What is a Home Inspection?

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Contributor, Benzinga
May 28, 2024

A home inspection is a necessary step in the homebuying process. It's a valuable assessment for homebuyers and sellers to understand the condition of a property. Not only does the home inspection look for defects or issues in the home, but it can protect you from having to deal with costly repairs and can be useful in the home appraisal process. Read on to understand what is a home inspection, the types of home inspections you can get and the costs. 

Understanding Home Inspections

A home inspection is an official visit by a licensed professional home inspector who goes to a property with the intention of inspecting it. Inspectors look for property damage, big or small. This includes everything from the structural integrity of the roof to the foundation. A home inspection reveals potentially necessary repairs a home may need. Armed with this information, homebuyers can protect themselves from unexpected costly repairs, and home sellers can accurately disclose the property's condition. 

The purpose and objective of a home inspection is to identify major defects in the home or to certify that it is in good condition and structurally sound. 

Why Do You Need a Home Inspection?

The benefits of conducting a home inspection before buying or selling a property are enormous. For sellers, uncovering hidden problems that may not be visible to the untrained eye can allow you to accurately disclose the property's condition and adjust the asking price accordingly.

For homebuyers, a home inspection allows you to negotiate repairs or sale price adjustments relative to the expected repair costs. Discovering a cracked foundation, a leaking roof or an HVAC system in need of repair could cost you tens of thousands of dollars in repair after the purchase. Instead of being caught off guard, the modest costs of a home inspection allow you to understand the property you are purchasing, its current condition and expected repairs. 

How Much Does a Home Inspection Cost?

The cost of a home inspection varies depending on factors like the location, property size, and additional services requested. Typically, a home inspection can cost anywhere from $300 to $500. If you request additional specialized home inspections, such as a pool inspection, chimney inspection or mold inspection, the costs could increase. 

How Long Does a Home Inspection Take?

The duration of a home inspection depends on the size, age and condition of the property. On average, a thorough inspection may take around 2 to 4 hours. That means the inspector will usually complete the inspection on the same day of the appointment, so you'll have the information you need about the inspection without a long delay. 

What is Included in the Home Inspection Checklist?

A home inspector will record the property's condition and look for major issues that affect the safety or structural integrity of the property. After the inspection, you'll receive a written report outlining the property's major features and noting problematic areas. 

Most home inspectors will review this report to ensure everything is clearly explained and answer any questions. They will thoroughly review the condition, functionality and safety of all major home systems.

Here is a home inspection checklist of the areas a standard home inspection covers:

  • Roof
  • Walls
  • Attic
  • Foundation
  • Windows
  • Electrical systems
  • Appliances
  • Water heater
  • Faucets
  • Plumbing
  • Crawl space
  • Cooling systems
  • Ventilation
  • HVAC
  • Fire safety systems

What is not Included in a Home Inspection Report?

A standard home inspection looks at all major home systems. It does not include a well, septic system or in-depth inspection for hazards like mold, asbestos or pests. If the property has a pool or chimneys, you'll also need a specialized home inspection. 

Areas a standard home inspection does not cover include:

  • Septic system
  • Well
  • Pool
  • Hazardous materials like methane, radiation, asbestos, methane and mold
  • Roof accessories like solar panels or TV antennas
  • Electrical systems in detail
  • Geological issues

If your home has, or you suspect has, any of these, it's worth getting a specialized inspection to understand the issue and take appropriate action. 

What are Things That Could Result in a Failed Home Inspection?

Several factors can fail a home inspection, indicating areas of concern that need to be addressed before moving forward with the purchase. Some common reasons why a home inspection may fail include:

  • Structural issues such as foundation problems, roof damage, or cracks in walls can be red flags during a home inspection.
  • Plumbing problems like leaky pipes, water damage, or poor water pressure can be significant issues that need to be fixed.
  • Electrical issues such as outdated wiring, faulty outlets, or circuit breaker problems can pose safety hazards and need immediate attention.
  • Pest infestations such as termites, rodents, or other pests can cause damage to the property and compromise its structural integrity.
  • Mold or mildew growth is a common issue that can be harmful to residents' health and may indicate water damage or poor ventilation in the property.

A failed home inspection does not necessarily mean that the deal is off, but it provides an opportunity for negotiation with the seller to either have the issues fixed or adjust the price accordingly.

What Happens if a Home Inspection Reveals Major Issues?

If the home inspection reveals major issues that materially change the home's value, you have several options. First, you can walk away from the deal. Suppose the major issues make the home uninhabitable or require significant renovations that make it financially unfeasible to purchase and renovate it. In that case, the inspection contingency in your purchase contract should allow you to cancel the transaction and recover your earnest money. 

Alternatively, you can renegotiate the purchase price based on the inspection information. In that case, the seller may also agree to pay for repairs up to a certain amount as part of the purchase contract or agree to a lower purchase price.

Finally, you have the option to go ahead with the purchase anyway. Suppose the property is already priced significantly under market value or you are planning a major renovation. In that case, the major repairs required may just be one more step in creating the property of your dreams. 

What is not Allowed in a Home Inspection?

A home inspector is not allowed to offer services outside of the job scope within the home inspection. A home inspector can't offer information on property lines or other aspects of the home's physical boundaries. They also cannot comment on geological elements, such as the condition of the soil around the home. 

Obviously, a home inspector cannot damage the home during inspection. And they cannot do anything that risks their safety or the safety of the owners or occupants during the home inspection. 

A home inspector, in most cases, also cannot diagnose the cause of any issues discovered. For example, they cannot confirm you have mold, the type or mold or the source of mold but can refer you to a specialized mold inspector for further examination.

Likewise, they cannot test or diagnose a non-functional HVAC system or any other home system. Finally, specialized installations require specialized inspectors. These include swimming pools, hot tubs, solar panels, septic systems, wells and chimneys. 

Interestingly, it's illegal for home inspectors to be later hired to renovate a home that they have previously inspected. For that reason, after the inspection, the home inspector won't have anything to do with the home unless another inspection is required. 

How to Find a Good Home Inspector

To find a good home inspector, you can ask for recommendations from friends, family members, colleagues and the real estate agent or real estate attorney you're working with. You can ask for referrals and check the home inspectors' online reviews. Finally, speak with the home inspector and understand their process to ensure they are someone you will be comfortable working with for the home inspection.

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Getting a Home Inspection

While getting a home inspection is common — and necessary — when buying or selling a house, if you suspect major issues with a property you currently own and haven't been able to pinpoint the source, a home inspector could help. Hiring a licensed professional home inspector not only gives you peace of mind as a homebuyer, it also offers a realistic picture of the property's condition so you can plan accordingly for future repairs. Ready to get started? Learn how to save for a house or how to buy a home from a family member or find FAQs from the American Society of Home Inspectors here.  

Frequently Asked Questions 


Can you do a home inspection by yourself?


You cannot do a home inspection yourself. While it’s certainly valuable to check the home and note any issues you’d like to ask an inspector about, a professional inspector has the training and tools to perform a thorough inspection. In most cases, if you’re using a mortgage to purchase the property, the mortgage lender will require an inspection. 


Can I attend the home inspection?


Yes, you can and should attend the home inspection. While you shouldn’t disturb the home inspector‘s work, you can be on hand to ask questions and for them to show you any issues they find. 


Can a home inspection fail a house?


A home inspection is not a pass/fail test. It describes the physical condition of a property and notes major systems that may need repair or replacement. A qualified home inspector should be able to thoroughly assess the condition of the house. 

Alison Plaut

About Alison Plaut

Alison Plaut is a personal finance and investing writer with a sustainable MBA, passionate about helping people learn more about wealth building and responsible debt for financial freedom. She has more than 17 years of writing experience, focused on real estate and mortgages, business, personal finance, and investing. Her work has been published in The Motley Fool, MoneyLion, and she regularly contributes to Benzinga.