Home Inspection: Everything You Need To Know

Dated: November 12 2021

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Home Inspection: Everything You Need To Know


Home inspectors are supposed to be detail-oriented and deliver a professional assessment of a home’s weak points. Having a neutral third party can help you identify problem areas that the untrained eye might miss, and knowing what kind of home you’re walking into can help you become a more informed home buyer.   Think of the home inspection as a way to know what you are inheriting when you sign on the dotted line.

What Is A Home Inspection?

A home inspection is a visual assessment of a property to determine the current state of its structure and mechanics. Think of a home inspection as an annual check-up at the doctor’s – you want to make sure that everything is working properly and identify any weak points that could become an issue down the line.

A certified home inspector is trained to look for specific issues and report their professional opinion on your home’s status. As the home buyer, you’ll be able to look over the report and get a clearer picture of future costs and upkeep before making the commitment to closing on a home.

In fact, the information that a home inspection provides buyers can be so influential that the home inspection contingency is a staple of most home offer and purchase agreements. A home inspection contingency gives the buyer the contractual power to renegotiate prices or back out of a sale without losing their deposit or earnest money, should the inspector uncover any issues.

The actual home inspection process is a detailed walk-through of the property where the inspector will put together their report. A home inspector’s report should identify and highlight visible problems, necessary repairs and potential risks, with faulty structural or electrical issues among some things that would fail a home inspection.

Bear in mind that a good home inspection doesn’t guarantee that a property won’t ever run into roadblocks. The main purpose of an inspection is simply to inform the buyer about the property and help them prepare for the financial commitment before finalizing a sale.

What Happens During A Home Inspection?

Although it can be a lengthy process, it’s a good idea to be present during a home inspection so that you can ask questions and gain more insight on the condition of the home you’re buying.

During a home inspection, you will walk through the property with a certified home inspector who will be examining different areas while taking notes or photos for their report. A qualified home inspector will be able to answer any of your questions or concerns openly and honestly.

They’re there to provide you with an unbiased, expert perspective on the severity of any damage or issues so that you can determine which problems will or will not impact your home purchase.

When inspectors complete their evaluation, they’ll send you their detailed report outlining the condition of the home you are selling or buying, along with any recommendations for repairs. A report will also state whether certain appliances – such as a home’s furnace or AC unit – are nearing the end of their lives.

The inspection will make you aware of any potential problems now, so they don’t take you by surprise and become bigger, costlier issues in the future.

What Does A Home Inspector Look At?

Assessing an entire property from head to toe can seem overwhelming, but home inspectors are trained to look for specific red flags and problem areas. Here are some things that home inspectors do look for during an inspection:

  • Physical structures: This includes looking for weak spots in driveways, garage flooring, roofing and attic spaces and determining whether there are foundation issues.
  • Interior structures: When looking at a home’s interior structures, an inspector will usually look for signs of water damage or moisture, in addition to assessing the general condition of the flooring, walls, doors and windows of a home.
  • Major systems: This covers the functionality of how a home will run: things like the water flow of the faucets, cold and hot water output, plumbing, and the age and condition of appliances will be tested during a home inspection.
  • Utilities: As a part of the major systems check, your home inspector will assess and give you a detailed report on the quality of electrical lines in the home as well as the gas service.

A good home inspector will catch things you might not notice and is able to give you warning about potential problems that may arise. But even the best home inspector doesn’t cover every potential problem within a home. Here are some things that home inspectors do not look for during a home inspection: 

If you suspect that a home you’re buying or selling may have any of these problems, it’s best to contact a specialist and set up an appointment or consultation with an expert as soon as possible.   

What Should You Look For When Choosing A Home Inspector?

With so many options, it can seem overwhelming to figure out what home inspection company to work with going forward. But like you would with any other big purchase, trust those around you and start by asking friends and family if they have any recommendations.

A company’s online reputation can also be immensely helpful when deciding who you want to work with. Remember, you want to find an inspector who is going to give you a complete and honest assessment of the home, so take your time finding the right person.

Here are some questions you can ask a home inspector if you’re on the fence about hiring them: 

  • What does your home inspection report cover?
  • How long have you been practicing?
  • Do you offer to do repairs based on the inspection?
  • How long will your home inspection take?
  • How much does your home inspection cost?
  • What type of report do you provide?
  • When will I receive the final inspection report?

Should You Ever Skip The Home Inspection?

Regardless of whether you’re buying or selling a home, you should never skip the home inspection. The inspection is a crucial step in the home buying process that if missed, could have some serious and expensive repercussions in the future.

Purchasing a home is the biggest investment most buyers make in their lifetime, which is why giving up the valuable information a home inspection provides seems downright silly. If you’re anything like me, you wouldn’t make a small purchase without skimming some reviews first to ensure you’re getting the most bang for your buck.

Think of a home inspection as an unbiased product review of your future home. And remember, even if a house looks like it’s in perfect shape, you never know what serious problems could be lurking under the surface.

Sellers, if you’re thinking you can skip out on the home inspection and save a few bucks, think again. Even if you’re selling, a home inspection can save you time and money, too. You can uncover any serious problems and fix them before listing your home to avoid any drawn-out negotiations or lowball offers. And selling a home that runs smoothly can expedite the sales process down the road.

FAQ: Your Questions On Home Inspections, Answered

How much does a home inspection cost?

The national average cost of a home inspection is $330, but that figure will vary depending on the home and the area. For a professional home inspection, you can expect to pay anywhere from $200 to as much as $600 and up.

Though it may seem pricey, remember that a good inspection report can save you thousands of dollars in repair costs or even prevent you from making a poor purchase. 

Who pays for a home inspection?

As a home buyer, it’s best to hire and pay for a home inspector’s services yourself rather than have the seller foot the bill. This ensures that the inspector is accountable to you and will give you the unfiltered truth about a home’s conditions and shortcomings. 

How long does a home inspection take? 

Although it depends on the size and age of the home, most home inspections will take 2 – 3 hours, depending on the size of the house. The written report, which will allow home buyers to see any damage and request repairs to the seller, is usually completed 24 – 48 hours after the physical inspection and walk-through, varying depending on the inspector you choose to work with.

The Bottom Line: Home Inspections Are An Important Part Of The Home Buying Process

The home inspection process may feel like just another to-do in the whirlwind process of buying a home. But it’s designed to help you learn more about the home you’re about to buy and give you more confidence and agency as a buyer.

f you’re like most sellers, you hope to pass the home inspection’s 1,600-feature check with flying colors so you can sail through closing. While it’s a smart move to complete necessary repairs beforehand, don’t go overboard and waste your time (and money) on items not covered in the report.

Your home inspector won’t test every lightbulb, break open the walls to examine electrical, or dig into your underground septic system. Home inspectors are overall evaluators — not licensed electricians, plumbers, or HVAC technicians. Their primary role is to search for structural issues, mechanical defects, and health and safety concerns.

“Home inspectors wear a lot of hats, but they’re not necessarily an expert in every area,” says top agent Jason Mickelson of Ames, IA, who works with over 69% more single-family homes than the average agent.

Not to mention, the average home inspection takes between two and two and a half hours (an hour to an hour and a half for condos), which is hardly enough time to drive a shovel into the ground to take a peek at your septic system.

What’s Not Covered in a Home Inspection? 8 Items Home Inspectors Do NOT inspect

To uncover what’s not covered in a home inspection, we checked in with Mickelson and Kathleen Kuhn, HouseMaster President and CEO and a licensed home inspector. HouseMaster is the oldest and one of the largest home inspection companies in North America, with 320 franchises across the U.S. and in Canada. Here are eight items not included in a standard home inspection:

A bathtub connected to a sewer line that's not covered in a home inspection.
Source: (Shawn Ang / Unsplash)

1. The sewer line

Most inspectors will not look at the sewer line in a standard home inspection, which connects your home to the city line. However, Kuhn shares that an increasing number of buyers are requesting an additional inspection service from a plumbing and drain company to check the sewer for cracks, tree roots, clogs, or any collapsed lines. Using a video camera, a specialist will scope the line and detect any repairs that may be needed. Because these repairs are often expensive, says Kuhn, “you may want to consider having these inspections before a buyer comes along as these issues will require immediate repair.”  Be sure to check with the inspection company to verify if they have the equipment to inspect the sewer line.

2. Paint, wallpaper, and other finishes

According to the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), inspectors are not required to inspect “paint, wallpaper, or other finish treatments.”

“Those are purely cosmetic and not something the inspector will — or should — point out,” adds Mickelson, who recently worked with a seller who asked if he should paint his interior before the home inspection.

That said, “when an inspector identifies peeling paint, they are generally going to assess the potential cause if any,” says Kuhn. Three common causes for peeling or cracking paint are:

  •     Water/humidity
  •     Improper paint application or prep-work
  •     Expired or low-quality paint

Your home inspector only sees the first listed cause as a “red flag” since this may indicate that the home has a history of water damage.

Home inspectors will not test for lead-based paint which is common in homes built before 1978. If a buyer is concerned about lead-based paint, they need to hire a certified inspector or a risk assessor to evaluate the paint and recommend either abatement or continued good maintenance.

3. Mold and pests

Generally, a home inspection excludes identifying “the presence of plants, animals, and other life forms and substances that may be hazardous or harmful to humans including, but not limited to, wood-destroying organisms, molds, and mold-like substances.”

If a home inspector finds mold, they may label it on the report as “potentially mold,” says Mickelson. Most inspectors can take a sample of the spores and send it to a lab for testing. Results come back in a day or two.

Wallpaper that will not be covered in a home inspection.
Source: (Shawn Ang / Shutterstock)

4. Home decor and finishes

Messy clutter or leaving the holiday decorations up too long won’t cause you to fail the home inspection report. However, you should keep your interior relatively clean, so the home inspector can easily access all areas of your home. The National Association of Home Inspectors even shares that a home inspector must reach these readily accessible areas to complete the report. It’s also going to extend the amount of time this inspector is in your home if they have to push aside boxes or other items to, say, view an electrical panel.

As for the subway tiles you installed in the bath or kitchen, the inspector will notice them — but not for the reason you think. “Inspectors will check all tiles looking for loose tiles or any indication that there may be moisture issues behind the tile,” says Kuhn. “A crack does not necessarily indicate a more serious condition.”

5. Inside of the fireplace and chimney

Don’t expect the home inspector to get down on their hands and knees to gaze up the flue. According to the American Society of Home Inspectors, the  Blog author image

Nicole Elizabeth Yaeger

My approach is very simple! I answer my phone, I do exactly what I tell you I will do and I treat every transaction as if it were my own! Working with a sense of urgency is a difference maker in this....

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