Updated: Jan 26
It’s not mandatory to hire a home inspector before purchasing a home, but neglecting to do so could blindside you to issues in the house that are undetectable to the untrained eye. When you’re touring a home, you’re most likely going to notice that the walls need a fresh coat of paint and that the appliances could use an update. But you might not realize that there’s an issue with the electrical wiring throughout the house—one that could start a dangerous fire if left unfixed.
Industry experts suggest having a home inspected after your offer has been approved by the seller, but before you sign the final contract. It’s also possible to list in the contract that the closing of the sale is contingent upon what the inspector finds.
If problems are found you could negotiate with the seller to either repair some of the problems, issue you a credit to repair some problems yourself, or lower the purchase price. Or, if stated in your contract, you can also back out of the deal penalty free.
Do your research before hiring
A good home inspector won’t just check for problems, they’ll also teach you how to keep up with your new home.
To find a good inspector, ask your real estate agent for a referral, or ask around from friends and family that have recently gone through the home buying or selling process.
You should also do your own research and interview the inspector before hiring an inspector.
Some questions to keep in mind include:
Where they got they’re training?
How long they’ve been inspecting homes?
Are they continuing to educate themselves?
Do they maintain membership in a professional home inspection association?
What parts of the house do they inspect? What won’t they inspect?
Do they have experience with inspecting homes similar to yours?
What to expect
An inspector will typically charge between $200 and $500, depending on the size, age and type of home being inspected. Don’t let a high price scare you away. In many cases, you pay for thoroughness and/or expertise.
Keep in mind that spending a couple hundred dollars upfront might save you hundreds of thousands in the long run.
It might be a good idea to research inspectors before you make an offer on a house. If you wait until the last minute, it will be more challenging to find a good inspector that has availability.
An inspector will evaluate the house’s plumbing, walls, ceilings, floors, foundation, basement, roofing, drainage system, garage, heating and cooling system and electrical system. Some—but not all—inspectors look at kitchen appliances to ensure that they’re working properly.
You should always attend an inspection, so the inspector can show you any issues in person. You will receive a firsthand review of the home and have a better understanding of what you are buying. You’ll want the inspector to sit with you after the inspection and explain their findings and answer your questions, if possible.
Your inspector will create a comprehensive report of their findings and recommendations. The report is typically presented to you no more than two days after an inspection. Keep in mind that no home is perfect, even a new home. An inspector’s report will have a myriad of issues, ranging from major to minor.
If possible, get an estimate on how much the necessary repairs will cost to fix. If the house has severe problems, they need to be addressed. Your home is an investment, so why invest in a faulty house?
While inspectors while look at most areas of the house, they aren’t commonly licensed to inspect:
Pest control Swimming pools Asbestos Radon Gas Lead paint Toxic mold
If you are worried about any of these areas, call a specialist. A home inspector might suggest a specialist if they spot any possible issues in these areas, but it’s up to the buyer to make sure that all the bases are covered.