What to Expect From a Home Inspection

Find out what you should expect on inspection day. Learn more about home inspection costs and how you can prepare your home.

The Home Stretch

What to expect during a home inspection? After a vigorous negotiation process, you’ve finally come to an agreement on the price, closing date, and other factors involved in your real estate transaction. It’s all smooth sailing until closing, right? Well, not exactly. One of the biggest hurdles to get past during the closing process is the home inspection. What is the purpose of a home inspection, what to expect before, during, and after the process, and how you can prepare.

Why should I have a home inspection?  

A home inspection, by definition, is just what it sounds like: an inspection of the home involved in the real estate transaction. The purpose of a home inspection is twofold: 

  1. For buyers, the inspection ensures awareness of any major repair issues, damage, or other problems that could create a safety concern or undue financial burden after the closing. 
  2. For sellers, the inspection ensures a clear and transparent picture of the home’s condition, ensuring that the buyer cannot subsequently claim ignorance of needed repairs or structural flaws. 

Who should attend a home inspection?

There are a variety of viewpoints regarding attendance at home inspections. Because the home inspector is engaged by and on behalf of the buyer, the inspection is primarily geared toward the buyer’s side of the transaction. 

Should buyers attend the home inspection?

At least one of the buyers should generally attend the home inspection in order to ask questions and get a closer look at the property’s condition than is normally available during a standard walkthrough. In addition, if problems are identified by the inspector, the buyer will want to be on-site in order to learn more.

Should sellers attend the home inspection?

Many buyers and their agents object to the presence of sellers at the home inspection, especially since it can result in awkward interactions, interference, and steering of attention away from potential trouble spots. However, in some cases sellers can provide valuable context regarding dates of repairs or purchase, hidden features of the home, and other positive input.

Can I back out of buying a home after a home inspection?

If your offer included a home inspection contingency or if a home inspection is allowed as part of the purchase contract, you are able to back out of the home purchase with no financial penalty based on the results of the home inspection, provided you abide by the terms of the agreement. 

In the event of an As-Is sale with no home inspection contingency in place, you would generally forfeit your EMD if you back out of the purchase.

What happens at the home inspection?

At the home inspection, the home inspector will examine the property’s major systems and structural elements in order to determine the condition of the home as well as any potential repairs or updates that will be needed. He or she will be on the lookout for systems that are poorly maintained, violations of code, or items that pose a potential safety or financial concern to the home’s buyer.

A typical inspection can take anywhere from a couple of hours to all day, depending on the size of the home and grounds and the size of the home inspection team. Some home inspection companies send multiple inspectors in order to facilitate a speedier and more thorough inspection.

What is included in a typical home inspection?

The typical home inspection protocol includes most readily visible and accessible parts of the house. In-depth inspections of particular systems or structural elements or of difficult to access parts of the home may require a separate, specialty inspection. The buyer home inspection checklist may vary from the home inspection checklist for sellers. The following are typical of what to expect from a home inspection:

Home inspection checklist

A typical home inspection checklist will include an evaluation of the following:

  • Grounds, including drainage, grading, exterior structures, and root intrusion
  • Structural, including sides of home, windows and doors, visible foundation
  • Exterior, including siding, paint, stucco, or other surface materials
  • Windows and doors, including framing, wood, glass, and glazing
  • Roof, including shingles, flashing, gutters, and chimneys
  • Attic, including insulation, water intrusion, ventilation, and exhaust
  • Interior rooms, including switches and outlets, wall condition, flooring, ductwork,  and other systems integrations
  • Kitchen, including plumbing, cabinetry, built-in appliances, and counters
  • Bathrooms, including plumbing, condition of fixtures, exhaust fans, caulking, and tilework
  • Miscellaneous, including garage door openers, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, stairs and banisters
  • Basement, mechanical closet, and crawl spaces, including water damage, exposed foundation, and structural wood condition
  • Major systems, including HVAC, plumbing, and electrical

After the Inspection

You can generally expect to hear back from the home inspector and his/her company within 24 hours after the inspection. At that time, buyers will consult with their agent to determine what repairs are recommended, what repairs are required, and what the negotiating position will be before submitting the report and copy of the buyer’s requests.

What fixes are mandatory after a home inspection?

Generally, fixes that are mandatory are those that are required by the lender before finalizing the mortgage on a property. These generally include structural defects, building code violations, or safety issues, including:

  • HVAC system repair or replacement
  • Major roofing issues
  • Foundation or structural damage
  • Electrical systems
  • Plumbing systems, including septic systems

Does the seller pay for repairs after inspection? Can the seller refuse to make repairs?

The seller has the option of paying for common repairs needed after home inspection, refusing to pay for repairs, or offering a cash credit at closing to cover some or all of the cost of repairs. Should the seller decide to refuse to make repairs, the buyers generally have the option to pull out of the sales contract and have their EMD returned to them.

One exception to this is in the event of an information-only inspection where the home is being sold As-Is and there is no home inspection contingency or provision in the sales contract. This is a common occurrence in investment property purchases and multiple offer situations in high-demand markets. In this case, the seller makes no representations about the property’s condition and the buyer waives his or her right to void the contract based on the inspection.

How to pass a home inspection? How do you fail a home inspection?

There is really no way to pass or fail a home inspection. In a larger sense, the issue becomes whether or not the buyer or seller wants to proceed with the transaction and close on the purchase. 

Thus, passing or failing a home inspection is more about the resulting negotiation process than the inspection itself. Passing the inspection means you move forward, either by making repairs or providing a financial incentive. Failing the inspection means that you don’t come to an agreement and the contract comes to an end.

How much does it cost to hire a home inspector?

The average cost of inspection of a home is currently $315. Home buyer inspection costs may vary from seller inspection costs. General home inspection costs can also vary significantly, however, depending on the following factors:

  • The size of the home
  • The type of home (condo, co-op, single-family)
  • Additional features including pool, tennis courts, guest house, or other outbuildings
  • Specialty inspections like those required for HVAC, roof, chimneys, and other systems, or intrusive inspections (like those required to test stucco for water intrusion, for example), can cost significantly more due to the greater expertise required.

Can I pay a home inspector with a credit card?

You can generally pay a home inspector with a credit card. However, as with all purchases during the mortgage underwriting process, care should be taken to avoid running up significant debt that would interfere with the mortgage approval.

What does it take to become a home inspector?

Home inspection licensure varies state-by-state, but generally requires extensive education and home inspection training, which can be provided by either an online process or a home inspection school. Upon licensure, a home inspector can be employed by a large home inspection company or can start his or her own business and work independently.

Home inspectors should participate in additional training and continuing education in order to keep their skills up to date, especially regarding new types of construction techniques and building materials. 

Endpoint is dedicated to serving today’s consumer with a mobile-first, on-demand, and personalized experience throughout the closing process.

Find out more about the way we can streamline and simplify your closing or continue your reading in the next chapter of our Step-by-Step Closing Guide.