FAQ’S About Home Inspections

Home inspection professionals perform a visual inspection and produce a written report of the condition of residential properties for buyers or owners. The purpose of such an examination is to describe observable major defects which require repairs.
The minimum scope of the inspection and report are described by Illinois’ Office of Banks and Real Estate (OBRE) Standard of Practice.  Inspectors are, of course, permitted to exceed the Standards.
Inspections are also performed according to a strict Code of Ethics which protects consumers from conflicts of interest, and which assures an independent opinion regarding the property.
A basic home inspection of an average small home that meets the minimum OBRE Standards of Practice should take two hours or more. Larger homes and homes with more features take considerably more time. Naturally, the more thorough the inspector is, the longer the inspection will take.

Q. WHAT IS A "HOME INSPECTION"? A home inspection is an objective visual examination of the physical structure and systems of a home, from the roof to the foundation. Having a home inspected is like giving it a physical check-up. If problems or symptoms are found, the inspector may recommend further evaluation.

Q. WHAT DOES IT INCLUDE? The standard home inspector's report will review the condition of the home's heating system, central air conditioning system (temperature permitting), interior plumbing and electrical systems; the roof, attic, and visible insulation; walls, ceilings, floors, windows and doors; the foundation, basement, and visible structure.

Q. WHY DO I NEED A HOME INSPECTION? The purchase of a home is probably the largest single investment you will ever make. You should learn as much as you can about the condition of the property and the need for any major repairs before you buy, so that you can minimize unpleasant surprises and difficulties afterwards.

Of course, a home inspection also points out the positive aspects of a home, as well as the maintenance that will be necessary to keep it in good shape. After the inspection, you will have a much clearer understanding of the property you are about to purchase.

If you are already a home owner, a home inspection may be used to identify problems in the making and to learn preventive measures which might avoid costly future repairs. If you are planning to sell your home, you may wish to have an inspection prior to placing your home on the market. This will give you a better understanding of conditions which may be discovered by the buyer's inspector, and an opportunity to make repairs that will put the house in better selling condition.

Q. 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 upon the size of the house, particular features of the house, its age, and possible additional services, such as septic, well, or radon testing. It is a good idea to check local prices on your own.
However, do not let cost be a factor in deciding whether or not to have a home inspection, or in the selection of your home inspector. The knowledge gained from an inspection is well worth the cost, and the lowest-priced inspector is not necessarily a bargain. The inspector's qualifications, including his experience, training, and professional affiliations, should be the most important consideration.

Q. CAN I DO IT MYSELF? Even the most experienced home owner lacks the knowledge and expertise of a professional home inspector who has inspected hundreds, perhaps thousands, of homes in his or her career. An inspector is familiar with the many elements of home construction, their proper installation, and maintenance. He or she understands how the home's systems and components are intended to function together, as well as how and why they fail.  Above all, most buyers find it very difficult to remain completely objective and unemotional about the house they really want, and this may affect their judgment. For the most accurate information, it is best to obtain an impartial third-party opinion by an expert in the field of home inspection.

Q. CAN A HOUSE FAIL INSPECTION? No. A professional home inspection is an examination of the current condition of your prospective home. It is not an appraisal, which determines market value, or a municipal inspection, which verifies local code compliance. A home inspector, therefore, will not pass or fail a house, but rather describe its physical condition and indicate what may need repair or replacement.

Q. HOW DO I FIND A HOME INSPECTOR? The best source is a friend, or perhaps a business acquaintance, who has been satisfied with and can recommend a home inspector they have used. In addition, the names of local inspectors can be found by searching the web under “Home Inspectors” or by going to the Yellow Pages where many advertise under "Building Inspection Service" or "Home Inspection Service".  Real estate agents are also generally familiar with the service, and should be able to provide you with a list of names from which to choose.

Q. WHEN DO I CALL IN A HOME INSPECTOR? Before you sign the contract or purchase agreement, make your purchase obligation contingent upon the findings of a professional home inspection. This clause should specify the terms to which both the buyer and seller are obligated. Contact a home inspector immediately after the contract or purchase agreement has been signed. Home inspectors are aware of the time constraints involved in purchase agreements and most are available to conduct the required inspection within a few days.

Q. DO I HAVE TO BE THERE? While it is not necessary for you to be present, it is always recommended that you make time to join the inspector for their visit. This allows you to observe the inspector, ask questions as you learn about the condition of the home, how its systems work, and how to maintain them. After you have seen the property with the inspector, you will find the written report easier to understand.

Q. WHAT IF THE REPORT REVEALS PROBLEMS? No house is perfect. When the inspector identifies problems, it does not indicate you should not buy the house. His findings serve to educate you in advance of the purchase about the condition of the property. A seller may adjust the purchase price or contract terms if major problems are discovered during an inspection. If your budget is tight, or if you do not want to be involved in future repair work, this information will be extremely valuable.

Q. IF THE HOUSE PROVES TO BE IN GOOD CONDITION, DID I REALLY NEED AN INSPECTION? Yes. Now you can complete your home purchase with confidence about the condition of the property and all its equipment and systems. From the inspection, you will have learned many things about your new home, and will want to keep that information for future reference.