Understanding the Home Inspection: What You Need To Know

Inspector reviews home gas system.

Purchasing a home is a big deal, and first-time homebuyers want to know what they’re buying before signing on the dotted line. That’s where the home inspection comes in.

The inspection is your chance to have the property carefully examined by a professional who can detect any major problems with the home, so that you know exactly what you’re signing up for.

Here’s a closer look at the home inspection, and why it’s important.

What Is a Home Inspection?

A home inspection is conducted by a licensed third-party professional who assesses the condition of the home.

If problems requiring expensive repairs are found, you can try to negotiate with the seller on making or paying for those fixes. If you can’t agree, and you have an inspection contingency in your sales contract, you can walk away from the sale.

When Should I Get a Home Inspection?

If you make an offer on a house, the seller accepts, and you both have signed a purchase agreement, then it’s time for the home inspection. Your lender typically will require an inspection to approve your home loan. You also should schedule the inspection ASAP so you have time to resolve any problems before closing.

If you buy a home without an inspection, any problems with the home will be your responsibility. Between the down payment and closing costs, buying a home already is expensive, so the last thing you want is to move in and find a major plumbing or structural issue that requires you to dip even further into your savings to repair.

How Much Does a Home Inspection Cost?

The fee usually is included in your closing costs. While the cost varies depending on the size and location of the property, expect to pay $300 to $500 for a home inspection.

How To Find a Home Inspector

You’ll want a home inspector who is experienced, thorough, and unbiased. Avoid inspectors who seem rushed or too busy, as they could overlook important details about the property.

Ask for recommendations from your real estate agent, as well as from friends, family, or colleagues who have bought a home recently. You also can research local inspectors online and find out what previous clients have said in their reviews.

What To Expect on Inspection Day

The home inspector may show up early on inspection day to examine the exterior of the home.

The inspector then will examine the home’s interior and go room by room, checking the plumbing, electrical system, and heating and cooling systems, and testing appliances, the water supply, doors, windows, and locks.

The inspector will take notes, but it’s a good home inspection tip to follow along with a checklist and document the process with photos.

Once the home inspection is complete, you can ask questions and discuss the inspector’s findings with them.

The Home Inspection Report

The home inspection report will document the condition of the home and note any flaws, defects, damage, safety concerns, and maintenance needs. You should receive a copy one to two business days after the inspection.

Home inspection terms to know

The home inspection report may include references to the following terms:

  • Material defect: A problem with one of the home’s systems that could reduce its property value or be a safety hazard.
  • Major or minor defect: A component of the home that doesn’t work or may be unsafe, and might need to be checked out by a qualified contractor.
  • Cosmetic defect: A superficial imperfection, irregularity, or flaw that has no effect on the home’s safety or functionality.

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