Ways to Prepare for Your Home Inspection

Ways to Prepare for Your Home Inspection

After you’ve fallen in love with your dream home, ratified the contract and contacted your lender, the next vital step in the buying process – for both Sellers and Buyers – is the home inspection.

Having an inspection done is the only way for Sellers and Buyers to know the exact state of the house, and have a general understanding of what to look out for in the way of potential upcoming repairs.

Barring any major renovations needed — such as a new roof, foundation repair or mold removal — your inspection will provide a to-do list of repairs. Not everything needs fixing immediately, so don’t let a long list dampen your spirit.

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For Sellers, this might be difficult as it’s a stark reminder of the issues they might have turned a blind eye to over the years.

And for Buyers, it’s a make or break up moment. If there are obvious signs of deferred maintenance this could represent a potential high-cost situation to bring the home back into condition.

Your home inspector wants the process to yield a comprehensive to-do list and not to unduly stress out either the Seller or Buyer.

Here at Solutions, we recommend forming a team with your home inspector. Knowledge is key and most inspectors are happy to talk as they work and let you know what things to look out for, from what small items to fix, and how, to finding out some basic information about the house like the approximate state of the roof, HVAC system, appliance & water heater info, etc.

It’s a great idea to bring a notepad and pen so you can take notes as you walk around as this is pretty much one of the first times a Buyer is allowed to be in a home and really take a look and kick the tires, so to speak.

Here are some essential things to keep in mind for Sellers and Buyers as they get ready for the inspection.

For Sellers

Move your pets

Pets running underfoot make the job much more difficult. Inspections often require opening exterior doors often, offering pets the opportunity to escape. When you leave the premises for the inspection — take your pets with you.

Don’t forget to clean

Make sure to clean up clutter beforehand. You don’t need to scrub the inside of an oven until it sparkles, but making it easier for an inspector to get to appliances, light switches, faucets and washer/dryers and furnaces in a basement, etc., will improve the entire experience for everyone. If Buyers and Inspectors have to dig through clutter to get to items it will sour the experience.

For Buyers

Prepare yourself: Your potential home will have problems

Your home inspector will likely come up with a seemingly endless list of problems. Don’t panic! Not every issue is critical, and your inspector will know which problems you should tackle first.

Almost anything can be fixed

There are a few starkly frightening home inspection terms that seem to be in everyone’s vocabulary: mold, radon, and asbestos.

Many articles often have warnings about mold or radon. Keep in mind that everything is usually upgradable, fixable, or replaceable. You just need to have a list of what those things are, and that’s what the home inspection will create.

One thing you should worry about is water

Water, however, is one issue that needs to be addressed before a deal closes, or immediately afterwards. Make a note of issues such as puddles and leaky ceilings. And give special attention to the basement. Addressing water problems there can be an expensive and difficult proposition, as a wet basement can be hard to fix.

Look for the following indicators: Moisture stains around the ceiling, walls or windows, worn roof, and water ponding under or by the foundation.

Grade sloping (or draining) back toward the home. This could lead to damp or wet crawlspaces, foundation movement, cracking or settlement. Water wicking up the foundation could lead to rot in the walls, framing members and mold. Some indications of foundation movement include windows that are out of square; interior doors that have large, uneven gaps at the top when the door is closed; or floors visibly out of level. The cost to correct this problem could add up quickly.

Roof gutters and downspouts can sometimes be added to rectify site drainage problems. Structure cracks and separations at the windows can allow water into the wall cavities, which is conducive to mold growth.

Home inspectors can’t predict the future

Buyers often might want to know how many more years the roof will hold up. Your inspector might be able to give you a rough estimate, but they can’t give you a precise timeline – no one can predict a weather related event or a tree falling. An inspector, can, however, tell you if a roof is in good shape.

Roofing materials. As homes age, so does the material covering the roof – and, as it ages, it lends itself to water intrusion and can lead to expensive repairs or even replacement. If roofing material is improperly installed, it can lead to premature aging.

Asphalt shingles have a life expectancy of between 15 and 40 years. Wood shingles and shakes will show similar symptoms as asphalt when aging. Terra cotta, concrete and slate tiles have life expectancies of about 20 to 100+ years, but these materials are very brittle.

Cracking and the signs of aging can be difficult to see from the ground. It will usually take a good pair of binoculars and a solid ladder to get a bird’s eye look at the condition of the roof. Any signs of previous substandard repairs should be a warning sign that water may have been leaking into the property.


Improperly installed and aged surfaces occur frequently as well as poorly installed or missing flashing at transition areas. Repairs may be simple or the entire roof may need to be replaced. Follow up any adverse roofing system findings with an evaluation by a competent roofer.

Electrical wiring. House fires caused by faulty electrical wiring are common. Worn or outdated systems and homeowner additions are the most common defects, especially in older homes. Electrical system problems are safety related and require immediate attention by a licensed electrician.

Stucco issues. Homes with stucco exterior surfaces, when applied correctly, will last a lifetime. However, a major flaw could add up to water in the living space. Water can enter stucco through cracks, around unsealed light fixtures, outlets and the like. The water then hits the house wrap and sheds down to the weep screed and out the building. When concrete patios, stoops or sidewalks have been poured too high and the weep screed is buried, the system cannot work and water may enter the walls and living space. NOTE: the problem is usually with Synthetic Stucco (EIFS).

Inspectors know the age of the house can provide clues as to what items to look for during an inspection:

Built between 1900 and 1950: Knob and tube wiring consists of fuses and fuse boxes, and is considered outdated and inadequate to cover today’s loads.

Built between 1942 and 1958: Orangeberg sewer piping was a sewer line made out of papier mache that connected the house to the main sewer line. This piping was born out of necessity as the military during World War II was using all the iron products for the war effort. If the pipes in the home haven’t failed as of yet, it’s inevitable they will. The cost of repairs will run in the thousands. A video sewer pipe inspection is paramount.

Built between 1984 and 1990: Defective ABS piping made out of recycled plastic was produced by five manufacturers and has a tendency to crack within the glue joints. If ABS pipe is present it’s extremely costly to replace. One of our favorite Inspectors says that this is not seen much anymore and it is used quite a bit in modular and manufactured homes.

Built between 1990 and 2000: A NOX rod consolidated furnace has heat exchangers that will crack and release carbon monoxide into the home and potentially can cause fires. This furnace was used widely during this time period and is on a recall list. A thorough home inspection will detect this type of furnace.

Other issues your inspector will look for:

Heating/cooling system defects. Improper installations, inadequate maintenance and aged components are common.

Plumbing issues. The most common defects are leaking, outdated or problematic systems such as polybutelene – better known as Qest pipe. Repairs can often be made, but on occasion total system replacement is the only solution.

Inadequate insulation and ventilation in attic. Poor insulation and poor ventilation cause excessive utility costs and lack of occupant comfort. Cut and broken trusses are often seen in attic cavities and on occasion we also see structural components missing. While such repairs are needed, this is rarely an imminent safety hazard.

Inspection for moisture conditions may require air quality testing (This would be a separate inspection). This process will detect if there are any mold spores in the air. The presence of toxic molds can be extremely hazardous to a person’s health and could be costly to correct.

Find the balance It’s easy to forget your love for the home when you’re counting the dollar signs and hours you might have to spend on repairs. But just remember to take a deep breath, think rationally, and consider whether it’s a smart investment in the future.

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Charles McDonaldBy Charles McDonald - Charles, and his firm, Charlottesville Solutions, are known locally and around the world for helping people relocate to the Charlottesville area. His background (running his own engineering firm for 20+ years in the Silicon Valley) has given him the skills to not only develop this site but also to manage a stellar group of agents!
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