How Much Should you REALLY Spend on a Home Inspection?
An often dreaded aspect of purchasing a home, Home Inspections are not required in every state, and the debate has long been out on whether or not they are even worth it.
You’ve found the home of your dreams, at the perfect price point. You’re excited and there are many moving pieces. Between your down payment, attorney fees, closing costs, and moving expenses, the costs add up quickly, and many people question whether a Home Inspection is even worth it.
The answer is yes, every single time.
We’re not just saying this because we are Home Inspectors. We are your Building Consultants and help you make well informed decisions before making such a large financial investment. Homes are built, repaired, and maintained (or not) by imperfect people - as we all are. So what imperfections or undiscovered issues will you be buying? If your budget is already stretched, unexpected expenses could quickly be unaffordable. Even new construction homes should be inspected, as they have systems that you may not be familiar with - like mechanical fresh air exchange systems. Your home inspector can alert you to existing issues, explain to you how systems are supposed to function, and what repairs or replacements might be necessary.
Additional tests that are worth every penny
Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. It is a naturally occurring soil gas that is colorless and odorless. It can only be detected using a Radon detector. Testing takes at least 48 hours to complete, requires the home to remain in “closed” conditions for the duration of the test, and costs $200-250. If the home tests high (>4.0 piCu/L), you will need a Radon Mitigation system installed. System installation cost range from $1200-2000.
Clogged, cracked, or broken sewer lines are not visible to a home inspector and draining multiple tubs & sinks during the inspection tells little about the condition of the sewer lines. Repairing sewer line problems can run $500-10,000. Sewer scoping costs $200-300, sends a camera line from the house to the street sewer to look for issues, and records the entire process, from which a plumber can propose a repair estimate.
Air quality testing
If you or a family member has allergies, asthma, or other respiratory sensitivities, this test is critical. Imagine moving into the home of your dreams, only to find out you can’t stand to be in it. The materials used to renovate the home can contain high levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCS) from paint, new carpet, cabinetry, flooring, etc. Air sampling ‘looks’ for high levels of specific chemicals, to then identify the offending source. An experienced inspector can suggests tests that would best address your concerns or quantify suspected issues. Fees vary with the type of air sampling and the number of samples necessary, but range from $75-250 per test.
This sensitive camera ‘sees’ the temperature of surfaces, alerting your inspector to active moisture issues, poor insulation, and air leakage through the walls, floors & ceiling. Moisture issues are a material deficiency that must be corrected. Insulation & air leakage issues are typically seen as ‘opportunities for improvement’ and may indicate higher utility bills and comfort issues. Costs range from $150-300
Blower door testing
A blower door test measures the leakiness of a home and is required for all newly constructed IL homes, with results posted in the electrical panel. When used with an infrared camera, the location of those leaks can be pinpointed. Testing can cost $150-350, depending on other tests or inspections done at the same time. Reducing a home’s air leakage is the most effective way to improve comfort, efficiency, and the performance of existing insulation.
A home inspection DOES NOT cover everything
It is a general overview of your home to make sure it is functioning as it is supposed to. That said, a home can be “functioning” properly, yet be inefficient. And there can be issues that a home inspector cannot see. Common costly items that a Home Inspector will refer to a specialist are:
- Wells and Septic systems
- Foundation issues
- Grading / Drainage
- Water quality
- Swimming pools
Think of it this way, every doctor has a specialty. So while your optometrist did rotations in medical school, they wouldn’t be your first choice for anything other than your eyes. Much like the human body, your home functions as a whole, and different professionals are experts in different aspects, such as insulation, HVAC, electrical, and plumbing. While your home inspector has a background in these fields, they are not experts, and they will refer you to someone else for further evaluation if they note an issue or identify an item that they are physically unable to examine.
This is not a gimmick, it’s a reality of home ownership and what to consider when investing your hard earned money in a property. Each specialty takes years to learn and requires specific licensing. While your home inspector may have a background in construction, engineering, or architecture, they are looking at a couple hundred items, in just a few hours, on one day, and are obligated to tell you that there is an issue and cannot discover the full extent of the problem. That’s what the individual specialist do. When your home inspector referrers you to a plumber, it is the plumber who is expert and can evaluate the extent of the issues. Have them evaluate the issues before the end of the attorney review. Waiting until after you close on the home to call the expert guarantees that you will be paying for repairs
When compared, spending an extra $300-$500 upfront on initial testing will put you in a proper position to make a reasonable financial commitment. If your dream home is going to take an extra $80k in repairs to make it fully functional and efficient, you may want to walk away. You can also use the testing as negotiating power to lower your purchase price if these problems are found before closing.
So how much should you expect to spend?
That really depends on how much you want to know, the size of the home, the year it was built, and the condition it’s in. If you will be doing a ‘gut rehab’ to the home, then a pre-renovation inspection would be cheaper and Insight’s inspectors can advise you on things you could do, rather than finding out later what you should have done. We see hundreds of homes each year and can advise you on what works, what doesn’t, and what you may need to look out for.
You can spend anywhere from $300 - $1,500 inspecting and testing your home before closing. Knowledge is power, and when making such a large financial commitment, it is crucial. If you cannot afford expensive repairs, a quality home inspection can reduce the risk that those repairs pop up. Your home inspector should be able to answer all your questions about the home or be able to refer you to someone who can. If you have questions about your report, follow up with your inspector before proceeding with your purchase.
Remember, your home inspector is a 3rd party consultant, working in YOUR best interest to save you time, money, and frustration down the road.