A home inspection is one of the most important steps when buying a home. Let’s get that fact out of the way.
A home inspection’s main purpose is to educate you and help you make an informed decision about your potential future home.
Understanding the Home Inspection
Many home shoppers think a home inspection:
- Finds every single problem a home has
- Always has deal breakers or massive issues
- Gives you a specialized assessment of major systems of the home
Neither of these is the case. The reality is:
- All homes have hundreds of small issues – it’s impossible to catch them all in 2 hours
- It’s rare to have major deal-breakers – most items in a home inspection report can be worked out with the seller
- Home inspectors are generalists – HVAC, plumbing and electrical and complex trades that require their own expertise
As a homebuyer you should view the home inspection as a visual analysis of a home and its current condition. A home inspector’s main job is to evaluate the home’s physical structure and mechanical systems & components.
The goal is to educate you on the condition of major systems of the home and minor issues to plan for once you move in.
What is not the goal of a home inspection…
- Your home inspector’s job is not to give their opinion on whether or not you should buy the home.
- There is no “passing” or “failing” a home inspection.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff like scuffed baseboards or holes left from a mounted tv.
- Your home inspector should not guide you on what to ask the seller to fix or pay for. Or how much in concessions to ask for from the seller. That is your real estate agent’s job.
What to Expect on Cost
Home inspections are the best money spent within a real estate transaction. They are a flat out bargain for the knowledge you get.
The national average is around $370 for just a standard home inspection. Larger cities this will be higher and smaller towns this could be lower.
You’ll want to make sure not to skimp on additional services if you’re in certain regions or have special concerns. These add-on inspection types include:
- Insurance (certain states like Florida require insurance inspections)
- Air quality
- Water quality
This is a large investment. This is not the area to find the low cost provider – this is very much a “you get what you pay for” type of service.
Shop around and save money on title insurance, your mortgage and other closing costs.
How to Find a Home Inspector
Your real estate agent will most likely have a recommendation or two. These are typically home inspectors they’ve worked with in the past.
Some states they are required to give you 3 companies.
We always recommend you do your due diligence on Realtor recommendations. You should Google each company name and look for:
- 4/5 star reviews on Google, Spectora, HomeAdvisor or Facebook
- A modern website with a link to a sample report
- Info on their site that displays their knowledge
These 3 elements will tell you if they are truly active in the business and will be a valuable resource. (Many home inspectors do a few here and there – you want someone who is full-time and their online presence typically reflects that)
Tips for Home Inspection Day
Your home inspector will likely meet you out front prior to the inspection or ask you to join for the last part of it.
Let your home inspector know ahead of time if you have particular concerns that you noticed when viewing the home.
You’ll also want to refrain from following your home inspector around asking questions at every turn.
This not only slows them down, but could distract them from doing the best job they can finding issues!
What is Covered in a Home Inspection?
What’s covered in a typical home inspection could vary by state but in general your home inspector will assess the following major areas:
- Some inspectors start with the roof of the home
- This includes the roof coverings (type & condition of shingles), gutters, downspouts, vents, flashings, skylights, chimney and other roof penetrations.
- One of the first things that an inspector does is inspect the exterior structure of the home.
- Including – siding, eaves, soffits, fascia, windows, doors, trim, walkways, driveways, porches, decks and drainage.
- Any other basic structural elements of the house, to ensure that they are free of major issues.
- Basement, Foundation, Crawlspace & Structure
- An important part of the home inspection covers the foundation, basement and crawlspace.
- The important part here is differentiating major structural signs versus typical settling and hairline cracks.
- Understanding the functionality and location of the main water and fuel shut-offs is very important.
- You’ll also learn about your water heater, operation of toilets, sinks, tubs, showers, drain, waste & vent systems, and sump pumps.
- Another critical area that includes service drops, conductors, mast, electrical meter and panels, grounding and bonding, testing a representative number of switches, lighting fixtures and receptacles (AFCI & GFCI).
- The presence of smoke, carbon-monoxide detectors, and electrical systems will be checked too.
- Fuse boxes and circuit breakers are tested, as are light switches, power outlets, and other electrical systems.
- Heating/Cooling Elements
- The inspector will inspect the heating and cooling systems.
- They do this by using normal operating controls and describe the location of the thermostat, energy source and heating/cooling method.
- If applicable, the inspector will check readily accessible portions of fireplaces & chimneys, lintels, damper doors, and clean out doors and frames.
- Attic, Insulation & Ventilation
- Making sure the home has sufficient insulation and ventilation can save problems down the road.
- Doors, Windows & Interior
- Checking a representative number of doors and windows, floors, walls and ceilings, stairways, railings, and the garage door and openers is all important since it’s the areas where you’ll spend the most time!
Verbal Summary & Written Report
At the end of the inspection, your inspector will give you a general overview of their findings as a verbal summary, or show you visually on their phone/tablet.
They will summarize major issues and other areas of concern. This is your time to ask questions so don’t hold back!
After the verbal summary, a complete home inspection report will be finalized by the home inspector, and sent to you.
This report will have an extensive overview of each section of the home, and will include high-quality photos, videos, notes, & other general information.
What Does a Home Inspection Report Look Like?
In this day and age your home inspector should be delivering you a web-based home inspection report.
This report should include high-def images and maybe even videos.
You can find most home inspector’s sample reports on their website.
Final Steps After Your Home Inspection
With a solid understanding of what to expect, you can focus on the next step of the transaction – negotiating with the seller on what fixes they’ll perform. Or getting “concessions” to lower your purchase price!
Review your home inspection report with your agent to determine what issues you want to ask them to repair or how much is reasonable to ask for.
A home inspection is not to be feared. It’s a valuable time to learn about the home you’re about to invest in.
The inspection gives you insight that helps you and your agent make informed decisions.
The report also sets your expectations for what homeownership is all about – gradually improving your house to make it a home!