Home Inspection 101: Complete Guide

A professional home inspection is a crucial step in the home buying process, and it can make or break your decision to purchase. It’s important to understand exactly what a home inspector looks for so you know what to expect when they arrive at your potential new home.

We’ll cover topics such as what a professional home inspector will examine, how long home inspections typically take, and how to interpret their findings. With this information, you’ll be better equipped to make informed decisions about whether or not a house is right for you.

home inspection
Home Inspection 101: Complete Guide 2

What is a Home Inspection?

A certified home inspection is a visual examination of the overall condition of a home according to the inspection industry Standards of Practice. It’s conducted by a qualified home inspector who will provide you with an in-depth inspection report on any issues found, from major structural problems to safety issues needed.

During a home inspection, the inspector typically checks electrical systems, plumbing, roofing, windows, doors, and the foundation. They’ll also look for signs of pest infestation or water damage.

Most certified home inspectors operate under the NACHI Standards of Practice. Other industry certification bodies exist, like ASHI, but NACHI is the largest, with 27,450 InterNACHI® members.

What is a Home Inspection Contingency?

A home inspection contingency is a clause in a real estate purchase agreement that allows the buyer to have their offer contingent upon the results of a professional inspection. If the inspector finds any major issues with the property, the buyer can renegotiate or cancel their offer without penalty.

An inspection contingency also gives buyers peace of mind that any issues found in the inspection will be addressed before closing on the home. It is important to note that some states have laws governing home inspection contingencies, so it is best to speak with a real estate professional in your area for more information.

Why is a Home Inspection Important?

Home inspections can be immensely beneficial in avoiding expensive future surprises and help identify any issues that could reduce the value or usability of your potential new home.

It’s also important to note that home inspectors do not guarantee the home’s condition. A home inspector will provide you with an in-depth report about what they find, but it is ultimately up to you to determine whether or not the home meets your expectations.

For more, see our guide on Why Home Inspections Are Important.

How Much Does a Home Inspection Cost?

The average home inspection costs about $417 for a 1500 sf house, but this doesn’t include specialty inspections like radon or mold testing. Depending on the size and location, you can anticipate an inspection will cost between $350 and $650.

Some larger homes can cost $650 to $950 and more when you include ancillary services.

We have a free home inspection cost calculator to help estimate your home inspection cost.

What is a Home Inspection Checklist?

A home inspection checklist lists items home inspectors use to guide their inspections. This includes checking electrical panels, looking for water damage, examining the roof and foundation, evaluating windows and doors, inspecting plumbing systems, and noting any signs of infestation.

Discussing this checklist with your home inspector before the inspection is important, so you know exactly what will be examined.

How Long Does a Home Inspection Take?

The time it takes to complete a home inspection depends on factors like the size and age of the home but typically ranges from two to four hours. During that time, the inspector will take notes, measure, and test home major systems like heating and air conditioning.

A solo home inspector may take 3 to 5 hours to complete an inspection on a 2500 SF house. Inspection companies often have inspectors work in pairs to complete inspections within 2 hours without sacrificing inspection standards. 

What to Expect From the Inspection Results?

The home inspector will provide you with a detailed inspection report of their findings. The information in this report should give you an accurate picture of the home’s current condition so you can make informed decisions about whether or not to purchase.

It’s important to note that home inspectors cannot predict future problems, so they can only evaluate the home as it stands at the time of inspection. If an inspector finds issues with the home, you should have a professional home repair contractor look into possible fixes before proceeding with the purchase.

What to Expect on Inspection Day?

On inspection day, you should expect a thorough examination of your home. A qualified inspector will look at the condition of the exterior, interior, and major systems, such as the plumbing, electrical, heating and cooling systems. They will also check for structural damage, water damage, mold growth, pests, or other hazardous conditions that may be present.

You may need additional radon testing, mold testing, and pest control inspections to ensure the home is safe and free of any potential health risks. Once all the inspections are complete, you can review the home inspection reports with your real estate agent and decide if this is the right home for you.

Common House Inspection Red Flags to Watch For

Home inspectors look for signs of water damage, defective wiring, roof defects, foundation cracks, etc. If any issues are found, discuss them with your home inspector or real estate agent before deciding whether or not to purchase the home.

Water damage is often directly linked to structural issues. Signs of water damage can include stains on the ceiling or walls, musty odors, and discolored wood, carpeting, or flooring.

Electrical issues can arise from faulty wiring, which can be dangerous and lead to fires. Check for any charred or discolored outlets, exposed wires, sparks near switches or outlets, flickering lights, and circuit breakers that have tripped often.

Roof problems can cause water to enter the home due to missing shingles, moss growth, curling, cracking, or other damage.

How to Prepare for a Home Inspection

If you are preparing for inspection day, there are several steps you can take to ensure the home is in its best condition before the inspector arrives. These steps include:

  • decluttering
  • cleaning up any visible messes
  • replacing blown light bulbs
  • replacing smoke detector batteries
  • be sure sytems like HVAC, electrical, and water heaters are accessible
  • be sure that crawlspaces or attics can be easily accessed
  • have copies of any home maintenance records available

We have a full list of seller tips to pass a home inspection available.

Hiring the Right Home Inspector

Finding the right home inspector is an important part of the home-buying process. Start by asking family and friends for recommendations.

You can also research inspection companies online to see what inspection services they offer and if they have any positive reviews. Before hiring, you can also ask home inspectors for proof of licensing or certification.

Questions to Ask Your Home Inspector

When home inspectors are on site, it’s important to ask questions and have them explain any issues they find. Questions you may want to ask include: what is the estimated cost of the repairs? Are there potential safety concerns? Is the home up to code?

Having a home inspector answer these questions and explain their findings can help you make an informed decision before buying a home. Knowing what home inspectors look for, how to prepare for them, and what issues to look out for can help you decide whether to purchase a home. 

Tips to Negotiate Repair Costs

It’s important to negotiate the cost of major repairs before closing on a home purchase. If the inspector uncovers structural issues that need to be addressed, sellers may be willing to reduce the home purchase price for you to cover the cost of future repairs.

Alternatively, they may offer to make the repairs before closing or agree to an escrow account with a home warranty provider. By negotiating major repair costs before signing the home purchase agreement, you can ensure you get the best deal for your home purchase.

If sellers are unwilling to negotiate major issues, you should know when to walk away after a home inspection.


What’s not included in a home inspection?

A home inspection does not include evaluating the security system, underground utilities (sewer, water, and electrical), or amenities such as a swimming pool or tennis court. It also does not include a pest control assessment, soil testing, or any advice on repairs or renovations that may be required for the property.

For more see What a Home Inspection Does & Doesn’t Include.

Can you fail a home inspection?

No, you can’t fail a home inspection. Home inspectors don’t hand out a passing or failing grade. The inspection report is more of an informational document outlining all the findings.

The home inspector’s report may recommend repairs that may be necessary before closing on a property. Generally, if significant safety issues are found during an inspection, these will also be noted in the report.

What repairs are mandatory after a home inspection?

There are really no mandatory repairs after a home inspection. Some repairs may be necessary to meet lending requirements before the buyer can close. Some common repairs include fixing plumbing leaks or electrical safety issues, active termite activity, and repairing structural or foundation issues.

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Hubert Miles

I've been conducting professional home inspections since 2002. I'm a licensed Home Inspector, Certified Professional Inspector (CPI), Certified Master Inspector (CMI), and FHA 203k Consultant. I started HomeInspectionInsider.com to help people better understand the home inspection process and answer questions about homeownership and home maintenance.
DISCLAIMER: The content published on HomeInspectionInsider.com is not professional advice. You should consult with a licensed professional and check local permit requirements before starting any project.
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