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 and prices are reasonably negotiated, home inspections are the norm. However we are currently in a strong sellers market. In this case, home inspections are often not taken.  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:

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 for a home inspection. This normally includes a 2-3 in person inspection at the house as well as a full summary report from the home inspector.

Depending on the time of year, type of inspection and whether it’s a pre-inspection or post- offer inspection.

What is a pre-offer home 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.

A pre-offer inspection is just as it sounds- an inspection done before you put your offer in. It gives you the benefit of getting a home 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 inspection 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, including plumbing, wiring, insulation, foundation, roof and more. 

Some people find that home inspections can be overwhelming, especially on older homes. Remember, a home inspection is not designed to point out every single little flaw with a home, but help identify larger issues that could be problematic.

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

A home inspection is not an “out”

Some people think that buying a home with a home inspection condition clause is an “out” in case they get cold feet. Most contracts are written that the buyer has the option to get out of a deal for any reason “in the buyers sole and absolute discretion”. But this doesn’t mean that should use a home inspection condition as a way to truly decide if you love a home. 

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

Does having a home inspection reduce Insurance?

No. But some insurance companies will be interested in the results of your home inspection to determine your insurance rates.

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 and save the home buyer time and money in the long run.”

For home inspections of well and septic (more often found in 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 a home inspection?

If a buyer chooses to purchase a home without a home inspection, they are buying a home that hasn’t been reviewed by a 3rd party. This could mean nothing, or it could mean that major elements have been missed in the process.

Related: This post is part of a larger series titled “16 things to consider when buying an older home