The Critical Role of Home Inspectors in Real Estate Transactions

Learn what a real estate inspector does and why you need them.

authorWritten by Manuel MartinezMay 8, 2024

Buying a home or investment property can be a confusing and stressful endeavor. Not only do you have to consider price, location and financing, but you have to worry about the structural soundness of the property you are buying.

The Importance of Home Inspections

That’s why home inspections are so important. Next to financing, the home inspection is probably one of the most important aspects of buying a home. A home inspection is an unbiased, professional assessment of the condition of the house. It provides buyers with an expert opinion and written report on the condition of the physical structure and various systems within the house.

In order to prepare the report, an inspection must conduct a visual inspection of the house. Depending on the size of the property, the inspection process typically takes about three hours to complete. Buyers should accompany the inspector during the inspection. This will give you a chance to ask questions and become familiar with the systems of the home.

Home inspectors are hired by buyers to provide a written report  regarding the property’s condition, including the roof, foundation, heating and cooling systems, plumbing, electrical work, water and sewerage and some fire and safety issues. Moreover, the home inspector will look for evidence of insect, water or fire damage or any other issue that may affect the value of the property.

Choosing the Right Home Inspector

Not every state has a certification program for the home inspection industry and requirements for certification vary widely. In many states an inspector doesn’t need any formal inspection education and may not have to be licensed or bonded.

In order to make sure your inspector is a competent professional, you should do a little research on your state’s requirements, certifications and professional designations. To find a home inspector go the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) website or the National Association of Home Inspectors (NAHI) website to locate a home inspector near you. ASHI maintains a list of certified inspectors, searchable by Zip code.

Word of mouth is probably still the most common way to find an inspector. But even if the recommendation comes from a friend or real estate agent, it’s a good idea to check for certification, call references, and consult the local Better Business Bureau to make sure previous jobs have been without incident.

Most real estate agents will be able to recommend several (get at least three names), and you can also ask friends who had an inspection done recently. Inspection costs vary depending on the size of the home being inspected, but it usually ranges between $200 and $400.

When choosing a home inspector experience is key. Inspectors learn something new on each job, so the longer they’ve been in business the better. Also, find out what sort of report the inspector issues. Also, be aware that home inspectors are poorly regulated, and the level of performance varies widely. Only 16 states require licenses, according to the American Society of Home Inspectors, a trade group based in Des Plaines, Illinois.

Navigating Post-Inspection Negotiations

With your inspection report in hand — plus your list of needed improvements and the assistance of your real estate sales professional — you can request that the seller make repairs. The seller may say no, give you a purchase credit or repair some items.

But the more detailed your list, the better the chances the seller will at least give a little — and maybe a lot.

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