Home inspection: What's included and not?
Consider a professional home inspection to help identify any immediate or potential issues before signing the papers on a new house.
Home inspections are a chance for the opinion of an outside, unbiased professional to provide insight on the condition of a home. Here are answers to common questions about the home inspection process so you know what to expect.
Do you have to get a home inspection?
While home inspections are usually recommended when buying or selling a home, they are typically not required unless there's an inspection contingency in the purchase contract. The terms of some mortgages may require you to have an inspection. A home inspection is different from a home appraisal, which is almost always required when a mortgage loan is used.
If, as a buyer, you forgo an inspection, any problems that happen after the sale are usually your responsibility.
Who is responsible for a home inspection?
Once the home is under contract, the buyer is typically responsible for finding and scheduling an inspector, unless a different arrangement is made. Home inspection costs vary by square footage, but generally range between $250 and $400.
What does a home inspector do?
A home inspector is a qualified professional who visually inspects the structure and accessible components of a home to identify any immediate or potential problems. They should provide a comprehensive report with photos and descriptions of any problem areas, and may also include recommendations for further evaluation. You can go over the home inspection report with your real estate agent to decide how the results may affect the purchase of your potential home.
What is included in a home inspection?
Home inspection requirements vary greatly from state to state and this Standards of Practice outlines minimum and uniform standards that you might expect from an inspection. Some of the areas inspected typically include:
- Structural elements: Any evidence of sagging or bowing of the structure, and construction of visible foundation, floors, walls, ceilings, stairs, drainage systems and window alignment.
- Safety: Condition of stairs and handrails; operating alarms (fire and carbon monoxide) and fire sprinklers.
- Grounds: Proper drainage and functioning septic tank; condition of the home's driveways, fences and sidewalks.
- Roof: Condition of shingles, flashing and chimneys (including any repairs/patches to flat roofs), clear vents and properly working gutters.
- Exterior surfaces: Correct clearance between ground and siding material, condition of exterior paint or siding and properly working lights and electrical outlets.
- Attic: Sufficient insulation, proper ventilation and any sign of leaking or water damage.
- Interior plumbing: No damaged or leaking pipes, proper hot water temperature, and functioning toilets, sinks, bathtubs and showers.
- Electrical system: Up-to-code condition and type of visible wiring, and proper function of circuit breakers, outlets, light fixtures and fans.
- Appliances: Operation of built-in and free-standing appliances (stove, dishwasher, refrigerator, microwave, washer and dryer and all other appliances).
- Heating and cooling systems: Condition of furnace, air conditioner (temperature permitting), water heater, chimney and fireplace.
- Basement: Solid foundation, walls and floors, with no signs of water intrusion or damage.
- Garage: Condition of foundation, windows, ceiling, framing and roof; up-to-code electrical system and outlets; working garage door and garage door opener.
- Insulation: Proper insulation in unfinished areas including foundation and crawlspaces.
- Ventilation: Working venting systems in the kitchen, bath and laundry areas, and the presence of ventilation fans.
What is not included in a standard home inspection?
While there is variation of what home inspectors look for, there are areas that are typically not covered in a standard home inspection, such as:
- Pest control (such as termites, carpenter ants and rodents)
- Swimming pools
- Radon gas
- Venting equipment with household appliances
- Indoor air quality
- Lead paint
- Toxic mold
If you suspect any problems or concerns in the above areas, you may want to schedule an evaluation by a certified specialist.
How to find a home inspector
Be sure you are comfortable with your choice of home inspector. They are extremely important and can help you detect and avoid major pitfalls in the home buying process.
- Talk to your real estate professional. They may be able to recommend a home inspector that they have worked with in the past and trust.
- Ask friends and family. If you know anyone who has recently gone through the home buying process, they may have a good recommendation.
- Look for accredited affiliations. Consumers should look for an inspector who has an affiliation with groups such as the National Institute of Building Inspectors, the American Society of Home Inspectors and the International Society of Certified Home Inspectors. These are some of the most reputable inspector associations, and their websites have a "find an inspector" service to locate a member in your area.
Educate yourself and have a clear understanding of the home inspection process and find a licensed home inspector you can trust.