12 Things Home Inspectors Often Overlook

Home inspectors only perform visual inspections, so they may miss some expensive problems.
Last updated July 29, 2022 | By Kat Tretina | Edited By Rebecca McCracken
inspector checking the building structure

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The housing market is still booming. Existing home sales rose 7% in September from August, with the median home price climbing to $353,800.

No matter if you’re a first-time homebuyer or a seasoned pro, if you plan to make an offer on a house, a home inspection always plays a big role in the process. A home inspector can identify costly issues before the deal is finalized, helping you make an informed decision — or negotiate the sales price.

However, there are limitations to what a home inspector can find. These are 12 of the most commonly overlooked issues.

Roof leaks

ronstik/Adobe woman holding bucket while water leaking from ceiling in kitchen

Home inspectors typically don’t climb on the roof of the house; instead, they’ll do a visual inspection from the ground. That means they likely won’t catch issues like leaks or holes caused by raccoons or squirrels which can be incredibly expensive to fix. If a damaged roof isn’t repaired quickly, water can enter the home, and, if left long enough, it can even ruin property inside the house.

You can hire a specialized roofing contractor to examine the roof to ensure it’s in good condition before making an offer on the home. On average, a roof inspection costs $216, which is significantly less than the typical cost of repairing or replacing a roof.

HVAC problems

New Africa/Adobe Young man fixing air conditioner at home

The home inspector likely won’t play with the heating or air conditioning unit very much out of worries about being liable for any damage to it. They’ll typically run it briefly to ensure it works, but they don’t evaluate the system’s efficacy or if it’s at risk of breaking; they only do a visual inspection. If you buy the home, you may find that the system breaks soon after you move in due to a lack of maintenance.

An HVAC specialist can examine the unit and tell you what maintenance it needs — or whether it needs to be replaced. An HVAC inspection costs $300, on average. Considering that a new air conditioning system can cost over $5,000 on average, it’s well worth the added expense, especially if you’re buying a second home or investing in a rental property.

Septic tanks

kaliantye/Adobe Emptying household septic tank.

If you’ve never dealt with septic tanks before, you may not realize how much maintenance they require — or how horrible it can be if the septic system breaks. Your general home inspector will perform a visual inspection, flush all of the home’s toilets, run the water, and check the tank’s drain field to make sure there’s no standing water. But that’s as far as the inspection goes.

If you’re looking at a home with a septic tank, it’s wise to request an inspection and assessment of the tank from a state-licensed septic tank plumber or contractor. The evaluator will look for cracks, leaks, and other defects, as well as drainage issues and the condition of the pump and alarms.

A septic tank inspection costs between $250 and $500. Considering that a new septic tank costs, on average, $6,677, it’s a smart investment.

Defective appliances

stokkete/Adobe Broken washing machine leaking on the floor

When a home inspector examines a home, they do a cursory check of some — but not all — appliances. They ensure that the refrigerator, washer, dryer, dishwasher, and stove all work, but they only look for major issues, like not turning on, smoke, or leaks. As you tour the home, you can ask to try out each appliance yourself to see if they work.

If you’re planning on replacing the appliances anyway, defective appliances may not be a dealbreaker, but it’s a good idea to know ahead of time so you can budget for new appliances. The average cost of new appliances — including a refrigerator, range, washing machine and dryer — is $10,875.

Pools

A. Solano/Adboe empty swimming pool with rusty stairs and tile floor

A home inspector will turn on the pool’s pump or heater to make sure they work. However, they don’t evaluate any cracks or dings in the pool, nor can they tell how if there are underlying issues with the pump.

A professional pool inspector can run pressure tests for plumbing leaks, evaluate the existing pumps and heaters, and look for potential issues. On average, a new pool pump costs $1,100, while pool resurfacing costs $6,500, so an inspection can be a good investment.

Lead paint

Jamie Hooper/Adobe Lead Paint Hazard

Lead-based paints used to be common in homes, but they were banned for residential use in 1978 as children could become poisoned from inhaling flakes and dust from the paint.

Sellers are required to tell you if there is lead paint in the home, but they are not required to test for it; if they don’t know, they don’t have to test it before selling.

A visual inspection from a home inspector won’t tell you if the paint is lead-based or not. However, sellers are required to include a 10-day period in the contract to give you time to test for lead. You’ll need to hire a certified inspection or risk assessment firm to inspect the home. On average, a lead paint inspection costs $317.

If lead paint is used throughout the home, it can cost $15,000 to $25,000 to remove it. And, because lead paint must be disclosed to prospective buyers, it can affect the resale ability of the home.

Drains

Andrey Popov/Adobe Woman Using Plunger In Blocked Kitchen Sink

Home inspectors will examine drains in the home and run water through them to ensure they work correctly. However, they usually only run the water for five to 10 minutes — not enough time for major problems to be revealed. Damage or obstruction to the sewer line can cost $5,000 to $10,000 to repair, so it’s smart to get a specialist out to evaluate the drains.

Grading issues

Robert Kneschke/Adobe Flooded basement

If the house isn’t graded properly, water will pool around it rather than away from it. Over time, that can cause leaks in the basement or crawl spaces as well as mold. But if it’s in the middle of the dry season, there may be no sign of water or leaks, and the inspector may overlook grading issues.

Talk to your realtor about the location and if they see issues in similar homes. In some cases, it may be worth bringing in an expert to evaluate water levels in the soil around the home.

Flooring issues

leomalsam/Adobe worker installing new vinyl tile floor

Home inspectors will check the floors for any obvious signs of wear or tear and damage. They will look for swelling or sloping that may indicate water damage or incorrect installation. However, they don’t usually evaluate the padding underneath the floor or squeakiness.

You may find after moving in that the padding is paper-thin — or nonexistent — so you hear every step above you. Before you buy, make sure you listen to people walking upstairs and throughout the home to make sure you can live with the noise.

Chimney issues

ronstik/Adobe worker on the roof installing tin cap on the brick chimney

A home inspection will tell you whether the chimney has obvious damage. However, it’s solely a visual inspection. If you’re buying a home with a chimney — especially if it’s older — getting an actual chimney inspection from a specialist can be a wise investment.

A chimney specialist will inspect external and internal sections of the chimney and fireplace to evaluate their condition.

Internal leaks

and.one/Adobe Woman looking at damage after a water pipe leak

Unfortunately, internal leaks are easy to miss. The home inspector can only report what they see during their evaluation; if the home has been unused and water hasn’t been running, there may be no obvious signs of leaks. When buying a home, getting a plumbing inspection done can be a good idea and catch any major issues with the plumbing or pipes.

Mold and mildew

Andrey Popov/Adobe Shocked Woman Looking At Mold On Wall

Home inspectors will look for mold or mildew during their evaluation, but not all mold or mildew issues are visually obvious. If a home is in a humid climate, has a history of water damage, or is an older home, consider having testing done for mold with a moisture meter and humidity gauge. Mold removal can cost as much as $6,000, so it’s important to catch it early.

Bottom line

F/Adobe inspector checking the building structure

It’s easy to get caught up in the idea of a dream home. In a hot housing market, it can be tempting to waive the inspection contingency, but that can be one of the most costly mistakes a homeowner can make. If possible, make sure that a home inspection is part of your contract. If you have concerns about specific details of the home, like its HVAC or septic systems, also request to have specialists come in to examine those issues. Spending a little more upfront can end up saving you thousands in unexpected repairs later on.

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Author Details

Kat Tretina Kat Tretina is a freelance writer based in Orlando, Florida. Her work has been published by publications like The Huffington Post, Entrepreneur, MarketWatch, and more. She specializes in producing content around paying down debt, increasing income, and maximizing credit cards. You can view her work at www.KTretina.com, or contact her on Twitter @KatTretina.