Contractor going over home repairs with home owner.

Contractor going over home repairs with home owner. (Getty Images)

If you’re like millions of people who will move into a new home this year, chances are the home you move into won’t be a new one. According to data from the National Association of Realtors, in 2016, approximately 700,000 of the 6.1 million homes sold were new. That means nearly 90 percent of homebuyers moved into a home that someone else had already lived in, and as a result, may be taking on problems that they didn’t know about.

A good way for homebuyers to be aware of potential problems with a home – and gauge the potential costs – is to have a home inspection. A home inspection by a certified professional provides a bit of assurance regarding the home’s quality and the effectiveness of its key systems like air conditioning, heating, roof and more.

[See: The Best Apps for House Hunting.]

Having a home inspection in hand provides you with an estimate of what may need to be repaired or replaced, enables you to prioritize those items and creates the opportunity to budget for those future costs.

According to the American Society of Home Inspectors, a home inspector checks a host of things, including the roof, foundation, electrical systems, interior walls, doors and major systems in the home, such as plumbing, heating and cooling. However, the extent of these inspections and the training for inspectors varies by state. Here are a five home inspection items that you'll want to gather more information about, and likely plan a home maintenance budget for replacements and repairs.

Roofing. In most states, a roof inspection takes place from the ground or with a ladder, without an inspector ever walking the roof. This type of inspection can miss signs of wear that could lead to high replacement costs in the future. Asking the seller when the roof was last replaced is one solution, but damage can occur during a roof’s usable life. Hiring a home inspector who also does full roof inspections may be a good option.

[See: Your Moving Checklist: Don't Let These Details Slip Through the Cracks.]

Heating and air conditioning. Inspectors also check the heating and air conditioning systems, but while the inspector may report that they are working properly, it’s important for you to ask about their usable life. The systems may be near the end of their average life span and may need to be replaced in a few years or less, a potential cost that you should know and plan for up front.

Still, knowing if the heating and cooling systems are working does not tell you much about their efficiency or the home’s overall energy efficiency. A home energy audit answers those questions. A home energy audit frequently takes place after a home is purchased, but some home inspectors are qualified to perform a the efficiency check as well. When arranging for a home inspection, asking if the company also offers home energy audits can save time and money.

Water heaters. A similar situation frequently occurs with water heaters. An inspector will test the water temperature and report back that the appliance is working fine. However, an older appliance that’s working one day could malfunction the next. It could save you money if you know how old the water heater is and what replacement options there are could be down the road.

Windows. Along the same lines, an inspector will examine the windows of a home to see if they are in good working order, but especially when buying an older home, the windows may be original and not the most energy efficient. Factor in replacement costs and make a budget for future replacements.

Wood-burning fireplace and chimney. Most home inspectors are not certified to inspect a fireplace and chimney. If you’re buying a home with a working fireplace, it’s important to retain the services of a professional. A list of certified professionals can be found at the Chimney Safety Institute of America.

[See: 11 Popular Home Updates That Are Worth the Cost.]

Buying a home can be complicated – from the array of mortgage products to choose from to being sure as possible that you’re buying a house that won’t drain your finances. Working with the right team of professionals – housing counselors, real estate agents and inspectors – and asking the right questions along each step of the way will help ensure long-term homeownership success.

Tags: real estate, housing market, new home sales, existing home sales, pending home sales, home improvements


Marietta Rodriguez , vice president, National Homeownership Programs, leads NeighborWorks America's efforts to increase homeownership among low- and middle-income households. Under her leadership, over the last four years the organization and its affiliated network of nonprofits around the United States have helped more than 75,000 families become homeowners. Rodriguez has worked to promote homeownership at NeighborWorks America for more than 15 years.

Recommended Articles

How Much Does It Cost to Sell Your Home?

Dima Williams | May 20, 2019

From the real estate commission to taxes, a slate of costs accompanies the sale of a property.

The Most Desirable Places to Live

Devon Thorsby | May 17, 2019

Check out where U.S. residents would live if they could.

How to Finish a Basement

Devon Thorsby | May 15, 2019

Before you dive into a massive construction project, know the cost and process involved when finishing a basement.

10 Affordable Spring Renovation Projects

Andrea Woroch | May 14, 2019

Transform your space without overspending on a home renovation.

Deal Breakers to Spot Before Moving

Wendy Arriz | May 14, 2019

Before deciding on your next home, consider the sights, smells and sounds around a house or neighborhood that can become a problem later on.

Apps for Finding Your Next Apartment

Devon Thorsby | May 10, 2019

These apartment for rent apps can help you find a place, submit an application and even pay your rent.

Selling Your Home in Spring and Summer

Devon Thorsby | May 8, 2019

Prepare to put your home on the market during the hottest selling seasons.

How to Decide Where to Live

Lisa Larson | May 8, 2019

For college graduates deciding where to move next, keep these key details in mind.

How Much Down Payment Do You Really Need These Days?

Teresa Mears | May 3, 2019

Conventional wisdom says 20%, but you can buy your first home with much less down.

The Best Places to Live for Allergies

Devon Thorsby | May 1, 2019

Consider these spots for your next hometown if you're fed up with seasonal allergies.

Popular Home Updates Worth the Money

Devon Thorsby | April 26, 2019

With a few tweaks to your home, you can save money and get more back when it comes time to sell.

Considerations When Renting Out a Room

Geoff Williams | April 26, 2019

Before renting a spare room, discuss pets and parking to ensure a prospective tenant is a good fit.

The Best Places to Live for the Weather

Devon Thorsby | April 24, 2019

Where would you move to enjoy blue skies and sunshine year-round?

What to Consider Before Signing a Lease

Geoff Williams | April 23, 2019

Before you commit to signing a lease, consider these expert-backed tips.

Best Places to Live for Quality of Life

Devon Thorsby | April 19, 2019

These metro areas offer the best education, access to health services and crime rates.

Why Spring Is the Perfect Time to Sell

Devon Thorsby | April 17, 2019

Spring is here and interest rates are low – it's a great time to make the most of eager buyers.

Home Selling: Real Estate Team vs. Agent

Dima Williams | April 17, 2019

Solo agents are an industry standard, but teams offer a novel alternative. Here's what sets the two arrangements apart.  

The Priciest Repairs for Homebuyers

Lisa Larson | April 16, 2019

Avoid the repairs that will cost you the most before you move in with a sharp eye and the right inspections.

The Best Places to Live in New York

Devon Thorsby | April 12, 2019

Find out where in the Empire State you'll find the best opportunities.

What’s Dragging Down Your Home's Value?

Devon Thorsby | April 10, 2019

Find out why your home isn't worth as much as you think.