7 Things Your Home Inspector Wishes You Knew

A home inspection can be a pain point for buyers and sellers, but knowing these insider secrets can save a lot of headaches on both sides.

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A home inspection can make or break a sale, which may be why home inspectors are sometimes referred to as a buyer’s best friend and a seller’s worst nightmare. Yet it’s possible for buyers to put too much faith in a home inspector’s abilities, while sellers may wildly overestimate how much could be wrong with their home.

It’s important that both parties approach the inspection with a clear grasp of its importance and its limitations. Buyers and sellers both need to understand that home inspectors are knowledgeable, but they’re not clairvoyant. And although they’re performing a thorough inspection, they are certainly not analyzing every inch of a home. To make the most of this crucial step in the home buying process, here are a few things buyers and sellers should know about home inspections.

Honesty is the Best Policy

When your house is on the market, you want it to look its best, and this usually entails at least some staging. But sellers should fight the temptation to let home staging hide major problems. According to Joe Cummins, VP of technical services at HouseMaster and training director at the National Institute of Building Inspectors (NIBI), honesty is always the best policy, so you should be up front with buyers regarding any potential problems.

“If a home seller tries to hide something and an inspector finds it, the buyer will likely ask for a credit to fix it, or worse, walk away from the home,” he says. And knowing that the seller tried to hide one problem could cause a buyer to wonder what other problems may be lurking.

Consider a Home Inspection Before Putting Your Home on the Market

Although a home inspection is typically part of the home buying process, Arie Van Tuijl, a licensed home inspector in Virginia and Maryland and the owner of Home Inspector Secrets, wishes more sellers would have their home inspected before putting it on the market. “This could prevent minor issues from quickly becoming a big problem,” he says. “But sadly, sellers rarely hire home inspectors—it is almost always the buyers.”

Cummins agrees. “If there are issues like mold, it is best to be proactive and have an inspection before the house is put on the market to determine whether it needs to be remediated beforehand.” Once the problems are taken care of, he says, the sellers can provide documentation that will give the buyers peace of mind.

RELATED: 8 Things Every Home Inspection Checklist Should Include

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Pay Attention to the Wood on Your Home’s Exterior

Here’s another free tip from home inspectors: Keep your eye on the wood on your home’s exterior. “Carefully prod and poke all exterior wood with a screwdriver to find rotted wood,” Van Tuijl advises. Even though it’s pretty simple to repair rotted wood, he warns that it can wreck a potential sale. “When buyers see several areas of rotted wood on the exterior, they begin to get suspicious of the sellers and of the ‘pretty house package’ that they are presenting.”

If you find rotted wood, fix it. Don’t just try to cover it up. Putting a fresh coat of paint over the rotted wood only makes it worse. “It isn’t all about the cost to repair. It’s about the buyer’s perception that the damage is much worse,” Van Tuijl explains. He advises homeowners to check for rotted wood at the corners of wood trim (for example, around garage doors, exterior doors, and windowsills).

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What Home Inspectors Typically Check

Home inspectors won’t check every square inch of your house, but the inspection is quite extensive. “We inspect all the major elements of a home, including the roof, exterior elements, foundation, and electric, plumbing, heating, and air-conditioning systems,” says Cummins. On the outside, they inspect the siding and trim, windows, doors, porches/decks, garages, stairs, and railings. “Interior inspections include attic components, all rooms, fireplaces, plumbing fixtures, and major appliances,” Cummins says. They also inspect visible and readily accessible components to ensure proper construction and function, and he says they look for any water penetration or other damage, missing components, or anything that might compromise function.

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What Home Inspectors Typically Don’t Check

Here’s something buyers need to know: Not all home inspectors check for mold. “Assessments for environmental concerns like mold, radon, or asbestos that require lab samples or specialty equipment are typically part of specialty tests or inspections that need to be conducted by specialists,” Cummins explains. He notes that some inspectors do have the training and certification to provide these services, but he says they’re not part of a standard inspection.

Home Inspectors Aren’t Code Inspectors

Another thing that buyers should be aware of: Home inspectors can’t decide if a home is up to code or not. “We’re not code inspectors,” Van Tuijl says. “Only government agents can cite building code violations. Even though home inspectors may be well versed in building code, we cannot write up code violations in an inspection report.” The only thing inspectors can do is make recommendations for engineers or contractors to evaluate further. “Home inspectors are equivalent to primary care physicians who give referrals to specialists,” Van Tuijl says.

RELATED: Don’t Waive That Inspection Contingency

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Home Inspectors Cannot Advise on Whether You Should Buy the House

While home inspectors can point out what may be wrong with a home, they’re not rendering judgment. “Home inspectors should be objective on their inspection report and stay neutral regarding any questions on home purchase,” Cummins says. “Their job is to conduct a thorough inspection and provide a clear but comprehensive explanation of their findings to prospective buyers and their respective agents.” 

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