Once an offer has been made and accepted on a house, the next step is usually a home inspection. A home inspection is like a big check-up of your house to make sure all the major parts are in proper working order.

A professional inspector will spend one to three hours (depending on the size of property) examining the house and then write up a detailed report. Most buyers write a contingency clause into their contract stating that the offer is contingent on the findings of the home inspection. For example, if it’s determined that’s $15,000 worth of roof damage, a buyer may want to renegotiate so the roof gets repaired or the seller compensates by reducing the price of the house, or provide a credit towards buyer’s closing costs. Buyer also has the option of cancelling the contract if they are not comfortable with the results of the inspection.
An inspection usually costs between $250 and $500.

The standard home inspection includes:

  • The condition of the home’s heating system
  • The central air conditioning system
  • Interior plumbing and electrical systems
  • The roof, attic and visible insulation
  • Walls, ceilings, floors, windows, and doors
  • The foundation, basement, and structural components
  • Termites

A home inspection is different than an appraisal. An appraisal is an assessment of the value of your home. A bank uses an appraisal to determine the amount it is willing to lend. An appraisal provides an overall review of the condition and safety of the home.

The buyer doesn’t have to be present at the inspection, but it can be a great way for the buyer to get a better idea of the working order of the home. A good home inspector can tell you how things work and might even give you some maintenance tips. There might be little nuances in some of the homes working parts that don’t warrant a mention in the report but are good to know nonetheless.

A home inspection is limited by what the inspector sees. If there is a problem that needs further examination, he will note it in the report and a specialist — such as a licensed plumber or HVAC professional — can then be brought in for further investigation.

The results from a home inspection may also be used in some cases to save 20% or more off the annual homeowners insurance.

A lot of contracts will have a home inspection contingency expiration date. That means the buyer should get the home inspection done as quickly as possible. Then, if additional experts are needed to examine the house, there will be time before the contingency expiration date.

A home inspection can also be useful if getting ready to sell a house. It can bring to light any problems you might need remedied before selling.