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House Inspections

House inspections are one of the essential steps to undertake before buying a home.

House inspections are usually quite thorough. [©Jupiter Images, 2009]
©Jupiter Images, 2009
House inspections are usually quite thorough.

House Inspections

House inspections are an invaluable component to the home buying process. Homeowners, who are willing to spend a few hundred dollars on a house inspection, may end up saving themselves thousands of dollars in unexpected future repair costs. House inspections also benefit current homeowners and homeowners planning to sell their homes. Regardless of the purpose of obtaining a house inspection, homeowners should know how to find a good inspector and have a solid understanding of what constitutes a home inspection.

The House Inspection

The American Society of Home Inspectors defines a home inspection as an objective visual examination of the physical structure and systems of a house, from the roof to the foundation. Standard home inspections provide homeowners information regarding the condition of household structures and systems, including the following:

  • Heating system
  • Central air conditioning system
  • Plumbing
  • Electrical systems
  • Roof
  • Attic
  • Insulation
  • Walls
  • Ceilings
  • Floors
  • Windows
  • Doors
  • Foundation
  • Basement
  • Structure

In addition to evaluating the condition of these items, inspectors detail prospective repairs or replacements that may be necessary. They also provide clients with a sense for the anticipated life span of the homes major systems, structures and equipment.

The Need for a House Inspection

Home inspections are valuable tools for homebuyers and homeowners. Prospective homebuyers should always obtain a home inspection, regardless of the age of the home or information provided by the current owner. Some buyers of new construction homes erroneously think that an inspection is not necessary; however, this is not the case. Even new construction homes may contain builder oversights that could costs thousands of dollars to repair. Home inspections also provide valuable information for homeowners who want to maintain their homes quality or to homeowners who are preparing to sell their homes. Prospective sellers may prevent long delays if they clean up problems prior to placing their home on the market.

Finding a Home Inspector

There are various methods by which prospective homeowners can locate home inspectors. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development recommends contacting professional organizations, such as the American Society for Home Inspectors or the National Association of Certified Home Inspectors. Additional sources include:

  • State regulatory agencies
  • Yellow pages
  • Internet
  • Real estate agents

Finally, referrals provided by friends and neighbors should never be overlooked. These sources are likely to be honest in their assessment of an inspectors professionalism and skill.

Things to Discuss with Prospective Home Inspectors

Once several home inspectors have been identified, homeowners or buyers should interview the inspectors before making a final selection. First, it is important to determine what the inspection covers. Good inspectors meet state or local requirements with respect to their home inspections. It is also important to ask about repairs. Some inspectors are able to perform repairs on problems they identify in the home, while others do not perform this service. A few other factors to consider include the following:

  • Inspectors training and continuing education
  • Inspectors experience, including experience with residential properties
  • The number of inspections the inspector has completed
  • Inspector memberships in professional organizations
  • How long it will take to receive the inspection report

Finally, prospective homeowners or buyers should ask the inspector if they can attend the inspection. Attending the inspection provides important insight into the condition of the home.

Home Inspection Costs

Generally, home inspections run anywhere from $300 to $500 according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Variation in costs can be attributed to geographic location, the size of the home, and the age of the home. Other factors that may influence the cost of home inspections include the presence of a septic tank or the possible presence of radon.


The National Safety Council defines radon as a colorless, odorless, tasteless and chemically inert radioactive gas. Since this gas is not perceivable with human senses, radon testing is the only way to know the degree to which radon is present in the home. Home inspectors perform most radon testing. When performing this test, inspectors look for radon levels above the EPA limit of 4.0 picocuries per liter (pCi/L). Radon testing is only valid if the homes doors and windows were closed for at least 12 hours before and during the test. If radon levels are high, there are measures that can be taken to lower levels.

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