The Department of Housing and Urban Development quotes the average cost of a home inspection within a wide range from $300 to $500. However, this average estimate does not take into consideration the specific location, size, configuration, age, nor the competence of the inspector. All of these factors can affect how much a home inspection will cost.
Home Inspectors Might Not Be Licensed
Many people are astonished to learn, for example, that almost half of the states in the country do not require state-mandated licensing for home inspectors. That's right. Odds are about 50/50 that your state does not require that a home inspector be licensed because there are no licensing requirements. Some states such as California, for instance, under the California Trade Licensing Act of 1996, prevent a home inspector from repairing a home they have inspected within the past 12 months. But that licensing law does not extend to, say, pest inspectors.
The Cost Can Depend on the Inspector's Experience
If the cost of a home inspection is more for an experienced home inspector, it might very well be worth the additional cost. It can mean the difference between hiring a layman who hung out a home inspector sign and a professional tradesperson. Many home inspectors come from a background in the construction industry, and they learn on the job. Imagine the level of competence from an inspector who has completed thousands of home inspections.
Further, most professional home inspectors also belong to a trade association, which establishes qualifications for membership and minimum annual educational requirements.
If you were to hire an expert witness inspector who handwrites their reports, the cost of that home inspection report could be $1,000 or more.
The Cost Can Depend on the Square Footage
Most professional home inspectors charge about $400 to $450 on average for a 2,000 square-foot single-family home. Contrary, smaller two-bedroom condos might cost around $300 to $350 for a home inspection. Some home inspectors will add a surcharge for crawling under a house to inspect as well. That additional fee can vary from $50 to $100+ to enter a crawlspace (which can be damp or infested with bugs) of a raised foundation. Slab foundations are less.
Does Every Buyer Pay the Cost for a Home Inspection?
Bear in mind that prior to the 1990s, most home buyers never obtained a home inspection. They relied instead on seller disclosures to inform of pre-existing conditions. A home inspection was considered a luxury, an additional expense. Not so today. Today it is rare for a home buyer NOT to obtain a home inspection and, if a buyer declines an inspection, it is generally against the advice of the buyer's real estate agent.
Although real estate agents do care that the buyer is fully informed, they also have another purpose for insisting buyers get a home inspection. They don't want to get sued after the fact for non-disclosures or defects.
General Inspection Costs vs. Specialized Inspections
One way a first-time home buyer can save money on the cost of a home inspection is by hiring the same company to perform not only a general home inspection but also specialized home inspections. Many companies will offer a package price to complete a variety of home inspections. This means they could also perform additional inspections such as (but not limited to):
- Pest and dry-rot inspections
- Roof inspections
- Sewer or septic inspections
- Chimney inspections
- Mold, radon, and asbestos inspections
- Well inspections and bacteria count
Although it might seem like a good idea from a one-stop shopping experience point of view, your so-called specialists might not really be specialists in all areas. It might be a matter of company employees capitalizing on naive customers. Also, the inspectors might not be fully qualified, especially if it's the same individual wearing many different hats. You should ask about the specific experience and qualifications of "package" inspections.
A buyer can easily spend between $500 and $1,000 on home inspections, depending on the types of inspections the buyer needs. This is a non-refundable expense.
When the Sale Hinges on the Inspection
Usually, an inspection is scheduled by the buyer after they have completed a contract to purchase the property. Also, lenders and insurance providers may require specific items to be inspected before a loan or insurance policy can be written. Should the reports disclose enough severe defects, it could cause the buyer to cancel the purchase contract, the lender to deny the mortgage application, or the home insurance to be costlier.
Alternatively, the buyer may try to reduce the purchase price to cover the expense of repairs. They may also require the seller to complete repairs before moving forward with the contract. There is also no guarantee a seller will renegotiate the sales price nor complete repairs after a home inspection. In this case, the deal will probably fall through.