From finding an inspector to dealing with surprises this is your guide to getting a house checked out.

The first thing you need to know about home inspection: Youll feel all the feels.

Theres the excitement the inspection could be the longest time youre in the house, after the showing.

Right behind that comes anxiety. What if the inspector finds something wrong? So wrong you cant buy the house?

Then theres impatience. Seriously, is this whole home-buying process over yet?

Not yet. But youre close. So take a deep breath. Because the most important thing to know about home inspection: Its just too good for you, as a buyer, to skip. Heres why.

A Home Inspector Is Your Protector

An inspector helps you make sure a house isnt hiding anything before you commit for the long haul. (Think about it this way: You wouldnt even get coffee with a stranger without checking out their history.)

A home inspector identifies any reasonably discoverable problems with the house (a leaky roof, faulty plumbing, etc.). Hiring an inspector is you doing your due diligence. To find a good one (more on how to do that soon), it helps to have an understanding of what the typical home inspection entails.

An inspection is all about lists.

Before an inspection, the home inspector will review the sellers property disclosure statement. (Each state has its own requirements for what sellers must disclose on these forms; some have stronger requirements than others.) The statement lists any flaws the seller is aware of that could negatively affect the homes value.

The disclosure comes in the form of an outline, covering such things as:

  • Mold
  • Pest infestation
  • Roof leaks
  • Foundation damage
  • Other problems, depending on what your state mandates.

During the inspection, an inspector has three tasks to:

  1. Identify problems with the house that he or she can see
  2. Suggest fixes
  3. Prepare a written report, usually with photos, noting observed defects

This report is critical to you and your agent its what youll use to request repairs from the seller. (Well get into how youll do that in a minute, too.)

The Inspector Wont Check Everything

Generally, inspectors only examine houses for problems that can be seen with the naked eye. They wont be tearing down wallsor using magical X-ray vision, to find hidden faults.

Inspectors also wont put themselves in danger. If a roof is too high or steep, for example, they wont climb up to check for missing or damaged shingles. Theyll use binoculars to examine it instead.

They cant predict the future, either. While an inspector can give you a rough idea of how many more years that roof will hold up, he or she cant tell you exactly when it will need to be replaced.

Finally, home inspectors are often generalists. A basic inspection doesnt routinely include a thorough evaluation of:

  • Swimming pools
  • Wells
  • Septic systems
  • Structural engineering work
  • The ground beneath a home
  • Fireplaces and chimneys

When it comes to wood-burning fireplaces, for instance, most inspectors will open and close dampers to make sure theyre working, check chimneys for obstructions like birds nests, and note if they believe theres reason to pursue a more thorough safety inspection.

If youre concerned about the safety of a fireplace, you can hire a certified chimney inspector for about 125 to 325 per chimney; find one through the Chimney Safety Institute of America.

Explore More Topics:

Make an Offer & Negotiate

Buy a Home: Step-by-Step

Its Your Job to Check the Inspector

Now youre ready to connect with someone whos a pro at doing all of the above. Heres where once again your real estate agent has your back. He or she can recommend reputable home inspectors to you.

In addition to getting recommendations (friends and relatives are handy for those, too), you can look for professional inspectors at their trade association websites. The American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) Find a Home Inspector tool lets you search by address, metro area, or neighborhood. You can also search for inspectors by state at InterNACHI.

Youll want to interview at least three inspectors before deciding whom to hire. During each chat, ask questions such as:

  • Are you licensed or certified? Inspector certifications vary, based on where you live. Not every state requires home inspectors to be licensed, and licenses can indicate different degrees of expertise. ASHI lists each states requirements here.
  • How long have you been in the business? Look for someone with at least five years of experience it indicates more homes inspected.
  • How much do you charge? Home inspection costs range from 260 to 399. The costs vary according to your location and the size of your house.
  • What do you check, exactly? Know what youre getting for your money.
  • What dont you check, specifically? Some home inspectors are more thorough than others.
  • How soon after the inspection will I receive my report? Home inspection contingencies require you to complete the inspection within a certain period of time after the offer is accepted normally five to seven days so youre on a set timetable. A good home inspector will provide you with the report within 24 hours after the inspection.
  • May I see a sample report? This will help you gauge how detailed the inspector is and how he or she explains problems.

Sometimes you can find online reviews of inspectors on sites like Angies List and Yelp, too, if past clients feedback is helpful in making your decision.

Show Up for Inspection (and Bring Your Agent)

Its inspection day, and the honor of your and your agents presence is not required, but highly recommended. Even though youll receive a report summarizing the findingslateron, being there gives you a chance to ask questions, and to learn the inner workings of the home.

Block out two to three hours for the inspection. The inspector will survey the property from top to bottom. This includes checking water pressure; leaks in the attic, plumbing, etc.; if door and window frames are straight (if not, it could be a sign of a structural issue); if electrical wiring is up to code; if smokeand carbon monoxide detectors are working; if appliances work properly. Outside, he or she willlook at things like siding, fencing, and drainage.

The inspector might also be able to check for termites, asbestos, lead paint, or radon. Because these tests involve more legwork and can require special certification, they come at an additional charge.

Get Ready to Negotiate

Once you receive the inspectors report, review it with your agent.

Legally, sellers are required to make certain repairs. These can vary depending on location. Most sales contracts require the seller to fix:

  • Structural defects
  • Building code violations
  • Safety issues

Most home repairs, however, are negotiable. Be prepared to pick your battles: Minor issues, like a cracked switchplate or loose kitchen faucet, are easy and cheap to fix on your own. You dont want to start nickel-and-diming the seller.

If there are major issues with the house, your agent can submit a formal request for repairs that includes a copy of the inspection report. Repair requests should be as specific as possible. For instance: Instead of saying repair broken windows, a request should say replace broken window glass in master bathroom.

  • If the seller agrees to make all of your repair requests: He or she must provide you with invoices from a licensed contractor stating that the repairs were made. Then its full steam ahead toward the sale.
  • If the seller responds to your repair requests with a counteroffer: He or she will state which repairs (or credits at closing) he or she is willing to make. The ball is in your court to either agree, counter the sellers counteroffer, or void the transaction.

At the end of the day, remember to check in with yourself to see how youre feeling about all of this. You need to be realistic about how much repair work youd be taking on. At this point in the sale, theres a lot of pressure from all parties to move into the close. But if you dont feel comfortable, speak up.

The most important things to remember during the home inspection? Trust your inspector, trust your gut, and lean on your agent they likely have a lot of experience to support your decision-making.

Thats something to feel good about.

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