What is a home inspection?

A home inspection is an objective visual examination of the physical structure and systems of a home, from the roof to the foundation. Having a home inspected is like giving it a physical check-up. If problems or symptoms are found, the inspector may recommend further evaluation.

What does an inspection include?

The standard home inspector’s report will review the condition of the home’s heating system, central air conditioning system (temperature permitting), interior plumbing and electrical systems; the roof, attic, and visible insulation; walls, ceilings, floors, windows and doors; the foundation, basement, and visible structure.

Why do I need a home inspection?

The purchase of a home is probably the largest single investment an individual will ever make. You should learn as much as you can about the condition of the property and the need for any major repairs before you buy, so that you can minimize unpleasant surprises and difficulties afterwards. After the inspection, you will have a much clearer understanding of the property you are about to purchase.

Talk to any experienced home buyer and you’ll hear horror stories of properties they fell in love with, only to have their home inspector discover that the house was structurally unsound or needed tens of thousands of dollars in repairs. Having this knowledge helped them pass on what may ultimately have been a bad deal, or in many instances provided them with the information they needed to negotiate a lower sale price. If you choose the right home inspector, a home inspection will often pay for itself many times over.

If you are already a home owner, a home inspection may be used to identify problems in the making and to learn preventive measures which might avoid costly future repairs. If you are planning to sell your home, you may wish to have an inspection prior to placing your home on the market. This will give you a better understanding of conditions which may be discovered by the buyer’s inspector, and an opportunity to make repairs that will put the house in better selling condition.

What does a home inspection cost?

The inspection fee for a typical one-family house varies geographically, as does the cost of housing. Similarly, within a given area, the inspection fee may vary depending upon the size of the house, particular features of the house, its age, and possible additional services, such as inspection of a swimming pool, spa, or additional secondary structures. It is a good idea to check local prices on your own.

Do not let cost be a factor in deciding whether or not to have a home inspection, or in the selection of your home inspector. The inspector’s qualifications, including his/her experience, training, and professional affiliations, and the type of report that he/she provides that should be the most important considerations, not the fee that is charged. In the end, you will get what you pay for.

Can’t I do it myself?

Even the most experienced home owner lacks the knowledge and expertise of a professional home inspector who has inspected thousands of homes in his or her career. An inspector is familiar with the many elements of home construction, their proper installation, and maintenance. He understands how the home’s systems and components are intended to function together, as well as how and why they fail. In addition, most homebuyers find it very difficult to remain completely objective and unemotional about the house they really want, and this may affect their judgment. For the most accurate information, it is best to obtain an impartial third-party opinion by an expert in the field of home inspection.

Can a house fail an inspection?

No. A professional home inspection is an examination of the current condition of your prospective home. It is not an appraisal, which determines market value, or a municipal inspection, which verifies local code compliance. A home inspector, therefore, will not pass or fail a house, but rather describe its physical condition and indicate what may need repair or replacement.

How do I find a home inspector?

These days, the best source is via the internet, using a popular search engine such as Google, and the names of some local inspectors can also be found in the Yellow Pages under the heading of “Home Inspection Services”.

Whatever your referral source, you will want to make sure that the home inspector is a Member of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) in order to be certain of his or her professional qualifications, experience, and business ethics.

Do I have to be there for the inspection?

It is not necessary for you to be present for the inspection, but it is highly recommended. You will be able to observe the inspector and ask questions directly, as you learn about the condition of the home, how its systems work, and how to maintain it. You will also find the written report easier to understand if you’ve seen the property first-hand through the inspector’s eyes.

What if the inspection report reveals problems?

No house is perfect. If the inspector identifies problems, it doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t buy the house, only that you will know in advance what to expect. A seller may adjust the purchase price or contract terms if major problems are found. If your budget is tight, or if you don’t wish to become involved in future repair work, this information will be extremely important to you.

If the house proves to be in good condition, did I really need an inspection?

Absolutely. Now you can complete the purchase with full peace of mind. You will also have learned many things about your new home from the inspector’s written report, and will want to keep that information for future reference.

Most of the information above has been provided courtesy of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI).