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How Much Does a Home Inspection Cost?

A home inspection isn't a luxury - it's a necessity. That goes for the homeowner and the homebuyer, as well.
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While figures vary based on the size of the home, its location, and services rendered, an average home inspection usually costs between $275 and $400.

Make no mistake, a home inspection is a vital component of the home transaction process. If something goes awry and the inspection yields a significant problem in the house, like mold or a crack in the foundation, the entire sale (which has already been agreed upon) could collapse.

Consequently, it's a good idea for the home buyer and seller to know the ins and outs of a home inspection. The more you know, the fewer problems you'll likely have with a home inspection.

Cost Factors With a Home Inspection

As noted above, a home inspection's cost depends primarily on the size of the property and its location.

In general, the large the square footage size of the home, the larger the home inspection cost.

By and large, many home inspectors will charge a uniform price to inspect a home, based on size. For example, a home inspector may apply a rate of $300 for a 2,000-square-foot or smaller home. If the home is larger than 2,000 square feet in size, the home inspectors may up the price by $25 or so for every additions 500 square feet.

On the other hand, the price of a home inspection in a rural location, like the Appalachian mountains or central Kansas, may see home inspection prices reduced, as demand for housing reduces the demand for a home inspector.

It's also worth noting that the buyer almost always covers the cost of a home inspection, which occurs after the offer to buy the property is approved and after the home is put in escrow. The buyer should want the home thoroughly inspected. Data from the ASJI shows that about 75% of homeowners who had an inspection done before completing their home purchase saved significant money by finding potential problems with the home.

That's not the only cost factor associated with home inspections. These factors come into play as well.

The home's age. In general, the older the home the longer it takes to complete a home inspection. Structural components may be antiquated and the general "wear and tear" on the home necessitates a long - and more expensive - home inspection.

The local real estate market. Another key factor in the cost of a home inspection is the relative health of the area's "home for sale" market. A robust real estate market, like in retiree-heavy Florida or a technology job haven like northern California will mean more inspections, and higher price per inspections, as home inspectors are in greater demand.

Who's doing the inspection? Unfortunately, home inspectors aren't regulated by federal or state governments. One rule of thumb is that the lower the fee the more corners a lax home inspector may cut. TheThe higher the fee, the more reputable the home inspector. That's why it pays to ask around among friends, family and neighbors for a good home inspector referral. Asking the real estate agent and/or or broker for a referral is a good idea, as well. They know the lay of the land and can direct you to a trusted home inspection specialist.

Time-wise, most home inspections take between two and four hours, again depending on the size, complexity and age of the house. A seasoned inspector may take longer than a fly-by-night operator, as well.

Remember, you want your home inspector to be thorough. So if they take their sweet time going over the house, that's okay - the extra time and attention may well translate to big savings down the road.

Factors Involved With a Home Inspection

A home inspection is an unbiased inspection of a home after an agreed-upon sale that focuses on the physical structure of the home, including the home's foundation, structural standing, and roof.

Broken down further, a home inspection focuses on the following specific areas:

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  • The central air conditioning system.
  • The home's plumbing system and electrical system.
  • The home's roof, attic, and basement.
  • The walls, ceilings and floors
  • The windows, doors and foundation

When you set up a date for your home inspection, you'll either be given or sent a copy of the American Society of Home Inspectors manual, entitled "Standards of Practice and Codes of Ethics." Both should spell out more clearly what the homeowner should anticipate with a thorough home inspection.

Once the home inspection is completed, the homeowner will have a better understanding of the home's condition and any repairs or replacements needed to complete the sale of the home.

For the home buyer, a home inspection should provide the specific information needed to continue with the purchase of the home (which is usually the case) or if the buyer should pull the plug if a serious problem is revealed during the home inspection.

Even if the home inspection reveals an issue that's repairable, like missing shingles on a roof or an underperforming air conditioner, the home buyer  knows going in what's wrong with the house before he or she buys it. The buyer can accept the repairs as is, negotiate a lower payment for the home in return for financially covering the repairs, or pull out of the deal altogether.

Extra Home Costs to Consider

While most home inspectors will uniformly charge a general price for the inspection, don't be surprised if these extra costs pop up:

Radon Testing

More and more, radon testing is becoming a regular test (and fee) for home inspectors. That's no surprise given its notorious link to lung cancer. Expect to pay up to an extra $200 for proper radon testing.

Asbestos Testing

Home inspectors are also increasingly asked to conduct asbestos testing on (mostly) older homes (i.e., homes built before 1989.) That testing doesn't come cheap, as asbestos testing can cost between $400 and $800 for a small home. If asbestos levels are found to be in the "positive" range, get your checkbook out. Asbestos removal, depending on the size of the job, can cost up to $30,000.

Mold Testing

Mold is a serious issue in any home, and a legitimate health hazard, especially with residents with breathing and allergy problems. The test alone costs around $800 and having mold removed can cost in the $2,000 to $2,500 range.

Lead Testing

The issue of lead in the home, usually in the paint or the pipes, is a big issue for homes built before 1978. The main concern is lead rotting or chipping away and falling off into the home's drinking water. Testing falls into the $250-to-$350 range, while lead removal costs significantly more -- up to $3,000 in some cases.

Sewer Test

Most sewer testing is done separately from the primary home inspection, and comes with a separate price attached (between $75 and $300, depending on the complexity of the testing.) Inspectors will likely conduct a "sewer scope" to see if the sewer lines are contaminated by tree roots or cesspool leaks. If there's a problem, the sewer line may need to be replaced for thousands of dollars more.

In addition, unanticipated costs in the form of a new furnace or heating and air conditioning unit (about $7,500 to $15,000 for a new replacement), finishing or renovating a basement ($5,000 to $30,000, depending on the size and scope of the project), and upgrading the electrical system (between $5,000-and-$10,000) are all in play with a home inspection.

Hiring a Home Inspector

The home inspection business isn't for amateurs or do-it-yourselfers.

You need an experienced, unbiased and trusted home inspection professional who knows all about homes, maintenance and residential safety. After all, you wouldn't want to move your family into a home that was improperly vetted - there's way too much at stake.

How do you find the right home inspector? Try these tips on for size:

Ask Around 

Put your personal social network to good use and start canvassing the neighborhood, the office, the pub or coffee shop, or family members and friends at a birthday or holiday party for referrals. As mentioned above, asking your real estate agent or broker for a good home inspector is a no-brainer, as well.

Find an Inspector

The American Society of Home Inspectors has a special web site called "Find an Inspector" that can steer you to the best home inspector for your unique needs. Any home inspector who's a member of ASHI is already accredited and vetted, so start there if you're unsure of how to go forward with your search.

Check for Fees First

You run up enough costs buying and selling a home without overpaying for a home inspector. Ask any home inspector you're checking out about his or her cost/fee structure. That information should also be available on the home inspector's web site and social media pages.

Aim High

Angie's List states that the best home inspectors have more than 1,000 home inspections under their belts. That's a good number to hang your hat on during your search. The more home inspections, the better service you're going to get.