A home inspection is a visual inspection performed by a trained professional to determine the condition of a home’s main elements. The inspection usually takes several hours, during which the professional takes multiple photos and notes, tracking information for a final report. After the inspection, the pro will create a printed report, complete with photos and detailed information, summarizing the condition of the house. A home inspection is often used by potential home buyers prior to purchase to determine if there are larger issues (such as dry rot or a faulty foundation) that are not immediately visible to the untrained eye but that would cost a lot of money to resolve. Home inspections are also used by real estate agents and home sellers to address any concerns before putting a home on the market. Longtime homeowners can also schedule a home inspection to get a snapshot of their current home condition and identify any issues that need to be addressed. A home inspection is not a legal document that can be used for divorce or estate settlements, nor can it be used to secure loans or mortgages.
Real estate agents help their clients buy, sell, and rent commercial and residential properties. There are also real estate agents that sell industrial and agricultural real estate, but the majority sell residential properties. To become a real estate agent, you must be at least 18 years old, successfully complete real estate courses, and pass a real estate exam. Be sure to check for any required licensing, too. Often real estate agents will earn 5 percent to 6 percent of the total home sale price for their work in representing their client. Typically this commission is split equally between the buyer’s agent and the seller’s agent. Here is an overview of what a real estate agent does, according to the United States Department of Labor:
- Represent clients who are looking to buy, sell and rent properties.
- Stay knowledgeable about regional real estate prices, mortgages, market conditions and related information, and advise clients accordingly.
- Determine competitive market prices by comparing properties.
- Create and publicize lists of properties for sale, including details such as location and features.
- Market properties through advertisements, open houses and listing services.
- Show prospective buyers or renters properties.
- Present purchase offers to sellers for consideration.
- Mediate negotiations between buyer and seller.
- Ensure that all terms of purchase contracts are met.
- Prepare documents, such as loyalty contracts, purchase agreements and deeds.
Real estate agents and real estate brokers both help clients buy, sell, and rent residential and commercial properties. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, real estate brokers are licensed to manage their own real estate businesses. Real estate agents cannot have their own real estate office and must work under a broker. Real estate brokers often have real estate firms and employ real estate agents. Those real estate agents may be employees of the firm, or they may work on contract and earn part of any commission they bring into the firm.
If you are a homeowner ready to sell or a buyer in the market for a new home, either a real estate broker or a real estate agent can help you achieve your goal. What is more important than their title is their track record and client success stories. When interviewing real estate agents or brokers to help you buy or sell a home, ask about their recent sales history as compared with the original listing prices. If you’re selling a home, ask how they would market your home and what price they would list it at. Whether you hire an agent or broker, you want a professional who will have your best interests at heart.
When you’re hiring a real estate agent you want to find a qualified pro who can negotiate the best deal for your home — whether you’re buying or selling. Reading reviews will help you weed out obvious bad operators; you want to work with someone who treats their clients with fairness and respect. That said, you also want someone who can play hardball and maximize your real estate deal. Ask for references from recent clients, and be sure to call them.
Experts encourage you to interview more than one prospective real estate agent before hiring. A home sale or home purchase is a big deal — sometimes the biggest deal in a person’s life — and you want to find an agent who will work hard for you. In today’s market, having a real estate agent who is social media savvy and has an attractive online presence is critical. Ask the agent how they plan to market your house. Review their listings, and ask yourself if they have professional photos with homes that are professionally staged. If the answer is no, they might not have the marketing savvy you’re looking for. Ask what price they would list your house at and why. Pay attention to how they communicate with you during your initial interviewing phase. Are they too busy to respond for several days? Are they clear and helpful? This information is a clue to how they’ll engage during the entire process.
A complete home inspection involves a visual investigation of all major elements that make up your home. A home inspection is a vital part of buying or selling a home to ensure you’re not accidentally buying a termite-infested home or one with major structural defects. Paying for an inspection before purchasing a home can save you a lot of money in the long run. The national average home inspection cost is $310, with prices ranging higher or lower based on your location and the square footage of your home. After performing a walk-through inspection, the pro should provide you a printed report — complete with photos and recommendations — detailing what’s in good condition, what would benefit from minor repairs, and what needs immediate attention. Home inspection pros know how to spot trouble areas, but they’re not licensed contractors, electricians or plumbers, so they may suggest you hire a licensed pro to address specific problems. Here are the main components that a home inspection covers:
- Home structure
- Foundation, grading and drainage, roof covering, roof structure, interior and exterior attic walls, ceilings and floors, interior and exterior doors, windows, stairways, fireplace and chimney, porches, balconies, decks, attached carports, and crawl space.
- HVAC system, heating equipment, cooling equipment, ductwork and vents, fixtures and switches, branch circuits, receptacles, service entrance and panels.
- Water heater and equipment, drains, waste systems, vents, and plumbing fixtures.
- Garage door openers, garbage disposal, dishwasher, exhaust range, range hood, bathroom exhaust fans, cooktop, oven and microwave.
Home appraisals and home inspections both assess your home and provide a report summarizing the condition or value of your home based on key measurements. Unlike a home inspection for the sale of a property, a home appraisal is used for loan applications, property value assessment for sales or settlements (divorce, estate, etc.), and taxes and insurance. If you’re having your home appraised for lending purposes, you’ll likely need a state-certified appraiser, so be sure to your research their credentials. Nationally, the average cost for a home appraisal is $340.
If you’re buying or selling a home, having a professional home inspection can be an invaluable tool for price-setting and negotiation, as well as learning what repairs are necessary. The national average home inspection cost is $310, ranging higher or lower depending on the inspection company, your location and the size of your home. Other factors that can affect cost are additional inspection services and pathogen testing. Here are some examples of average home inspection costs in various parts of the country:
- Home inspection in New York City: $425 or more.
- Condo inspection in New York City: $200 or more.
- Home inspection in Central Texas: $250 for homes up to 2,000 square feet.
- $275 for homes from 3,001-4,000 square feet.
- $300 for homes from 4,001-5,000 square feet.
- $325 for homes 5,001 square feet and up, plus 10 cents per additional square foot.
- Home inspection in Los Angeles: $199-$299 or more.
Real estate agents typically don’t charge a set rate to their clients, but rather earn a commission on the price of the final home sale. In traditional real estate, there is a buyer’s agent and a seller’s agent. The two agents receive 5 percent to 6 percent of the final home sale price and split it evenly, meaning they each earn roughly 2.5 percent to 3 percent of the total home sale. If you are a home seller, you may have fees associated with the sale that are above and beyond the commission the agents earn. The real estate agent may have you pay marketing fees, MLS fees, early cancellation fees, or more. Always ask pricing details before signing a contract so you clearly understand your financial obligations. Here are some of the average (and common) costs that can arise when selling a home:
- Home inspection: $200-$350 or more, depending on region.
- Home appraisal: $250-$400 or more, depending on region.
- Professional real estate photography: $275-$550 or more, depending on photographer, square footage of house, and special requests like sunset shots.
- Closing costs: Often split between the seller and buyer. An average range for the buyer to pay is between 3 percent and 4 percent, with the seller paying a lower fee at 1 percent to 3 percent of the home’s price.
On average, you can expect a standard home inspection to take two to three hours. Your house size can affect inspection length, as can requesting additional services such as sprinkler system inspections, outbuilding inspections, radon testing, crawl space inspections, or pool house inspections. During the home inspection, the professional will be taking photos and looking in and around all parts of your home. The inspector will then compile a report that may be more than 20 pages. You should receive this report back within a few days to a week. The report should detail everything from minor imperfections and maintenance recommendations to major defects that need to be resolved as soon as possible, like structural failures or a leak in the basement. Your report should include photos and clearly outlined information about all major elements inspected, as well as recommendations for next steps.