When you put your home up for sale, prospective buyers will want to know it inside and out. They’ll want to know if the roof will end up leaking, if the electrical wiring is safe, is the plumbing ok, and a host of other questions.

To get answers, most buyers will end up seeking professional help from a general home inspector or from an inspector specializing in electrical, plumbing, lead paint, foundations, roofing or more. (When a buyer purchases a home, there are 37 different inspections they can elect to order.)

According to industry experts, there are at least 33 physical problems that will come under scrutiny during a general home inspection. We’ve identified the 11 most common and listed them below.

In most cases, you can make a pre-inspection yourself now that you know what you’re looking for. And this can also help you prevent little problems from growing into costly, unmanageable ones.

1. Defective plumbing. Defective plumbing can manifest itself in two different ways: leaking and clogging. A visual inspection can detect leaking and an inspector will gauge water pressure by turning on all faucets in the highest bathroom and then flushing the toilet. If you hear the sound of running water, it indicates that the pipes are undersized. If the water appears dirty when first turned on at the faucet, this is a good indication that pipes are rusting, which can result in water quality problems.

2. Damp or wet basement. An inspector will check your walls for a powdery white mineral deposit a few inches off the floor. A mildew odor is almost impossible to eliminate, and an inspector will certainly be conscious of it. It could cost you $200 to $1,000 to seal a crack in or around your basement foundation depending on severity and location. Adding a sump pump and pit could run you around $750 – $1,000, and complete waterproofing (of an average 3 bedroom home) could amount to $5,000-$15,000. You will have to weigh these figures into the calculation of what price you want to net on your home.

3. Inadequate wiring and electrical. Current guidelines require a minimum 100 AMP service panel on most homes, so if your panel is undersized it may be recommended to upgrade. Wire should be copper or aluminum. Home inspectors will look at octopus plugs as indicative circuits and a potential fire hazard.

4. Poor heating and cooling systems. Insufficient insulation, and an inadequate or a poorly functioning heating system, are the most common causes of poor heating. While an adequately clean furnace, without rust on the heat exchanger, usually has life left in it, an inspector will be asking and checking to see if your furnace is over its typical life span of 15-25 years. For a forced air gas system, a heat exchanger will come under particular scrutiny since one that is cracked can emit deadly carbon monoxide into the home. These heat exchangers must be replaced if damaged – they cannot be repaired.

5. Roofing problems. Water leakage through the roof can occur for a variety of reasons such as physical deterioration of the asphalt shingles (for example: curling or splitting), or mechanical damage from a wind storm. When gutters leak and downspouts allow water to run down and through the exterior walls, this external problem becomes an internal one too.

6. Damp attic spaces. Aside from basement dampness, problems with ventilation, insulation and vapor barriers can cause water, moisture, mold and mildew to form in the attic. This can lead to premature wear of the roof, structure and building materials. The cost to fix this damage could easily run $2,500+.

7. Rotting wood. This can occur in many places (door or window frames, trim, siding, decks and fences). The building inspector will sometimes probe the wood to see if this is present – especially when wood has been freshly painted.

8. Masonry work. Re-bricking can be costly, but, left unattended, these repairs can cause problems with water and moisture penetration into the home which in turn could lead to a chimney being clogged by fallen bricks or even a chimney which falls onto the roof. It can be costly to rebuild a chimney or to have it repointed.

9. Unsafe or over-fused electrical circuit. A fire hazard is created when more amperage is drawn on the circuit than was intended. 15 AMP circuits are the most common in a typical home, with larger service for large appliances such as stoves and dryers. It can cost several hundred dollars to replace your fuse panel with a circuit panel.

10. Adequate security features. More than a purchased security system, an inspector will look for the basic safety features that will protect your home such as proper locks on windows and patio doors, dead bolts on the doors, smoke and even carbon monoxide detectors in every bedroom and on every level. Even though pricing will vary, these components will add to your costs. Before purchasing or installing, you should check with your local experts.

11. Structural/foundation problems. An inspector will certainly investigate the underlying footing and foundation of your home as structural integrity is fundamental to your home.

When you put your home on the market, you don’t want any unpleasant surprises that could cost you the sale of your home.

By having an understanding of these 11 problem areas as you walk through your home, you’ll be arming yourself against future disappointment.

Have you ever used a general home inspector or specialist when buying or selling a home? Let us know how it went by sharing your comments below! 

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