Home inspections may only be the first step

A home inspector carefully examines the visible portions of a home, inside and out. The key word here is “visible.” During a home inspection, an inspector is not allowed to do any destructive testing, cutting through walls or digging into rotten wood.

A homebuyer also should not assume that a standard home inspection will assess the working condition of sprinkler systems, smoke detectors or kitchen appliances. These features may or may not be checked, at the inspector’s discretion.

A home inspection does cover more than 1,000 items. As outlined by the American Society of Home Inspectors, a professional will examine:

Home inspector looking at roof

  • Roof, attic and visible insulation
  • Walls, ceilings, floors, doors and windows
  • The foundation, including the basement, and structural components
  • Heating and central air conditioning systems
  • Plumbing and electrical systems
  • Fireplaces
  • Exterior points such as driveways and walkways, vegetation near house, surface drainage

A thorough inspection will take two to three hours. At a later time, the hiring client will receive a full report detailing any defects found and sometimes pictures.

As part of a standard service, home inspectors do not generally perform a thorough investigation of a septic system, determine whether a home’s plumbing or paint contains lead, test for radon or mold, or assess the presence of live termites, although they will note visible insect damage. A more in-depth inspection normally requires an extra fee or a specialist such as a septic system contractor or a pest-control expert.

Nationally syndicated columnist Barry Stone, “America’s House Detective,” compares a standard home inspection to a routine physical exam. Your family physician will give you a thorough overall checkup, but if a serious problem is suspected or more intensive assessment is required, you will need a specialist. When it comes to houses, those specialists can include engineers and plumbers.


Think of a home inspection like a “check up” at the doctor.

Expect to pay in the neighborhood of $250 to $400 for a standard home inspection. Costs vary by region and a home’s specifics.

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