It’s a question we get all the time: “Do I need a home inspection?”. The answer to that question changes depending on a variety of qualifying questions and strategies that I’ll take you through based on our own personal experience with buyers over the years.

Home inspections are a traditional part of the home buying process. In a balanced real estate market- that is, where there are equal buyers and sellers, home inspections are the norm. However we are currently in a strong sellers market. In this case, buyers generally pass on home inspections.  Buyers will often remove all conditions in an attempt to make their offers more competitive. Note: When you drop conditions, consider the implications of a bank appraisal..

Here are a few things to know about home inspections when buying a home. from the perspective of an experienced, active Realtor perspective such as Beth and Ryan’s Real Estate Team:

What is a home inspector?

Home inspectors are individuals who have completed specific training and certification that allow them to give home inspection advice to potential clients. They are not affiliated with Realtors or home owners and provide a 3rd party, unbiased opinion on the condition of a home. 

How much does a home inspection cost?

Generally, you should budget about $500. This normally includes a full summary report from the home inspector. In prior years, a home inspector would provide you with a full binder of information. For current day home inspections, the inspector usually doesn’t do this. Today, expect a web portal with photos and details online.

Depending on the time of year, the type of inspection and whether it’s a pre-inspection or post- offer inspection will vary. Many people consider getting a home inspection to be part of their closing costs, although it’s not formally part of closing costs.

What is a pre-offer inspection?

Let’s say you find your dream home. But you know that if the seller is holding offers that they won’t want any offers with conditions. This is where a pre-offer inspection is beneficial.

It’s just as it sounds- an inspection done before you put your offer in. It gives you the benefit of getting an inspection. But, doing it in advance means that your offer doesn’t need to contain an inspection condition. 

The downside to a pre-offer inspection is that it’s no guarantee that you’ll get the house. You could spend the $500 on the inspection and then lose to a competitive offer like a bully offer.

A big benefit to doing a pre-offer inspection is that you know exactly what you’re getting. This way, your offer will account for anything that came up in the report.

What can I expect to find during a home inspection?

A home inspection typically takes 3 hours. During that time, the home inspector will walk through the house and go through a variety of categories. This includes plumbing, wiring, insulation, foundation, roof and more. 

Some people find that these inspections can be overwhelming, especially on older homes. Remember, a home inspection is not about pointing out every single little flaw with a home. It helps identify larger issues that could be problematic. The inspector’s job is to point out everything. Remember, when buying an older home it’s been through over 100 years of updates. It won’t be perfect!

Generally, a home inspector will give a timeframe of when necessary repairs should be completed. For example, if an inspector finds a leaky roof, you should address it sooner than later. If they find a few ungrounded wires or a leaky faucet, it’s not as urgent. You can address it at a later date such as 1-3 years.

It’s not an “out”

Some people think a home inspection condition clause is an “out” in case you get cold feet. It’s not. Most contracts are written with the wording “in the buyers sole and absolute discretion”. But this doesn’t mean that should use this condition as a way to truly decide if you love a home. 

The inspection is to ensure that there are no major issues with a home. If there aren’t, good etiquette is to waive the condition. 

How long does a home inspection take?

Generally, a home inspection takes 3-4 hours. There are a variety of factors that influence the time that a home inspection takes. This includes whether or not the inspector goes on the roof or into the homes attic. This is season dependant. It also depends on whether the home inspection includes out buildings as well, including a detached garage.

A home inspection usually starts on the exterior of the home and then moves indoors. The majority of time on a home inspection is done in the basement. Or, if in a bungalow or single level home, the mechanical area). The “heart” of a home is in the mechanicals which would include furnace/boiler, wiring, plumbing and moisture. It’s easier if this space is unfinished.

Does an inspection reduce insurance?

Not always. It’s similar to getting driving training if you’re looking for auto insurance. Some insurance companies will be curious of the results of your home inspection to determine your insurance rates.

Further, some insurance companies will not insure a home if certain “less desirable elements” are found such as vermiculite, knob and tube wiring. Or, without the presence of certifications like WETT inspections. Qualified home inspectors can identify these things at the same time as their other services. This saves the home buyer time and money in the long run.”

For home inspections of well and septic (rural properties), most general home inspectors won’t specialize in these areas. Instead, you’ll need to find inspectors that have certifications in these areas.

What happens if I don’t do an inspection?

If a buyer chooses to purchase a home without a home inspection, they are buying a home that doesn’t have a 3rd party inspection. This could mean nothing, or it could mean that major issues are not found. Not having a home inspection creates extra liability for the buyer.

Related: This post is part of a larger series titled “16 things to consider when buying an older home and another called 23 Most Common Real Estate Terms (2022)