When you need a home inspection, you want to make sure you get a good one. First, you need to know what a good home inspection is. Then you need to know how to find a home inspector who can, and will, give you the home inspection that serves you well. And last, you want to know how much you should pay for this quality home inspection by a good home inspector.
What Is a Home Inspection?
Let’s start with what a home inspection is – and isn’t. A home inspection is a professional and objective evaluation of the current condition of a house. It is not the same as an appraisal which attempts to place a value on a house and which may be required by a lending institution. Nor is it the same as a building code compliance inspection which may be required by local building regulations.
Who Needs a Home Inspection?
Home inspections are typically part of the home buying process, most often performed at the request of the buyer. It can protect the buyer from unseen issues and may sometimes even be required by the buyer’s bank to protect it from risky investments. In the event problems are found, a seller may be asked to effect repairs, to pay for the repairs or to renegotiate the sale price.
Sometimes the service is requested by a home seller so that problems with a house may be addressed prior to putting it on the market.
Homeowners not involved with a real estate transaction often have an inspection just as a way of learning more about their house. Home inspection, in this case, can be a valuable tool for helping to plan and budget maintenance, repairs or renovations.
What Makes a Good Home Inspector?
Not all states license home inspectors. The ones that do, generally follow guidelines enacted by the four main home inspection organizations: the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI), the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), the National Association of Home Inspectors (NAHI) and the National Academy of Building Inspection Engineers (NABIE). If your state does not currently license home inspectors, membership by your home inspector in one of these organizations is regarded as a trusted alternative.
The best home inspector is likely to have acquired considerable knowledge of common home repairs and of their costs. He may have great value for his clients as a source of general information – as one who can help them make sense of conditions the inspection has unearthed. However, objectivity demands that he not be an agent for repair contractors who might be trying to sell services.
The most valuable thing about a professional home inspection is that it is knowledgeable and unbiased.
What Is Included in a Good Home Inspection?
A quality home inspection performed according to industry accepted standards is non-invasive. An inspector will not drill holes or remove wall surfaces. He will view accessible areas of the house and will inspect:
general shingle condition, flashings, gutters and downspouts, and the general structure of the roof that can be readily accessed for viewing
defects in siding, flashings, brick, or other wall coverings; doors and windows for fit, locks, etc.; porches and steps for proper rails and general conditions including rot; general vegetation and surface drainage as it may affect the structure of the house
signs of shifting – cracks, out of square door frames, etc.; signs of water penetration; improperly cut or notched framing members
Heating and Cooling
type, age, energy rating if applicable, and testing for normal operation
determine type of supply, i. e., public or private; look for poor water pressure; look for poor drainage from sinks, tubs, etc.; inspect supplies – faucets and other fixtures; inspect toilets; inspect water heating equipment, including its type, capacity, venting
inspection of the service drop, meter enclosure, disconnects and service panel – breakers or fuse box, verify GFCIs, smoke detectors and test representative number of switches, fixtures and outlets
Attic, Ventilation and Insulation
inspect insulation in unfinished, i.e., accessible, areas; inspect ventilation of attics and mechanical ventilation
inspect for loose plaster, drywall, moldings; inspect stairs and railings; test a representative number of doors and windows
garage, garage door operation, cracks in floor, viewable structure; inspect general conditions of driveway
How Much Should It Cost and Is It Worth It?
Given the value added by the reliability and certainty of a professional quality home inspection, its cost is well worth it and a minor part of the overall cost of a real estate transaction. The cost of no knowing can be considerable – you just never know.
A home inspector will have looked at hundreds of items. The inspection report will identify problems with the home. It will describe the findings in clear and easy to understand language, often accompanied by photographs. The home inspector may visit the home with the client to point out the various findings in person.
The cost of a professional quality home inspection is usually in a range between $250-$500, and varies according to the size and the age of the house. Some inspectors offer special deals at a lower cost but it is important for the prospective client to determine if the special deal follows all industry accepted standards.
Many home inspectors also offer ancillary services that are not considered to be a part of the standard inspection. These can relate to the client’s specific concerns about ensuring a safe and healthy environment for themselves and their families. These ancillary services may include tests for radon, asbestos, mold, lead and water or air quality. Another useful form of testing is thermal imaging which evaluates heat loss from the house and aids the client in minimizing heating bills. Consultation with the home inspector can help determine if these additional tests should be included.
A quality home inspection can mean great value to the client – depending on the need.
If you are a seller, an inspection can help you market your house more effectively. You may be able to make some minor repairs which will pay off in getting a better price.
If you are a buyer, an inspection may warn you of unnoticed and potentially costly repairs which will be needed for the house. They may be deal breakers. And if not, then having the inspector’s evaluation can help you get the very best deal.
If you’re a homeowner — neither buying nor selling at the present time, an inspection can simply help you to be sure that your home is a safe and healthy environment for you and your family. It can aid you in planning smart maintenance and repairs, renovations or refinancing.
In all cases, a quality home inspection provides way more value than cost because it can be that difference that helps you become a smarter homeowner, buyer or seller.