings on closing day and into the future. 

To get started, you can get a quote, talk to an agent or contact a Travelers representative now.


1 https://www.homeinspector.org/Buyers-And-Owners/Homebuyers-Guide/The-Homebuying-Process

2 https://www.homeinspector.org/Buyers-And-Owners/Homebuyers-Guide/FAQs-about-Home-Inspection

3 https://www.homeinspector.org/Resources/Standard-of-Practice/Purpose-and-Scope

4 https://www.creia.org/inspection-faqs#Easing

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