As an essential part of the home-buying process, a general home inspection provides potential owners insight into the condition of a property. Although home inspections are typically conducted before a mortgage is signed, homeowners can conduct home inspections on their property whenever they see fit. In fact, many owners have their homes inspected annually or every few years. Here’s everything you need to know about home inspections, including what to expect on inspection day.
What is a home inspection?
During a general home inspection, a licensed professional conducts a walkthrough of the entire house (from the roof to the foundation) to document any areas that are damaged and/or in need of repair in an inspection report. Home inspectors will assess everything they can access without breaking down essential structures or causing damage, including but not limited to:
- The attic
- Bathrooms and laundry rooms
- Electrical systems and appliances
- The foundation
- Heating and cooling systems
- Insulation and ventilation
- Property grading
- The roof
- Structural elements
- Water heater
A home inspection report is not only conducted to find major problems or “deal breakers,” it is also performed to give you a detailed picture of the general condition of a home. Some of the most commonly discovered problems during home inspections include:
- Aging appliances and household systems
- Bad air quality
- Cracks in the foundation
- Damaged roofing
- Electrical issues
- Insufficient weatherproofing
- Lead paint
- Pest issues
- Plumbing issues
- Radon gas
- Water damage
According to HomeAdvisor, most home inspections cost between $279 and $399. It is important to note that this amount only covers the cost of the inspection itself and not any necessary repairs and/or replacements the inspector discovers. Because these examinations are left completely up to the homeowners’ discretion, you can decide how often to conduct home inspections in order to ensure your dwelling and its essential structures/systems remain in pristine shape and free of any safety issues.
What is not included in a home inspection?
Despite being comprehensive examinations, home inspections come with their own exclusions that may impact their ability to identify damage and/or necessary repairs in your home. Here is what you should not expect from your home inspection:
Non-visual assessment: Though home inspections are a thorough examination of a house, home inspectors are only able to identify issues that are visually apparent within the home. Because of this, there is no guarantee that home inspections are fool-proof, as potential problems can be lurking out of sight. Additionally, most home inspections do not cover specific types of household amenities and/or causes of damage, including:
- Fireplaces and chimneys
- Internal or external engineering
- Mold, asbestos, and other household afflictions/pests
- Swimming pools
- Well and septic systems
If you suspect there are issues with these elements of a property and would like to conduct a more thorough inspection of your home, you will either have to pay your home inspector an additional fee or hire another contractor to complete the job.
Real estate advice: While home inspectors are allowed to tell you about the conditions of your home in a matter-of-fact, unbiased manner, they should never provide real estate advice or attempt to influence a buyer’s decision. In fact, providing their personal opinion about either the value of a home or whether you should move forward with the sale is a violation of the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors’ (InterNACHI) code of ethics. This is not meant to discredit the expertise of home inspectors, but rather, to ensure that the home buying process isn’t upended by personal opinions and/or biases.
Predicting the future: A home inspector can only see what’s in front of them. Sometimes they can catch an issue before it turns into a costly problem, but sometimes there’s no way to predict what problems will arise for a property down the road.
Appliances breakdown: Your home inspector will never break down any appliances or essential systems within your home, as they are only required to do a visual inspection. However, most household components (plumbing, electrical, ventilation, etc.) will undergo visual tests and other simple checks to assess their functionality.
Required repairs: Because homeowners are not required to make repairs after a home inspection, your home inspector cannot force you to pay out-of-pocket to cover the cost of any damages found in your dwelling or its essential systems and structures. However, if the damages negatively impact your safety and/or everyday living conditions, it may be in your best interest to get them fixed sooner rather than later. Or, if you are a buyer considering purchasing the house, you can approach the sellers to fix the problems.
Are you looking to hire a professional home inspector? Check out your local listings, conduct research online, and talk to your real estate agent to learn more about your options.