Home Inspection 101: Do I Really Need an Inspection?

So you’ve found a house you love, and your real estate agent recommends that you have the home inspected. She even provides you with a few names of home inspectors she knows and trusts. But you can’t help but wonder, “Do I really need to have this done?” and “Will it really be worth the money?”

These are very common questions for homebuyers, especially first-time or relatively inexperienced homebuyers, who may not realize that they could potentially end up owning a “money pit”. Imagine the disappointment and frustration you would feel if you closed the deal on your new home, then quickly realized it had a laundry list of problems no one had ever mentioned! Shouldn’t the sellers have told you everything? Maybe, but that doesn’t always happen, and now you’re left with a bunch of unexpected expenses.

A professional home inspection is your safeguard against closing on a house that may not be as it appears on the surface. Although home inspectors conduct only visual inspections (they don’t cut access holes in drywall or pull up carpet), they are usually so thorough that the potential homeowner gets an accurate description of the condition of the home. With this information they can make a well-informed home-buying decision.

Home inspection fees vary by geographical area, house size, house age and other factors, but a good starting estimate would be $300 to $400 for a medium sized home. Sounds like a lot of money, but let’s see what you get. Most reputable home inspectors would spend 3+ hours on site doing the physical work of the inspection, and then another hour or two putting together a comprehensive inspection report. This report would describe systems and components present in the home. It would also specify areas of concern, which could include such things as heating and cooling systems not functioning as intended, hazardous conditions inside electrical breaker panels, and damaged or rotted floor framing seen in the crawl space. Items like these would most likely go unnoticed during a casual “walk through” of the property, which is the extent of inspection most buyers do before making a decision.

Because a professional home inspector is viewed as an unbiased third party, his opinions and notations carry a lot of weight in the home buying process. With a comprehensive inspection report in hand, homebuyers are well-equipped to renegotiate their purchase contracts, if they decide to do so. And as a result, they commonly get the home inspection fee back many times over at the closing table. Spending a few hundred dollars on a professional home inspection before a home purchase can save the buyer thousands in the end.