Home Inspection FAQs

What exactly is a home inspection?

A home inspection is an examination of the structure and systems of a house. This includes the roof, attic, insulation, ventilation, exterior, basement, foundation, crawlspace, structure, cooling, heating, fireplace, plumbing, electrical, doors, windows, interior, and major appliances.

Why is a home inspection so important?

The purchase of a home is one the largest single investments you will ever make. With that in mind, it is extremely important that you learn as much as you can about the condition of the property and the possible need for any major repairs before making the purchase. A home inspection helps minimize the possibility of unpleasant surprises, unexpected costs and post-purchase headaches. Throughout your inspection, your inspector will even give you maintenance tips that will be necessary to keep it in good shape. After the home inspection, you will have a much better understanding of the property you are about to purchase, giving you confidence and peace of mind.

What are the most common problems found during a home inspection?

A few of the most common issues found during home inspections include home wiring problems, roof issues such as leaks and worn-out shingles or tiles, inadequate insulation, plumbing problems, and defects in the heating and air conditioning systems. Poor grading and drainage of the yard is also quite common. Your home inspector will note the severity of these problems, to help you understand how serious they are.

What should I do before a home inspection?

Do your research and make sure you hire a certified, reputable inspector. Make sure that you schedule the inspection for a time when you can walk through the home with the inspector, so that they can tell you about their findings throughout the process, and you can ask them any questions you may have.

What are the best questions to ask during a home inspection?

Any question that you have! Your home inspector is there to help you make sure you’re purchasing a high-quality home that’s free of major problems. A great home inspector will be used to answering any and all of your questions. That’s their job. However, avoid questions about cosmetic issues – you don’t want to waste time. Focus on asking questions about the most critical (expensive) aspects of the home, such as the wiring and plumbing, internal structure, major appliances, and other such systems.

When is the proper time to schedule a home inspection?

A home inspector is typically contacted right after the contract or purchase agreement is signed with the seller. The sooner you contact an inspector, the sooner they can schedule your inspection.

How much does a home inspection cost?

Most home inspection prices are based off of square footage. Other factors include the size and features of the house, its age, and additional considerations such as optional testing. It’s always a good idea to compare prices from several different home inspection services in your area, paying close attention to exactly what is included for the price.

What is involved in a home inspection?

The home inspector will arrive at the home, and begin examining each room, looking for both cosmetic and more serious structural flaws. The exterior will also be examined, as will the surrounding landscape. Special care is usually given to attics, crawl spaces, and basements, as these can be indicative of the overall condition of the home.

Do I have to be present for the home inspection?

Inspectors generally always invite customers to be part of the home inspection process. It’s a great chance for you to get to know your house before you make it your home!

1. You will be able to observe the inspector and ask questions directly.
2. You will learn firsthand about the condition of the home and become familiar with all its features and components.
3. You will get to know how various systems work and how to maintain them.

If for any reason you cannot attend the home inspection, the inspector will provide you with a detailed report.

How long does a home inspection last?

A home inspection typically takes anywhere from 2 to 3 ½ hours. It really depends on the size, age and complexity of the home.

What are the benefits of home inspections?

A home inspection has a variety of great benefits. First, you’ll know exactly what you’re buying, once you do purchase a home. You’ll know if you should expect any major expenses, such as getting a new roof or a roof rebuild within a few years. You also may be able to invoke your contingency clause and walk away from a home if a serious issue is found – such as a cracked foundation or extreme levels of mold. And, if you do close on a home with more serious flaws, you may be able to negotiate a lower cost, or request that the homeowner fixes these issues before the home is sold to you. Finally, you avoid the potential expenses of buying a home that has numerous structural flaws. You’ll have peace of mind, knowing that your property is in good condition.

Is a home inspection just for new home buyers?

Not at all. It’s also for existing homeowners! A home inspection may be considered in order to identify problems in the making, and to learn important preventive measures to avoid costly future repairs. If you are planning to sell your home, you also may wish to have a home inspection prior to placing your home on the market. This will give you a better understanding of conditions which may be discovered by the buyer’s home inspection, and an opportunity to make repairs that will put the house in better selling condition.

Can a home actually “pass or fail” a home inspection?

Not really. A home inspection is merely a thorough examination of the home’s current condition. It is neither an appraisal (which determines market value) nor a municipal inspection, which verifies local code compliance. Most home inspection professionals, therefore, will not “pass” or “fail” a house, but will accurately and objectively describe its current condition and indicate potential problems or concerns. It is really up to the buyer and their agent to determine if the home meets their needs and standards.

What if my inspector finds problems during the home inspection?

First of all, it’s important to remember that it is rare for any home to be perfect. If your home inspector does identify some problems during the home inspection, it doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t buy the house, only that you will know, in advance, what to expect and plan for. What’s more, you may be able to negotiate the purchase price of the home with the seller if significant problems are found, which will help you offset the required repair costs.

If the house checks out, did I really need a home inspection in the first place?

Most certainly, yes. Now that your new home has been thoroughly inspected, you can complete your home purchase with confidence in its overall condition and its vital systems and components. You will also have become knowledgeable about your new home’s structure and systems, and can keep that information handy for future reference.

Do all old houses have problems?

No. Many old houses are built to last for decades or even centuries – and a well-maintained, older home is often a great investment. However, because the building techniques and materials we’ve used for things like electricity and plumbing have changed, some older homes have issues like knob-and-tube wiring, or polybutylene piping. In many cases, these issues may have already been fixed by the current owner. If this is not the case, hiring a home inspector allows you to find out, and see if there are any major issues with the home’s critical systems.

What are the key things to inspect before buying a house?

The most key things to inspect are also the most expensive to repair. Here’s a short list of some of the most critical things to inspect for:

  1. Asbestos 
  2. Lead paint
  3. Foundation damage
  4. HVAC repairs or replacement
  5. Mold removal and remediation
  6. Faulty roofing
  7. Issues with sewer pipes or septic systems
  8. Termites

Note that not all of these services are included in standard home inspections. Most home inspectors who offer these services charge additional fees for termite, mold, asbestos, or lead paint testing.

How can I avoid buying a money pit?

You’re already taking the first step. Hiring a qualified home inspector is the single best way to avoid buying a “money pit”. If you really want to be sure, you may want to consider hiring an additional inspector, and investing in some more specialized services, such as sewer pipe examinations and termite inspections.

What are the common plumbing issues in homes?

There are a number of common plumbing issues in most homes, but most are not a major cause for concern. This could include dripping faucets, sinks and drains that are clogged and do not drain properly, faulty or failing water heaters, or low water pressure. The most important thing to inspect in a home’s plumbing system is the condition of the pipes. If your pipes and other major water systems are in good shape, fixing more minor issues is usually quite simple.

How long will a modern home last?

Most modern homes built with wooden structural supports and a concrete foundation are expected to last at least 100 years, and could easily reach 200 years. Naturally, this depends on the climate, how each home is cared for during its lifetime, and how well-built the home is. Some homes will, naturally, last longer than others.

What usually needs fixing in a fixer-upper house?

Well, each fixer-upper home is different. Once you have a home inspected, your inspector should be able to give you a list of any major systems – such as plumbing or wiring – that need to be repaired or replaced. Some of the other common systems that may need attention include the HVAC system, the roof, the structure of the home, and the doors and windows. Beyond this, you can fix things based on your personal preferences – re-arranging the kitchen and the bathrooms, for example, or adding new paint, appliances, and fixtures like sinks and toilets. It all depends on the house you’re buying – so make sure you hire a good inspector, and walk through the property a few times, to develop a “game plan”, and make sure you’re prepared for the purchase of a fixer-upper.