Inspecting the conditions of a house is a very important part of the home-buying process and should be included in the purchase contract as one of the conditions of closing a deal. The inspection clause in a purchase contract gives the buyer the right to have the property thoroughly inspected. The purpose of the inspection is to provide a current report of the overall assessment of physical conditions of the property. More than one professional inspectors should look for defects in the buildings structure, systems, and physical components, such as roof, plumbing, electrical, and heating/cooling systems, floor surfaces and paint, windows, doors, foundations, and detection of pest infestations or dry rot and other damages. The inspector should also examine the land around the house for issues concerning grading, drainage, retaining walls, and plants affecting the house. Even if the seller provides a report, it is always best to not rely on that alone and get your own professional opinion.

In most cases buyers get the inspection after they are in contract to purchase the property. It’s usually made contingent on the buyers approving the results of one or multiple inspections. The buyer arranges and schedules the inspections. Before getting a professional, you can also conduct your own informal inspection. Look out for issues like sloping floors or browning walls, signs of water damage, missing roof shingles or gutters coming loose, old or low quality appliances and fixtures, and signs of wear and tear that needs repair.

Hire a general contractor or a home inspector to perform a full inspection from top to bottom, including roof, plumbing, electrical, heating, foundation, and drainage. Typically this process takes anywhere from $200-$500, depending on location, size, and age of the home. As a buyer, you want to choose someone who will be thorough and tough. I can recommend 3 well qualified seasoned home inspectors. However I do not recommend you stop there, ask other home owners and friends for recommendations or check with the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI). Also get a pest report, it is wise to hire a licensed structural pest control inspector, who will create a special pest report. Some general contractors are also licensed pest inspectors, but will normally charge extra. It is important to have a written report of all inspections.