Home inspection: What's included and not?

It's important to get a home inspection before signing the papers on a new house.

Man looking up holding a tablet while inspecting the exterior of a home.

Things to know before a home inspection

Buying and selling a home can be full of ups and downs, stresses and rewards — including the inspection. 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 typically 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.

If, as a buyer, you forgo an inspection, any problems that happen after the sale are generally your responsibility.

Why should I schedule a home inspection?

A home inspector is a qualified professional who visually inspects the structure and components of a home and looks for any immediate or potential problems. They provide a written report to you with a description of 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. Unless a different arrangement is made, the buyer is also responsible for finding and scheduling an inspector. Costs vary but typically range between $300 and $500.

What does a home inspection include?

Home inspection requirements vary greatly from state to state and this Standards of Practice outlines minimum and uniform standards that you should expect from an inspection. Some of the areas inspected are:

  • Structural elements: Construction of visible foundation, evidence of sagging or bowing of the structure, floors and floor framing, walls, ceilings, stairs, drainage systems and window alignment.
  • Safety: Operating fire and carbon monoxide alarms, fire sprinklers, condition of stairs, hand and guardrails, and garage door openers.
  • Grounds: Leaks from septic tank, proper drainage, and condition of the house's driveways, fences and sidewalks.
  • Roof: Condition of shingles, any repairs/patches to flat roofs, clear vents, damage to chimneys, 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, as well as 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: Proper function 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 conditioning (temperature permitting), water heater, chimney and fireplace.
  • Basement: Solid foundation, walls, and floors, with no signs of water intrusion or damage.
  • Garage: Solid foundation, windows, ceiling, framing, roof condition, working garage door opener, up-to-code electrical system and proper functioning outlets.
  • Insulation and ventilation: Insulation in unfinished attic and foundation areas, kitchen, bath, laundry venting systems and the presence of ventilation fans.

What they don't inspect

Again, while there is variation of what home inspectors look for, there are areas that are generally not covered by a home inspection. If you suspect any problems or concerns in the following areas, you may want to schedule an evaluation by a certified specialist. Here are a few of the things they do not generally inspect:

  • Pest control,
  • Swimming pools,
  • Asbestos,
  • Radon gas,
  • Venting equipment with household appliances,
  • Indoor air quality,
  • Lead paint and
  • Toxic mold.

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.

Be sure to educate yourself about the process and find a home inspector you can trust.

The information in this article was obtained from various sources not associated with State Farm® (including State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company and its subsidiaries and affiliates). While we believe it to be reliable and accurate, we do not warrant the accuracy or reliability of the information. State Farm is not responsible for, and does not endorse or approve, either implicitly or explicitly, the content of any third party sites that might be hyperlinked from this page. The information is not intended to replace manuals, instructions or information provided by a manufacturer or the advice of a qualified professional, or to affect coverage under any applicable insurance policy. These suggestions are not a complete list of every loss control measure. State Farm makes no guarantees of results from use of this information.
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