Home Inspection Before Buying: Everything You Need to Know

09/1/23  |  Julie Latsko

From hiring an inspector to understanding the process, here’s how to prepare.

For most potential homeowners, a home inspection is an essential part of the home-buying process. According to, 88% of home buyers utilized a home inspection before purchasing, and 83% stated that their mortgage lender demanded it. It is a critical measure that ensures your potential investment is sound and doesn't have hidden defects that could cost you thousands of dollars.

Fast Facts about Home Inspections

According to Windy City Home Inspection, a significant percentage, 86% of buyers, to be precise, confirmed that their inspection highlighted at least one problem that required addressing. A pre-inspection can reveal essential fixes that, when rectified, improve your property's value and desirability to potential buyers.

Nearly one-fifth of home inspectors, at 19.7%, identified roofing concerns. Electrical system issues were found by 18.7% of inspectors, while window defects were noted by 18.4%. More than a tenth, 13.6%, and 12.2%, respectively, found problems with the plumbing system and water heaters.

An Overview of Home Inspections

A home inspection evaluates a home's physical structure and major components to identify any potential issues or defects. This process is conducted by professional home inspectors experienced in assessing every aspect of a home, from the roof down to the foundation.

Comparing Home Inspections and Home Appraisals

A home inspection is distinct from a home appraisal. While an appraisal evaluates a home's market value for lending purposes, an inspection focuses on the condition of the home's physical components and identifies potential issues.

Knowing What You Are Eligible For

Many factors can affect what kind of home inspection you need or what issues an inspection may reveal. These factors may include the home's age, location, and type. It's recommended to research and consult with a real estate agent to know what you should expect from an inspection.

Who Covers the Cost of the Home Inspection?

Typically, the potential buyer pays for the home inspection. This arrangement is beneficial as it provides the buyer with a clear and unbiased report of the home's condition.

An Overview of Home Inspection Costs

The cost of a home inspection varies based on the size of the home, its location, and the scope of the inspection. Some inspections may require specialized inspectors, such as pest or mold inspectors, which could incur additional costs.

Procuring Approval to Buy a Home

Part of the home-buying process involves getting approval for a mortgage loan. This process often requires a home appraisal and, in many cases, a home inspection. Lenders may require a home inspection to protect their investment, ensuring the home is in good condition and worth the loan amount.

The House Inspection Process: A Guide for Buyers

This is a detailed process where the inspector will check the home's major components and systems for any issues or defects. This inspection will provide a thorough understanding of the home's current condition and highlight any potential repairs or updates that might be necessary.

Understanding the Home Inspection Contingency

A home inspection contingency is a clause in the real estate contract that allows the buyer to cancel the contract based on the results of a home inspection. This allows the buyer to negotiate repairs, a lower purchase price, or even walk away from the deal if the inspection uncovers major issues.

Who Are the Home Inspectors?

Home inspectors are trained professionals who evaluate the condition of a home. Inspectors should be licensed and certified through organizations such as the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI) or the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI).

What Happens on Inspection Day?

On inspection day, the inspector will review the entire house, evaluating various components and systems. They will check the roof, basement, heating system, water heater, air-conditioning system, structure, plumbing, and electrical systems. Inspectors will also look for fire safety issues, such as properly working smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.

Understanding the Home Inspection Report

After the inspection, the inspector will provide a detailed report that outlines their findings. This report will provide information about any problems, their severity, and potential implications. It may also include recommendations for repairs or improvements.

Negotiating Repairs or Discounts

The buyer can negotiate repairs or a lower price with the seller based on the inspection report. If the seller agrees to make the repairs, those should be completed and re-inspected before closing. If the seller doesn't agree to make the repairs, the buyer can ask for a price reduction or even walk away from the deal.

Procuring Approval to Buy a Home

Getting approval for a mortgage loan requires thoroughly reviewing your financial situation. Sometimes, the lender may require a home inspection to ensure the property is a good investment.

House Inspection Checklist: Important Aspects to Consider

  1. Inspecting the Grounds and External Structure: The exterior of the house and the property it sits on are essential parts of a home inspection. This includes the foundation, exterior walls, roof, driveway, fence, and landscaping.
  2. Basement Inspection: A basement inspection will look for signs of water damage, structural issues like foundation cracks, and conditions conducive to mold growth.
  3. Attic Evaluation: Inspecting the attic can reveal roof leaks, insufficient insulation, and poor ventilation. It's also where pests like mice, bats, or carpenter ants might be found.
  4. Assessing Bathrooms: A bathroom inspection should include a check for visible plumbing issues, proper ventilation, and functioning fixtures.
  5. Kitchen Inspection: The kitchen inspection should include checking appliances, plumbing fixtures, and electrical outlets.
  6. Evaluating Interior Rooms: Each room in the house should be checked for proper electrical, heating, and cooling functions. This includes checking all light switches, electrical outlets, and heating/cooling vents.
  7. Inspecting Electrical Systems: The home's electrical system should be checked for safe and adequate capacity. This includes checking the electrical panel, visible wiring, and all outlets and switches.
  8. Heating and Cooling Systems Assessment: The heating and cooling systems of the house will be checked to ensure they are functioning correctly. This includes checking the furnace, air conditioning unit, water heater, and visible ductwork.
  9. Plumbing Evaluation: The plumbing inspection should include checking all visible pipes for leaks or other damage, testing water pressure, and ensuring all fixtures function correctly.

House Inspection FAQs

Duration of a Home Inspection

The time a home inspection takes can vary based on the size and condition of the home. However, most home inspections usually take between two to three hours.

Mandatory Fixes Post Home Inspection

There are no universal mandatory fixes after a home inspection. It depends on the agreement between the buyer and seller. However, safety issues like dangerous wiring or lead-based paint usually need immediate attention.

Common Problems Discovered in a Home Inspection

The most common problems during a home inspection include roofing, faulty wiring, plumbing issues, poor ventilation, and structural damage.

Preparing Your Home for a Home Inspection

To prepare your home for a home inspection, ensure that all areas of your home are accessible, perform necessary minor repairs, and clean the house thoroughly.

About Julie Latsko

With professional experience spanning over 15 years in real estate and design, Julie Latsko is a renowned agent in Chicago. She collaborates with Compass, a company that promotes diversity and inclusion, providing her clients with a wide range of luxury and affordable housing options in Chicago. Her dedication to each project, regardless of budget, exemplifies her client-centric approach.

Julie envisions expanding her business further into the Loop and southern parts of the city, rich in investment and homeownership opportunities, particularly the culture-rich West Pullman region. Her comprehensive approach ensures she assists clients throughout their real estate journey, whether buying, selling, or transforming their current homes.

If you want to buy or sell a home or have questions about the Chicago real estate market, contact Julie Latsko today.

*Header photo courtesy of Shutterstock