What is a home inspection?

The inspection is an important part of the home buying process. This is when a licensed home inspector reviews the house to find structural, electrical or mechanical flaws. The home inspection is designed to protect the buyers, by revealing problems they might not have noticed otherwise. It is a “non-invasive” examination of the property, which means the inspector will not cause any damage to the home while inspecting it.

Why is the home inspection necessary?

Home inspections are not required by law, but they are definitely worth the money. The inspection helps protect your investment. It gives you the peace of mind that comes from knowing the true condition of the home. The home inspection also gives you a way to back out of the contract, if the inspector finds something you are unwilling to accept. So in a word, yes. They are necessary.

When does the inspection usually take place?

In most cases, the inspection takes place shortly after the seller accepts the buyer’s offer. It happens before the appraisal. You want to schedule the home inspection as soon as you can, so you can have time to make repair requests. If the inspector uncovers something serious enough to be a deal-breaker, you’ll want to know sooner rather than later. As the buyer, it is your responsibility to schedule the inspection.

Who pays for it?

In nearly all cases, the home buyer pays for the home inspection. It is designed to protect the buyer alone, so the buyer bears the cost.

How much does a home inspection cost on average?

The cost will vary based on location and the size of the home. You can expect to pay somewhere between $300 and $500 for a home inspection. Be sure to inquire about the full cost before you hire an inspector.

Is the inspection part of my closing costs?

No. You will have to pay for the inspection when it’s performed. It’s not part of your closing costs. The same goes for any repair costs.

Do you need a home inspection to get a loan?

In most cases, you don’t need an inspection to get a mortgage loan. The lender will require you to have the home appraised, but not inspected. It’s still wise to have the property inspected, whether it’s required or not.

How do I find an inspector in my area?

Your real estate agent might be able to recommend an inspector. You can also find one through the professional organization’s website (www.ashi.org). We recommend hiring an inspector who is a member of one or more professional organizations, such as ASHI and NAHI.

What's involved in the process?

When the inspector arrives, he will begin examining the home inside and out. Once he has completed the inspection, he will review any discrepancies he found with you. He should give you a copy of the report, as well. You then have to decide what you’re comfortable accepting, and what you’re going to ask the seller to fix.

What does the inspector look for?

The inspector will look for problems with the home’s heating and cooling system, structure, roof, plumbing, electrical system, windows and doors, foundation and more. They cover all parts of the house, including the installed systems. Before you hire an inspector, you should ask what he is going to look for when he conducts the inspection.

The American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) publishes a standard of practices that outlines what you can expect. So if you choose to hire an ASHI member, you’ll know exactly what you’re going to get (or what you should get).

Does the home inspection check for termites?

Not usually. The inspector will tell you if he sees obvious termite damage, such as half-eaten rafters in the attic. But he won’t perform a complete termite inspection. You would have to use a pest-control company for this service. Termite inspections are highly recommended in some areas, and less necessary in others. Ask your real estate agent if they’re common in your area.

Does it check for mold in the house?

Not usually. The home inspector will alert you to any visual signs of mold or mildew that he finds. But he won’t do a comprehensive mold inspection. Proper mold testing is a specialized service that requires special training and equipment.

How long does a home inspection take?

It depends on the size of the house and the speed of the individual inspector. It might take anywhere from two to four hours.

Should I be present for the home inspection?

As the buyer, you should definitely be present for the inspection. That way, the inspector can point out the discrepancies on his report. He might even let you accompany him through all or part of the inspection. This is a great way to learn about your future home, inside and out.

Can the seller attend the home inspection?

Technically, yes. It’s their house after all. But 90% of the time, the sellers will get out of the way during the inspection. It’s usually just the buyers, their agent and the inspector.

What should I ask for after a home inspection, as far as repairs?

This will depend on the kind of real estate market you’re in, and the severity of the item to be repaired. In a seller’s market, you won’t have much leverage to request repairs. In a buyer’s market, you’ll have much more leverage. You should always consider the cost of the repair work when making these decisions.

It’s customary for sellers to fix items that either (A) interfere with the proper function of the home, or (B) pose some kind of safety risk. For example, you should always ask for repairs to faulty electrical systems, a sink disposal that doesn’t work, etc.

And remember, the worst the sellers can do is say no. So when in doubt, ask for the repair.

Can you get out of a contract based on home inspection?

Yes, if you include such a contingency in your purchase agreement. We recommend that you put this kind of contingency in the agreement. This allows you to back out of the deal if the inspector finds something that is unacceptable to you.

Does the seller get a copy of the inspection report?

No. Not usually. As the buyer, you’re the one paying for the inspection. So the report is your property. The only thing the seller gets is your repair request (if you make one).

Does the seller have to leave the property when the inspection is being performed?

No. They are not required to leave, but they usually do. It would be awkward if both the buyer and seller were present for a home inspection. So the sellers usually leave before it starts.

Does a basic home inspection include the pool?

Not usually. Most inspectors focus on the house itself. You could have a local pool service come out and check the pool, if you wanted.

Do I need an extra inspection when using an FHA home loan?

You don’t need an extra inspection, but you’ll probably have a more thorough one. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has minimum property standards for the FHA loan program. Some of their requirements go above and beyond the basic home inspection. Most of these are safety-related items. You can get a full list of their minimum property standards on the HUD website.