7 Smart Tips for Getting the Most Out of a Property Inspection

by | BiggerPockets.com

I really don’t like inspections.

Well, I really just don’t like paying for an inspection, where if anything is actually wrong, I am told to “contact a qualified expert.” Whether it is foundation, electrical, or plumbing, the inspector will usually just tell me to get a quote from “a qualified expert” or get that quote themselves.

Despite the lack of clarity that comes from most inspections, they are very expensive. I have seen inspections cost $650 for a single family home and up to $30,000 for a large apartment building. In any case, that is money that could be used to actually fix the things that are wrong, or at least it seems to me.

In a span of about eighteen months, I purchased well over 400 homes from a large real estate investment trust (REIT), and I didn’t once get a formal inspection. That is not to say that I just bought homes all willy-nilly without ever doing my due diligence. I just decided that there was a better way to inspect buildings – inexpensively! I’m not going to advocate that you don’t get inspections on a building because there is risk involved with that process, which newbies should avoid. I am, however, going to give you my list of what to ask, look for, and negotiate during the escrow process.

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 7 Tips for Getting the Most Out of a Property Inspection

1. Make sure your inspector gives you bids for the items he calls out.

This is a big one for me. If I’m going to be paying $400 or more for an inspection, then I sure as heck better be getting a quote on the work for the things that are wrong. It is important to understand as the buyer (person ordering the inspection) that any bid you get from the inspector is going to be marked up in some way. That is fine, though; you still want it.

Related: Do You Have a Property Inspection Toolkit? (9 Must-Haves to Get You Prepared)

Many inspectors will double up as contractors or have a contractor partner that they recommend for doing repairs found during inspection. However, most times they aren’t particularly interested in the contracting work and will just make their bids so high that it would become worth it if you wanted them to do the work.

2. Once you have an inspection, have a separate contractor bid out the work.

You should always, and I mean always, get two bids for work, but this is particularly true of work being done during the escrow process. In fact, you should walk the property with your contractor and ask them to bring up anything that they think may be wrong with the house.

This will essentially act as a second inspection and won’t cost you a dollar, at least up front. The contractor is going to be incentivized to nitpick every single thing he sees wrong because it means more business for him. This aligning of interest is a good thing for you and important in making sure you don’t buy a property with a large issue.

3. Make sure your inspection includes sewer, plumbing, and electrical.

These are the three areas where I have been hurt worst when buying properties. Everyone gets super worried about a bad foundation, but you can usually tell a property has a bad foundation just by looking at it, and inspectors are pretty good on that item. Electrical, plumbing and sewer are more difficult because they require more work. Access to the foundation is easy – walk around the building or go into the crawl space under the house. It is far more difficult to check the wiring behind the walls or the insides of pipes.

Make sure to ask the inspector if these items are included in the inspection cost because sometimes they aren’t. At worst, have your contractor go around and do a cursory test of the switches and plumbing. This approach won’t be perfect, but it is better than nothing.

Lastly, make sure to ask the seller to disclose any specific issues that they have ever had with the aforementioned. Getting their response in writing, even if it is just email, can be helpful down the line if there is an issue.

4. A soil test can be a good use of money.

You want to get this priced out, and it can be expensive, but I’m actually in favor of a good soil test. The reason is that there could be pollutants or other really harmful material, like lead, in the soil, which could meaningfully impact your property. In particular, I would get a soil test on a large deal or my first couple of deals. If you are only going to own one property, it is worth the $500 dollars for the soil test to make sure that you don’t get sued or lose a lot of value.

5. Ask for a better price on the inspection.

I’m always a fan of trying to negotiate pricing. The worst that they can say is “No.” If you are anything like me — and you likely are if you are on BiggerPockets reading this article — then you want to own a lot of real estate. This is a fact that I would share with the inspector when you go back to ask for a better price. Tell them that if they do a good job, then you will give them all of your inspections.

I like having a go-to inspector whom I can trust and have worked with before. He is going to give me better pricing, but even more importantly, he is going to be more likely to have my back and do a better job. It is no different than hiring a contractor for the first time – you want to build a good relationship.

6. Be physically present at the inspection.

Body language and intonation are important. Be present at the inspection so you can see how the seller, inspector, and agents react to certain things. This is a great way to simply learn more about real estate, but it is also a way to get a “feel” for how these people view your property.

Related: 7 Essential Elements of Your Home Inspection (Beware of #7!)

Inspectors and agents have seen hundreds of homes, and they will have a good idea if something is a big issue or not a big deal at all. You want to be there to see their reaction. There are loads and loads of ethical and good real estate agents out there, but like any profession, there are also those that aren’t so moral. The reality of the situation is that the agents are incentivized to get the deal done, and their incentives don’t necessarily align with yours. I’m not saying to be distrustful, but I do think a skeptical mindset is a good thing for a property inspection.

7. Ask as many questions as you can think of… and take notes on the responses.

Inspections can be a whirlwind — and an emotional time. If this is a first purchase or a big deal, then you will be even more emotionally invested. Thus, it is important to ask as many questions as possible in an attempt to critically look at the situation.

A few I like are:

  • What are you doing?
  • Why are you looking there?
  • Why aren’t you looking there?
  • What do you think about ______?
  • Why?
  • I don’t understand… why?

Don’t try to be a know-it-all. On the contrary, be a know-nothing. You gain nothing by impressing the inspector and agent with your knowledge of housing inspections and construction. Make the inspector adequately explain things to you. If he can’t get you to understand, it is not your fault – it is his! The more questions you ask, the more likely you are to get a good inspection. Also make sure to write down notes that you can go over later. It is easy to forget an item if you don’t write it down.

Although I’m not a fan of inspections, they can certainly prove useful in the right situation. When in doubt, make sure to be cautious and spend the extra few bucks up front.

What are your thoughts on inspections? What inspections do you get (or not get)? 

Don’t forget to leave a comment below!

About Author

Conor Flaherty

Conor has experienced every aspect of the foreclosure and rental business for single-family homes. He was VP of Acquisitions at Silver Bay Realty Trust, and has flipped over 100 homes. Conor started a blog called Wall Street Slum Lord and is working on publishing his first novel.


  1. Loren Green

    I can understand why you wouldn’t want to get an inspection on a house you are going to fix up anyway. Have you used NACHI or ASHI inspectors? It is against the standards of practice for an inspector to offer to repair or replace anything they find on the inspection. Here in Arizona, where I am a licensed inspector, it is actually against the law. Using a contractor to inspect it is good for getting a price, but what standard of practice is he going to follow?

  2. Scott Trench


    These are awesome tips thank you! I felt kind of underwhelmed by the results of my inspection and I’ll be implementing these on my next one for sure. My inspector was great in describing what needed to get done, but it felt like every time he mentioned something actually important it was just as you described – “get a contractor out there to look at it”. Not very helpful on the big items..

  3. Tim Bishop

    Home inspectors shouldn’t give bids because it’s a conflict of interest for them to be performing work or to be partnering with others to perform work. This conflict of interest would likely make them ineligible to be a member of nachi or ashi… which most home inspectors are pretty proud of. So any “estimate” they give you will and should be full of qualifiers and disclaimers and you still need to have your own bids done… they also overestimate to limit liability.

  4. Mindy Jensen

    I hate getting inspections, because it always seems like they say “Contact a professional if this is a concern to you.” But I will continue to get them, because I saved untold sums from a contractor telling me about synthetic stucco in an area that turned out to be a nightmare. Cancelled the contract, got our money back, and unfortunately, someone else bought that property and all the problems that came with it.

  5. John Geldert

    I completely agree with Loren, I’m also an ASHI lisecened home inspector in New York. If a client asks me what it would cost to replace/fix something I can and will give a “ball park” figure, I will not include that in my written report. And I would NEVER recommend a contractor to do the work, as mentioned earlier it’s against standards of practice and is a conflict of interest. All in all I think everyone should get a home inspection for peace of mind, when you consider the cost in comparison to the overall transaction it’s peanuts!

  6. Nate T.

    I use a licensed inspector when I am buying a house, but he is willing to do an “unofficial” inspection, where he doesn’t generate a written report, for $125 instead of $350-400. I have found other inspectors that will do the same thing for $100. It’s still $50-60/hour for them, and they don’t have any liability or paperwork to worry about. Win-win.

  7. I have done over 7500 home and wood-destroying insect inspections over the last 20+ years. I can direct you to thousands of clients that were very, very happy they spent the money to hire a professional home inspector. There are too many stories to tell you here. Here’s the summary of what I’ve learned over the last 20 years: There is absolutely nothing like experience. All homes are different…. and yet they are basically the same. You better hire someone that knows what they are doing and isn’t “surprised” by what they are looking at. Read the book “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell (if you haven’t already done so). He states that to really be an “expert” at anything one would need over 10,000 hours of doing that particular thing. I have applied this thinking to my own life; if I need to have something done I hire a professional. I have saved myself a lot of money and a lot of heartache by doing so. Anyone that doesn’t hire a professional, well-experienced home inspector does so at their own peril.

  8. Georges Arnaout on

    great article, I wish I read this in July when I purchased my first triplex. I got charged $800 for absolutely NOTHING! The inspector didn’t go to the roof because he wasn’t sure how stable the deck was, he didn’t check the plumbing (had to replace it all after), and only focused on the foundation. He refused to give me ANY estimate on any of the 1000 items he called out. Although they were mostly minor stuff, an estimate would have helped me a lot in my negotiations with the seller.

    Lesson learned, I will always make it as a condition “No estimates No Work for you” – Even if the estimates were off the record (bc I know they want to protect themselves from legal ramifications), they must be REQUIRED by buyers.

    Thanks for writing this, I really enjoyed it.

  9. There’s a building that I would like to buy for my new shop, so it seems like a good idea to have it inspected before buying it. I really liked point number five about asking for a better price on the inspection. It seemed as though inspection prices are pretty much set in stone. I should try to ask for a cheaper price on an inspection so that I can bet a better deal.

  10. These are great tips to know when getting your home inspected. Asking for a better price, and a soil test would both be good ideas. I think asking questions would also be a great idea, you\’d learn more. I will have to let my wife know about these helpful tips, we\’ve been thinking about this lately.

  11. Getting an inspection, and then another bid on how much it will cost to fix, is a really good idea. I agree that sometimes it seems like a lot to get your house looked at, but they can usually see things we’ll miss. I’d rather spend a little extra to know that the house I’m buying is a good one. Thanks for the inspection information, I’ll have to give it a try.

  12. I like the idea of getting bids for everything in the inspection. Just getting the ballpark estimate of what things cost can help you focus your planning. I know that sometimes I am surprised by how expensive some updates can cost. I like to be aware of the prices as soon as possible.

  13. This is awesome info! My husband and I are going to build our own house in about five years, and want to make sure we do everything right. Realizing that we would need to get a home inspection was daunting, but it really doesn’t seem that bad after reading this article. I’ll be saving this for later, thank you.

  14. Brendan Novisky

    Thanks for the tips! Interesting insight that some of the most valuable information can be gotten from asking questions that tap into an inspector’s experience if you are fine with it being unofficial information that they are not liable for.

  15. Thanks for the tips. My wife and I are about to buy our first house. We scheduled an inspector to look at it next week. I wouldn\’t have even thought to confirm that he will check sewer, plumbing, and electrical as well if I hadn\’t read this. I assumed that was a standard part of the inspection. I will definitely confirm that.

  16. I am about to purchase a home and am looking for an inspector to check it out first. I will make sure to ask him for quotes on the work for problems that he sees as well as have him check the sewer, plumbing, and electrical. I will also make sure I am there to walk through with him and ask him all sorts of questions. Thanks for all of the helpful information!

  17. Shawn Chesney

    I just came across this article and albeit it a year old you make some points which are unrealistic.

    TIP 1: most people here have already pointed out, licensed inspectors and ethical ones are not permitted to give quotes or bids. Unless you are suggesting using inspectors that are not licensed or following strict Codes of Ethics, this would never happen, at least in my business model.

    TIP 5: Ask for a better price, well good inspectors charge a fair price, you do get what you pay for. People are already worn out on the “if you give me a better price I will give you all my work”. That just does not work anymore, at least not with good inspectors. Good Inspectors know their value based on the quality of their work. You can always go with a cheaper price, but as other points are made, when you spend over 6 figures on a property, does a couple hundred bucks make that much difference when you get a highly qualified and proper inspection done?

    By all means you can follow these tips if you choose, I let my work and reputation speak for itself, I do not sell inspection services in a garage sale environment. Do I give breaks on pricing? Sure, when you book me on multiple ones, I will actually do a free inspection based on volume. The discount can actually work out greater than a few bucks off on each one.

  18. We are going to have an inspection done on a new building that our company is looking into purchasing. We just want to make sure that we are prepared for it, and know what to look for. We liked the suggestion to make sure the inspection includes sewer, plumbing, and electrical, as that had previously not crossed our minds at all. Thanks for sharing all of these tips with us, as they definitely have helped prepare us better for this inspection!

  19. Thanks for the tip about negotiating price on inspection. A friend of mine recently had their house inspected for re-financing. Turns out they might have paid a little more than it was worth. Luckily they were approved for the re-finance package though. I\’ll have to keep this article in mind for when my wife and I start looking to buy. Thanks for sharing!

  20. I really appreciated the third tip you give to make sure my home inspection includes sewer, plumbing, and electrical. Since I am a first time home builder, I don’t really know what to look for in these types of inspections and contractors, so knowing that these three things should always be included in the inspections was helpful. Even though these inspections take more work, as you say, it ensures that you are being thorough and careful about your home, and it makes sure that everything is as it should be. Thank you for sharing!

  21. It is interesting that you suggest using a separate contractor. I can’t believe that this doesn’t even cost extra, it makes a lot of sense to me! Having more than one professional on hand will make me feel a lot more confident about the situation as well. I will definitely be trying this out for my own property inspection, thank you!

  22. Great trick to have a separate contractor outbid the first. If they really want your business, they will work with you and you should end up with the best price available. Thanks for the advice!

  23. I thought it was interesting that you suggested to have a separate contractor bid out the work after your home inspection. You talk about how this will act as a second inspection that won\’t cost you anything up-front, which definitely sounds good. This way, when you are on the verge of buying the home, you will be absolutely sure that this is what you want and there are no hidden problems that you would have to deal with down the road. Thank you for sharing!

  24. Thanks for the tips. I have not had my building inspected in a while, but it is almost time. I never would have thought about being as thorough as having the soil tested. Is that offered through most building inspection companies?

  25. That is smart to have your home inspector give you bids on the repairs that need to be done. I am glad that you mentioned making sure to have your sewer, plumbing, and electrical system checked with the rest of your home. Checking your soil is not something that I would have thought of, I will have to be sure to ask my inspector to check that out as well.

  26. I had not thought of getting a separate inspection from a contractor after the initial property inspection. You could get a second opinion unswayed by the first. Also making a good relationship with he inspector for future places could be a huge plus. I will have to talk to my friend about the tips you give in this article. Maybe it can help him when he starts buying more properties. Thank you for the information.

  27. I like your tip to be physically present at the inspection. Seeing a reaction to something can help you understand the seriousness of the matter much more than just looking at a report. I think it\’s worth the money to have a home inspection done because it is nice to have an unbiased party tell me if something needs to be fixed, instead of someone trying to make money off of unnecessary fixes. Thanks for all these tips!

  28. Thank you for the help. I am hoping to buy a house and need to have a home inspection done. I definitely want the inspection to address plumbing and electrical, as you suggested. How extensive should it be when checking the plumbing? Will it be just checking the easily accessible areas?

  29. I like that you mentioned making sure your inspection covers all that you need, including sewer, plumbing and electrical. You don\’t want to pay for an inspection and not get a full service. It only takes a few simple questions to make sure you are getting what you need.

  30. I really like your tip “make sure your inspection includes sewer, plumbing, and electrical.” My husband and I are going to be moving into a new home in the next few weeks and we want to get a home inspection done before we make the sale final. I’ll have to keep these tips in mind while we are going through the whole process!

  31. I was unaware that there is only so much a homeowner can actually do when the main pipe gets clogged up. My mother was always a do-it-yourself kind of person, and that attitude rubbed off on me; however, I think in this kind of situation, it would be best to just call an expert. This would be perfect for anyone who might have a clog in their drain! Thanks again!

  32. I would have never known that there is this much that needs to get inspected! I can see why you opted out and did your own due diligence instead. I agree that sewer, plumbing, and electrical should be included in the inspection. I personally would probably always go for a professional, just for the peace of mind.

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