Hiring a home inspector is a crucial part of buying or selling a home. An inspector will assess the home for potential problems and identify any issues that may affect the continuation or negotiation of a sale in progress. But it’s also important to understand that inspectors don’t cover all of the bases in a home. In fact, it’s possible that an inspector may miss a significant issue. In many cases, you’ll need to hire a specialist to inspect certain areas, and you should always look closely at everything yourself. Here’s the skinny on the “home inspection checklist” and what is and isn’t covered:
#1 Inspectors don’t check for pests.
Home inspectors are not exterminators — their job is to find potential problems with the structural integrity of the house. So if you think you see a cockroach or another pest during a walkthrough, you’ll need to hire an exterminator to take a closer look. Don’t rely on the checklist or final report to yield that information.
#2 Inspectors don’t cover plumbing.
Most home inspectors don’t have the qualifications to look at plumbing and can only call out visible issues like a leak or outdated plumbing. This means they probably won’t look at your:
- Wall or undersink plumbing pipes
- Swimming pools
- Septic tanks
There are exceptions in which an inspector will have the qualifications to look at pools and septic systems, but this varies depending on the inspector and where you live. You shouldn’t rely on your inspector for this in any case. If you see serious cracks or dents in the swimming pool, you should probably hire a swimming pool pro to do an inspection. If you think the septic tank is making weird noises, have someone take a closer look.
#3 Inspectors won’t look at landscaping conditions.
While issues with landscaping should be obvious during a walkthrough — dead spots, potential pests, sprinkler issues, etc. — note that they aren’t on home inspector’s radar. If there’s a dead tree in the yard, you’ll be responsible for taking care of it. It probably won’t affect the final price of the house or your ability to negotiate with the seller.
#4 Appliances aren’t part of the inspection.
Home inspectors check only that the following appliances are working properly:
Most inspectors will run these appliances through just a cycle or two to make sure they work. So, the built-in microwave could have major problems and you wouldn’t know it. Plus, unless a major leak or smoke appears, the appliance is considered to be correctly functioning. If you think there’s a major problem, you should have an appliance technician perform diagnostics and necessary repairs.
#5 HVAC systems aren’t covered in the inspection either.
Home inspectors may or may not touch your heating or air conditioning system, depending on the climate conditions at that time of your inspection. They don’t want to cause damage by putting too much pressure on the system. In fact, in your home inspection report, there may be a liability disclaimer relieving your inspector of any responsibility for your HVAC system. Depending on the conditions at the time of purchase or sale, you may need to have it separately inspected.
#6 Roof leaks are the #1 missed problem.
Home inspectors don’t take huge risks, nor do all climb up onto the roof of a home to check for leaks. Inspectors will use binoculars to look at the roof from the ground level or from a higher window to identify any potential damages. This helps them see missing or torn shingles or nail pops and potential holes, but there may be more to the story. If you live in an area that’s had a lot of intense weather, you may want to hire a roof inspector to ensure that the roof is hole-free and durable.
#7 It’s all about what’s in plain view.
It boils down to what the inspector can see with the naked eye. Issues that may not be addressed in an inspection include those associated with the following:
- Electrical wires
- Sheds or wells
- Areas behind the walls
- Mold, asbestos, radon, etc.
Problems in these areas could cost you hundreds to thousands of dollars in repairs or replacements — especially if you don’t catch them early. It’s better to be safe and perform a specialized inspection than it is to be blindsided by unexpected repairs.