Don’t be afraid of the word “inspection” or of the cost either. If you’re considering buying a home, a thorough home inspection of the place you’ve made an offer on is often worth its weight in gold and can ultimately save you thousands of dollars on the cost of a home. 

What is a home inspection? 

During the process of closing a sale on a home, the buyer typically hires a home inspector to come to the house to perform a visual observation of the house’s overall condition. And in accordance with standards set by each state, the home inspector identifies important health, safety, and major mechanical issues.

Do you need a home inspection? 

A home inspection is an important step toward buying a home. As a buyer, your lender may not require you to get an inspection in order to qualify for a loan. But most real estate agents will recommend you get an inspection if only for your protection. 

Home inspections are a great way to vet a home before you buy it. While the seller of your desired home may very well be trustworthy and have good intentions, it’s always possible that during their time living in the home, they overlooked certain disclosures. 

And the worst thing that can happen after you’ve signed your closing papers is an unexpected major expense due to problems in the home that you weren’t made aware of before. That’s why a home inspection is so important and why most realtors advise homebuyers to hire a home inspector when they’re looking to buy a home. 

Home Inspection costs

Oddly, there is no set standard for how much an overall inspection will cost, so you should ask your inspector up front to find out how you’ll be charged.

What do home inspections generally cost around?

An average home inspection cost is around $340, but inspection fees will vary depending on the size of the home. For example, condos and small homes will typically cost less. And larger homes over 2,000 square feet will run $400 or more. The average cost will also vary from market to market and state to state as well, depending on local costs. 

Some inspectors charge a flat rate based on the square footage of the living area, some charge based on the square footage of the area under the roof, and some charge based on the amount of time it takes to perform the inspection. If the inspector charges based on the amount of time it takes, then generally the larger and/or older your house is, the more you should expect to pay.

How long do home inspections take? 

Some newer homes can be inspected quickly in 2 to 3 hours while older homes can take 4 or more hours. This is due to repairs, additions, odd fix-its, and things that may have happened or developed in the house over the years to cause a delay. And depending on the detail of the inspection report, some reports may take additional time on top of the actual physical visit. 

Are extra inspections charged?

There are a number of items that could drive up the cost of an inspection. For example, radon, sewer, termite, or mold testing will each bring an extra charge, but will typically cost less if you pre-purchase those items with a home inspection. And depending on the state or local real estate market, they may actually be required as part of an inspection. 

What a home inspection consists of

There are many potential items that are included on a home inspection. Here are some of the more important ones: 

  • Grounds – Home inspectors start the inspection on the outside of the house by looking for current or future water issues such as standing puddles and faulty grading or downspouts. They’ll inspect landscaping to see if the lawn, garden, trees and shrubs are in good condition, and evaluate sidewalks, pathways, retaining walls, fences, sheds, and railings. Is the sprinkler system in proper working order?
  • Structure – Then the inspector will check to see if the foundation is solid. Is the basement, crawl space or pad in proper condition? Are the sides of the house straight? Are the windows and door frames square and aligned? In an older house, these things can be especially important, as sometimes over time, older houses can shift a bit which may ultimately need repair or they may have been repaired already. If they have, it’s an inspector’s job to note the quality of those repairs.
  • Roof – A home inspection also looks at the condition of the roof, including shingles, how recently the roof was updated, weather damage from sun, rain, hail, etc. The roof’s flashing and fascia are also important, as all of these things can cause ceiling drips and leaks in crawl spaces. Gutters, chimneys, and skylights are also important. How are they sealed and what kind of condition are they in?
  • Exterior – A home inspection also checks for siding, brick, and attic cracks, rot, or decay. Cracking or flaking masonry near the basement are also important items to note. Are there cracks in the stucco, dents or bowing in the vinyl siding? What kind of condition is the paint in – is there blistering or flaking paint? And although dirt can be in contact with the cement foundation, is there adequate clearing between siding and the ground, which should be a minimum of 6 inches to avoid damage from moisture. 
  • Windows, doors, trim – How are the doors and window fittings looking? Are they true and square to ensure proper insulation against cold and heat? The inspector will see if frames are secure and without rot, caulking is solid and secure, and glass is undamaged.
  • Interior rooms – Inspectors are also concerned about leaning walls that indicate faulty framing or old building slippage, stained ceilings or walls that could point to water problems, adequate insulation behind the walls and in the attic, and insufficient heating or cooling vents that could make a room cold and drafty or hot and stuffy. Are fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors up to code and in sufficient numbers throughout the house?
  • Kitchen – Inspectors make sure range hood fans vent to the outside where possible, that ground-fault circuit interrupter protection exists for electrical outlets within 6 feet of a sink, that no leaks occur under the sinks, and that cabinet doors and drawers are all operating properly.
  • Bathrooms – The goal here is to inspect toilets to see that they’re flushing and are secure to the floor. The inspection also makes sure drains are draining, showers are spraying, and tubs are securely fastened. 
  • Plumbing – Whether it’s in the kitchen, bathrooms and throughout the house., inspectors are evaluating pipes, drains, water heaters, pressure and temperature of the water. Beyond plumbing issues, they may also look for water damage throughout the house.
  • Electrical systems – Inspectors will check if the visible wiring and electrical panels are in good shape, light switches and the HVAC systems work correctly, and there are enough outlets in each room.

Best practices during your inspection

Note any concerns for your prospective future house to your inspector before they start their inspection, so they’ll keep a sharp lookout for those things. If the seller has disclosed particular damage, give your inspector a heads-up about that as well. 

And then accompany your inspector during his rounds. Since this is the house you hope to live in, it’s in your best interest to understand what’s going on. For instance, an inspector can introduce you to the electrical panels and wiring, air-conditioning and ventilation switches, shut-off water valves for the plumbing, and shut-off gas valves. If the inspector spots a problem, they can show you exactly how a system needs to work better, what it means, and hopefully a number of ways to fix it. This information will serve you well not only before you buy, but afterward as well.

Bringing it around full circle

As a potential buyer, a home inspection is your authoritative proof of any possible property problems. Most home purchase agreements are contingent upon the results of a home inspection. Armed with your home inspection report, you may be able to either make the seller fix or repair certain issues before closing, renegotiate the price to reflect future repairs, or walk away without losing your earnest money, especially if some of these things were not disclosed previously by the seller. 

Of course, not all items on an inspection report are mandatory fixes nor should be a cause to walk away from a deal. A home inspector may include cosmetic items, or note that something will cost money to repair in the future, but they may not be deal-breakers now. For example, the inspector may note that the house will need a water heater or a new roof in the future. That information helps you be an informed buyer, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t buy the house. And as we mentioned before, having this information can help you save significant amounts of money in the long run, either with short term contract negotiations or with longer term repairs.