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  • Nick Gromicko
    Nick Gromicko
  • Deborah A. Baisden
    Deborah A. Baisden
  • Taylor Vreeken
    Taylor Vreeken
  • Nick Gromicko
    Nick Gromicko
  • Deborah A. Baisden
    Deborah A. Baisden
  • Taylor Vreeken
    Taylor Vreeken
  • Nick Gromicko
    Nick Gromicko
  • Deborah A. Baisden
    Deborah A. Baisden
  • Taylor Vreeken
    Taylor Vreeken
  • Nick Gromicko
    Nick Gromicko
  • Deborah A. Baisden
    Deborah A. Baisden
  • Taylor Vreeken
    Taylor Vreeken
  • Nick Gromicko
    Nick Gromicko
  • Deborah A. Baisden
    Deborah A. Baisden
  • Taylor Vreeken
    Taylor Vreeken

You found a home you love. It has the floor plan of your dreams, a yard you always wanted and a bathroom. Before you sign the mortgage papers, you want to know your beloved house is more than just a pretty face. This is why home inspections are a vital part of the home buying process.

While everything may look great on the surface, home inspections provide a licensed, neutral third party to review the home for potential issues. A certified professional will inspect the house, looking for things most buyers will miss. This guide will provide you with a better understanding of what to expect during the home inspection process, how to find a reliable inspector and what happens following the inspection report.

Home Inspection Trends Statistics

What Is a Home Inspection?

The home buying process can be nerve-wracking, especially for first time homebuyers. Once you’ve found a home and agreed on a price with the seller, there are multiple steps you, your agents and your lender will take before you close on your new home.

As part of an offer to the seller, buyers often include a home inspection contingency. This allows a buyer to hire a third-party expert to walk through the home and review its current condition. An inspection can reveal if a house is well maintained, if repairs are required and the status of the home’s mechanical systems.

Most homebuyers do not have the knowledge and experience to identify concerns successfully or how to address them. A professional and licensed home inspector will notice specific issues, so the buyer is better informed. Because the home inspection benefits the homebuyer, they are usually responsible for finding and paying for an inspector. Your real estate agent is a useful resource for finding a trustworthy and certified home inspector.

How Much Does a Home Inspection Cost?

The cost of a home inspection depends on where you live, but you can expect to pay anywhere from $300 to $500. Like most things, you get what you pay for. The internet is full of stories of great deals that do not meet industry standards, and cost buyers their dream home or lead to surprise expenses later.

What Is Included in a Standard Inspection

A home inspection includes a visual exam inside and outside the property. Inspectors provide you informative observations of the current condition of the home and its systems.

A home inspection report will include a written status of the following items, according to the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors:

  • Roof
  • Exterior
  • Basement, foundation and crawlspace
  • Heating
  • Cooling
  • Plumbing
  • Electrical
  • Fireplace
  • Attic, insulation and ventilation
  • Doors, windows and interiors

What Is Not Included

The most important thing to understand about the limits of home inspections is they are noninvasive. This means the inspector cannot alter the property to discover a problem. They can only report on what they see and cannot predict future outcomes. For example, they cannot put a hole in the drywall to discover mold in the walls or pull up the carpet to check if the subfloor is rotted.

An inspection report will not include the life expectancy of the home’s elements. It will only provide an approximate age of the roof, water heater, appliances and heating and cooling systems. The report will lay out the house's status, and the buyer will have to decide what to do next. You won’t find advice on if you should buy the property or not.

Is Your Home Insurance Provider Requiring a Home Inspection?

Whether or not you are required to have a home inspection for insurance depends on the provider. Most major insurance companies do not require an inspection for homes built in the last 25 years. If the home is older or in a high-risk location, your insurance provider may require an inspection before issuing you a policy. It's best to get a quote from multiple home insurance providers to find the best homeowner's insurance policy for you.

Types of Special Home Inspections

Types of Special Home Inspections

There are limits to what a standard home inspection includes. If you are concerned about specific risks associated with your new home, there are specialty home inspectors available for an additional cost. Unlike a standard home inspection, many of these inspectors are also contractors and may price out the cost to fix issues.

Foundation Inspection

Average Cost: $300–$400

While a standard inspection includes a look at your foundation, not trained to assess comprehensive issues. A structural engineer should perform a foundation-specific inspection. They have the training to offer a more comprehensive report on cracks, load-bearing walls, concrete integrity or slopes in the floor. Because of their extensive training and demand for services, a structural engineer inspection can be expensive.

Mold Inspection

Average Cost: $650

A mold inspection is expensive and is not recommended without signs of mold. However, if there are signs of water damage, visible mold and moldy odors, it may be worth considering mold testing. The American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) is the association for induction hygienists and suggests homeowners who know they have mold spend their money on safely removing it rather than testing for it. Testing and removal should be done by a qualified mold professional.

Wood-Destroying Organism (WDO) or Pest Inspection

Average Cost: $100

It's the stuff of nightmares, but wood-destroying organisms (WDO) are fairly common in the U.S. Termites cause an average of $5 billion in damage each year, according to the national pest control company Terminix. Along with termites, these organisms include carpenter bees, carpenter ants and some beetles. Without treatment, they eat their way through the wood that supports your home. Most states and some mortgage providers require a pest inspection. All VA loans and FHA loans require a pest inspection.

Radon Testing

Average Cost: $450

Radon is present everywhere in the United States and is the number one cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, a radon test is highly suggested and is required in 29 states. Testing requires a specific device per the Environmental Protection Agency. A certified radon professional will be able to test and install mitigation measures.

Sewer

Average Cost: $400–$700

While a home inspector will check all your interior plumbing, sewer lines run outside of the home and underground. An inspection of your sewer line requires special equipment like a lateral camera. Qualified plumbers can do the inspection and provide video and photos of any issues. While most modern homes do not need a regular sewer inspection, it’s a good idea if your home is older or if your yard contains mature trees. Tree roots are a common problem, as they grow into the pipes, causing sewer leaks and backups into your home. The cost can vary significantly by the length of your sewer line and where you live.

Hazardous Materials

Average Cost: $250–$600

In the past fifty years, we've learned a lot about toxic materials like asbestos and lead. Both were common construction materials until the mid-1970s. If your home was built before the 1980s, a lead and asbestos test is suggested. Asbestos is not a health risk unless it is disturbed, so you may skip this test if you do not plan to make any updates to the home. Lead is similar, where it can be safe if untouched. The largest risk of lead is to children, who may play near cracked paint and accidentally ingest it. Testing for both asbestos and lead requires a professional to take samples and send them to an EPA approved laboratory.

Home Inspection Checklist for Buyers

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While it's essential to hire a professional home inspector, there are elements you can check while previewing a home. If you notice any of the red flags on this checklist, buyer beware. You'll want to speak with your home inspector and ask them for specific feedback on your concerns.

Electrical:

  • Flickering lights
  • Discoloration around wall outlets
  • Missing electrical covers
  • Burning smell from appliances
  • Old panel with different types of wiring or blown fuses

Smells:

  • Musty or damp odors
  • Ammonia smell
  • Sewage smell from drains
  • Burning smell

Roof:

  • Missing shingles
  • Shingles that curl at the bottom
  • Water stains on the ceiling
  • Sags or dips in the roofline
  • Large build-up of moss or algae

Basement:

  • Stained carpet or flooring
  • Standing water
  • Cracks in the walls
  • Dips in the ceiling above

Attic:

  • Missing or covered soffit vents
  • Low levels of insulation
  • Pipes that suddenly end
  • Signs of water or mold
  • Disorganized, spliced electrical wires

Walls:

  • Discoloration or staining
  • Holes or patches in the drywall
  • Windows and doors won’t open and close
  • Chipping paint
  • Cracks

Floors:

  • Sloping, sagging or uneven surfaces
  • Unusually staining
  • Cracked tiles, hardwood
  • Noticeably cold

Exterior:

  • Standing water
  • Overhead trees or branches leaning on the roof
  • Cracks in the concrete
  • Missing gutters
  • Rotting or deteriorating wood

Kitchen and Bathroom

  • Missing or malfunctioning exhaust fans
  • Water stains on the floor or in sink cabinets
  • Low water flow from faucets
  • Slow draining in sinks
  • Unstable toilet, stains around the base
  • Sewage or musty smells

Other Considerations and Tips for Homebuyers

Homebuyer Considerations and Tips

It’s easy to get caught up in everything you love about your new home and miss something. A home inspection is one step that helps homebuyers make more rational, rather than emotional, decisions. You can take additional measures in the home inspection process to ensure confidence in your home purchase.

1

Take photos and notes

Most home inspectors take and share photos during their inspection. You can do the same, either when you are previewing homes or during the inspection itself. Without pictures and notes, you may forget key details.

2

Add a contingency

When you submit an offer to the seller, you'll likely include a few contingencies. A contingency lays out certain conditions that must be met before you finalize the sale. The most common is the home inspection contingency. This is important to include in the offer, or you may not be allowed into the home for an inspection. Other common contingencies include an appraisal, financing and title search.

3

Discuss seller disclosures

After an offer is accepted, most states require a seller to provide disclosures on the home. This form lists any known issues or repairs made during their ownership of the house. The legal requirements for seller disclosures vary by state, but buyers usually receive them within a few days of an agreement and before an inspection. If there are concerns on the disclosure, you can share those issues with a home inspector.

4

Ask questions

Throughout the entire home buying process, find reliable professionals to answer your questions. Your home inspector is no exception. Before, during and after the inspection, you should address your concerns and ask questions to understand your new home's mechanics better.

Finding an Inspector

It can feel overwhelming to begin searching for a home inspector, but there are resources to help you find someone you can trust. It’s essential to find someone with experience, training and certification. There is limited action you can take later if your home inspector misses something critical.


How do you find and hire an inspector?This is an icon

The best resource to find an inspector is the people you know. Realtors work with inspectors every day and should be able to suggest an inspector and even schedule an inspection. Friends and family who recently purchased a home can also provide feedback on their home inspector to determine if they might be the right fit for you as well.

How do you choose the right home inspector?This is an icon

After you have a few names, check that they have the required qualifications and certifications. Both the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors and the American Society of Home Inspectors allow you to search for qualified home inspector companies near you.

How much do inspectors charge?This is an icon

The cost of a home inspection will vary depending on where you live. A Porch survey found most Americans paid between $300–$500 for an inspection. That survey also found 46% used the report to negotiate a lower price on their home.

How to Read and Respond to an Inspection Report

Understanding an Inspection Report

When you get your home inspection report, it likely includes more than a dozen pages of information on your potential new home. It's easy to be overwhelmed, but breaking it down piece by piece will help you understand what it means and what your options are next.

Check the Big-Ticket Items

While the inspection report will mention dozens of likely suggested repairs and maintenance items, there are big-ticket items you want to look for first. These are expensive issues that may impact your home buying decision.

  • Foundation: If the inspector mentions structural issues, discuss the extent of the damage and safety concerns. Foundation repairs can quickly add up to thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars.
  • Signs of mold or water: Water stains or damage are a red flag for a home's condition. It likely means something is leaking, and it invites the possibility of mold. Mold is a health hazard, and depending on the extent of spread, it can be costly to remediate.
  • Sewer or septic issues: The home inspection report will explain what plumbing system your house uses. If your home inspector notices issues with either system, you may need to get a specialty inspection to understand better the extent of the damage and an estimate of repairs.
  • Termites and pests: The discovery of termites can prevent your mortgage provider from approving your loan because they can be so destructive to the property. It’s best to push for the removal of all insects and pests before you finalize the sale.

Review the Report With the Inspector

Every good home inspector will set up a call or meeting to discuss their report. They should point out the significant issues and then review suggested repairs or maintenance issues. This is the time to ask any questions you may have. Most inspectors will help you understand what matters and should be addressed immediately and what other items to put on your home maintenance checklist for the future. It's always a good idea to review the actual cost of home improvement.

Return to the Seller

If the report found concerns with the property, you have a few options. First, you can withdraw your offer and begin looking for another house. Secondly, you can bargain with the seller to make concessions on some repairs. These negotiations typically reduce the selling price by the cost of making repairs. For example, if the report found a problem with the furnace, the seller might agree to lower the price by $250 for repairs, but not $2,500 for a new furnace.

Work with your real estate agent for negotiation steps after the home inspection. Depending on the market where you are, you may or may not be able to ask for more concessions from the seller. Also, remember, the seller has no obligation to fix the issues or lower the price.

Home Inspections if You Are the Seller

Home inspections for sellers can be frustrating. You love your home, and then someone comes in and starts picking it apart. However, the last thing you want is for the sale to fall apart because of an issue. It's best to approach the inspection as a buyer, thinking about issues you would like to be addressed if you were moving into the house.

You won't see the full inspection report in many cases, but you will be notified of issues the seller would like addressed. The conditions of repairs are negotiable, and you are not required to complete any repairs. However, the buyer does have the option to walk away from the sale. If this happens, you are required to disclose the inspection concerns on the seller's disclosure with future offers.

Home Inspection FAQ

If you have questions about the home inspection process, you’re not alone. Here are some frequently asked questions and answers to get you started.


How long should a home inspection take?This is an icon

Home inspections vary by the size of the house but should take between two and four hours.

Who pays for the home inspection? This is an icon

In most cases, a buyer will pay for the inspection. However, a seller may purchase a pre-inspection as a positioning tactic for selling the home. In this type of scenario, buyers can still request a home inspection of their own with their money.

What fixes are mandatory after a home inspection?This is an icon

It’s important to remember no fix is mandatory. If a seller disagrees, both parties walk away from the sale. However, significant issues will make selling the house extremely difficult. There are repairs mortgage lenders require before agreeing to finance a loan:

  • Structural defects
  • Building code violations
  • Safety issues
  • Mold and water issues
  • Termites

Word of Advice on Home Inspections

There are multiple viewpoints on the home inspection process from real estate agents, trade associations and inspectors themselves. MoneyGeek spoke with experts from within the industry to provide insight on home inspections.

  1. What is the most misunderstood aspect of the inspection process?

    The most misunderstood aspect is the misbelief that sellers have to fix the issues the inspector discovers. Sales contracts rarely put sellers under any obligation to fix anything. The issues that really matter will fall into four categories:

    • Major defects
    • Things that lead to major issues, such as a leak
    • Issues that prevent you from financing the home, such as termites
    • Safety hazards

    In our current market conditions with multiple offers and high anxiety, buyers and sellers have some unrealistic expectations of the process. While a buyer may be offering over list price to secure a property in a competitive market, they need to understand that they are not buying a new home in most cases. Instead, they are purchasing an, as I like to call it, a "previously loved" home, and they cannot anticipate that a seller will take care of general maintenance items that come with owning a home. Conversely, sellers believe that since there is low inventory and competition, they are no longer responsible for the standard systems to be in working order. A buyer is entitled to receive a home promised in MLS with all systems in operating condition unless specifically noted as being sold "as is," and a seller is responsible for delivering the home in good condition.

    The other often misunderstanding is in many states, if the buyer is unhappy with the condition of the property after the inspection, they can tender a release without requesting the seller undertake any repairs. So, it behooves a seller to check their systems and basements to be aware of any issues that might pop up during an inspection and be proactive prior to the home going on the market. Nobody likes those kinds of surprises after negotiating a contract. The Realtor also has a responsibility to counsel their clients before the inspections, so everyone knows what to expect.

    I think the most misunderstood aspect of home inspections is the time it takes to inspect a house. The truth is simply that every house is different. For example, there are times that I’m standing in front of a water heater for 20 minutes, taking notes on the overwhelming number of defects, and sometimes two minutes is plenty. Along with these misunderstandings are the under or overestimated finish times by agents, clients, homeowners or tenants who show up 30 minutes into an inspection and wonder why you’re not finished. I’d say my average inspection (normal-sized house, normal defects, etc.) is about two hours.

  2. What is the most overlooked item homeowners miss, but an inspection can reveal?

    The most overlooked item that an inspector can reveal is roof leaks. Roofs often leak for weeks, even years, before a homeowner realizes it, and a lot of damage can occur in that time.

    Water and pest intrusions, as well as structural issues, can be costly fixes. Once you negotiate a price on the home and then face additional requests for repairs, it can often blow deals up. Evidence of standing water in crawl spaces or basements or infestations by pests in the attic or crawl spaces should be remedied before the home goes on the market by having a pre-inspection. I have seen situations where small animals have gotten into attics and built nests, which later required insulation to be removed, the space cleaned and insulation reinstalled. Additionally, any access to these areas should be adequately sealed.

    I would say one of the biggest items would be roofing. Often, a lower sloped roof can be deceiving when viewed from the ground. Only from physically being on the roof can you get a good understanding of its age and condition.

    We also can't forget the areas homeowners don't like to go into, like crawlspaces. A shattered window by the front door doesn't typically surprise a buyer, but plumbing leaks or damaged foundation or framing found 38 feet into a spider filled crawlspace often raises eyebrows.

  3. Do you advise homeowners attend the home inspection?

    Due to COVID 19, we no longer advise homebuyers to attend the inspections. InterNACHI inspectors have the technical capability to produce and electronically send inspection reports with full-color photos. The inspection report review can be done online, as well. The InterNACHI has an accredited COVID-19 course for inspectors available online for free.

    Always! The inspection serves to determine the property's condition and learn from an expert on how the home functions. Knowing where the HVAC units are located and what filters are required and how to replace them is part of the education needed to maintain the property going forward. There are many cases where the buyer is unable to attend, but I always have the inspection summary recorded and provide video tapings of any serious defects found. The inspectors should also make themselves available to do a virtual review of the report wherever possible.

    Offering for your client to follow the inspection is often a sour subject among inspectors. At the end of the day, it’s a personal choice and a business decision by the inspector. Personally, I highly encourage it. I’m happy to teach my client anything they want to know about their house. I look at every inspection as if I’m the buyer who may have never owned a home. I’m happy to show where the main utilities are located, how to shut them off in case of an emergency, or how to maintain their water heater to achieve maximum life expectancy.

    I certainly understand why inspectors dislike the company. Doing an inspection is not like riding a bike; you’re a detective looking for items no one else can find. Distractions can be difficult when looking at literally everything. I also allow for extra time when clients ask, “can I be your shadow?”

  4. Are there scenarios where a home inspection can be skipped?

    A home inspection can be skipped if you are buying the home for the lot. In other words, if you plan to scrap the house and build a new one in its place, then there is no reason to get a home inspection.

    In some cases where the home appears to be in excellent condition, has been well-maintained and you are in a competitive bidding situation, a buyer may wish to waive the inspection. Then it is a “buyer beware” scenario. Even if the seller says they will make no repairs, it is best to have an inspection whenever possible.

    Skipping an inspection sounds crazy to me, even though I’m obviously biased. The most common sales transactions that move forward without inspections are new construction. There seems to be a misconception that new equals perfect. Not only is this not the case, but a licensed contractor is required by law to build to a specific standard. This means that defects found in new construction are required to be addressed, as opposed to potential negotiations on defects found with previously owned homes. I don’t like finding thousands of dollars worth of attic insulation installed upside down only to hear the sellers say, “We never got an inspection because the house was new.”

  5. Are there parts of a home inspection that can be excluded to save money?

    No, and the reason has to do with state laws and standards of practices. Our industry is mostly regulated, and regulations prevent home inspectors from doing partial home inspections. Furthermore, a home inspector has to take a holistic approach to a home. A home isn't a series of separate systems and components. They are all interconnected. For example, if your inspector sees moisture in the basement, they will likely have to determine if it is due to a grading issue of the landscape, downspouts discharging too close to the home, a condensation issue, a plumbing leak, etc. A home is like a human body — all connected and working together.

    Typically, no. I highly recommend all my clients have the appropriate inspections.

    Excluding components of an inspection is not something I do. Whether a client says, “don’t worry about the kitchen — it’s gonna get redone,” or if the agent says, “this house is for my sister, find everything,” I do the same inspection every house every time. Even if we ignore the liability concerns, staying consistent in inspection reporting is crucial.

    However, if a house contains a pool but the client isn't interested in a pool inspection, that is understandable, or perhaps a barn that they want to be excluded. This doesn't save money as the outbuildings, pools, etc., are an extra cost.


Nick Gromicko
Nick GromickoFounder of InterNACHI and Certified Master Inspector®
Deborah A. Baisden
Deborah A. BaisdenVice President of National Association of Realtors, CRS GRI 2020 Region 3
Taylor Vreeken
Taylor VreekenHome Inspector and California State Board Vice Chairman for California Real Estate Inspection Association

Home Inspection Resources

As you consider buying or selling a home, it's essential to do your research. There are multiple resources available to assist you in the home inspection process and find a qualified professional to complete your home inspection report.

About the Author


expert-profile

Danielle Kiser is a freelance writer, storyteller, and news junkie. She is passionate about informing and inspiring audiences to improve their lives and their communities. As a former TV news producer, she focuses on sharing relevant and factual stories that stimulate personal growth and knowledge. Danielle lives in Michigan with her husband as well as her sidekick, a greyhound named Oreo.


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