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If you’re buying a home, ordering a home inspection is a key step in the process. An inspection can help you uncover problems with a home before you buy it, potentially saving you thousands of dollars in future repairs.
That’s probably why nearly 9 in 10 homebuyers order an inspection before closing on a home, according to a survey from real estate technology company Porch.
Here’s an overview of what to expect at a home inspection and how to find the right pro for the job:
- What is a home inspection?
- How much home inspections cost
- How to find the right home inspector
- What home inspectors look for
- What are some home inspection red flags?
What is a home inspection?
A home inspection is a visual evaluation of a home’s condition, including its structural features, plumbing and electrical systems. An inspector will walk through the entire home — including the basement, attic and outdoor structures, if applicable — and check for potential issues. Once the inspection is wrapped up, the inspector provides a written report, complete with photos and recommendations, for the potential homebuyer to review.
When should you get one?
Most homebuyers order the inspection after their offer has been accepted but before buying the house. The house inspection itself is quick; they generally take two to four hours, depending on the size and condition of the home.
If you’re considering a home purchase, be sure to shop around and compare lenders. Credible makes this easy — you can compare multiple lenders and loan options in as little as three minutes.
How much home inspections cost
House inspections cost $280 to $400 on average, according to HomeAdvisor, but prices vary based on your region and the size of the home. Some inspectors set a fixed price for any home within a certain square footage and increase the cost accordingly for larger homes.
This expense isn’t included in the closing costs. Instead, the inspector receives payment right after completing the job. You’ll likely foot the bill, but in some cases, the seller might offer to pay for the inspection to sweeten the deal.
You can use the inspection results to negotiate a lower sales price, ask for repairs or even walk away from the sale if your purchase offer included an inspection contingency.
Learn More: How Much Does It Cost to Buy a Home?
How to find the right home inspector
There’s no national certification process for home inspectors, but some states have licensing and certification requirements that inspectors must follow. For example, some states require inspectors to be a member of a nonprofit home inspector association, while others have an education and exam requirement.
Here’s how you can find a qualified home inspector:
1. Do your own research
While the seller might recommend a certain inspector, you should do your own research. Start by checking whether your lender requires an inspection as a condition of getting the mortgage and researching the standards in your state. You can also start a list of questions for your inspector.
2. Ask for recommendations and read reviews
Ask trusted friends, family members, colleagues and your real estate agent for recommendations. Gather a list of companies and start checking out their websites and social media presence. Good inspection companies provide information about what to expect at a home inspection, their services and fees, customer testimonials, and contact information in case you have questions.
You can also check review websites such as Yelp, Angie’s List, and Google. Former customers can provide a lot of insight into the company’s performance. Look for patterns of people who were satisfied with the inspection experience and customer service.
3. Look for professional organizations
You can also look for certified inspectors through professional organizations, such as the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) and the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (NACHI). These organizations maintain strict membership criteria requiring courses, exams, and continuing education.
4. Reach out to potential candidates
Once you’ve checked the standards in your state, asked for recommendations, and read reviews, narrow your list of potential inspectors to two or three. Call each company and ask questions, including whether they have experience with the type of home you’re buying.
This step is particularly important if you’re buying a home that has unusual features, such as a historic property.
Keep Reading: How Long It Takes to Buy a House
What home inspectors look for
The inspector will conduct a methodical walkthrough of the home and take notes and pictures to compile their report. You can attend the home inspection and ask questions as you go, which gives you more information than the report alone.
The inspector will look at:
- Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC)
- Electrical systems
What are some home inspection red flags?
Home inspections rarely come up completely clean. According to the Porch report, 86% of respondents who got an inspection said their inspector identified at least one problem.
A follow-up test with a separate report might be necessary if the following issues are found:
- Asbestos: Homes built around the 1950s or earlier might need to be tested for this substance, which was once used in household products such as insulation, drywall and paint. Inhaling asbestos particles can lead to cancer and other health problems.
- Lead-based paint: Homes built before 1978 should be tested for lead-based paint, which is poisonous if breathed in.
- Mold: Because several types of mold can lead to health issues or damage the structure of the house, you should test for mold if the inspector sees mold spores, notices a musty or damp smell, or discovers damp areas of the house.
- Radon: The Environmental Protection Agency says all homes should be tested below the third floor to ensure this colorless, odorless gas is below recommended safety levels. Radon is the No. 2 leading cause of lung cancer.
- Pests: You may need to order tests if the inspector discovers signs of termite damage and rodent infestations.
Depending on the home and building standards in your region, the inspector might suggest doing a specialized inspection. They’ll either add the cost to the normal inspection or run a stand-alone test.
Here are some common types of specialized home inspections and their average costs, assuming they’re conducted as standalone inspections:
|Specialized inspection||Typical range1|
|Asbestos inspection||$225 to $808|
|Lead-based paint inspection||$226 to $415|
|Mold inspection||$294 to $1,011|
|Pest or termite inspection||$50 to $280|
|Radon inspection||$146 to $743|
|1All price estimates were sourced from HomeAdvisor.|
If you’re in the market for a home, Credible can help you compare mortgage options from multiple lenders in the table below in just a few minutes.