What a home inspection really tells you
Updated: Jun 9
A home inspection is an essential part of the home-buying process. It takes place during your “due diligence” period, after the seller has accepted your offer, and it usually takes two to three hours to complete. What can you expect from your home inspection, and what can it really tell you about a home?
What is a home inspection?
Basically, a home inspection is a report based on a visual appraisal of the home’s easily accessible areas. A trained inspector looks at the overall systems, structure, and features of the home: the roof, the foundation, the plumbing and electrical systems, and the heating (and if applicable, the cooling) systems, and more. The inspector can recognize weaknesses in these areas and make note of them for you.
We always recommend you attend your inspection. Follow the inspector closely, ask questions, take notes, and try to stay calm. After all, you’re paying good money (usually $450–$700) to learn what potential repairs and maintenance issues might come with this home you fought so hard to get.
What can an inspector tell me about the home?
The inspector can tell you if the roof will need to be replaced sooner rather than later, if there’s evidence of water in the basement, or if the back porch is up to code. You’ll also find out if there are serious safety issues with the wiring, plumbing, or HVAC systems. The inspector will make note of loose toilets, dripping faucets, popped window seals, poor exterior grading, broken siding, corroded pipes...the list goes on and on. Essentially anything the inspector can access and/or visually examine, he or she can comment on.
What can’t an inspector tell me about the home?
An inspector cannot see through walls, so they can’t tell you anything about areas they can’t access or see. They cannot make recommendations of any kind: you can’t get names of carpenters or electricians from your inspector (that’s what we’re here for) or estimates for how much a given repair will cost. And you can’t hire your inspector to do any work for you, no matter how much you like them.
Inspectors also can’t tell you for sure if you have radon, lead paint, mold, or termites. They do not test for these environmental issues. They may indicate that there are signs of termites or mold, for example, but cannot confirm or deny their presence. If you want to know for sure, you’ll have to get further testing done.
How does the inspection impact you, the buyer?
An inspector cannot tell you if the home is worth buying or not; their report is fact-based and objective. Once you have the report in hand (which usually takes about 24 hours), we can look at it together, and if needed we can follow up with the inspector for clarifications. We can recommend plumbers, engineers, or other experts to help give you a clearer picture of the home, and possibly schedule appointments for professionals to give a second opinion.
While the inspection yields an objective report on the house, we know that a buyer’s reaction is subjective. Keeping that in mind, we use the report to see if the home really is a great fit for you. You may be searching for the perfect fixer-upper, which means the long list is part of your expectations. On the other hand, just knowing that the chimney may need to be repointed could dash your hopes of living there.
We’ve had decades of experience helping buyers make sense of their inspections and we’ll help you make the right decision. As always, contact us if you have questions, or if you’re ready to start your home search. We’re here to help.
Want to learn about all of the aspects of the buying process? Read on!