Sometimes it can be tough in a real estate transaction to see things from a few different sides. As a buyer or seller, this isn’t really your job. You’re focused on you: getting a house is a pretty big deal. But as an agent, I think it can be helpful for buyers and sellers to look at things from each other’s perspectives, because at the end of the day, we are working together! And, at some point (maybe even during the same time frame), buyers will be sellers and sellers will be buyers. 

Certainly, the circumstances of any particular transaction will come into play and affect how much the buyers care (or do not care) about the seller’s point of view, but let’s suspend that for now and focus our attention on the home inspection from the buyer’s perspective. 

If you missed the home inspection from the seller’s perspective, you can catch up on that article here.

Ok buyer, you’re excited. You’ve been shopping for houses for weeks, or months (or years!), and you’ve finally got one under contract. You’re supposed to close on this thing in a month and you’ve got a few big hurdles to get over. The biggest and scariest one is usually the home inspection. 

Unless you’re buying new construction, it’s important to remember that you’re not buying a new house. Sellers are under no obligation to hand their house over to you in shipshape, and deferred maintenance can be a big motivator for sellers to sell. They are (in most cases) obligated to disclose to you only what they know about the house since they have owned it.

Woman floating with a brown umbrella because she's excited about her offer being accepted. Background is yellow wall of boards.

I always advise buyers to take a seller’s disclosure with a grain of salt. While I believe that most sellers are not maliciously trying to hide things from buyers, I understand the limitations of the human memory. Most of us have a hard time remembering what we had for dinner a few weeks ago, let alone something that may or may not have happened in our house a few years ago. Further, once a person has owned a house for a while, things that seem like a big issue for buyers might not be viewed as a big deal to the sellers because they have been living with it like that for years and hardly notice!

Man in Hawaiian shirt and floppy hat and sunglasses leaning forward looking excited

Pro tip: Don’t just hire any “handy dad” to do your home inspection.

In Minnesota, home inspection is not a licensed trade, meaning there is no regulating body who holds inspection and education standards. This means that you or I could pop up shop and become inspectors ourselves. It also means that your retired contractor uncle or your dad who is ‘really handy’ could be your home inspector. While you might be tempted to save a few bucks on the inspection, you will want to make sure you’re working with a trustworthy inspector who has a lot of experience inspecting houses like you’re buying.

Another important thing to consider is the building code. In every house, we have a number of systems that are managed by different licenses and code standards. You’ve got an electrical system, plumbing system, HVAC system, a structural system and thermal barriers, you’ve got windows and doors and appliances, and frankly one human cannot keep up on code standards for each category, nor should they. Many people believe that a house needs to be kept ‘up to code’ when in actuality most codes only require bringing areas up to code when a major renovation in that area is undertaken.

The value in a home inspection from a buyer’s perspective is: 

  • having someone who is reasonably knowledgeable give your house a once over and raise some flags for items that may be at the end of their serviceable life. 
  • to draw attention to items that are actually broken or failing.
  • to put together a list of items that should be paid attention to during your ownership to protect your investment in your house and maintain a healthy and safe living space for you to enjoy. 

It’s your job to take those flags and ask questions of professionals in that field to gain an understanding of what might be required to repair or replace that item. Do not expect your home inspector to be an expert in all areas of household systems or building code.

Every home inspection report reads like a laundry list and can start to feel like it’s draining your bank account before you even get to the bottom of it.

I think it’s important to review each item on the list in detail and determine which items are likely to pose health or safety risks, and which are the biggest ticket and/or most concerning items to you as a buyer and person who will be living in this house. 

You’re probably beginning to feel a bit overwhelmed with this list and questioning if homeownership is even for you. You want to ask the seller to fix every last thing or drop the price by 50k so you’ll have money to work on this list.

woman with nail polish holding home inspection repair checklist

Remember, a seller does not have to negotiate with you post-inspection.

Depending on the terms of your purchase agreement, you may have the right to negotiate post-inspection. I always advise buyers to make their offers with the understanding that even though you can ask for repairs or concessions after the inspection, you may not receive them. It can be helpful to think of any concessions you receive as a bonus, not an entitlement, and use your inspection as a pass/fail test in your mind. 

To be clear, this doesn’t mean that we won’t try to negotiate repair items or financial concessions, it just means that it’s not a given, and you should strongly consider whether you’d still move forward if the seller decides they cannot accommodate your requests. This puts you in the strongest position to negotiate.

Here are some big ticket items that you should consider having inspected carefully. (These are not in any particular order of importance.)

        • The roof
        • The windows
        • The sewer line or septic system
        • The structure 
        • The HVAC system (Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning)
        • The electrical system
        • The plumbing system
        • The major appliances
        • Any areas where water intrusion is possible
        • Radon mitigation
        • Mold remediation

Here are some common items that are flagged on home inspections that you could take notice of during your showings:

        • What is the grading around the house? Does the landscaping slope away from the house on all sides or does it encourage water to flow back toward the house? 
        • Is the exterior of the house made from materials that can rot like wood or masonite, and if so, can you see any areas that appear to be rotting (especially window sills and places where water might up-splash)
        • Is there evidence of water intrusion on ceilings, around windows, or in the basement? 
        • Are any concrete steps or slabs cracked, heaved, or settled in a way that probably requires replacing? 
        • How much dirt/dust/spidey webs have gathered on major mechanicals? (This isn’t a direct indicator of anything other than dirtiness, but sometimes tips you off on how frequently these items are being attended to. If they are clean, it’s likely your seller is someone who does regular maintenance of some kind. If you can’t even see the stickers for so much dust build up, it probably hasn’t been cared for on a consistent basis.) 
        • Is your roof an architectural or 3 tab shingle {Can you insert a little pic here?} There is nothing inherently bad about a 3 tab shingle, but in the early 2000’s people started replacing with architectural, so seeing a 3 tab shingle might tip you off that your roof is over 20 years old and likely nearing the end of it’s serviceable life. Shingles being architectural doesn’t mean they are necessarily in good condition. This is just a quick check.
        • Are there any weird smells that aren’t normal cooking or life smells? Excessive use of air fresheners might be covering up a musty odor that could tip you off to water intrusion somewhere. 
        • Is the house a comfortable temperature during your showing? 
        • What do any exposed structural members of the house look like (foundation walls cracked or bowing? Floor trusses looking good or sagging?)

This is by no means an exhaustive list, and your showings are not meant to be a full home inspection, but directing your observations during your showings past the obvious aesthetic appeal and layout of a house, and toward some of the functional items that will become your problem when you close on this house can save you from surprises and let down further in the home buying process.

Once you’ve got your report and have had a chance to review it and get more information from experts and professionals who know, it’s time to put a list together of the most important or concerning items.

Your agent will help you decide if it’s better to have the sellers do the work, or seek financial concessions (or other creative solutions) and begin negotiations.

This is another place where it can be helpful to put yourself in the seller’s shoes. What are they most likely to agree to? What items might they have been unaware of that they’d need to disclose to any future buyers should you cancel your purchase agreement? What items might be an easy win for them to repair or replace? What items might the seller’s insurance cover the repair or replacement of that they could have taken care of before closing? This can be a particularly intense moment in your purchase, so be sure to look at things from both a detailed and big picture perspective. Is a $500 repair a big deal in the grand scheme of your homeownership? Likely not. Does a $2000 seller contribution to your closing costs put real money in your pocket to make repairs as soon as you close? Absolutely. 

The home inspection can be a VERY important part of your real estate purchase.

If you keep your emotions grounded here, and use that inspection report as a punch list of items to work on during your ownership, your home inspection when you are ready to sell should be easy peasy!

Want to learn more about the house buying & selling process?


Knowledge is power, and knowing what to expect can help you avoid some sour surprises. This guide outlines and simplifies the entire house-buying process, from beginning to end!

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