Home Inspections: An Expert Answers Your Questions

Kenneth Wilson

Home Inspections: An Expert Answers Your Questions

Similar to not judging a book by its cover, you also can’t evaluate a home based on its facade. Looking at a home’s curb appeal and exterior is not enough, which is why you will need a home inspector. They can check both the interior and exterior of a home, making sure that it’s in decent condition.

Now, if it’s your first time getting your home inspected, you’re probably wondering how to prepare for it, how much it costs, what to do after, and more. You’re not alone, and those questions have also been asked by other homeowners before - and have been answered. So here are some of the most common questions about home inspections answered by an expert.

When is a Home Inspection Required?

Home inspections are required when a potential buyer needs to garner the condition of a property they are considering buying. However, home inspections are not a requirement of a mortgage lender. Nevertheless, they are still strongly recommended before purchasing a property. This is because most people don't have the right knowledge or expertise to determine a home's condition. An expert inspector will complete this task for you, going around rooms and checking key things like foundations, plumbing, and electrical systems.

How Long Does a Home Inspection Take?

Most people want to know how long an inspection might take as they will want to set aside time in their busy schedule to be present as it is taking place. They might also want to familiarize themselves with the procedure. The problem is that it's difficult to put a time on how long an inspection might take. After all, every home is different. For a 3,000 square foot home, expect it to take between two to three hours, or even longer for larger properties. The condition or age of a property will also affect how long the task could run for.

Older homes often have added challenges that need to be both adequately identified and documented. However, this doesn't automatically make newer homes quicker to inspect. Just like any home, all components need to be assessed thoroughly to determine their condition. Access is something else affecting the length of time a home inspection might take. For example, if a property has an attic or crawl spaces. The weather is another factor. Finally, time also needs to be factored in for questions at the end from the buyer.

How Much Does a Home Inspection Cost?

Between $275 and $400 on average. However, the final price depends on the size of your property. In other words, the bigger the square footage of your home, the higher the price. While most inspectors charge around $300 for a 2,000 square foot home or smaller, properties larger than this require an added $25 per every 500 square feet.

If you're buying a rural property, you'll probably pay less for an inspection as there is a lesser demand for property inspectors there. A property's age will also affect the cost of a home inspection. Older homes can take longer to inspect. The local market is something else that could affect the price, for example, in areas where the property is in demand. Because more inspections are taking place, it means inspectors themselves are in greater need and can therefore charge more.

Who Pays for a Home Inspection?

The cost of a home inspection begins with a base price. However, this can change thanks to other extra charges along the way. As you can see, home inspections have the potential to become costly. Usually, it's the buyer who has to pay for them, as inspections exist to protect them from buying a 'bad' home. Ultimately, the seller doesn't have to have their property inspected. In most cases, though, this makes it more appealing to the buyer, who will probably feel more confident in their purchasing property. Therefore, having a home inspection can help speed up the selling process.

How to Prepare for a Home Inspection

  • Give your home a good clean. It shows the inspector that your property is well maintained and creates an excellent first impression.
  • Be prepared to welcome the inspector up to 30 minutes before they arrive.
  • Leave utilities connected as the inspector will want to test air conditioning and appliances, amongst other things. Pilot lights should also remain lit.
  • Be sure that there are at least 3 feet of space around items like stoves, water heaters, and furnaces so inspectors can maneuver around these items.
  • Consider labeling all keys and laying them out on a table.
  • Gather all invoices and guarantees to confirm the items inspected.
  • Try to be away from your home for at least three hours so that the inspector has enough time to inspect thoroughly. Doing this will also ensure the buyer feels comfortable enough to ask questions.

What Does a Standard Home Inspection Include?

A standard inspection will cover the heating system, air conditioning, plumbing and electrical system, roof, attic and visible insulation, and all floors, ceilings, walls, and doors. Structural components, including foundations, will also be assessed. Some areas won't be evaluated, particularly areas deemed unsafe or inaccessible.

What Additional Home Inspection Services are Offered (and are they worth it)?

  • Chimney. Ensures the fireplace and chimney are venting sufficiently, without any cracked or deteriorating mortar or creosote buildup resulting in fires, odors, and smoke indoors. 
  • Roof. Having a roof properly checked can potentially save a homeowner thousands of dollars. A roof check will see if any leaks exist, mold or rotting wood, or even heat spots. 
  • Lead Paint. This dangerous substance was banned back in 1978, but it's surprising that many older homes still contain it. Lead is a naturally occurring, toxic metal that can be hazardous to humans. During this inspection, any chipped or peeling areas will be observed, and samples are collected and then analyzed in a lab.
  • Pests & Rodents. Signs of infestation will be checked both inside and outside the house and any areas of damage that could become prone to this. Moisture readings might also be taken.
  • Radon. In the U.S., one in fifteen people is at risk from Radon, which can result in illnesses such as lung cancer. For sellers living in an at-risk area, they should choose between a short or long term testing option to determine if radon exists where they live.
  • Electrical. The fourth leading cause of house fires in the home is electrical problems. Therefore, checks should be made for ungrounded outlets, faulty wiring, or badly modified electrical panels, amongst other things.
  • HVAC. An engineer can determine how well an HVAC system has been maintained and its current state. This is important as a neglected system is more prone to failure. Things like thermostat calibration, heat pumps, connections, air filters, safety controls, and the installation's overall quality will be reviewed. 
  • Mold. Mold in the home is a significant cause of respiratory problems. An inspector can conduct a visual assessment, taking surface and air samples to determine the mold type. Water intrusion and humidity might also be tested, and cold spots or dampness behind walls and any resulting damage. 
  • Water & Plumbing. An engineer will perform a diagnostic check using a camera, plus visual inspection. All connections will be checked, as well as shut off supplies, fixtures, and fittings. The water pressure will be determined, and everything will be checked to make sure it drains properly.
  • Septic System & Sewerage. Your septic tank will be checked for when it was last pumped, as well as the current sludge level and the positioning of tanks and drains to streams or wells. The engineer will also determine whether the tank is the right size for the property. 
  • Foundation & Structure. With this type of inspection, the inspector will look for cracks or slopes around the property. They will also check whether any doors are misaligned. Similarly, the house will be observed for sagging roofs, angled floors, or cracks.
  • Landscaping & Water. Recommendations will be made surrounding grading and drainage, and the foundation of the property will be inspected to ensure it correctly counteracts shifting or settlement.
  • Pool & Spa. Safety checks will need to be performed. Electrical devices and wiring will need to be checked, pool linings, tiling, pump, filter, and heater.
  • Oil Tanks. If you're concerned your property might contain an underground oil tank, soil testing can be used to search for this. These tanks were commonly used in the '60s and '70s before natural gas became common. While most were adequately decommissioned, others were not, and rusted and leaked over time, causing untold damage to surrounding homes.
  • Wind Mitigation. A certified inspector checks all your home's wind-resistant features, such as door and window coverings, or the way your roof is sealed to prevent water ingress. It’s a good way to lower your insurance policy, as the inspection assesses all features that can reduce property damage from hurricane wind.
  • Storm Assessment. Storm damage can exist in the form of missing shingles and hail damage. However, storms can cause invisible damage to a house. If left, the problem can worsen. A storm assessment catches this early, helping prevent further problems down the line.
  • Well Water Analysis. If your home has a septic tank or well, it might be worthwhile to have an inspector test the water. Water samples are collected and analyzed in a lab for things like harmful bacteria, arsenic, and coliform. They will also check the condition of vents, screens, and seals, along with whether the pump or well can produce sufficient water. Septic tanks may also be checked, possibly with the use of a camera, to make sure wastewater is entering the tank rather than leaking to the surface.

Do Home Inspections Check for Asbestos?

They usually don't. However, a professional inspector can typically identify materials that might include asbestos. They can then notify the buyer of this. However, finding asbestos in the home isn't always a reason for alarm. If the seller is concerned about asbestos risk, they can have a separate, in-depth asbestos inspection carried out.

Who Attends a Home Inspection?

The only person who needs to attend is the home inspector. However, the buyer or their agent can follow as well, so they can ask questions. This can vary from state to state. In some states, the only person who will attend is the inspector, and no one else. Whereas in others, the agent is also required to attend. The seller, listing agent, friends, or family of the buyer should never be present; neither should general contractors. 

If you haven't found a home inspector yet, I recommend checking HomeAdvisor. All professionals here need to be licensed and insured to join the platform. You can also get multiple estimates with a click, saving you time and effort researching and collecting quotes on-by-one.


What Fixes are Mandatory After a Home Inspection?

There are a couple of different things that will affect this. Such as where you live, the current state of the market, the buyer's lender, and the purchase agreement's language. Inspectors will look for any structural or mechanical problems or items that are unsafe or not working correctly. It will usually cover water damage, structural issues, roofing or electrical issues, plumbing concerns, deficits with the HVAC system, or pest and insect infestation. Within certain areas, there are individual requirements as well. For example, in Nevada, all homes must have working smoke detectors at the time of sale. Different types of loans might also specify specific requirements. Finally, things that compromise the buyer's safety, such as a leaking hot water heater, must be fixed.

What Happens After a Home Inspection?

Once the buyer is issued with their inspection report, a couple of decisions will then need making. For example, if cosmetic or structural problems have been flagged up or if issues are so severe, the purchase should be terminated. If the buyer is happy to proceed with the sale, they can request the seller to repair certain items using the C.A.R. buyer request for repairs form. The seller can then decide to either repair the items or discontinue the sale. Of course, this can be negotiated between both parties, or the buyer may choose to drop the price.

Do Sellers Get a Copy of a Home Inspection?

This is up to to the buyer, but it's not recommended for the seller to see it in most cases. The reasoning behind an inspection is to provide an unbiased and impartial assessment of the property for the buyer. Of course, if a seller is keen to view it, they can request a copy from the agent, who will subsequently request approval from their client. Remember, though, that if your contract with the buyer breaks down, issues within the report will need to be provided to future buyers. Sharing such a report with the seller can also antagonize them. Sometimes, the buyer attempts to make their home defective, which can eventually rub both parties up the wrong way, potentially leading to the deal breaking down.

When to Walk Away After a Home Inspection

Even if your purchase has been pre-approved, that doesn't necessarily mean you'll have final approval over the purchase price. Sometimes, the underwriter might not approve the loan, or your credit or employment situation could change. If your contract has contingency integrated into it, it's possible to abandon the purchase with your deposit in hand. The amount of approved loans can be affected by appraisals. For example, if the appraisal is less than the purchase price, the seller can lower it. Otherwise, the buyer can pay the difference. Alternatively, the seller could abandon the deal. If a homeowner is trying to sell their home and purchase another, they can use contingency to sell their current property. This will allow them to put their new home under contract as they sell their current property. If unable to sell, the seller might be able to leave their contract. However, both parties must be in agreement.

Kenneth Wilson
November 24, 2020
Contractor Tips

Kenneth Wilson

Retired contractor. Currently residing in Southwest Florida. Now in semi-retirement, I write and manage this blog focused on helping home owners make savvy decisions when it comes to finding contractors and getting their projects done. I also operate remodeling design service for homeowners.

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