Posted in: Buying a home, First time homebuyer tips

What to look for in a home inspection

What to look for in a home inspection

Key Insights

  • What happens during a home inspection, including what it costs, who pays for it and when it should take place
  • An experienced professional will know what to look for in a home inspection and can provide a report that outlines potential issues and fixes
  • What happens after the inspection–and how buyers can use it to their advantage

When buying a home, you may wonder what to expect during a home inspection. In our guide, you’ll find everything you need – including a home inspection checklist for buyers – to confidently move forward with your purchase.

What to look for in a home inspection: A buyer’s checklist

Find out why inspecting a house is important, how much it costs, who pays for it, and what happens during a home inspection. Our buyer home inspection checklist will help you understand what a good home inspection report should include as well as ways your REALTOR® will help you navigate the process.

First time buying a home? Avoid these five mistakes.

Should I get a home inspection before buying a house?

Having a home inspected before buying can help you identify potential issues and avoid costly surprises. It can also help ensure you don’t overpay if the home has damage or defects that require substantial repairs.

According to the U.S. General Accounting Office, more than 85% of buyers request an inspection prior to signing a purchase agreement, so you can rest assured knowing you’re in good company when you ask for a home inspection for buyers. Sellers can also benefit by getting tips to pass their home inspection.

When is a home inspection done?

Real estate contracts in Minnesota and Wisconsin allow buyers to make their purchase contingent on a home inspection. Generally, this means the buyer and seller agree to have a professional home inspector conduct a thorough inspection of the property and prepare a report of their findings before the sale.

Depending on the findings, the buyer may have an opportunity to cancel the contract if they are concerned about the home’s conditions, or they may decide to negotiate possible repairs with the seller. Most importantly, the buyer will be able to proceed with a strong understanding of the condition of the property before they buy.

Who pays for a home inspection?

The homebuyer typically hires the home inspector. Your REALTOR can recommend someone they trust, or you can interview potential inspectors to get an idea of their relevant experience and obtain sample home inspection reports and client references.

How much is a home inspection?

The cost of a home inspection may vary and will be determined by the home inspector you hire. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the range for a typical home inspection is between $300-$500. Some things that could impact the cost include the region where you’re buying, the size and age of the house, and the scope of the services you’re paying for.

What happens during a home inspection?

A home inspection is a professional evaluation of a property, and it’s intended to determine the property’s condition and reveal any potential safety concerns. During a typical home inspection – which lasts two to three hours – a licensed home inspector will walk around the property to assess the condition of the interior and exterior, including the structural, mechanical, plumbing and electrical systems. They will put together a comprehensive report that documents their findings, including big and small concerns, as well as potential fixes. You should always ask for their professional opinion about any problems they uncover.

Remember, a REALTOR is not a professional inspector and should not be relied upon in place of one. A professional home inspector will use their experience and training to identify things that might not be apparent to your REALTOR or the average person. What to look for when inspecting a house is much different from what you might look for at an open house or showing.

Looking for more homebuying advice? Get our Go-to Guide for Buying a Home!

Four things to look for in a home inspection

Your professional home inspector can provide an overview of what to expect from a home inspection and will likely have a dedicated checklist when making their report. However, as a rule of thumb, you should expect their report to address structural, mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems in addition to interior features, exterior conditions, the roof, walls and foundation. Generally, they will focus on four main areas.


This can include exterior and interior features of a home where the inspector will look for things like evidence of moisture or water damage, decay, termites, stains, cracks, damage, sagging and other imperfections. They will likely examine:

  • Foundation, crawl spaces and exterior walls
  • Septic tank, if applicable
  • Windows and door frames
  • Siding, bricks, paint and other exterior features
  • Roof and gutters
  • Chimneys
  • Grading for drainage
  • Detached garages, sheds, decks and fences
  • Attic and insulation
  • Soffits and ceilings
  • Stairway treads, risers and railings


This is related to your home’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, sometimes referred to as HVAC. It will be inspected to ensure there is no gas odor and that systems are clean and operate as expected. They will likely examine:

  • Furnace or boilers
  • Air conditioning or other cooling systems
  • Ventilation, including chimney flues and exhaust fans
  • Air filters
  • Ceiling fans
  • Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors


When it comes to your electrical system, your inspector will likely be looking to ensure things are in good and safe working condition and meet current code and capacity requirements. They may examine:

  • Wiring
  • Service or electrical panels
  • Cables
  • Electrical splices
  • Lights and switches
  • Electrical outlets
  • Electric garage door openers


When it comes to your plumbing, your inspector will look for evidence of leaks, rust, issues with water pressure or temperature, clogged drains and any signs of water damage. They will likely inspect:

  • Pipes
  • Water heater
  • Sump pump
  • Toilets, tubs, sinks and showers
  • Drains
  • Garbage disposals
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Additional inspection considerations before buying

There are some things a typical home inspection may not address depending on your location, property features or even the type of home financing you’re using. Your REALTOR can help you determine whether Truth in Housing or inflow/infiltration inspections are needed as well as whether your home should be inspected for pests. You may also need special evaluations done on features like swimming pools, jacuzzis and solar panels.

What should a home inspection report include?

A typical home inspection report will be 20-50 pages long–or even longer in some cases. A longer report doesn’t necessarily indicate a home with major problems; it could simply mean the inspector was thorough and identified many smaller issues that you could use in your negotiations with the seller.

A good inspector will walk you and your REALTOR through their findings, and they can give you their professional opinion when it comes to easy fixes versus major red flags and potential deal breakers.

Next steps after a home inspection

After you’ve had some time to digest the findings from your home inspection report, you and your REALTOR can discuss what comes next. Depending on the issues, you could use it to negotiate down the purchase price, you could request that the seller replace or repair major issues, or you could choose to walk away from the purchase altogether (provided you had a contingency). No matter what you decide, your REALTOR is in your corner and will help guide you through the process to ensure you move forward with confidence.

Edina Realty REALTORS are ready to help you in your home buying journey

Buying your first (or next) home is an exciting time, and you want to make sure you have all the information and support you need to make a good decision and an informed purchase. With the help of a home inspection for buyers, you and your REALTOR can determine the best course of action to secure the right home.

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Status Definitions

For sale: Properties which are available for showings and purchase

Active contingent: Properties which are available for showing but are under contract with another buyer

Pending: Properties which are under contract with a buyer and are no longer available for showings

Sold: Properties on which the sale has closed.

Coming soon: Properties which will be on the market soon and are not available for showings.

Contingent and Pending statuses may not be available for all listings