How Do Home Inspections Work?

Personal Finance

Home inspections are literally that: an inspection of your home. They are great for when you’re getting ready to buy or sell a home or if you need to know what condition your house is in ( perhaps for a second mortgage). If you have never done this before it can seem overwhelming. Here’s a look at how home inspections work.

The Point of a Home Inspections

Ultimately, the goal of a home inspection is to find what’s wrong with a house from a noninvasive inspection of several key aspects. Your home inspector should not have anything to do with your real estate agent. Some states require licensing, while others don’t, but it’s a good rule of thumb to find an inspector who is American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) certified.

Being Present

If you are selling the home and won’t be making any of the repairs, you should at least be there to greet the inspector, provide keys to any locked areas they need access to, and make sure they can get to all the crawlspaces, attics, and other areas. If you’re a buyer or a seller preparing to fix whatever is wrong, you should be there the whole time. The inspector can show you exactly what and where the problem is, and can often help figure out how much everything is going to cost.

Beyond General Inspections

A general home inspection involves the interior and exterior structure, plumbing, electricity, roof, heating and air, and insulation. You can pay extra for specialist inspections for things like radon gas, mold, lead paint, swimming pools, well water, soil, chimneys, wood pests, and other aspects of a home that can become costly.

What to Expect

The inspection can take several hours — most of a morning or afternoon, so be sure to reserve plenty of time. You don’t want to rush since you have thousands of dollars riding on the outcome. If you want something in particular carefully inspected, you are probably going to need to hire a specialist. For example, a general inspector can tell what the foundation is made of and if there are any obvious defects, but a foundation engineer can tell if it’s serious problem or if the home is sliding off the foundation.

What’s Inspected

General home inspections tell what condition certain things are in, and if they are damaged sufficiently to create problems with codes. According to ASHI, home inspectors should inspect the condition of basements, structural components, plumbing, electric, heating, cooling, doors, windows, floors, ceilings, walls, attics, and any insulation they can see without pulling down the drywall.

Finishing Touches

At the end, the inspector should provide a report detailing what they looked at, the materials used in the house, what’s wrong, and when it’s going to need to be fixed (before sale, in the next 10 years, etc). Don’t just skim this report but give it a full viewing. You did just pay several hundred dollars for it!


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