Inspector examining bathtub.

Home Inspection: Why It’s Important And What To Expect

Sarah Sharkey4-minute read
January 26, 2021

After a long house hunt, a home inspection is one of the final obstacles standing between you and closing. A home inspection takes a careful look at your potential home to make sure that everything is as it seems. With the right home inspection, you can walk into this major purchase with your eyes wide open.

What Is A Home Inspection?

A home inspection is a complete examination of the property’s physical structures and major home systems. An inspector takes a close look at every nook and cranny of the home to determine its condition. An inspection report will highlight any flaws found in the home. Plus, it will usually include some information about the age of the home’s systems.

If you are taking out a mortgage for the home purchase, the lender will require an inspection as a part of the home buying process. Although many first-time home buyers are tempted to gloss over the importance of an inspection, it’s an essential part of the process.  It gives you the chance to realistically assess your financial commitments as a homeowner of the property.

After all, buying a home is a major investment, so you should consider a home inspection an investment in itself – for peace of mind that you won’t need to shell out major cash to fix something unexpectedly right off the bat.

How Home Inspections Work

When you make an offer to purchase a home, it’s common to include an inspection contingency. Essentially, this means that you have the right to inspect the home before closing.

As the home buyer, you should plan to be present for the home inspection, as probably should your agent and the sellers and their agent, suggests Sabrina Covington, managing broker at Covington & Associates in San Diego, California. She recommends “shadowing” the inspector as they take notes and photos and ask them to point out any items of concern with the home.

It’s important, too, to be around when your inspection happens because a good inspector will answer questions and demonstrate how to do maintenance, like changing the furnace filters or the operation of appliances.

After the inspection, the inspector will give a verbal report of the major findings and then send a more detailed report later.

Depending on what you find out, you can just use the information as background for your own maintenance or future repairs. But if you find something troubling, you can request that the seller make the repair before you buy the home, Covington says. You also can use it to negotiate the purchase price if they balk and you believe that it could escalate into an expensive problem that you’ll need to fix.

“If you have not yet removed your physical home inspection contingency, you have the right to cancel escrow and in most cases receive your initial deposit back,” Covington says. And she adds, as a point of negotiation, remember that repair items that are considered a material fact must be disclosed by the seller to future buyers.

Finding A Home Inspector

When it’s time to hire a home inspector, you’ll want to find a reputable option.

Start by asking people you trust that have recently bought a home. If those recommendations don’t pan out, then ask your real estate agent or find one through the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI).

Ultimately, you want to work with an inspector with a trustworthy track record. Otherwise, necessary repairs could slip through the cracks.

Home Inspection Checklist: What’s Covered?

Having a home inspection can save you (or at least prepare you) from major bills down the road. For example, when they check the roof for leaks, they’ll give you an estimate on when it will need to be replaced. They’ll also share the facts about when you might need to replace the furnace and hot water heaters, which are two high-ticket items you’d want to know about.

But which items are covered in a home inspection can vary based on the property. Here’s a list of what you might find in your inspection report:


  • Roof
  • Foundation
  • HVAC
  • Appliances
  • Walls
  • Electrical panel
  • Exterior walls
  • Gutters

Depending on your location, you may need to pay for specialized inspections. For example, you might pay for a radon inspection or wind mitigation inspection.

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FAQs About Home Inspections

How much does a home inspection cost?

A typical home inspection will cost $300 – $500. But the cost will vary based on the home’s location and size.

How long does a home inspection take?

Typically, a home inspection will take 3 – 4 hours to complete. But it can take several days to receive your inspection report.

Can I skip a home inspection?

For cash buyers, you can skip the home inspection. But that’s a big risk. Without the inspection, you won’t know what issues the home may have.

Can I get multiple home inspections?

A home inspection is critical for buyers. But you might decide to get a home inspection every couple of years to make sure that your house is still safe.

The Bottom Line

Ah, home maintenance. Just one of the joys you have to look forward to as a homeowner. But once you get a clean bill of health for your home via the home inspection, you’re that much closer to having it be yours.

Before you can jump into your inspection period, you should have an idea of how much you can afford. Getting preapproved is typically a great first step on your home buying journey. It can help you understand what you can afford, and will make you a much more appealing candidate to sellers. So get preapproved today if you aren’t already!

Apply Online with Rocket Mortgage®

Get approved with Rocket Mortgage® and do it all online. You can get a real, customizable mortgage solution based on your unique financial situation.

Sarah Sharkey

Sarah Sharkey is a personal finance writer who enjoys diving into the details to help readers make savvy financial decisions. She’s covered mortgages, money management, insurance, budgeting, and more. She lives in Florida with her husband and dog. When she's not writing, she's outside exploring the coast. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.