What is a home inspection?

A home inspection is a limited visual survey and basic operation of the systems and components of a building using normal controls and does not require the use of specialized tools or procedures.

What does a home inspection include?

The standard home inspector's report will cover the condition of the home's heating system; central air conditioning system (temperature permitting); interior plumbing; electrical systems; roof; attic and visible insulation; ceilings; floors; windows and doors; foundation and structural components.  The Texas Real Estate Commission (TREC) publishes a Standards of Practice which defines the minimum levels of inspection required for substantially completed residential improvements to real property up to four dwelling units.

Why do I need a home inspection?

Buying a home could be the largest single investment you will ever make.  To minimize surprises and unexpected difficulties, you'll want to know as much about the home before you buy it, whether it is new or existing construction.  A home inspection may identify the need for major repairs or builder oversights, as well as needed maintenance to keep it in good shape.  After the inspection, you will know more about the house, which will allow you to make a more informed decision.

If you already own a home, a home inspection can identify problems in the making and suggest preventative measures that might help you avoid costly future repairs.

If you are planning to sell your home, a home inspection can give you the opportunity to make repairs that will put the house in better selling condition.

What will it cost?

The inspection fee for a typical one-family house varies geographically, as does the cost of housing. Similarly, within a given area, the inspection fee may vary depending on a number of factors such as the size of the house and age.

Don't let the cost be a factor in deciding whether or not to have a home inspection or in the selection of your home inspector. The sense of security and knowledge gained from an inspection is well worth the cost.  The lowest-priced inspection is not necessarily a bargain.  Use the inspector's qualifications, including experience, training, compliance with your state's regulations and professional affiliations as a guide.

Can a house fail an inspection?

No.  A professional home inspection is an examination of the current condition of a house.  It is not an appraisal, which determines market value.  It is not a municipal inspection, which verifies local code compliance.  A home inspector will describe the house's physical condition and indicate what components or systems may need major repair or replacement.

When do I call a home inspector?

Typically, a home inspector is contracted immediately after the contract or purchase agreement has been signed. Before you sign, be sure there is an inspection clause in the sales contract, making your final purchase obligation contingent on the findings of a professional home inspection.  This clause should specify the terms and conditions to which both the buyer and seller are obligated.  Consult with your real estate agent concerning the finer points of this section of the transaction.

Do I have to be there?

While it's not required that you be present for the inspection, it is highly recommended.  You will be able to observe the inspector and ask questions at the end to learn about the home's condition and how to maintain it.

What if the report reveals problems?

No house is perfect.  If the inspector identifies problems, it doesn't mean you should or should not buy the house, only that you will know in advance what to expect.  If your budget is tight, or if you don't want to be involved in future repair work, this information will be important to you.  If major problems are found, a seller may agree to make repairs, but they are not obligated to do so.