information has been prepared as a public service by the American
Society of Home Inspectors
(ASHI®) in cooperation with the Extension
Service of the U. S. Department of Agriculture.
All rights reserved.
What is a "Home Inspection?"
A home inspection is an objective visual examination of the physical
structure and systems of a home, from the roof to the foundation. The
standard home inspector’s report will include an evaluation of the
condition of the home’s heating system, central air conditioning
system (temperature permitting), interior plumbing and electrical
systems; the roof, attic, and visible insulation; walls, ceilings,
floors, windows and doors; the foundation, basement, and visible
structure. Having a home inspected is like giving it a physical
Why do I need a home inspection?
The purchase of a home is probably the largest single investment you
will ever make. You should learn as much as you can about the condition
of the property and the need for any major repairs before you buy, so
that you can minimize unpleasant surprises and difficulties afterwards.
Of course, a home inspection will also point out the positive aspects of
a home, as well as the maintenance that will be necessary to keep it in
good shape. After the inspection, you will have a much clearer
understanding of the property you are about to purchase, and will be
able to make a confident buying decision.
If you have owned your home for a long time, a home inspection can
identify problems in the making and recommend preventive measures which
might avoid costly future repairs. In addition, home sellers may opt for
having an inspection prior to placing the home on the market to gain a
better understanding of conditions which the buyer’s inspector may
point out. This provides an opportunity to make repairs that will put
the house in better selling condition.
What will it cost?
The inspection fee for a typical one-family house varies geographically,
as does the cost of housing. Similarly, within a given area, the
inspection fee may vary depending upon the size of the house, particular
features of the house, its age, and possible additional services, such
as septic, well, or radon testing. It is a good idea to check local
prices on your own.
However, do not let cost be a factor in deciding whether or not to have
a home inspection, or in the selection of your home inspector. The
knowledge gained from an inspection is well worth the cost, and the
lowest-priced inspector is not necessarily a bargain. The inspector's
qualifications, including his experience, training, and professional
affiliations, should be the most important consideration.
Can’t I do it myself?
Even the most experienced home owner lacks the knowledge and expertise
of a professional home inspector who has inspected hundreds, perhaps
thousands, of homes in his or her career. An inspector is familiar with
all the elements of home construction, their proper installation, and
maintenance. He or she understands how the home’s systems and
components are intended to function together, as well as how and why
Above all, most buyers find it very difficult to remain completely
objective and unemotional about the house they really want, and this may
affect their judgment. For the most accurate picture, it is best to
obtain and impartial third-party opinion by an expert in the field of
Can a house fail inspection?
No. A professional home inspection is an examination of the current
condition of your prospective home. It is not an appraisal, which
determines market value, or a municipal inspection, which verifies local
code compliance. A home inspector, therefore, will not pass or fail a
house, but rather describe its physical condition and indicate what may
need repair or replacement.
How do I find a home inspector?
The best source is a friend, or perhaps a business acquaintance, who has
been satisfied with, and can recommend, a home inspector they have used.
In addition, the names of local inspectors can be found in the Yellow
Pages under "Building Inspection Service" or "Real Estate
Inspection Service." Real estate agents are also generally familiar
with the service, and should be able to provide you with a list of names
from which to choose.
Whatever your referral source, be sure to ascertain the home
inspector’s professional qualifications, experience, and business
ethics before you make your selection. You can do this by checking with
the local consumer affairs office or Better Business Bureau, as well as
by verifying the inspector’s membership in a reputable professional
Since there are no licensing requirements for home inspectors (except in
Texas), you will want to make certain that such an association has a set
of nationally recognized practice standards and a code of ethics. This
provides members with professional inspection guidelines, and prohibits
them from engaging in any conflict of interest activities which might
compromise their objectivity, such as using the inspection as a means to
obtain home repair contracts.
The association should also have rigorous membership and continuing
education requirements to assure consumers of an inspector’s
experience and technical qualifications.
Do I have to be there?
It’s not necessary for you to be present for the inspection, but it is
recommended. By following the home inspector around the house, by
observing and asking questions, you will learn a great deal about the
condition of the home, how its systems work, and how to maintain it. You
will also find the written report easier to understand if you’ve seen
the property first-hand through the inspector’s eyes.
What if the report reveals problems?
No house is perfect. If the inspector finds problems, it doesn’t
necessarily mean you shouldn’t buy the house, only that you will know
in advance what to expect. A seller may be flexible with the purchase
price or contract terms if major problems are found. If your budget is
very tight, or if you don’t wish to become involved in future repair
work, this information will be extremely important to you.
What if I find problems after I move into my new home?
A home inspection is not a guarantee that problems won’t develop after
you move in. However if you believe that a problem was already visible
at the time of the inspection and should have been mentioned in the
report, your first step should be to call and meet with the inspector to
clarify the situation. Misunderstandings are often resolved in this
If necessary, you might wish to consult with a local mediation service
to help you settle your disagreement. Though many home inspectors today
carry Errors & Omissions liability insurance, litigation should be
considered a last resort. It is difficult, expensive, and by no means a
sure method of recovery.
If the house proves to be in good condition, did I really need an
Definitely. Now you can complete your home purchase with peace of mind
about the condition of the property and all its equipment and systems.
You will also have learned a few things about your new home from the
inspector’s report, and will want to keep that information for future
reference. Above all, you can feel assured that you are making a
well-informed purchase decision, and that you will be able to enjoy your
new home the way you want to.