Getting a Home Inspection

Buying a house is probably the biggest purchase that most people will ever make. Given what’s at stake, you want to be sure you’re not buying a lemon. If you’re buying an existing home, a home inspection can save you from getting a house that needs costly repairs from either owner’s neglect or old age.

Even if you’re looking at new construction, however, you should hire an inspector to make sure everything was done correctly during the construction process. Don’t rely on the codes inspectors, as they’re often in a hurry and might miss something important. Paying for a home inspection is a small price to pay for peace of mind.

Finding a home inspector you can trust

I’m a big fan of calling around for recommendations as it’s hard to gauge a home inspector from an ad in the phone book or online. You can start by asking your realtor for recommendations and/or comments on home inspectors. Also check with any friends that have bought a house and find out how they liked their inspector.

I’m primarily interested in how thorough the inspector is and whether or not they’ll take the time to explain the results to me. If your friends are open, you might also consider asking them about the price. While you’re not necessarily looking at the lowest price, you don’t want to overpay for your home inspection and break your budget.

Home inspection prices vary according to region and building size. I’ve found that estimated costs in my area are typically $300-$450.

Ask questions

After you have a list of names, go ahead and call the inspectors. While making small talk, ask questions concerning the inspection and their qualifications. Any qualified professional will expect these types of questions and won’t be offended.

If you’re looking for solid questions to ask the potential home inspector, the Department of Housing and Urban Development has a nice resource. I found the questions helpful when calling.

  • What does your inspection cover and how much does it cost?
  • Are you specifically experienced in residential inspection?
  • Do you maintain membership in a professional home inspector association?

Some states, such as North Carolina, have a license for home inspectors, but others don’t. If your state doesn’t have a license requirement, ask the home inspector if they’re a member of the American Society of Home Inspectors. Verify by check with the association yourself. It pays to be diligent.

Be there during the inspection

It’s always a good idea to be present during the inspection. That way the inspector can not only review the results, but they can also point out any particularly problematic areas. Just don’t get in the inspector’s way.

What does a typical home inspection include?

The standard home inspector’s report will cover the condition of the home’s heating system; central air conditioning system (temperature permitting); interior plumbing and electrical systems; the roof, attic and visible insulation; walls, ceilings, floors, windows and doors; the foundation, basement and structural components.

Make the most of your time by taking notes and paying attention during the inspection. When you receive your report from the inspector, review anything that you don’t understand. You may not have the technical expertise, so take advantage of the fact that you’re paying them to help you.

Have you been through a home inspection?

If you’ve had a home inspected, how did it go? Was the inspector helpful? Did the inspector help you avoid a costly repair? Do you have any tips to share?

17 Responses to “Getting a Home Inspection”

  1. Anonymous

    Good article, ASHI is a good organization to be certified through, but there is another very good one, The International Association of Certified Home Inspectors. Of course I may be a little prejudice since that is the organization I belong to.

  2. Anonymous

    In Malaysia, if you intend to get your home/building to be inspected, kindly, find the qualified and professionally trained building inspectors/building surveyors from The Institution of Surveyors, Malaysia (ISM). ISM is a professional body equivalent to the RICS in UK. Others, such as individuals or from certain professional bodies also claim that they can do the job. Remember, most of them just bring you big kinds of conflict of interest. Just imagined, some professional supposed to deliver defects free building (design as well as structures and other components), but they don’t deliver their works competently, yet they want to come back to the building to do building inspection. Ahaaa…that means, they delivered defects building in order to make another money from us (the purchasers). We really need independent body/building surveyors to counter this wrong practice and to ensure they will deliver the perfect buildings in the future.

  3. Anonymous

    Good article, ASHI is a good organization to be certified through, but there is another very good one, The International Association of Certified Home Inspectors. Of course I may be a little prejudice since that is the organization I belong to.

  4. Anonymous

    Thanks, Kevin – We did recommend him quite a lot, until we moved 1300 miles.

    heck, that’s how we found out about him in the first place – word of mouth. Met him once and knew he was our man.

  5. Anonymous

    My husband and I own a Home Inspection company and agree with many of the comments here. We are independent: we don’t actively market our services to realtors, and we aren’t tied to any particular company. The vast majority of our business comes from people doing web searches for “independent home inspector in Maryland”. We’re also members of ASHI (Bob is on the board of the local chapter), and agree that having an affiliation with ASHI is the mark of a good home inspector.

    One of the important things about getting a home inspection is to allow plenty of time for it. We generally estimate 1 hour per 1000 square feet — and that means total square feet, including crawl spaces and attics. The average development home can take four hours or more to fully inspect.

    Our website has a lot of information about home inspections in general, along with a “Hall of Shame” with hundreds of pictures of things Bob has found during his inspections (including a dead mouse on an electrical panel, and a family of bats living in an attic!). Even if you’re not in our service area, the information can help you evaluate your home inspector’s services.

  6. Anonymous

    Mr. Not the Jet Set–you need to recommend that inspector all over town. That’s the kind we all need, but rarely find, the one who can take what he does and convert it into a language we can understand!

    Not everything in an inspection is a crisis, and having an inspector who can put it all in perspective is worth his weight in gold.

  7. Anonymous

    We’ve been through a couple of these. The best inspector we had went through and inspected the home to the ‘letter of the law’ – absolutely by the book. This results in a lengthy inspection and a laundry list of items.

    What was best was that he then sat down with us an showed us item by item how big of a deal these things were. Things we can fix ourselves (loose bolt on garage door), things that were likely done wrong on a high percentage of the homes in our neighborhood (shingles not installed to mfr specs, hot and cold water reversed at faucet), and what we should take back to the seller (water heater issue)

  8. Anonymous

    We bought a “fixer-upper” twenty-fours years ago. Our home inspector more than paid for himself. He pointed out a lot of the things we would have to address over the coming years (which we have), suggested some repairs we were able to get done by seller before closing, and the seller gave us a $500. check towards the oil burner that would need to be replaced sooner instead of later. The inspection only cost $150.00, although I’m sure it would be more now. But it was money well spent.

  9. Anonymous

    I ended up not buying a house due to a horrible inspection. The inspector found so much stuff wrong with the place: foundation issues (chimney separating), property drained _towards_ the house, overpressurized plumbing, active water leaks behind the walls, and the list goes on and on.

    I can’t remember how much I paid for the inspection, but it was worth every penny to not be buying someone else’s problem. The bank refused to negotiate on the price (was in foreclosure), so I walked. Hopefully the guy who did buy the place knew what he was getting himself into.

  10. Anonymous

    I have to agree that using an inspector recommended by the real estate agent is a definate conflict. Agents tend to use deal-friendly inspectors who know not to report anything in such a way that it might kill a deal. Even if I didn’t know of any inspectors, I’d probably call the municipality for referrals before acceting one from a real estate agent.

    But another bigger issue is that buyers often hire inspectors then ignore their advice, as though the whole episode is just another hurdle to clear on the way to closing.

    Never fall so in love with your purchase that you ignore the advice of the people you’re paying to represent your interests.

    A problem that your inspector points out won’t go away, certainly not with verbal assurances from the seller or smooth words from the agents, all of whom are primarily interested in closing the deal, details be damned.

    Your bargaining position evaporates after closing, so make sure everything is taken care of before then.

  11. Anonymous

    Wow. You guys have home inspectors?

    Over here in Singapore, we only have real estate agents who are only concerned about selling or buying your house.

    They lack the professionalism and i wish my country’s real estate profession would become as professional as yours.

  12. Anonymous

    My realtor recommended an inspector who I really liked. During our inspection he noted that the ceilings had been vaulted after the house was built in some sort of remodel. Unfortunately, he said, he couldn’t see the load bearing beam to make sure the house was structurally sound. We talked about it and he said that he could put a small hole in the drywall in the attic space next to the vaulted ceiling and that would tell us right away. The owners declined to let us check and we didn’t buy the house.

    Now, sure, the home owners probably weighed the risk of finding out they had a big pile of wood instead of a house (something they would have to disclose to the next folks) with making sure everything was good to go and decided to wait for the next folks with a less enthusiastic inspector.

    It worked out really well for us, though, because the house we ended up buying is the perfect house for us. absolutely perfect.

  13. Anonymous

    These do seem mostly like a “Rubber Stamp” in my opinion. If you love the property, barring critical failure, a lot of us will buy the property anyway. Or perhaps work out some sort of dope deal with the seller to make marginal repairs….But, the mortgage company is happy and you can move on to the next hurdle.

    Dylan is right – Your realtor has a conflict of interest. Consider them Satan’s little helper handing you a life jacket to cross the river of Styxx. Just kidding, calm down realtors. But there are some shady ones out there – like all industries.

  14. Anonymous

    @Dylan: Good point. For some,though, they don’t have any recommendations from others. Just because you ask a realtor doesn’t mean you have to take their recommendation. You still have due diligence to complete with them. I’m all for taking a group and whittling it down to a couple of good choices.

  15. Laura: I agree with Dylan that, while your realtor might be able to provide some insight, you have to be very careful about taking their advice. It’s in the realtor’s best interest to close the sale, so their definition of a “good” inspector might differ from yours.

    Another suggestion: If you’re building a new home, consider hiring an inspector for a “pre-drywall” inspection, as they’ll have full access to the plumbing, electrical work, etc. Once the drywall goes up, you just have to trust that all of this stuff was done right.

  16. Anonymous

    “You can start by asking your realtor for recommendations and/or comments on home inspectors.”

    There is a huge conflict of interest in getting a recommendation from your realtor for a home inspector. You want an inspection by an objective home inspector, working only for your own interests. The last thing you want is a home inspector that feels like they owe the realtor a favor.

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