Home inspections are recommended for all home buyers. While some buyers will choose to waive an inspection, it’s always recommended that inspections be done for a few reasons. First, determining a home’s value is partly based on any work that needs to be done on it. But there’s the added benefit of getting a total-package look at the ins and outs of how your home works.
The way a home inspection helps determine the value of a home is by assessing the home’s current condition and flagging any needed repairs (without which the home could be worth less).
The home inspection is the “kicking the tires” part of the transaction when buyers get a full inside-and-out picture of their potential new home.
Based on what comes up in the inspection, your home purchasing process could either move swiftly and without a hitch, or require some extensive negotiations–or anywhere in between.
For example, you may uncover major repairs needed that would significantly reduce the current value of the home, in which case your realtor will guide you through the negotiations process.
But what exactly goes on during a home inspection? For this article, Vale Living teamed up with Clever Duck Inspections for an in-depth look at the home inspection process. Let’s dive in!
(P.S. PJ has a special offer for my referrals – scroll to the end to find it!)
What Should I Look for When Hiring a Home Inspector?
As a realtor, I’m constantly working with home inspectors. The inspection period of a real estate contract is the first big hurdle home shoppers will go through.
If you need support picking an inspector, your real estate agent can give you a list of inspectors they trust. But you’re also welcome to find an inspector of your own.
In any case, here are some basic things to look for when searching for a home inspector. Look for someone who:
- Is licensed, certified and/or registered with the correct association in your area
- Has a reputation for being thorough
- Ask friends and family for referrals
- Read online reviews
- Communicates well
- Feel free to ask questions of an inspector before choosing them – they should be happy to answer general questions over the phone
Is it Better to Choose a Large Inspection Firm over a Small Business?
Deciding between a large company and a small company is a game of pros and cons lists. Personally, I tend to advocate for smaller businesses over larger companies in most cases.
When working with a larger inspection company, I will be less likely to have a personal relationship with whoever shows up to do the inspection, compared to a smaller operation where I’ve established a good working relationship.
Smaller companies also tend to take on fewer appointments per day, giving them ample time to thoroughly review any surprises that might come up.
As PJ Smith of Clever Duck Inspections says, “The most important qualities in a home inspector are honesty, care, patience, communication skills, and being willing to take the time to do a good, thorough job for their client.”
What Are the Biggest Concerns Inspectors Look For?
While the safety, security, and structural soundness of the home is the main thing an inspector is assessing, don’t mistake an inspection as merely a time to list what’s broken.
Inspections are more about creating a roof-to-crawlspace informational inventory of your home’s systems.
That said, during the home inspection period of the real estate process, it’s likely that issues will be noted that will affect the overall negotiation of the deal.
What Do Inspectors Look At?
“My philosophy is to inspect every house as if my mom was moving into it.
If it’s something she would need to know, I want to get her that information, even if it’s not required.”
PJ Smith, Clever Duck Inspections
In Oregon, home inspectors have a specific list of items they’re required to cover. These can be found in the Home Inspectors Standards of Behavior and Standards of Practice Administrative Rules.
|What’s Covered||What’s Not Covered|
|Water shut-off location||Anything not attached to the home|
|Electrical box location||Fences|
|Type of wiring in your home||Irrigation systems|
|Attic insulation||Fish ponds|
|Roofing material and age||Hot tubs|
|HVAC system and age||Outdoor spas and pools|
|Large appliances*||Sheds & barns|
|Water pressure||Chimney flue|
|Windows & doors||External structures such as ADUs and garages|
Keep in mind that the list of requirements is truly the bare minimum. A good home inspector will go beyond the required list and inform clients of issues that could come up, even with a perfectly functional system.
For example, PJ says:
“We are not required to report the type of coolant an air conditioning system runs on. But if you buy a house with an AC that uses R22 coolant, I think it’s important that you know that coolant is now illegal to produce in the US! To avoid complications with this, you’ll probably want to change your AC system soon to one that uses a legal (and WAY cheaper) type of coolant.”
Do Old Homes Need to Be Brought Up to Code?
Home inspectors are not code inspectors. They won’t be checking that a home has all the proper permits in place for any work that’s been completed.
That means you could have things in your home that aren’t “up to code” but that aren’t cause for alarm in the inspection report.
However, a thorough and conscientious home inspector will make an effort to point out anything they notice that could become a safety issue. Again, even if your inspection report has green lights all the way through, that’s not an indicator that every inch of your home has been built to code.
That said, if you’re looking to upgrade or fix things up in your new home, a professional will need to bring anything they’re working with up to code.
For example, if the way your deck was fastened to your house was correct when it was built but is now outdated, any deck work you get done will need to address this. That means if you want a new railing for your deck, your contractor will not be able to simply swap out the railing–they’ll also have to re-do how the deck is fastened to the house in order to bring it up to code.
How Can I Tell if My Home Has Been Renovated?
If you’re buying an older home, you can often see a difference in materials used throughout the home, which can indicate work being done at different times and by different people, some professional and some not.
Your real estate agent can ask a home seller for documentation about any renovations and updates that have been done.
You can also check online resources for permits that have been pulled. In the Portland area, PortlandMaps is a great resource for homeowners to see what permits have been pulled for a house and when.
Cosmetic vs. Structural Issues
The point of inspections is to provide a high-level “how-to” manual for your home and to flag safety or structural issues.
Inspections aren’t a time to make a list of items you simply don’t like.
If your dishwasher, fridge, or water heater are older but perfectly functional, it’s not something your agent will use for leverage during negotiations.
However, if something has the potential to cause an issue in the future, such as cracked exterior paint, or a broken kitchen tile that could lead to water damage or other structural concerns, your home inspector will likely mention it.
What Safety Issues Are Being Checked in a Home Inspection?
In addition to learning about the systems of your home, safety checks are one of the main takeaways of home inspections.
Here are the kinds of safety systems being checked during an inspection:
- Electrical system, safety mechanisms, and wiring
- Appliances (some)
- Plumbing and drainage systems and their ability to prevent sewer gases from entering your home
- Smoke detectors
- C02 detectors
- Attic and crawl space structures
- Water leaks
- Heating systems
- Cooling systems
- Foundation walls
- The roof’s ability to shed water
Do We Have to Worry About Termites in Oregon?
Many of my out-of-state clients will ask about termites since they can be such a huge problem in other areas of the country. The type of termites people typically think of–Drywood Termites–are not prevalent in Oregon. But we do have the Pacific Dampwood Termite, which infests wood that’s already wet. However, if a home has been kept dry these pests can’t survive.
In the Pacific Northwest, most of our wood-destroying insects thrive on moisture, so protecting against wet wood is important.
An inspector will note if they see evidence of rodents or bugs and may indicate the need to get a professional pest inspector.
What Does a Home Inspection Cost?
Home inspections are priced based on the square footage and age of the home, but the general range to expect is somewhere in the $400 – $800 range for the main inspection.
Your real estate agent may recommend additional specialist inspections as needed, such as radon, sewer scope, pests, etc (if the inspector you select doesn’t already cover these).
What else contributes to the cost?
Detached garages and ADUs are considered separate structures that would require an additional fee.
Some inspectors will also charge extra for infrared cameras, drones, or crawl space robot usage, radon testing, sewer scoping, mold testing, septic inspections, and pool/spa inspections. Some inspectors will also charge for their mileage or drive time to get to the job site.
Additionally, older homes may cost more for an inspection than newer homes.
Can I Be There During the Home Inspection?
Yes! However, while the inspection is actively happening, it’s important to stay out of the inspector’s way so they can do their job.
Your real estate agent is required to be present during the inspection and will receive a verbal report at the end that they’ll share with you if you’re not present.
It can be helpful to come at the end of the inspection time to get the verbal report directly from your inspector so they can help you sort out what’s important and what’s trivial.
How Long Does a Home Inspection Take?
Depending on the home size and age, and how many external structures are being inspected, the typical time for an inspection is anywhere from 2.5 to 4 hours.
What Happens After the Home Inspection?
Within 24 hours of an inspection, you and your realtor will receive a written inspection report. Your realtor will cover everything in the inspection report with you. And though real estate agents can’t tell buyers directly what to do, they are trained and experienced enough to give informed recommendations about what the next steps are. Your inspector will also make recommendations for deeper evaluations by specialists if they see something that could be a larger concern.
At this point, you’ll make decisions about what repairs to request from the seller, or if you’re going to walk away from the deal at this point.
As you move through negotiations, refer back to your homebuying wishlist to keep yourself on track with what’s important to you in your future home.