How Long Does a Home Inspection Take? + FREE Home Inspection Checklist

home inspection checklist

You triumphed over a bidding war for your dream home with the seller accepting your offer. Although the house looks like it’s in good condition, you should still do your due diligence and ensure everything is functioning correctly. A home inspection checklist can make sure there are no surprises once you move in. 

Buying a home most likely will be your biggest purchase ever. When I bought my first house, the banker shook my hand and jokingly said, “Congratulations, you’re in debt!

Hence, you want to make sure everything is in order before spending tons of money!

What is a Home Inspection?

A professional home inspection assesses different property parts, identifying current and potential minor and significant issues. These property parts include the foundation, the exterior, and the interior, such as the driveway, roof, and insulation. 

The following are the parts of a property that  an inspector includes in a standard inspection:

  • Landscaping
  • Exterior components
  • Roof system
  • Garage
  • Attic and roof structure
  • Structural components
  • Electrical systems
  • Basement/crawl space
  • Central heating
  • Central cooling systems
  • Plumbing system
  • Bathroom

A home inspection process includes assessing various systems and appliances in a property, such as the HVAC system, electrical, washing machine, and more. These kinds of examinations are standard inspections. However, for an extra cost, a professional can perform additional assessments.

For example, I always include a main sewer line scope as part of my inspections. The main sewer line collects any waste from a toilet, shower, and sink. In my case, an examination discovered that the pipe was cracked in three places, a $6,000 to $10,000 expense!

Why is Home Inspection Important?

A home inspection gives a homeowner an idea of the potential problems they may face, such as major repairs, structural issues, and code violations. Without an assessment, homeowners could face an unexpected and expensive repair bill, which would require them to tap into their emergency fund.

Usually, a buyer’s agent includes an inspection contingency as part of their purchase offer, making the offer accepted contingent upon a satisfactory inspection report. A buyer using a home inspection contingency can walk away from the purchase without penalty or lose their earnest deposit.

However, inspectors will always find something; that’s their job! 

Thus, real estate agents and buyers use this contingency to negotiate a lower purchase price or agree the seller will make the repairs out of their own pockets. 

As mentioned earlier, when the house inspection report revealed the cracked pipe to the main sewer line, my agent negotiated with the seller to pay 90% of the pipe’s replacement. Of course, the seller wasn’t pleased but knew he would have to disclose this information to any future buyers.

What is a Home Inspection Report?

A home inspection report is a comprehensive document containing general information about a property, such as the property address, age of the home, and inspection date. The written report also includes a comment key section that inspectors use as a grading system to describe their findings.

Additionally, an inspector will include pictures and extra comments from their observation, such as identifying obvious soggy areas. However, inspectors also suggest a buyer seek a second opinion or further inspection by a qualified contractor. More importantly, you should consider all costs associated with additional fees and repairs before purchasing a house.

home inspection pictures
Photos from an inspection report highlighting cracks in the basement walls.

Home Inspection Report Comment Keys

  • Inspected. Good Or Working Condition. (IN) = The item, component, or unit was visually observed and appeared sound or functioning as intended.
  • Not Inspected. (NI) = Inspector did not inspect the item, component, or unit. However, in the client’s interest and whenever possible, stated observations are made based upon visually verifiable conditions or accessible areas. Please be aware that the nature of these observations prevents reporting on hidden areas with certainty.
  • Not Present. (NP) = This item, component, or unit is not in this home or building.
  • Maintenance Item. (MN) = The item, component, or unit appears deficient or needs repair or maintenance by the homeowner or qualified contractor. Items, components, or units that can be repaired to satisfactory condition may not also need replacement.
  • Major Item. (MJ) = The item, component, or unit is deficient or needs further inspection, service, or repair by a qualified/ licensed contractor or qualified specialist. Items, components, or units that can be repaired to satisfactory condition may not need replacement.

Safety Item. (SI) = The item, component, or unit is deficient and/or presents a safety hazard to the occupants and/or the dwelling. Items, components, or units that can be repaired to satisfactory condition may not need replacement.

home inspection comment keys
Sample Inspection Report for Basement/ Crawls pace

How to Find a Home Inspector

Finding a trusted home inspector is essential to receiving a quality home inspection. Each state has different requirements to be a licensed inspector or even none at all. 

Thus, using any local home inspector that comes up in an internet search or anyone you bump into at home improvement stores isn’t enough!

Real Estate Agent

You should first seek out a recommendation from your real estate agent. A seasoned agent has been in the business long enough to know reputable and certified home inspectors. Make sure you request at least two recommendations to give you options for home inspection services.

Real Estate Website Tools

Instead of doing a simple query in a search engine, it would be more prudent to use tools hosted by trusted real estate websites. These websites allow you to filter by city and ratings to give you optimal results. For example, Zillow has a tool that can help you find inspectors in your area who performs home inspections.

Research Ahead of Time

Furthermore, you can be proactive by researching for inspectors while you’re looking for a new house. Usually, people hire an inspector after their offer gets accepted, not caring about their service quality.

Researching inspectors early on gives you the time to do your due diligence, such as requesting copies of old inspection reports. These copies will provide you with insight into what to expect if you hire them.

Here are some questions you can ask a potential inspector:

  • How long have you been inspecting properties?
  • Which part of town do you get most of your business?
  • Are you a licensed home inspector or a member of the American Society of Home Inspectors?
  • What do you not include in your inspection?

What to Expect On Home Inspection Day?

Regardless if it’s an owner-occupied property or an investment property, they will still inspect the core parts of a house. For example, they will still check all the electrical systems, such as an electrical panel, electrical outlets, and light switches, to make sure they operate properly and verify there are no electrical issues.

A home buyer can do a walkthrough while the inspection is happening. Or, a buyer can do a final walkthrough after the inspector completes their report.

In my experience, a walkthrough after the full assessment is sufficient. Then, if necessary, I can call the inspector and ask any frequently asked questions after reviewing the home inspection report for myself.

I do recommend a buyer review the seller’s disclosure statement. This statement lists any issues with the property known by the seller. But, again, a buyer should request an inspector to pay attention to these particular items.

How Long Does a Home Inspection Take?

The average home inspection time takes about two to four hours to inspect the house’s current condition. A rental property inspection takes half the time. 

However, how long a home inspection takes depends on so many factors. As a general rule of thumb, every 500 square feet is an additional 30 minutes. For example, larger homes, such as a 3,000 square foot, will take about three hours. 

Therefore, plan for the inspection to take about 2-3 hours if you plan to be present.

Free Home Inspection Checklist

Check out our FREE checklist PDF download, including several home inspection tips, such as checking the hot water temperature, test carbon monoxide detectors, and more!

Is a Pre-Home Inspection Worth It?

Home inspections usually cost around $300 to $400. It saves them a couple of hundred dollars from a buyer’s perspective after getting their offer accepted. They’ll know what kind of house they’re buying and if any issue is a light home maintenance item.

From the seller’s point of view, a pre-home inspection prevents the buyer from including an inspection contingency in their purchase offer. This type of contingency can tie up a deal and force a seller to reduce their sale price by thousands of dollars! Thus, having a pre-home inspection helps the deal move forward.

Even if a seller doesn’t choose to resolve any of the items on the inspection report, the seller is transparent with buyers saying, “Take it or leave it.” Hence, spending a couple of hundred dollars versus losing a couple thousand is a better deal when selling a house.

On the other hand, homes may have minor issues, the buyer can negotiate for a “repair credit” in order not to move forward.

Final Thoughts

A home inspection is a normal part of the home buying process. A successful home inspection checklist will give you peace of mind moving into your new home. Also, it can prevent a significant hit to your wallet and save an enormous amount of stress if a house will fail a home inspection.

Be sure to get a recommendation from your real estate agent for a well reputable and professional home inspector. A checklist can help an inspector 50% of the way, such as checking the water heater, water pressure, and if the walls have lead paint. 

However, a quality inspector needs to complete the other 50%.

You can always forgo a home inspection when trying to win a bidding war. However, if you’re not mentally ready to handle big-ticket items, such as repairing a ground fault circuit, then you need a home inspector to perform a home inspection!

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Jonathan is a husband and father to two crazy kids. He is an engineer, real estate investor, and personal finance blogger. He owns a small real estate business that operates a couple of investment properties in his local market. He has been featured in Business Insider, USA Today, FOX Business, The Simple Dollar, The Dollar Sprout, and more! Join him on Twitter,FacebookInstagram, and Pinterest.