You don’t need to be intimidated by the idea of an inspection, and the cost of it isn’t too bad either. If you’re in the market to buy a home, an inspection of the home you’re considering is essential. It may not seem necessary if the home looks great on the surface, but an inspection can ultimately save you thousands of dollars on the cost of a home if any issues are uncovered.
What is a home inspection?
During the process of closing a sale on a home, the buyer typically hires a home inspector. The inspector performs visual observation of the house’s overall condition and provides a report summarizing the findings. 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.
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 between $350 and $400. However, inspection fees will vary based on the size of the home. For example, condos and small homes will typically cost less. 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. Others 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 home inspector charges based on the amount of time it takes, then generally the larger and/or older your house is, the more you can expect to pay.
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. These items could be required as part of the inspection, depending on your state or local market.
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. Depending on the detail of the inspection report, some reports may take additional time on top of the actual physical visit.
What does a home inspection consist of?
There are many potential items that are included on a home inspection. Here are some of the more important ones:
- Kitchen – Inspectors make sure range hood fans vent to the outside where possible. Ground-fault circuit interrupter protection should exist for electrical outlets within 6 feet of a sink, and no leaks should occur under the sinks. Lastly, an inspector checks that cabinet doors and drawers are all operating properly.
- Bathrooms – 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.
- Interior rooms – Inspectors are also concerned about leaning walls that indicate faulty framing or old building slippage. Adequate insulation behind the walls and in the attic isn’t visible to buyers so this part of the inspection is key, 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?
- 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. Often, stained ceilings or walls can point to water problems.
- 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.
- Grounds – Starting on the outside of the house inspectors look for current or future water issues. They inspect landscaping to see if the lawn, trees and shrubs are in good condition. They evaluate sidewalks, retaining walls, fences, sheds, and railings. This is a good time to test the sprinkler system if there is one.
- Windows, doors, trim – How do the doors and window fittings look? The inspector will see if frames are secure and without rot, caulking is solid and secure, and glass is undamaged.
- Structure – The last thing a buyer wants is to end up with a home with structural damage. 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? In an older house, these things can be especially important, as sometimes over time, older houses can shift slightly. This may ultimately need repair or may have already been repaired. If they have, it’s an inspector’s job to note the quality of those repairs.
- Roof – A home inspection looks at the roof’s condition, including shingles. How recently the roof was updated, is there weather damage? The flashing and fascia of the roof are also important, as all of these things can cause ceiling drips and leaks in crawl spaces. How are gutters, chimneys, and skylights sealed and what kind of condition are they in?
- Exterior – An inspector checks for siding, brick, and attic cracks, rot, or decay. 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? Although dirt can be in contact with the cement foundation, ensure an adequate clearing of 6 inches between siding and the ground.
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.
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 switches, shut-off 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 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. The inspection report may also give you the power to 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. However, these items 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 and budget for those expenses, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t buy the house. Ultimately, 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.