Whether you’re selling your current home - or you’re shopping for a new house - chances are that you’ll need a home inspection to finalize the deal.
Many people only buy a few homes in their lifetime, so while thousands of home inspections happen every day, the process isn’t well-known to most homeowners and buyers.
Here is everything you need to know about what's covered & included in a home inspection.
Understanding Home Inspections
Home inspections are an overall, non-invasive analysis of a home and it’s current condition.
Typically, buyers hire home inspectors because they have found a home that is right for them, and want to make sure that there are not any major problems with the home!
The reason why inspections are important is simple - as a buyer, you don’t want to invest a large amount of money into a home - only to find out that it has countless issues that will cost you an arm and a leg to repair.
Home inspections are essentially providing a diagnosis of a home’s condition, so that when you get your inspection report back, you can see everything that the inspector found.
This will help you and your realtor determine if the home is a good investment, or if you need to break the contract and keep looking.
The Major Components of the Home
A home inspector’s job is to perform a visual, detailed walk-through of the home that you’re looking to buy. During this walk-through, the inspector will be looking for specific things.
As the buyer, you are encouraged to attend the inspection and walk through the home with the inspector, so that they can explain findings. This is also the perfect time to ask questions!
Inspectors Will Assess the Following:
- Some inspectors start with the roof of the home
- This includes the roof coverings (type & condition of shingles), gutters, downspouts, vents, flashings, skylights, chimney and other roof penetrations.
- One of the first things that an inspector does is inspect the exterior structure of the home.
- Including - siding, eaves, soffits, fascia, windows, doors, trim, walkways, driveways, porches, decks and drainage.
- Any other basic structural elements of the house, to ensure that they are free of major issues.
- Basement, Foundation, Crawlspace & Structure
- An important part of the home inspection covers the foundation, basement and crawlspace.
- The important part here is differentiating major structural signs versus typical settling and hairline cracks.
- Understanding the functionality and location of the main water and fuel shut-offs is very important.
- You'll also learn about your water heater, operation of toilets, sinks, tubs, showers, drain, waste & vent systems, and sump pumps.
- Another critical area that includes service drops, conductors, mast, electrical meter and panels, grounding and bonding, testing a representative number of switches, lighting fixtures and receptacles (AFCI & GFCI).
- The presence of smoke, carbon-monoxide detectors, and electrical systems will be checked too.
- Fuse boxes and circuit breakers are tested, as are light switches, power outlets, and other electrical systems.
- Heating/Cooling Elements
- The inspector will inspect the heating and cooling systems.
- They do this by using normal operating controls and describe the location of the thermostat, energy source and heating/cooling method.
- If applicable, the inspector will check readily accessible portions of fireplaces & chimneys, lintels, damper doors, and clean out doors and frames.
- Attic, Insulation & Ventilation
- Making sure the home has sufficient insulation and ventilation can save problems down the road.
- Doors, Windows & Interior
- Checking a representative number of doors and windows, floors, walls and ceilings, stairways, railings, and the garage door and openers is all important since it's the areas where you'll spend the most time!
Throughout this process, the inspector will be taking notes, pictures, videos and recording any other information they find about the home being examined.
What Home Inspectors Don’t Do
It’s a common misconception that a standard home inspection includes examining & testing the home for issues like mold, pests, parasites, interior structural issues, asbestos, lead, and other specialized services.
This is usually not the case.
- To use a medical analogy, think of a home inspection as a “general check-up” – not a comprehensive, x-ray exam.
- The home you’re buying or selling will be assessed thoroughly – but specialized issues like mold or termites will sometimes require specialist inspectors.
This is not to say that home inspectors cannot do this, but it is typically an added expense to a normal home inspection.
Inspectors have to be certified to inspect mold, radon, etc., & they provide these specialized inspections as an added service.
- Keep in mind that not all home inspectors are certified in all of the extra services that you want, so when looking for an inspector, make sure their website lists the services that you require.
Inspectors also are not necessarily going to determine if a home complies with local building codes, their main goal is to look at the home itself.
- They are mostly concerned with certain aspects of the home and whether the structure and functionality of the home is in good condition.
- However, if you are not sure about local building codes, you can ask the inspector to look for these issues.
They also won’t tell you things like whether or not you’re getting a good deal on your home, or give you an opinion on the value of a home.
- This is because an inspection is supposed to be an objective view of the home.
- Giving you advice or opinions on if you should or shouldn’t buy the home is something that inspectors avoid for liability reasons.
- They will simply provide you with the information you need to make those decisions for yourself (and with the help of your realtor).
Home inspectors also aren't experts on HVAC systems, plumbing, electrical or any other major system of your home.
- They are not plumbers, electricians, or HVAC professionals.
- If they were to inspect and test every component with that level of expertise, the inspection would take all day & would cost significantly more.
They are generalists and not expected to check and catch issues from the inner workings of these systems.
What To Expect From Your Inspection
During the inspection, you are encouraged to tag along with the inspector during the entire process. This is when you should be asking them questions when they find something that’s wrong with the home, or if you are wondering what they’re doing.
This is expected, so most inspectors will invite you along and comment on what they’re seeing as they inspect each element of a home.
How Long Will an Inspection Take?
The time it takes for an inspection varies based on the square footage of the home, but the vast majority of inspections will take about 2-3 hours.
The amount of time it takes is due to the complexity of examining each element of the home. Some inspections will take more or less time depending on various factors including age, complexity, location, size, and additional services.
Tip: Inspectors Have Hundreds of Points to Check Within a Given Home
- Try not to ask them questions throughout the whole inspection.
- This will not only slow down the inspection, but this distracts them from focusing on doing the best job they can for you.
Verbal Summary and Written Report
At the end of an inspection, the inspector will give you a general overview of their findings as a verbal summary, or show you visually on their phone/tablet.
They will outline any potential & obvious issues, and may discuss what you should do to solve them, or whether they should be a cause for concern. They will also answer any questions that you still may have about the inspection.
After the verbal summary is made, a complete home inspection report will be finalized by the inspector, and sent to you. This report will have a much more detailed outline about the state of the home, and will include high-quality photos, videos, notes, & other general information about the home, such as the style and materials used in the home.
Final Steps After the Inspection & With Your Agent
A home inspection is the first step towards understanding the condition of the home that you’re buying, or selling – and it is absolutely essential!
With a solid understanding of what to expect, you can focus on the next step of the transaction - negotiating with the seller on what fixes they'll perform or if you'll get a lower purchase price.
The home inspection report that your inspector sends you will have a list of the defects found inside & outside the home. You can then look at the report with your agent to determine how much each defect will cost to repair.
This is useful when negotiating with the seller & their agent during the final purchasing steps.