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What You Should Expect from a Home Inspection

Inspectors examine foundation of a house
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If you’re buying a new home, then sooner or later you’ll need to have a home inspection done. While not usually required, obtaining a home inspection is common practice in real estate and is almost entirely done for the benefit of the purchaser, even if they’re paying for it out of their own pocket.

A home inspector is a qualified person who will take a detailed look at your home and alert you to any safety hazards, hidden damage, and the expected life span of various mechanical appliances throughout the home. A house inspection may give you some negotiating power to reduce the price or request repairs of any identified issues before continuing with the sale.

Or, a home inspection may simply give you peace of mind to know the exact condition of the home and all of its issues before you finalize the purchase.

What to expect during a home inspection

A house inspection is a routine process during which a home inspector takes a look at the house. Once you are under contract on a home, you’re ready to hire a home inspector. Based on what the home inspector finds, you can decide to back out of the contract without a penalty, or you can proceed with negotiations.

1. Meeting your home inspector at the property.

It’s always a good idea to meet your home inspector at the subject property. This way you can get to know them and ask them any questions. After the inspection, the home inspector can talk you through any issues that he/she uncovered while going through the house.

If you’re unable to meet your home inspector, give notice in advance. Be sure that you’ve left a way for them to access a key to the property, or have a friend or relative on-site who would be willing to let them in.

2. Your home inspector should inspect every nook and cranny.

A good home inspector will check out every part of your house. They’ll go in the attic. They’ll go into the basement. They’ll check every door and window, and even the roof. The home inspector will also run your water to check for potential plumbing issues. A home inspection will typically last two to three hours or more — depending on the size of the home.

3. Your home inspector will issue you a report. 

After the house inspection, the inspector may briefly discuss the findings with you. If you don’t catch everything, don’t worry. The inspector will have taken lots of pictures and will send you a detailed report describing every issue detected in the house.

4. Share your report with your real estate agent.

Your real estate agent will look at the report and determine if you should proceed with the contract, ask for anything to be fixed before proceeding, or request a lower purchase price in lieu of repairs.

Finding a home inspector

Finding a home inspector can be somewhat of a challenge, often because you’re under so much pressure to pick one that is going to do a great job. You’re counting on them to detect potentially life-threatening safety hazards, so you will want to do your homework.

Check their credentials

In many states, home inspectors need to be licensed, while in some states they do not. Wherever you live, make sure that the home inspector you have hired is properly credentialed. Ask for a sample inspection report that they have created to see what they will be looking for.

Look at online reviews

Online reviews can often tell you a lot about a home inspector. A lack of reviews can also tell you something too. When looking at local directories of home inspectors, read through both negative and positive reviews to get an overall picture of customer satisfaction.

Ask for a referral

Ask someone you know and trust if they used a home inspector that they would recommend. You might be inclined to ask your real estate agent for a recommendation as well.

Apartment inspection checklist

If you are renting a home or an apartment, you don’t need to hire a home inspector. After all, you aren’t making a huge financial investment like you are when you buy a home. Instead, you will want to check for a key few items to make sure that the apartment you plan to rent is habitable enough for the next 12 months of your life.

1. Request an inspection.

Make sure an inspection is part of your lease. This allows you to get one more detailed inspection of the apartment before you officially move in. You can ask the landlord to remedy specific issues in order to move forward.

2. Check every room top to bottom.

During your inspection, it is up to you to go room to room and check for issues. Check for signs of mold or water damage around vents and windows. Make sure all outlets and light switches are working. Check that doors open and close without sticking. See if all the window blinds are in good working order.

3. Test drive the plumbing.

Check the water pressure and run every faucet and make sure that sinks drain well. Check showers and tubs, and test the hot water and see how long it lasts. Flush toilets and watch for leaks.

4. Inspect appliances.

Test the thermostat to make sure that the heating and cooling system works correctly. Turn on the oven and burners briefly, but don’t forget to turn them off. Run the washer and dryer if included; the same goes for the dishwasher. Most of the time, your landlord will be required by law to fix or replace appliances if they breakdown while you are living there, but it isn’t a bad idea to sort out anything you can before moving in.

5. Note any damage.

When moving in, be sure to photograph and take note of any damage or non-working items. In many cases, you’ll be given a move-in inspection list by your landlord that you can use to document any damage that existed before you moved in. That way, you won’t be responsible for fixes or penalized for damage when you’re ready to move out.

The bottom line

Hiring a home inspector is a smart idea if you are buying a home. They can often save you from buying a house with a lot of problems. If you are moving into an apartment, inspect the property yourself for any potential problems.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is included in a home inspection?

For any home inspection, you should receive a detailed typed report with images that carefully detail the condition of every part of your home. The report will red flag any safety hazards and any other concerns.

How long does a home inspection take?

A home inspection usually takes two to three hours, or longer for larger or more complex homes.

How much does it cost to do a home inspection?

A home inspection usually costs between $300 and $500. However, it will depend on your location, the size of your home, and what exactly you plan to inspect.


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