Buying or selling a home is a major milestone, but it can also be emotional and stressful; there’s so much to think about: location, mortgages, putting in an offer, and then waiting to find out if it’s been accepted. Once you get to that last part, you’ll be tempted to celebrate, but before you sign any papers, you’ll want to hire a home inspector to identify the true state of the home’s conditions (and save you time, money, and headaches later on down the road). After all, you wouldn’t buy a car without taking it for a test drive first, right?
A home inspector is there to not just kick the metaphorical tires, but examine the engine, the paint job, all of the safety features, and anything else you need to know.
We talked to Tony Abate, a certified home inspector and owner of of Quality Inspections Today (a highly rated inspector on Thumbtack), to find out just what you should expect when hiring someone to inspect your home.
What does a home inspector do?
I inspect every accessible area of a house,” Abate says. “This includes the roof, the heat and cooling systems, the structure, the electrical, the plumbing, the yard, the insulation, the decks, the chimney, the basement, the crawl spaces, the sewage system… all of it. Then I put all of my findings in an extensive report that outlines the exact condition of the home.
Who needs a home inspector?
I mostly do home inspections for people who are buying houses, though once in a while I get people who are having a house inspected prior to putting it on the market and occasionally I get renters who want an inspector to document something they think needs to be fixed.
Should I be present at the inspection?
There are some home inspectors who like to do the inspection alone, but I always have the client follow me around so they can see everything first hand. It’s a lot easier to see something than to just read it in a report, plus it’s an educational experience for the homeowner and a chance for them to see how everything works and have a better understanding of what their home maintenance will require.
What’s in the report?
A day or two after the inspection, I send a PDF report that’s usually about 60 to 80 pages long (without the glossary) that covers all of the major home components. It includes observations on each category, things that are considered a deficiency and need to be examined further or fixed, and recommended upgrades. Not everything is negative though; I make notes of things that look good or recent upgrades as well. The report also contains photographs—I take anywhere from 150 to 200 photographs during each inspections—and whether or not something is a major repair (over $500), a minor repair, a health and safety issue, a watch item (something that’s at the end of its service life or has deteriorated, but is still functional), a workmanship issue, or an item that needs further evaluation.
What issues should I be really concerned about?
You’re never going to find a perfect house and the report can be overwhelming, but most of the items will be maintenance recommendations and minor imperfections that are just nice to know about. Still, there are a few categories that will need to be addressed right away.
- Major defects, like a structural failure.
- Things that lead to major defects, like a small leak in the roof.
- Anything that may hinder your ability to finance, insure, or occupy the home.
- Safety hazards, like faulty electrical wiring.
Why do some items need further evaluation?
A home inspection is a general observation of the home; it doesn’t get technically invasive. Sometimes something doesn’t work, but I don’t know why, like an air conditioning system or a plumbing issue. It’s important to bring in a qualified professional to take a look at that stuff and get their expert opinion about what’s wrong and how much it will cost to fix.
How long does a home inspection take?
The national average is 2.5 hours, but mine take a little longer because I’m explaining stuff to my clients as I go. Also, the older a house, the more stuff that’s usually “wrong,” so it can take anywhere from three to four hours.
How should I find a home inspector?
In a lot of states, there aren’t licensing requirements; if that’s the case, make sure they have a membership in a home inspector organization, as that means they’re invested in continuing their education and are following standards of practice. It’s also important to check their references online, which is why Thumbtack is such a great resource. You should also see how much experience they have and how long they’ve been in the field.
How much does a home inspection cost?
A lot of clients go for the cheapest prices, but you don’t always get great quality when you do that. You might pay based on the size of the home, the home price and area, special requests, and time of year. My home inspections cost $199 to $299, mostly depending on location.
Tony Abate has been a home inspector since 1993 when he realized he wanted to help homebuyers know exactly what they were buying. He provides home inspection services in Riverside, San Bernardino, Los Angeles, Orange County, and San Diego and has been hired over 90 times on Thumbtack. You can find him on Thumbtack or on his website Quality Inspections Today.