Ultimate Buyer's Guide to Home Inspections (It’s Not Pass or Fail!)

While it’s exciting to put in an offer on a home and have it accepted, it’s by no means the end of the homebuying process. One of the most important next steps is the home inspection, which will determine if buying the house is going to be a good choice for you and your financial situation before you become bound by the contract.

What Is a Home Inspection?

A home inspection occurs during the closing process and is a chance for the buyer to hire a professional who thoroughly inspects every part of the house, including its roof, electric and plumbing work, and structural integrity.

Why Do Homebuyers Need a Home Inspection?

While a home inspection isn’t technically required by law, it’s (very, very) strongly recommended that each buyer gets one. A home inspection gives you the time and expertise you’ll need to cover every inch of the house, basement, garage, and other spaces to look for signs of underlying problems in the home.

Your home inspection will help uncover issues that might either turn you away from the home entirely or that you can use to ask for a lower sale price or repairs from the seller before closing.

How Home Inspections Affect the Sale

Home inspections can really be a game changer in the home buying process. The following are what you can expect from just a few general outcomes of a home inspection.

If your findings make you reconsider what the home is worth...

If your attorney included an inspection contingency in your contract with the seller, you will generally have time after receiving the inspection report to try to negotiate repairs based on what the inspection turns up or to walk away from the property altogether.

If there’s negotiation over the home inspection…

There might be some issues that aren’t deal-breakers but are serious enough to justify asking the seller to negotiate on price. This can help home-buyers catch a break in the home price, but will mean that the issues will have to be fixed out of their own pocket after closing.

If the seller denies buyer requests…

If the seller denies the buyer’s request for a negotiated price, the buyer can elect to walk away from the deal with consultation of their attorney and hopefully without any penalties should be able to receive back their earnest money deposit.

Who Pays for a Home Inspection?

Home inspections are paid for by the home buyer. While this is an added cost of buying a home, choosing your own inspector allows you to find one that you trust to thoroughly examine and report on the property.

How Much Does a Home Inspection Cost?

Home inspectors charge different rates depending on what state and area they work in. The cost for an average home inspection for a single family home will cost between $300 and $500, with the current national average being $337. However, this number can vary depending on a wide range of factors, including location and the size of the home. Larger homes may require additional inspections or take more time to cover thoroughly.

What to Expect From a Home Inspection

All of the value of a home inspection goes to the homebuyer, so be ready to ask questions of the inspector and to bring up any issues that you want to be examined (although a good inspector will uncover these without prompting). Here’s what to expect from your home inspection.

What a Home Inspection Covers

A typical home inspection lasts around 2-3 hours. During this time, the inspector will walk all over and around the house and look at the condition of the following:

  • Drywall and plaster walls (damage could point to water leaks or mold)
  • Electric and plumbing work
  • HVAC systems
  • Roof and gutters
  • Siding or exterior structure
  • Garage
  • Measures taken for fire safety
  • Backyard pitch (to help drain water away from house)

What is Not Covered in a Home Inspection

It’s important to know that while an inspector is trained to look for any issues a home may have, they can’t (and usually won’t) find everything. Parts of the house like the foundation and structural supports are usually covered by drywall or flooring, so it’s unrealistic to expect them to give you a realistic report on those aspects of the home.

In addition, a basic inspection won’t cover chemical tests or examinations for problems like mold or termites. Sometimes the inspector will offer these tests for an additional fee, and you can usually find local companies that specialize in those specific examinations in your area.

How to Prepare for Your Home Inspection

While you should feel confident in the expertise of your inspector, you should also prepare for and attend the home inspection and look everything over yourself. Being familiar with the ins and outs of the property allows you to double-check the inspector’s work and to ask any questions or bring up any issues that you want to clear up before moving towards closing.

Home Inspection Checklist

Before your inspection, make your own inspection checklist where you can write down notes and take pictures to cross-reference with the inspector’s report. Here are some of the important parts of the home that your inspector will be looking at:

  • Roof
  • Gutters
  • Garage or carport
  • Balconies, decks, and porches
  • Driveways, pathways, and sidewalks
  • Siding or wall covering
  • Foundation
  • Windows and doors
  • Fireplace
  • Floors
  • Walls and ceilings
  • Sewer system
  • Water heater
  • Boiler (if the home has radiator heating)
  • Drain, vent, and waste systems in kitchen and bathroom
  • All faucets
  • Thermostats for HVAC systems
  • Electric panel
  • Light fixtures, power switches, and receptacles
  • Grounded outlets and overcurrent protection

What Happens After a Home Inspection?

After a home inspection the inspection report is delivered to the potential buyer. The report includes any found issues with the above features of the home. With the report, the buyer can then adjust on their offer based on the inspection to cover potential costs associated with the issue or a buyer can ask the seller to fix the issues before they move forward with their offer.

Some key points to note when changing your offer based on an inspection:

  • There is no such thing as a mandatory fix after a home inspection — at least not legally.
  • Some states (Florida, for example) have “as-is” contracts that release the seller from any responsibility to make repairs.
  • There’s also a difference between repairs that a buyer requests and those that a lender or insurance company requires in order to underwrite a mortgage or a homeowner’s policy. In some cases, you may be denied financing or insurance if the bank isn’t satisfied with the results of an inspection and the planned repairs

There is no set rule on who pays for repairs.

Should You Get a Pre-Listing Inspection?

Now, if you are a seller looking to list your home, you may want to consider a pre-listing inspection of your home. This inspection covers everything that a traditional home inspection does, and it allows you to be aware of any issues in your home that will be eventually uncovered by the buyer’s inspector before you put the property on the market.

When pre-listing inspections are a good idea

A pre-listing inspection helps the seller because you’ll be able to price the home more accurately from the get-go, instead of having to negotiate further down the line with a buyer who has a list of problems in hand. This saves time in the negotiation phase of the contract and also gives you a good idea of what upgrades you could make to the home to boost its value before listing.

When pre-listing inspections are a bad idea

The downside to a pre-listing inspection is that you’re legally required to disclose any known defects that you’re aware of to the buyer when they make an offer. This means that you will have to share any issues that came in the inspection, even if it’s something that the buyer’s inspector may not have caught.

Making the most of your home inspection

Inspections are one of the most important parts of the homebuying process. Working with an experienced inspector will uncover potential issues that will either allow you to find a better home or to negotiate in price. Preparing for your inspection and bringing questions of your own will help you get good value from the inspection and will ensure that you feel confident about the property that you’re ready to buy.


Inspect the Mortgage of Your Dreams!

All material is presented for informational and educational purposes only and should not be construed as individual financial, investment, or legal advice or instruction. ZeroMortgage does not guarantee the quality, accuracy, completeness or timelines of the information in this publication. While efforts are made to verify the information provided, the information should not be assumed to be error free. Some information in the publication may have been provided by third parties and has not necessarily been verified by ZeroMortgage. ZeroMortgage, its affiliates, and subsidiaries do not assume any liability for the information contained herein, be it direct, indirect, consequential, special, or exemplary, or other damages whatsoever and howsoever caused, arising out of or in connection with the use of this publication or in reliance on the information, including any personal or pecuniary loss, whether the action is in contract, tort (including negligence) or other tortious action. ZeroMortgage does not provide tax advice. Please contact your tax adviser for any tax related questions.

This page last updated: April 20, 2022