A complete home inspections guide – what are they and what to expect?

Home inspections are there to help the buyer discover any problems with the home they are about to purchase. They can be commissioned either by the buyer or the seller or even by some of the top home warranty companies. During the inspection, a professional inspector will evaluate the home from top to bottom, pointing out any issues they find along the way. In our home inspections guide, we will be explaining exactly what is a home inspection, why you may want to schedule one, and what to expect from a home inspection. We will also provide you with some tips on how to find the best inspector, explain exclusions, provide you with a home inspection checklist, and much more!

What are home inspections?

In a nutshell, a home inspection represents a professional evaluation of the state of the property. This includes the entire physical structure, the state of the property’s appliances, and similar. The primary purpose of a home inspection is to discover any repairs that need to be done or replacements that need to be made. Most of the time, a home inspection is performed due to a request from the buyer, but sellers can also opt to perform a home inspection.

two people performing a home inspection
A home inspection is an evaluation of one’s home by a professional inspector.

A home inspection allows you to fully understand what sort of home you are purchasing. One of the most common mistakes made by first-time home buyers is forgoing a home inspection and trusting the seller on their word. You may think that you are saving some money by not scheduling a home inspection, but the truth is that performing one is usually in your best interest.

Why do you want a home inspection?

The fact of the matter is that almost every home inspection is going to find a lot of issues in an older home, issues that may provide you with significant leverage in your negotiations. Furthermore, you will know exactly what needs to be done around the house, and you can pressure the seller to fix those things before you finalize the deal.

Another reason why you may want to schedule a home inspection is due to the fact that most home warranties do not cover pre-existing conditions. If you are buying an older home with older appliances, chances are that your home warranty policy will “chalk” any defects to pre-existing conditions. If you haven’t performed a home inspection, you have no means of proving that there were no pre-existing conditions. However, if your home inspection shows that all of your appliances are in great working order, there is nothing that home warranty companies can do to deny you coverage.

As a seller, you want to schedule a home inspection, so you know what needs to be repaired/replaced. The fact of the matter is that it is always much more cost-effective to make the repairs and replacements on your own than it is to lower the price for the buyer and have them fix everything. If you want to make the most out of your sale, you will want to fix as many things as you can before going into negotiations.

Who pays for a home inspection?

As mentioned previously in our home inspections guide, it is usually the buyer who pays for a home inspection. However, this is also something that the buyer and seller can freely negotiate. A seller can also schedule their own home inspection to check for any repairs that need to be done and create a budget for home improvements and repairs. That being said, the primary reason why it is usually the buyer that pays for a home inspection is the fact that many buyers simply do not believe the seller’s home inspection report. They want to be sure that everything is as it should be.

two people looking up a home inspections guide
The buyer usually pays for the home inspection.

In fact, most experts recommend that buyers should schedule their own home inspection even if the seller has already performed one. Finding a trustworthy inspector, one that does not have any ties to either the seller’s realtor or the seller themselves, is of paramount importance.

As for the home inspection itself, you will want to know what to expect before the inspector arrives at your home, regardless of the fact whether you are a buyer or the seller.

Home inspections guide – What can you expect from a home inspection?

There are four things you will want to know before scheduling a home inspection:

  • Home inspection cost
  • Home inspection timeline
  • Home inspection checklist
  • Exclusions

Furthermore, you will want to at least familiarize yourself with the home inspection process. While each home inspector may have a slightly different way of doing things, you can expect them to look at all the interior and exterior parts of the home. This includes the foundation, HVAC systems, electrical systems, plumbing, etc. You should be present while the home inspection is taking place, especially as a buyer. In fact, one of the biggest mistakes that home-buyers make is that they are not present while the inspector evaluates the home. By being present, you will have the unique opportunity to explore your new home in excruciating detail. Most of the time, simply being there will provide you with far more information than what you can find in the report.

That said, let’s take a look at some of the “properties” of any home inspection.

The cost

The cost of a home inspection largely depends on the location of the home, as well as its size. Larger homes cost more to inspect, of course, but the location plays a very large role as well. At the time of writing this home inspections guide, a home inspection will set you back anywhere from $300 to $1,000. However, the cost of the inspection will most likely be included in the mortgage closing costs, which are paid by the buyer.

ten $100 bills
Expect to pay up to $1,000 for a home inspection.

On average, you can expect to pay around $340 for a home inspection. While you can get a home inspector to perform an inspection for much less, it is usually not in your best interest to do so. Unless you have good recommendations, paying less for a home inspection is usually going to provide you with fewer details.

Chances are that a home inspection will uncover many minor problems with the home. Most of the time, there will be numerous home repairs that you can do yourself at a low cost. However, you do want to know about all of them ahead of time. Speaking of time, let’s take a look at the home inspection timeline.

The home inspection timeline

Most of the time, a home inspection will not take longer than four hours. That said, it is entirely possible that a home inspection takes much longer than that if there are exceptional circumstances. The duration itself is usually dependent on the home size, thoroughness of the inspector (another reason why you may want a good inspector), number of defects, and how helpful the owner is when it comes to preparation.

After the home inspection is concluded, it may take up to two days for you to get a report. The report will include any recommendations from the home inspector and relevant photos. It will also include any signs of current or potential problems, especially expensive ones. The report may also include recommendations on how to protect your home from water damage, fire damage, or anything else that might improve the safety of your home. Basically, anything that may require replacement or repair will be included in the inspection report.

Home inspection checklist

According to the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), every home inspector needs to review the following items:

  • Structural components
  • Walls
  • Floors
  • Ceilings
  • Heating system
  • Windows and doors
  • Foundation
  • Basement
  • Central air conditioning system (if temperature permits)
  • Roof and gutters
  • Attic
  • Plumbing and electrical systems
an old-fashioned home
A home inspection includes the attic, as well.

Now, your inspector is not going to start drilling holes in the walls to inspect the interior wiring. Therefore, it is extremely important to allow as many parts of the home to be accessible as possible. The more the inspector has access to the home, the more detailed the report can be. This is a subject that you might want to broach with the seller, as some sellers may section off some parts of the home, providing you with an incomplete report.


Even though home inspections are quite comprehensive, there are some exclusions that apply to them. For example, any exterior features that are attached to the house (shutters, seawalls, screening, etc.) will not be included in the inspection report. Furthermore, any recreational facilities such as swimming pools, tennis courts, and similar are likewise excluded. A home inspector will also not test for radon gas, lead paint, and asbestos, nor will they perform any other specialty testing. Lastly, any interior features, such as wallpapers and floor coverings, are not a part of a home inspection.

Similar to how you may want to avoid home warranty scams, you will want to do everything in your power to ensure that a home inspection is trustworthy. And that means finding an independent inspector.

Home inspections guide – How to find a home inspector?

The last part of our home inspections guide involves helping you find the best possible home inspector. To do so, you will want to start asking your friends, family members, and colleagues about any references that they may have. When you get a few references, you will want to verify them on the proper channels. Feel free to start by looking at the inspector’s website and reading a bit more about them. After that, head on over to the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and check for the inspector’s reviews.

You do not want to count on your real estate agent when it comes to finding a good home inspector. The reason for this is the fact that real estate agents are all about closing the deal. They might not necessarily have your best interests in mind.

real estate agent showing a home to a couple
Try not to get inspector recommendations from your real estate agent.

In most states, home inspectors need to have a license. However, some states do not require licensing. If your state requires all home inspectors to have a license, you can easily look them up at your state/country licensing agency.

Ask for a sample report

Before you hire a home inspector, have them provide you with a copy of an inspection report from a home that is similar to the one you are about to buy. This sample report will provide you with an overview of the inspector’s diligence. It will also show you how much detail you can expect from the report. By looking at the reports from several home inspectors, you will soon come to realize which inspectors are meticulous and which are only filling in generic information.

A typical report needs to have a few dozen pages (yes, that many) covering all the major house systems. Furthermore, the report needs to have maintenance suggestions, photographs, and descriptions of any and all issues.

Consider what you get for the price

There can be a large price disparity between two home inspectors. For example, one inspector may ask for $500 to perform an inspection, while another may ask for $300. What you need to do is figure out what you get for the price you pay. Some home inspectors will provide you with free services (e.g. drone coverage, infrared cameras, etc.), while others may charge you for them. Furthermore, some inspectors will include specialized tests (termites, radon, mold, etc.) in their price, while others will not.

Avoid conflicts of interest

Lastly, you will want to make sure that your home inspector does not have any affiliation with either the seller or your realtor. Under no conditions can a home inspector have any sort of a financial stake in the property. This might be a bit more difficult to figure out, however. The best advice that this home inspections guide can give you is to never take anything at face value. Always do a bit of additional research!

Performing a home inspection can help you lower the cost of the home you’re about to buy, allow you to get ironclad home warranty coverage, and much more. If you are looking to purchase a home warranty for your home, you can refer to the Consumer Opinion Guide for amazing recommendations! We are here to provide you with all the information you need to make the best choice!

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