What to Expect Before, During, and After Your Home Inspections

Amy Pawlukiewicz
Written by Amy Pawlukiewicz
Updated September 27, 2021
Home inspector taking notes
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During the homebuying process, home inspections take place during escrow

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Home inspections are a crucial step in the homebuying process and provide information that’s incredibly valuable before you buy a home. And don’t expect perfection—almost every single home inspection report details issues with a home, no matter how new or pristine the condition of the property. The good news is that if there are problems discovered during inspections, they can be used as negotiation points in the buying process.

What Is a Home Inspection?

A general home inspection is a visual assessment of a home’s structural soundness and systems. They usually take between two and four hours, depending on the condition and size of the home. Home inspections usually cost between $375 and $550 on average, but can be more or less depending on location. Inspection costs are not included in closing costs, so you’ll need to have the money available to pay inspectors before closing. 

According to the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), home inspections should cover:

  • Foundation, basement, and structural components

  • Walls, ceilings, and floors

  • Windows and doors

  • Roof

  • Attic

  • Insulation

  • HVAC system

  • Plumbing

  • Electrical

Before Your Home Inspection

Homeowner researching inspectors and taking notes
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When you’re in the market to purchase a home, it’s a good idea to start researching home inspectors before you’ve zeroed in on a property. Home inspections are typically performed after you’ve made an offer on a home, before closing. Sometimes sellers pay for a pre-listing inspection to attempt to expedite the selling process. However, buyers do not have to accept a pre-listing inspection and can, and should, hire their own home inspector.

Do your research when choosing an inspector; check out online reviews and see if you can contact company references. Asking around is a good idea, too, since the best referrals can come from neighbors, friends, and relatives. While you can ask your real estate agent for a list of home inspectors, it’s generally not recommended to avoid conflicts of interest on both sides. 

Once you’ve narrowed down your list, check to see if your chosen inspectors belong to any accredited organizations that oversee inspections, including the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI), or other state-specific boards. These organizations provide oversight and come with a code of ethics that inspectors are expected to follow when conducting their business.

Remember, you get what you pay for, so cheaper isn’t always better when it comes to inspection professionals.

Can I Be There During A Home Inspection?

Buyers are not required to be present during a home inspection, but they are certainly allowed to attend. If you choose to be there, the inspector will likely walk you through what they’re doing as they’re going through their checklist. ASHI actually recommends that buyers be present so they can ask questions during the process. It prevents any confusion or gray areas that could arise post-inspection.

Depending on what your inspector finds, they might recommend a different type of inspection by someone who specializes in a certain field. Some common specific inspections include:

  • Radon

  • Wood Destroying Organisms (WDO)

  • Mold

  • Foundation

  • Chimney

  • Sewer/septic system

  • Pool

If your inspector recommends that the property be looked at by a specialist, don’t panic. That doesn’t mean there’s something terribly wrong with the home, it simply means that something needs to be looked at more closely that they lack the expertise to do.

What If My Home Fails?

Fortunately, a home can’t fail an inspection. The process is designed to reveal problems with homes that can be fixed. Yes, a home could have a lot of issues, but the inspector will not give a pass/fail grade. They are there to objectively describe the physical condition of a house, not to judge whether the house is suitable for purchase. They are also not appraisers or code inspectors, so they can’t provide a market value or determine whether or not the home is compliant with local building codes.

There’s Something in the Report I Don’t Understand

If there’s something in the report you don’t understand, call your inspector. Professionals sometimes use industry jargon that non-real estate professionals won’t get. This is another reason that it’s good to be present during the inspection–you can ask questions on the spot.

My Report Is In. What’s Next?

Once you have your inspection report, you can decide whether or not you need any further specialized inspections. If you don’t need to hire a specialist, you should sit down with your realtor and go over your concerns. Your realtor can then propose an amendment to the closing terms which might ask that the seller fix problems or offer to knock the price down if they’re not willing to fix things.

Keep in mind that sellers aren’t required to fix anything, but may be willing to fix big ticket items that are not functioning properly like the roof, HVAC, plumbing, or electrical systems. Since this is a negotiation, you may have to make some concessions as well in order to get everyone over the finish line.

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