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Answering Your Frequently Asked Questions

So You Need a Home Inspection

Buying a home is one of the most exciting – and terrifying – events in your life.  You will likely spend more money on your home than on any other purchase you ever make.  Even if this isn’t the first home you have purchased, you may have questions about the home inspection process.  From questions about whether or not you even need a home inspection to what is done during a home inspection.  We hope our FAQs offer you some information as well as peace of mind about the process.

We have broken our FAQs down into sections so that you can more easily search for your question.  If you don’t see your question, feel free to reach out to us!  We love talking about home inspections!

Most Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need to get a home inspection to buy a house?

Buying a home is the biggest investment you will ever make.  Getting a home inspection is strongly recommended because your inspector will be able to discover and document defects that may or may not be obvious to you as a prospective buyer.  These defects can range from simple replacements or repairs to severe damage or even safety and health concerns. Additionally, many mortgage companies require a home inspection on a property before approving the home loan.

What is covered under a home inspection?

Our InterNACHI certified master home inspector will perform a home inspection and generate a report for you.  This report should be considered a snapshot in time of the condition of the following:

  • Plumbing System
  • HVAC System including furnace and AC units
  • Electrical System
  • Kitchens and Bathrooms
  • Attic and insulation
  • Foundation and framing
  • Basement/Cellar
  • Stairs and handrails
  • Walls, doors, and windows
  • Porches and decks
  • Siding and trim
  • Roof and gutters
  • Driveway and exterior walkways
  • Grading and landscaping around the structure of the home
  • Garage/carport

Your inspector isn’t going to tear your home apart to inspect piping and wiring and cannot inspect what is not visible. But the more exterior and interior parts of the home an inspector can access, the more complete the final report will be.

How much does a home inspection cost?

Home inspections can vary drastically in price.  Prices often reflect the size of the home to be inspected, the distance the inspector must drive to reach the home, the experience of the inspector, the time the inspector spends to complete his inspections, and the age of the home.  For an average 2500 square foot home that is around 20 years old, one inspector may charge you  $400 and another may quote you $1200.  The first inspector may spend 1 hour performing the inspection and deliver a written report to you as he leaves the house.  The second inspector may spend 6-8 hours performing the inspection and deliver the report 24-48 hours later.

It is extremely important you interview a prospective inspector about how he/she performs their inspection and how long it will take.

Being cheap is not a smart move when it comes to one of the most significant investments you will make in your life.

At 1st Step Home Inspection, for the example home above, we would likely spend approximately 3 hours performing the inspection and would have your report delivered to you within 24 hours.  It is always best to provide the actual house address that is to be inspected in order to get the most accurate price.

How long does an inspection take?

The time needed to perform a home inspection depends on several factors.  The size of the home, the age of the home, the habits of the actual inspector, what items the inspection company includes in their home inspection (NOT ALL INSPECTION COMPANIES ARE THE SAME), and the experience of the inspector can all affect how long the inspection will take.

For the average-sized 2500 square foot 20-year-old home, 1st Step Home Inspection would recommend that you set aside 3 hours for your inspection.  For a condominium, 1 1/2 – 2 hours is probably sufficient.  Having additional add-on tests can extend the time needed to perform your inspection.

Who should attend the home inspection?

It is always recommended that the home buyer(s) attend the inspection.  The inspector will spend time during the inspection going over the features of your new home, such as showing you where your water shut-offs are located, and how your GFCI receptacles are connected.

With the exception of Maintenance Inspections and 11-month Inspections, the current homeowner should not be present during the inspection nor should the homeowner’s REALTOR.

It is up to you, the home buyer if you wish to have your REALTOR present during the inspection.  Lots of real estate agents will make excuses about why they don’t attend inspections. The best agents do. Don’t forget this FAQ when you are interviewing a buyer’s agent to work with.

Can a home fail a home inspection?

A professional home inspection is an examination and objective assessment of the current condition of a house. A home inspector will not pass or fail a house, but rather describe its physical condition and indicate what components and systems may need major repair or replacement. A home inspection is not an appraisal and will not determine the home’s market value. It is also not a municipal inspection and does not verify local code compliance.

What happens if issues are found during the home inspection?

If your home inspection reveals any problems, it is important to understand the severity of the defect. For example, a missing shingle or a non-functioning electrical socket can be easily fixed at a low cost. However, if the defect is more extreme, such as a major foundation crack, wood-destroying organism infestation, or evidence of mold, you should find out how these problems can be addressed, and whether you can negotiate their cost with the seller. 

The seller of the home is not automatically required to repair any problems that the inspector finds. As the buyer, you can negotiate for the repairs to be made before you buy the home. If the seller is not willing to do the repairs for you, you will need to make other arrangements or terminate the contract. If you still want to purchase the house but are unable to get the financial lender to approve the loan until the repairs are made, you may have to make the repairs at your own expense.

At what point in the home buying process should I schedule a home inspection?

A home inspection is usually scheduled immediately after an offer has been made and accepted.  Many contracts are written with a 7 or 10-day kick-out clause pending the findings of a home inspection.  That way, the inspector can rule out any major defects that could be dangerous or costly.

In rare cases—due to timing or contractual issues—the inspection can be scheduled after the closing date. If this is the case, the home buyer should schedule the inspection for the earliest possible date after closing.

What is the difference between a Home Inspection and a Home Appraisal?

A home appraisal assesses the value of the home you’re buying.  It is required by the lender in order to ensure the home is worth the contracted price.  An appraisal is part of the borrowing process just like checking your credit score or debt-to-income ratio.

But this appraisal will not reveal specific details about the condition of the home. A home appraisal will be more concerned with the home’s location, size, and general condition.

Unlike a home inspector, the appraiser will not crawl around in the basement or climb onto the roof searching for problems.

Selecting a Home Inspector

How much experience should my home inspector have?

Your home inspector works for you.  Inquire about the inspector’s level of experience and ask for references. Inspectors who are confident in their service should willingly supply you with a list of references that can confirm they provide quality service.  Additionally, ask if your inspector has a master inspector certification and what other certifications he/she has.  Ask friends, colleagues, and your real estate agent for referrals.

Here are some key things to look for in your inspector:

  • The inspector’s experience. How many years have they been in the business and how many inspections do they do a year?
  • Exclusiveness. Choose someone who specializes strictly in home inspections.
  • Beware of contractors who do house inspections “on the side”.
  • Reporting. Find out what type of report will be issued, written, oral, or both.
  • Certifications. Are they InterNACHI certified?
  • Insurance. Does the inspector have Liability Insurance should something happen during the inspection?
Can I ask the Inspector Questions?

Yes, you should ask your home inspector questions before, during, and after the inspection!  It is very important that you make sure that you understand the report. If there are any aspects of the report you feel are unclear, don’t be afraid to ask. It is your money and you should make sure you are thoroughly familiar with the investment you are making.

Should my inspector specialize in Residential Inspections?

Ask about an inspector’s specialties and certifications. There are various types of real estate, and all need varying forms of inspection before purchase. Commercial real estate is different from residential real estate, which is different from multi-family real estate.  Just because an inspector is licensed to perform inspections in your state does not mean he/she is qualified to perform every type of inspection.

Is it okay to perform the inspection myself?

Just as the lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client, so should you be leery of having a home inspection performed by anyone who is not a licensed expert home inspector.   Professional Home inspectors are specially trained to look for things you may miss. Unless you are a home inspector yourself, seek out a professional. Some states or financial lenders require a licensed inspector to complete the inspection.

Can my home inspector also repair any defects he or she finds?

What if your home inspector is also a licensed contractor? Sounds great, right? Not always. Although it may seem convenient to have an inspector who is also a contractor, it poses a conflict of interest. According to InterNACHI’s Code of Ethics

The InterNACHI member shall not perform or offer to perform, for an additional fee, any repairs or associated services to the structure for which the member or member’s company has prepared a home inspection report for a period of 12 months. This provision shall not include services to components and/or systems that are not included in the InterNACHI Standards of Practice.

If an inspector financially benefits from finding any defects, this can impact the accuracy of the report (whether intentional or not). Make sure the inspector you hire abides by a Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice.


Questions for Home Owners/Sellers

If I am selling my house, should I be present during the home inspection?

The short answer is “no”.  If it is a pre-listing inspection ordered by the seller, they are absolutely okay to be there and should be. But, if it is a buyer-paid pre-sale inspection, it’s just not a good idea, and here’s why.  The seller being present can inhibit the success of the inspection.  Simply by trying to be helpful to the inspector, the seller can unintentionally interfere with the inspection.  You will also inhibit communication between the inspector and the buyer with your presence.  Your buyer can feel uncomfortable asking questions of the inspector in front of you.  If buyers are not allowed to conference uninterrupted with their home inspector or experience a “hovering” seller during the inspection, it can lead to feelings of suspicion about what the seller may be trying to hide or distract from and could potentially cause issues with the final sale. If a seller is not present, buyers will feel comfortable talking openly with their inspector and asking frank questions, ensuring they are fully satisfied with the current state of the home.

What should I do to prepare for the home inspection?

It’s in your interest as a home seller to provide quick and easy access to everything on that home inspection checklist. Here are some ways you can help:

  • Leave keys (for instance, for your electrical panel), and label where the inspector can find them
  • Make sure all pilot lights are on for fireplaces and furnaces, even in summer, so the inspector can check the heating and other appliances
  • Tidy your basement. There needs to be an unobstructed path down the steps and through to your furnace/HVAC unit/water heater and anything else that needs inspecting
  • Tidy your attic same as your basement
  • Clean up key areas in your yard so the inspector can easily access your crawl space, drainage access points, or septic tank
  • If the home is vacant and the utilities have been shut off, have them reconnected
  • Provide open access to areas that need to be checked
  • Check the roof.  Get out a ladder and clean moss and debris from the gutters, check for damaged or missing tiles, and make sure downspouts are in their proper position. If you do find damage on the roof, you’ll want to get it taken care of prior to the home inspection.
  • Replace any bulbs that are blown out.  A blown bulb suggests two things to a home inspector: either the bulb itself is out, or there’s something faulty in the fixture’s wiring. The inspector will either have to waste time determining whether a fixture is inoperable or they’ll simply note that there’s a possible defect without looking further into it. Avoid both of these scenarios by making sure that all of your bulbs are in working order.
  • Make sure toilets are functioning properly. Does your toilet run for a long time after you flush? It’s a common problem that gets easy to ignore when you’re living with it every day, but it’s not something you want your home inspector to come upon.
  • Replace your furnace filter.  Regularly replacing the furnace filter in your home is important for air quality and the overall functioning of your heating system. Instead of making the inspector concerned that you haven’t been taking good care of your home’s heating and air, clean or replace the existing filter and show that it’s something you do pay attention to.
  • Check your doors.  Take a walk-through of your house and check each door to make sure that it’s in working condition. Interior and exterior doors should be latching into the frame with no problem, doorknobs should be securely in place, and any locks, particularly on doors that lead outside, need to be functioning properly as well.
  • Repair loose cabinets and drawers.  It’s easy for the hinges on cabinets to get a bit loose, which results in doors that don’t close correctly or that aren’t flush with the frame.
  • Look for leaks and water damage.  The home inspector is definitely going to be looking for signs of leaks or water damage, so it’s better you beat them to it and get any water-related issues repaired prior to the inspection. When looking for leaks, be sure to check under sinks, around faucets, around the base of your toilets and bathtubs and/or showers, and under any appliances that may leak, such as dishwashers and refrigerators. In terms of water damage, examine walls, ceilings, and floors, looking for signs of warping, sagging, or buckling. Don’t forget to check the exterior of your house for signs of leaks or water damage as well. If you see water pooling near the base of your house, that should be a cause for concern.
  • Take care of any bug or pest problems.  Most of us have to occasionally deal with an errant ant or spider in the home, especially in warmer temperatures. But if you’ve got a wasp nest in the backyard, are regularly seeing lines of ants in your kitchen or other interior areas, or you are seeing evidence of mice – you’ll want to take care of these problems prior to inspection. Most bug or pest problems aren’t a huge deal, but they can turn off buyers.

Being helpful won’t necessarily buy you a better report, but even professionals appreciate thoughtfulness.

Should I get my home inspected before I put it on the market?

Whether or not getting a home inspection before listing makes sense for you depends on a number of factors. Keep these pros and cons in mind as you decide if it’s a good next step.

  • You can get ahead of repairs.  Doing a home inspection in advance of listing gives you an opportunity to get ahead of repair issues, especially anything major that could kill a deal.  Do your repairs in advance and you’ll have more control over how things get fixed and how much you spend in doing so.
  • You might be able to close faster.  Your buyer is still likely to want to have their own home inspection done even if they know you had one done already.  And while you might not be able to skip this step, you can feel fairly confident that no major issues will be revealed that could slow down the process.
  • You could possibly list your home for more.  Any improvement that you make to your home has the potential to increase its value, even if that improvement is a necessary one based on your home inspector’s findings. This is especially true for big-ticket repairs like new appliances, roofs, and furnaces, but it also applies to smaller things, like getting rid of mildew in your bathrooms.    

Something to be aware of should you be considering a pre-listing inspection:

You will have to disclose any big issues.  Regardless of whether you do a pre-listing inspection or your buyer does a pre-sale inspection, any major issues found on a home inspection must be disclosed to future buyers. 

This includes serious structural issues like cracks in the home’s foundation or any water or termite damage. These items would have been discovered in the post-offer home inspection anyway, but by that point, a buyer is more invested in the property and may be more willing to work with you on overcoming the issue instead of just backing out entirely.

You’ll also have to disclose what you’ve had repaired and why. If you opted for a quick fix on something in lieu of a more detailed repair, your buyer will be aware of it, and so will their own home inspector.

What is an Maintenance Inspection and how often should it be performed?

A home maintenance inspection is just like the inspection you got on your home before you purchased it.  It provides you with a full picture of any below-the-radar repairs that may need to be completed on your home.

Your licensed inspector will check out all the main systems of your home—roof, walls, foundation, HVAC, electrical, plumbing—and flag anything that might be starting to malfunction.

A good inspector can see the signs you might not know to look for that something is starting to go: small cracks, uneven wearing, or even just appliances such as water heaters and boilers reaching the eventual end of their lives. They can also remind you of the regular maintenance you should be doing on your house.

Like an annual physical, a maintenance inspection can catch issues early and give you the peace of mind of a clean bill of health for your home.