Under the Magnifying Glass - Home Inspections

Real Estate

Whether you are buying or selling a house, a home inspection is likely on your list of things to do. But what is involved? How much does it cost? And what are the benefits? It is important to understand what a home inspection entails and how it can affect your real estate transaction.

What is a Home Inspection?

A home inspection is an objective visual examination of the structure and systems of a home by an impartial, neutral third party not related to the buyer or seller. Unlike a home appraisal, which aims to assess the market value of a home, a home inspection seeks to discover if the home has any structural or mechanical problems that could affect a buyer’s decision to purchase the home. A home inspection is not a code inspection and therefore does not report on building code compliance.

The three main elements of the inspection are: the evaluation of the physical condition of the home, including structure, construction and mechanical systems; the identification of items that need to be repaired or replaced; and the estimation of the remaining useful life of the major systems, equipment, structure, and finishes. In essence, a home inspection is conducted to inform the buyer of any readily visible major defects in the mechanical and structural components, and to disclose any significant health or safety issues.

What Does a Home Inspection Cover?

A home inspection covers hundreds of items within the house, from roof to foundation, including general structure, flashings, basement or lower level, attic, framing, central heating, cooling and ventilation, plumbing and electrical systems, drainage, bathrooms and laundry facilities, foundation, common safety devices, fireplaces and wood stoves, kitchen and kitchen appliances, general interior, insulation, and exterior.

An inspector only reports on defects that are visible. For example, defects hidden behind finished walls, beneath carpeting, behind storage items and in inaccessible areas, and even those that have been intentionally concealed will not be included in the inspection report. Systems that are seasonally inoperable (swamp coolers, air conditioning, furnaces) will not be turned on during the inspection.

How Do I Find an Inspector?

When looking for an inspector, turn to your Realtor® for advice, or your friends and family. When you interview an inspector, be sure to ask for references and any memberships in professional associations to which they may belong. Inquire about the inspector’s professional training, length of time in the business, and experience.

At the inspection, you will be able to ask questions and the inspector will have the opportunity to point out and discuss potential issues with you. Being present at the inspection can be more productive than waiting to review the inspector’s report after it has been sent to you, and is a valuable learning experience for most home buyers. Many inspectors also will offer maintenance tips as the inspection progresses.

Is the Seller Obligated to Make Suggested Repairs?

The seller is not required to make any repairs, replacements or fix maintenance issues brought up during the home inspection. However, the seller may choose to make such reparations or offer the buyer a credit so the buyer can make repairs and/or changes themselves. In many instances, the inspection report becomes a negotiating tool for both sides.

In any event, whoever decides to take corrective action should obtain estimates for repairs from a qualified contractor.

How Long Will it Take and How Much Does it Cost?

A thorough, accurate home inspection takes time, so try not to hurry the inspector along. The inspector’s most important priority is accuracy, and accuracy takes time. The likelihood of mistakes and missed conditions are much more likely to occur if the inspector is rushed. Home inspections take anywhere between two and five hours with older homes taking longer than newer ones.

Expect your inspection to cost anywhere from $200-$500 depending on the size the house. The cost is worth it and may be one of the most important investments you make when buying a home.