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Frequently Asked Questions

Do you have questions? That's probably why you're here. Many other people have probably had the same questions, so I've rounded them (the questions, not the people) up, along with the answers.


Purchasing a home is a big decision. Knowing all you can makes a big difference. When you make a written offer on a home, you should insist that the contract state that the offer is contingent on a home inspection conducted by a qualified inspector. You will have to pay for the inspection yourself, but it could keep you from buying a house that will cost you far more in repairs down the road. If you are satisfied with the results of the inspection, then your offer can proceed. A home buyer should know the condition of the home being purchased, including all positive and negative aspects. After the inspection, you will know more about the house, which will allow you to make decisions with confidence. The cost of a home inspection is very small relative to the home being inspected--don’t sell yourself short in making the best purchase possible. 

Q: What is a home inspection? 


A home inspection is a non-invasive, visual examination of a residential dwelling, which is designed to identify observed material defects within specific components of the home. It is intended to assist in the evaluation of the overall condition of the home. The inspection is based on observations of the visible and apparent condition of the structure and its components on the date of the inspection.

Q: What does a home inspection include? 

During a home inspection, a qualified inspector takes an in-depth and impartial look at the property you plan to buy. During a home inspection, the inspector will:

  • Evaluate the physical condition: the structure, construction and mechanical systems. The home inspector’s report will cover the condition of the home’s heating system; central air conditioning system (temperature permitting); interior plumbing and electrical systems; the roof, attic and visible insulation; walls, ceilings, floors, windows and doors; the foundation, basement and structural components.

  • Identify items that should be repaired or replaced.

  • Estimate the remaining useful life of the major systems (such as electrical, plumbing, heating, air conditioning), equipment, structure and finishes.


Q: How long will the inspection take?

The average on-site inspection time for a single inspector is two to three hours for a typical single-family house; anything significantly less may not be enough time to perform a thorough inspection. Additional inspectors may be brought in for very large properties and buildings.


Q: What will it cost? 


Costs for a typical one-family house vary, depending on the region, size and age of the house, scope of optional services such as septic, well or radon testing, and other factors. A typical range might be $300-$500, but consider the value of the home inspection in terms of the investment being made. 


Q: Why can’t I do it myself? 


A professional home inspector has knowledge of home construction, proper installation, maintenance and home safety that even the most experienced homeowner lacks. He or she is familiar with how a home’s components function together, as well as reasons for their failure.
Most importantly, a professional home inspector provides a completely objective view of a house, which most buyers—whose judgment is often impaired by the emotions that are part of the home-buying process—are unable to provide. The impartial, objective view of a professional home inspector provides the accurate information needed to make the best decision.


Q: Can a house fail a home inspection? 


No. A professional home inspection is an examination of the current condition of a house. A home inspector, therefore, will not pass or fail a house, but rather describe its physical condition and indicate what components and systems may need major repair or replacement.


Q: Does a home inspection verify code?


No. A professional home inspection is a snapshot which reveals the current condition of the house. It does not determine market value (an appraisal does this) or code-compliance (a municipal inspection does this). A home inspector does not pass or fail a house, but rather describes the condition of the house so as to reveal areas of strength as well as areas where maintenance and/or repair is needed.


Q: When do I call a home inspector? 


A home inspector is usually contacted immediately after the contract or purchase agreement has been signed. Before signing a purchase agreement or contract, be sure there is an inspection clause in the sales contract, which makes the final purchase obligation contingent on the findings of a professional home inspection. This clause should specify the terms and conditions to which both the buyer and seller are obligated.


Q: Should I attend the inspection? 


This is a valuable educational opportunity, and an inspector’s refusal to allow this should raise a red flag. Never pass up this opportunity to see your prospective home through the eyes of an expert so you are able to observe the inspector and ask questions.


Q: What if the report reveals problems? 


Expect that it will, because there is a shortage of perfect houses on the market. And when the inspector identifies problems, that doesn’t mean you should or shouldn’t buy the house; it just lets you know in advance what to expect from the house. If your budget does not allow room for any immediate repairs, the information provided by the inspector will be important. But if major problems are found, a seller may agree to make repairs—after all, those same problems will likely be of concern to any other prospective buyers as well!


Q: If the house proves to be in good condition, did I really need an inspection? 


If everything in the house is in good shape, wouldn’t you want to know? A professional home inspection can give you the confidence to know that you’re making a good decision—and the only way to confirm this is to make sure there isn’t a pile of problems hiding in your new home. You will learn many things about your new home from the inspector’s written report, and that information will continue to serve you as a reference well into the future.


Select content provided by: US Dept of Housing and Urban Development,

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