7 Major Home Inspection Issues and Common Questions Answered
If your home inspection turns up any of these 7 major issues it could be time to negotiate some mandatory fixes with the seller before you proceed with purchasing the home. After a home inspection, issues are going to arise. If you are a first time home buyer try not to freak out because this is why you hired a home inspector, to find the issues with the home! This gives the buyers an opportunity to negotiate some reasonable requests before purchasing the home. Some requests will be mandatory fixes or the buyer will choose to find another home.
If any of these major home inspection issues come back on your home inspection report you'll really want to hire experts to come in and evaluate the damage. There are common things that will show up on home inspection reports and this will stem from normal wear and tear. What you don't want showing up on your inspection report are these items below because they can cost you tens of thousands of dollars!
In North Carolina, the process is slightly different than it is in some other states. Consumers who are interested in purchasing a home are often given the opportunity to have a home inspection performed to ensure they are making a sound investment. A deposit or due diligence fee is given to the sellers in exchange for taking the home off the market for a time period and making it available to perform any tests or inspections that the buyer might want or that the property might warrant. This is one of the steps that happen after you go under contract and sometimes can happen prior to. At the end of this inspection period repairs, financial concessions, or other negotiations may occur before entering the final phase of the contract. It may sometimes make sense for a buyer to walk away from the home purchase depending on what has been discovered upon inspection.
1. Structural Issues
1. Structural issues can generally be seen in the attic or crawlspace. The structural elements of a home are the foundation, crawl space, slab or basement, framing, roof, and walls. Sometimes during construction or renovation girders, trusses, or joists can be improperly cut or improperly shored up. Natural disasters, poor construction, poor drainage, and settling can also cause structural issues to arise. In these instances, it is best to consult with a structural engineer to ensure that the home is structurally sound and that an engineer’s seal can be obtained for resale purposes.
If structural repairs to a home are needed, they can range in cost from $5,000 to $30,000 depending on the severity and area to be repaired. Severe structural issues are rare but worth checking for since they can be so financially devastating. I've had clients in the past who have needed structural issues repaired and tens of thousands of dollars were negotiated off the final price of the home.
2. Roof issues can include a roof that is at the end of its life, shingles that have loosened or are broken, exposed nail heads, incorrect flashing, dry-rotted rubber boots around the chimney and vent pipes to name a few. Some roof companies offer 30-year warranties on their roofs and so it can be helpful to ask the sellers if the company that put the roof on can come out to make the repairs for the cost of the labor.
A roof that shows signs of deferred maintenance can also signal water damage to the sheathing, rafters, and other wood structural elements in the attic area. Minor roofing issues can generally be easily dealt with by the buyer after closing but if severe roof issues are noted on inspection, it may be worthwhile to have a roofer quote the repairs and attempt to negotiate credits.
3. Plumbing issues can span in severity from a leaking faucet to the whole house plumbing system needing repair or replacement. Leaks that have been active for some time can lead to additional problems such as damage to flooring, subfloor rot, and mold. Most inspectors will also check for Polybutylene pipes. Polybutylene pipes were common in construction in the ’80s and ’90s but in 1995 were banned from being used due to significant leaking risk. Most have been replaced or retrofitted with new fittings which are generally an acceptable mitigation method. If the home inspection notes significant plumbing problems then it may be time to have a professional out to provide their opinion.
The hardest thing to inspect when it comes to plumbing issues are the pipes themselves since they are likely under the home. You'll want to be sure to ask your inspector to pay special attention to the plumbing as they are likely going under the house for other reasons and will only report back on the type of plumbing. If anything appears suspicious, it's worth hiring plumbing specialists to review.
Septic tanks and wells are an entirely separate issue and you will want to make sure you have those inspected as well if the home has either of those items!
4. Electrical issues can be very hazardous and so it may be smart to consult with a licensed electrician on anything electrical that has been noted on an inspection report. Older homes, especially those constructed in the 70’s or older, can have faulty, outdated, or out of code wiring and need a whole-house update. Loose outlets and flickering lights are cause for concern and faulty wiring can pose a significant danger to home occupants.
Another common electrical issue that comes up on inspections is a home not having GCFI (ground fault circuit interrupter) outlets installed in areas with water. This includes bathrooms and kitchens. GCFI outlets turn off when wet and are an electrocution safety precaution. Problems at the service panel or box are also common.
One of the things I like lease about electrical issues that are found during a home inspection is that you really don't know the entire story. The issue could be small or the issue could be life-threatening. Electrical issues are nothing to mess with so be sure to have an electrician come in and inspect the electrical issues in question!
5. Heating and Colling System / HVAC
Heating and cooling system issues are common and can be systems not running as efficiently as they should, ductwork incorrectly installed or not properly sealed, or units at the end of their lifespan. Generally, heating and cooling units have a lifespan of 10 to 20 years depending on routine service, maintenance, and other care. An HVAC technician can perform a tune-up to newer systems or can help you price out all new systems. They can also help with sealing ductwork, changing air filters, and assessing efficiency issues. Improperly sealed ductwork can intake dust and debris in the crawlspace or attic and can lead to allergies in the home, sediment in filters, and energy loss.
If you have issues with the HVAC or if it's reaching its average life expectancy it is likely you can work with the seller on replacing the unit which will likely run you $4,000 at the minimum depending on the unit you purchase.
6. Water Damage
Water damage is a serious issue as it can affect all parts of the home and if left unchecked can cause significant repairs to be needed. Water damage can come from roofing problems, plumbing leaks, or poor exterior drainage leading to intrusion. Water can cause structural integrity issues, wood rot, mold growth, and can create an environment that allows termites to thrive. If moisture, standing water, or dripping is seen in the crawlspace it may be advantageous to have a professional who specializes in restoring and remediating water damage out to assess and remedy the cause and quote the cost of the work.
Water damage can be the most expensive of all the major issues a home inspection may turn up because it has the ability to cause so much damage. If you leave for the weekend and come home to a pipe burst you will be looking at tens of thousands in damages and restoration most likely.
Termite Damage can be extensive and expensive depending on how long the pests have been active. When you hire your home inspector you should make sure you also have the home checked for termites because these pests can cause serious problems with the home.
If the home is in a location plagued by termites, it is best to have it under a termite bond with a local pest company where they provide routine and scheduled treatments throughout the year. Conditions that lead to termites taking up residence are moisture and wood elements in contact with the ground. Visual signs of termites can be mud tubes in the crawlspace or, in severe instances, the termites themselves. Since termites eat the wooden structures they can access, treatment and replacing the affected parts can range in severity and cost. The average cost of remediation if they’ve done damage is $3,000. Most termite bonds or treatments cost a few hundred dollars.
Common Home Inspection Questions Answered
In some instances, repairs may be mandated by the lender in order for the loan to close. If this is the case then the repairs must be done prior to closing. Two loan types that have a high lender risk (high loan to value ratio) are FHA and VA loans. These two loan types, therefore, have more stringent inspection requirements.
FHA Loan Inspection Requirements include extra attention to detail when it comes to the safety and health of the homeowner or occupant. The FHA appraiser or inspector will look for potential safety hazards while conducting the appraisal such as structural damage, moisture, termites, adequate heating, and ability of emergency services to access the property if need be.
VA Loan Inspection Requirements include attention to safety hazards as well. The home must have safe access by pedestrian or vehicle, be free from encroachments (neighbor or seller building over property lines), have good drainage and not be in a flood zone, free from wood decay or rot, no signs of moisture, free from or treated for termites, and if the home has lead paint then it must have been acceptably mitigated.
After reviewing the inspection report and consulting with any additional specialists or industry professionals it is time to inform the sellers on any concerns you may have moving forward. Per the Offer to Purchase you are buying the home in an “as-is state” however, most sellers will work with buyers on making reasonable repairs or assisting with the financial burden of issues discovered.
Reasonable request examples after the inspection period would be asking the homeowners to make some repairs, requesting that they provide financial concessions to help pay for a more expensive repair, asking for a price reduction in the number of repair costs. Every home is different and every seller is different so it is best to consult with your real estate agent on the best course of action so that everyone can feel comfortable moving forward.
Home inspections are vital in ensuring you are making a good investment in your home purchase. In the best cases, you are doing research so you can plan for what small repairs or maintenance will be needed once you own the home. In the worst cases, you’ve found out some severe and costly issues and can decide to renegotiate price or repairs or decide to walk away from the purchase and begin the home search again.
What is the cost of a home inspection?
The home inspection should be performed by a reputable local and licensed home inspector. Your real estate agent can often direct you to trustworthy and thorough home inspectors. Most inspectors work from a top to bottom approach and will begin the inspection with the roofing, then head to the interior of the home, and finish the inspection with the crawlspace, basement, or slab. A home inspection typically takes between two to three hours but also depends on the size, condition, and age of the home. The cost of home inspections also depends on the size and age of the home, but generally ranges between $375 - $475. The buyer is responsible for paying for the home inspection unless the seller chooses to conduct a home inspection themselves prior to selling.
Other inspections or tests that are generally offered by home inspection companies are radon testing (average around $150), termite inspection (just under $100), septic (around $400) or well inspections (range between $100 - $200) if applicable. Since mitigation of any issues related to these tests can be costly, it is generally a good idea for homebuyers to consider having them checked out as well. It may sometimes be useful to have specialists out to quote the work that is needed or to provide further professional insight on any issues that arise.
Final Thoughts on Major Home Inspection Issues
Some issues that may come up on the inspection report are structural or foundation issues, roof issues, plumbing issues, electrical issues, heating/cooling system defects, water damage, termite issues. It is important to read through the inspection report in detail to make sure you don’t miss anything of importance to you. Your home inspector can help to explain the action items or things that they recommend fixing, and your real estate agent can highlight the big picture items that you might want to ask the sellers to remedy in some way. Often times repairing these major issues can go towards your homeownership tax breaks. It's always a great idea to communicate with your home inspector and any home inspection specialists you work with throughout the process to be sure the home you're purchasing is a sound investment, one you can be comfortable calling home.
Hi there! I'm Ryan Fitzgerald, a REALTOR in Raleigh-Durham, NC and the owner of Raleigh Realty. Chances are you and I share a similar passion, Real Estate! I also have a passion for building businesses, working out, inspiring others, technology, sports, and people. Connect with me on Facebook and Instagram!