How To Look At A House
McGarry and Madsen's home inspection blog for buyers of
site-built, mobile/manfuactured and modular homes
How much does a home inspection cost?
Sunday, September 30, 2018
The opening words on the home page of a typical home inspection website are usually “A house is the most expensive purchase most people make in their lifetime.” Then, after a few sentences about the importance of a good inspection, the sales pitch transitions to “Don’t be penny-wise and pound-foolish when selecting a home inspector!,” followed by reasons why that particular inspector is worth paying a little more to hire.
And those reasons, based on the inspector’s experience, credentials, and possibly a few high-tech gadgets in their tool bag, are usually both honest and valid. The problem is: every inspector has good talking points as to why they are the best and worth the price. But the prices vary, and often over a wide range. In our Gainesville, Florida market, the published price for a 2,000 square foot home ranges to $225 to $400.
To complicate things further, some inspectors don’t publish their prices, coyly stating something like “prices starting at $250”, while others want you to fill out an online “Home Inspection Application Form” before they will call you back to quote you a price. Plus, there may be add-on charges for travel distance, an older home or a crawl space.
So, how do you know who is the best choice and what is the right price to pay? We can’t give you any definitive answers, but here’s our best advice for sorting through your options:
•• The cheapest inspector is probably not your best choice, but don’t rule out anyone because of a low fee either. Inspectors that are new to the business often set a bargain rate to get the flow of work started, and what they lack in experience can be often offset by their diligence and eagerness to go the extra mile to satisfy customers.
Conversely, expect to pay more for an inspector with years of experience and a long list of educational credentials, but the guy who’s priced way above his competitors is not necessarily the best. Generally, the middle to upper end of the price range is where you will find your best combination of price, experience and service.
•• Home inspectors, like doctors and hairdressers, are in a personal service business. An inspector’s ability to connect with you on a personal level and communicate clearly is as important as their price. A brief phone conversation with the inspector will tell you a lot about how well you will get along.
•• Take a few minutes to scan a sample inspection report. One can usually be downloaded from the website or emailed on request. Expect the sample to be fluffed-up a little, with more defect explanations and pictures than you will find in their average report, but the format is important. Is it easy to read and understand, or mostly a compilation of boiler-plate text and home maintenance tips?
Look for a summary section that restates all the defects that require further evaluation and/or repair. A summary makes it easy for you and your realtor to get an overview of the major findings, and also make a list of repair requests if you have a repair allowance in your real estate contract.
•• The better home inspectors belong to a national association. There are two major national groups: the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), and the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI). Also, several regional associations, such as the Florida Association of Building Inspectors (FABI). Each group has educational and experience standards for membership, along with annual continuing education requirements. The continuing education is especially important nowadays, because of rapidly evolving building codes and construction technology.
•• An inspector with building construction experience is always a good choice, and a licensed building contractor is even better. A building contractor has a kind of x-ray vision when it comes to understanding what’s behind the walls and under the floor, making it easier to interpret the symptoms of a problem on the surface.
•• Home inspection is a licensed occupation in Florida and most other states. Look for a license listed at the website. In Florida, it will have the letters “HI” followed by a number. You can verify the license, and also check for any consumer complaints or disciplinary actions, at www.myfloridalicense.com.
•• Don’t agonize too much over your decision. In our area, at least, we know of no “bad” inspectors. Pick one that feels right and it will prove to be a good choice.
Also, see our blog posts Should I tip the home inspector? and I can't find a local home inspector. What should I do? and Should I use my realtor's home inspector or choose one myself?
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To learn more strategies for getting the best possible home inspection, here’s a few of our other blog posts:
• How can I make sure I don't get screwed on my home inspection?
• How thorough is a home inspector required to be when inspecting a house?
• Should I trust the Seller's Property Disclosure Statement?
• Can I do my own home inspection?
• How can homebuyers protect themselves against buying a house over a sinkhole?
• The seller gave me a report from a previous home inspection. Should I use it or get my own inspector?
To read about issues related to homes of particular type or one built in a specific decade, visit one of these blog posts:
• What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1940s house?
• What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1950s house?
• What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1960s house?
• What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1970s house?
• What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1980s house?
• What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1990s house?
• What problems should I look for when buying a country house or rural property?
• What problems should I look for when buying a house that has been moved?
• What do I need to know about buying a foreclosure?
• What should I look for when buying a former rental house?
• What problems should I look for when buying a house that has been vacant or abandoned?
• What are the most common problems with older mobile homes?
• What should I look for when buying a house that is being "flipped" by an investor seller?
• What do I need to know about a condo inspection?
• What are the "Aging In Place" features to look for when buying a retirement home?
Visit our HOME INSPECTION page for other related blog posts on this subject, or go to the INDEX for a complete listing of all our articles.
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