Home Inspections: How long do they take and how to prepare your home?

Aalto Insights Team
Jan 13, 2023

Home inspections help identify potential issues with a property that aren’t always visible to the naked eye. Thorough home inspections give buyers the assurance they need to finalize the purchase of the home they've worked so hard to find.

In this post, we’ll explore how long a home inspection takes, and when and why you need one. We’ll also discuss how the home inspection process works, additional factors that can impact the length of a home inspection, and what you can expect during the process.

Let’s get started!

What Is a Home Inspection?

How long does a home inspection take: contractor checking the ceiling

A house inspection assesses the condition of the home you’re looking to buy or sell, and identifies anything that could impact the homebuying process.

During an inspection, a professional home inspector conducts a walk-through of the property to identify its functionality. They inspect the property’s structural components, like the walls, floors, windows, doors, ceilings, attic, crawl spaces, basement, and roof.

More items on a home inspection checklist can include:

  • The HVAC system
  • Electrical systems
  • Water heater
  • Plumbing systems
  • Other major systems

Additional home inspections can also check for things like termites, pests, asbestos, radon, lead, and mold.

Home inspectors won't tell you if you’re getting a great deal on a house or if you should negotiate a better sale price. They’re just there to help you uncover any issues with the property before you purchase.

What’s Included in a Home Inspection Report?

How long does a home inspection take: engineer writing on a document

Home inspection reports include a detailed summary of their findings, including a checklist, extensive notes, and pictures. They also outline recommended repairs and replacements.

Based on your inspector’s experience, they may also provide estimates on the remaining useful life of specific equipment and major systems (e.g., your cooling systems, plumbing, water heater, etc.). 

None of these fixes are mandatory, but a home inspection gives you room to negotiate with the seller if there are any repairs to be made.

How Long Does a Home Inspection Take?

As previously mentioned, the walkthrough itself usually takes around two to four hours to complete. In some cases, this may take a little longer — especially for large homes. Typically, it takes two to three hours to conduct a thorough inspection of a 2,000-square-foot house. For each additional 500 square feet, you should expect it to take 30 extra minutes. These times will vary based on the home inspector’s experience and if there’s one or more of them walking through your home. 

After the walkthrough, the home inspector compiles a report based on their findings and usually delivers it within seven business days of the inspection.

When Do You Need a Home Inspection?

Typically, a home inspection happens after the homeowner accepts an offer to sell, but before a homebuyer purchases the property. Whether you have an older home or a brand-new home, we recommend getting a home inspection report.

If the property is deemed to be in good condition, that’s great! However, if the report comes back with some red flags, you’ll want to know before closing the transaction.

If you’re a prospective buyer and the home inspector discovers there’s water damage in the basement, the seller isn’t required to fix it before transferring the house over to you. However, you can ask the seller to make repairs, renegotiate the purchase price, request an additional inspection to probe for more potential issues, or even back out of the purchase agreement.

Include an Inspection Contingency

Whether or not you are working with a realtor to buy or sell a home, it’s easy to forget about little things that can have a huge impact on the homebuying process. One crucial item you must include in your contract is an inspection contingency. Also known as your “due diligence” contingency, an inspection contingency gives you time to find and hire a home inspection company, schedule an inspection, and receive a written report from the inspector.

Without an inspection contingency, you may have problems renegotiating your deal in the event that issues are identified.

How Much Does a Home Inspection Cost?

The average home inspection costs around $300-$500. It can cost more for larger homes and any additional inspection services you request.

Unlike most of your closing costs, you pay for the home inspector after they inspect the home. If a home inspector had to wait until you close on a home to get paid (if you close at all), then identifying problems could prolong when they receive money. This could incentivize less ethical inspectors to underreport issues that would interrupt a property transaction.

How to Hire a Home Inspector

Engineers checking a wall

When you’re buying a home, the onus is on you to find a home inspector. The seller may provide you with an inspection report or recommend a home inspector for you to use, but we recommend you do your own research and vet your own inspector. Your agent or advisor can also normally provide recommendations for an inspector if needed.

Start by asking your friends, family, and followers for recommendations. You should also check out professional associations, like the American Society of Home Inspectors. Often, organizations such as this one require members to get certified, honor a code of ethics, and undergo continuing education to stay informed of updates to their trade.

Once you narrow down your list of candidates, check with the Better Business Bureau to determine their rating and identify any complaints a home inspector may have received.

Next, interview a few potential home inspectors to make sure they’re a good fit. Ask them about their years of experience and expertise. Many home inspectors may specialize in specific areas. If you’re looking to purchase a fixer-upper, but the inspector you’re interviewing doesn’t have experience with distressed properties, they may not be the best fit for you. Be sure to get a list of references as well.

Home Inspection vs. Home Appraisal: What’s the Difference?

Home inspectors and home appraisers have some commonalities. Both cost about the same, consist of walkthroughs and thorough reports, and can impact the purchase of a property, but that's where the similarities end.

A home inspector’s job is to identify the property’s condition, while a home appraiser is focused on the property’s value.

Here’s how else they differ:

  • Appraisals are mandatory, but home inspections are not. Mortgage lenders order an appraisal once your offer is accepted and the purchase agreement is signed. But the onus is on the buyer to include an inspection contingency and find a home inspector to conduct a property walk-through and report their findings.
  • Appraisals also look outside the home, while inspections focus within. Exterior factors like the real estate market and the neighborhood impact an appraisal. These factors aren’t relevant to a home inspection.
  • Home inspections and appraisals are between different parties. Home inspections are between homebuyers and sellers, while appraisals are primarily between homebuyers and their lenders (however, an appraisal’s results can also affect the seller).

How Long Does a Home Inspection Take: Final Thoughts

If you’re looking to buy a home with or without a traditional real estate agent, don’t forget to include an inspection contingency and hire a home inspector.

Home inspections only take a few hours to conduct, and can save you a ton of headaches. If you don’t hire one, you could end up buying a property that needs a new roof, has black mold, or has other potential problems you won’t want to deal with as a new homeowner.

At Aalto, we’re here to help!

Aalto’s mission is to shift the balance of power in residential real estate away from industry insiders and toward consumers. We’re a modern real estate platform that provides you with the tools, access to homes, and insider information normally reserved only for agents. By educating yourself about the real estate process and using our direct selling platform, you can save tens of thousands of dollars in real estate fees — money that you can put back into your dream home.

Are you ready to take control of your homebuying process? Get started on Aalto today!

Aalto is a real estate broker licensed by the State of California, License #02062727 and abides by Equal Housing Opportunity laws. This article has been prepared solely for information purposes only. The information herein is based on information generally available to the public and/or from sources believed to be reliable. No representation or warranty can be given with respect to the accuracy of the information. Aalto disclaims any and all liability relating to this article.

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