Home Inspections: What Are the Most Common Problems Discovered?

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Home repairs (Photo: @5byseven via Twenty20)
If you’re buying a house, you might be hoping to close a deal quickly. It feels neat and tidy to buy a house without conditions, but that’s seldom a good plan. There could be problems with the home that neither you nor the homeowner are aware of. A home inspection is nothing short of due diligence.
Not convinced you need a home inspector to take a look before you fully commit to buying the house? Here are seven common issues found during home inspections.

1. Cracks in the foundation

A house with a cracked foundation is like a chair with only three good legs. If it isn’t properly supported, there can be sagging in an area of the house, not to mention water can seep into the basement or crawlspace through the crack.
Horizontal cracks are telling a story about a shifting house and, although a vertical crack is still a problem, horizontal cracks are a more dangerous concern.

2. Electrical gremlins

Wires not stapled or sheathed to code. Switches that don’t appear to do anything. Bare wires or outlets that trip immediately. Mysterious unlabeled breakers on the panel. Electrical concerns are among the most common issues for home inspectors because any home handyperson can grab supplies at a hardware store and try their luck.
However, electrical issues should be a larger concern than just a mystery. Ungrounded outlets or poor connections can spark a fire. Electrical work not done to code can be a serious safety hazard, not just an inconvenience.

3. Substandard plumbing work

A home inspection will include a visual check of plumbing systems, and there are problems that can come up consistently in houses. One issue is improper grading for drains or pipes that don’t have the P-trap. Another is slow-moving drains that could be due to tree roots plugging the sewer main.
A sewer main takes a professional to unclog, but substandard plumbing is a bigger concern since most plumbing is behind walls and out of sight. If there are exposed issues, what does that mean for all the pipes hidden in the drywall?

4. Water damage or mold

In older homes in wetter areas especially, it’s quite common to find mold or mildew on the concrete in basement corners. What’s worse is when there is mold or water stains on a ceiling or in a corner above grade. Water damage is bad news.
Any water stains (aside from an obvious spill, of course) indicate water filtration that could pose a health risk to the buyer if mold is forming. And you’ll also need to find out where the water is coming from, should you buy the house.

5. Insufficient weatherproofing and insulation

It’s common for insulation to be less than ideal, robbing the house of the comfort you’re trying to achieve. That’s noticeable especially in corners, but also when the inspector pops his head in the attic to see how much insulation there is.
Poor insulation is hard to correct without significant renovation work afterward since walls need to be opened up. It could be quite costly to correct, and utility bills could be quite high in the meantime.

6. Damaged or weathered shingles

The average roof with asphalt shingles lasts 20 to 25 years, on average. The home inspection will involve a look at the shingles: whether the edges are curling, if they’re lifting, or if there are shingles loose or missing. A few broken shingles isn’t a big deal. But if you have to replace all the shingles or sheeting on the whole roof is sagging, it could mean a repair bill of $5,000 to $15,000 right off the hop.

7. Aging utilities

Commonly, homes over 10 years of age will need a furnace, air conditioner, hot water tank, or major appliance replaced. It’s a fair assessment to expect at least one of them to be near or beyond its expected lifespan. A good home inspector will check the age and condition of these utilities to give you an idea how long it will be until they need to be replaced.