Man inspecting home.

Home Inspection: Everything You Need To Know

Erica Gellerman6-Minute Read
October 28, 2021

Pop culture and media would have you believe that inspectors are clipboard-carrying, high strung judges who get hung up on the smallest of details. But what these caricatures don’t depict is just how essential the home inspection is to the home buying process.

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 – warts and all – can help you become a more informed home buyer. 

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.

You know your dream home.

We’ll help you find it.

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. Depending on the home, the inspector may also complete a well inspection to ensure safe drinking water.

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. 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.

If you’d like to learn more about home inspections or read about the causes for failed home inspections, check out our Home Buyer’s Guide.

Erica Gellerman

Erica Gellerman is a CPA, MBA, personal finance writer, and founder of The Worth Project. Her work has been featured on Forbes, Money, Business Insider, The Everygirl, The Everymom and more.