Home Inspections Can Save You Thousands: Here’s How to Get the Most Out of Yours

by | BiggerPockets.com

As a licensed real estate agent, I recommend that all my clients — especially my first timers and my owner-occupants — get a home inspection. If you’re new to real estate investing, I recommend you get one, too. You never know what you don’t know.

How to Invest in Real Estate While Working a Full-Time Job

Many investors think that they need to quit their job to get started in real estate. Not true! Many investors successfully build large portfolios over the years while enjoying the stability of their full-time job. If that’s something you are interested in, then this investor’s story of how he built a real estate business while keeping his 9-5 might be helpful.

Click Here For Your Free eBook!

What IS a Home Inspection?

A home inspection is an inspection of the major systems and physical attributes of a property. Think furnace, AC, plumbing, electrical, roof, basement. The inspector comes into the home and sets up any testing like radon or mold. Then the inspector goes around the house looking at everything.

Each inspector has their own system and typically works from a checklist. They take a ton of pictures as they go through the house and make notes for their report.

They look at the age of each mechanical and also test to see if it is in working order. (Testing AC units when there is a low exterior temperature can cause system failure, so if your inspection is taking place in January in Colorado, that’s not a system that will be tested.)

They’ll turn the furnace way up to see how easily it turns on. Inspectors check the status of the unit — clean, dusty, not working at all — and include a note about all of this in their report, along with a basic life expectancy.

Example: Furnace is 9 years old. Average life expectancy for a furnace is 20-25 years. It was in working order when tested. Verify service history with seller.

If the inspector finds damaged or missing items, they will note those, too. The image below was taken directly from the inspection report for my most recent sale.


The missing item is not a big deal — it certainly doesn’t affect the unit, and it’s an easy fix.

What a Home Inspection is NOT

A home inspection will not guarantee that the systems are going to last for X years. It is entirely feasible to have a home inspection today and have every system stop working tomorrow. It’s not likely, but it could happen. The home inspection is a snapshot of the home at that particular time.

A home inspection will also not give you any information about the legal status of the home — they don’t cover title work or get into liens or permits.


Make the Most of Your Inspection

Be there. Physically be at the home during the inspection if at all possible. Get there right on time, and walk around the home with the inspector so they can show you everything they are seeing.

If you have small children, this is an ideal time for a babysitter. If you can’t find someone to watch them at your home, at the very least have someone watch them where the home inspection is taking place. You need to be able to focus as much as possible on the home inspector and what they are saying.

Ask questions! This is the only time the home inspector is going to be in the house. Trust me, it is FAR better to pepper him with questions about the property than to leave something unanswered. You are paying for this inspection — so ask any question you want, and keep asking until you completely understand the answer.

Do I Really Need an Inspection?

Here’s my Home Inspection Rule of Thumb.

If you’re asking if you need one, you need one.

It doesn’t make you a bad person. I get home inspections for every property I buy. It makes me feel more comfortable about the whole purchase. Even though I’ve been investing since before dirt was invented, I still want to know what I’m getting into.

A few years ago, I was looking at a townhouse in an awesome area. Newly rehabbed, I wasn’t expecting anything to be wrong with it, but I still wanted a home inspection. As we were outside finishing up, the inspector casually mentioned that the exterior was not stucco, but something called EIFS — Exterior Insulation Finishing System.

Hmm, what’s EIFS? Thankfully Google existed even back then, and a quick search told me I wanted no part of any property covered in EIFS. When installed correctly, it looks like beautiful stucco at a fraction of the price. When installed incorrectly, water gets trapped behind the product and can cause massive mold damage — to the point that the property becomes uninhabitable.

I didn’t stick around long enough to deal with that. Mold isn’t my thing, and the property wasn’t enough of a steal for me to figure that out.

Related: A Savvy Home Inspector Is an Investor’s Best Ally: Here’s What to Look For

Another thing was that exterior issues in a townhome or condo become the responsibility of the association. And anyone who has ever tried to deal with an association knows what a difficult task that can be. So, I walked. And I was happy to spend that $400 to discover that issue. Maybe “happy” isn’t the right word — but certainly not mad about it.


Pre-Inspected ISN’T a Good Thing

I’m on the MLS all the time. I’m either looking for properties for clients or myself or doing research into prices in a certain area.

I look at a LOT of listings, and something that pops up frequently is “Home is pre-inspected and comes with a brand name home warranty!”

This makes it SOUND like a good thing, but is it really? Who did that home inspection? You weren’t there to ask the inspector questions. You don’t know what he did or did not look at. You don’t know how long the inspector was in the property.

A home inspection lasts a LONG time. Multiple hours. You don’t know if the guy came through on a scooter and spent nine minutes in the house or if he got up on a ladder and inspected every single thing with a fine toothed comb. Pro tip: Pre-inspected homes aren’t gone over with a fine toothed comb.

Cheaper isn’t always better. In fact, most of the time it’s NOT better at all. Do you think the seller spent top dollar on a home inspection to provide to potential buyers? Probably not.

Do your own due diligence. This includes a home inspection. Trust but verify.

It’s Brand New — Do I Still Need One?

There is a difference between a home inspection and a building inspection. The building inspection is what you get when you are constructing a home to make sure the home meets current building codes. A home inspection is what you get when you are buying a home.

My dad bought a home once. Actually, I grew up a corporate brat — similar to a military brat, but he was on the corporate track rather than in the military. Corporate brats still get to move around a lot, though. Three schools in second grade, and all of the sudden I’m no longer shy. We moved on average every three years. I’ve never lived in a home for more than five years.

So my dad bought this house, and since it was brand new, he didn’t get a home inspection. Once we moved in, we discovered there was no attic access. No soffit vents, no attic vents, and the basement flooded every time it rained. My parents no longer have a wedding album.

When it was time to sell, it was no longer brand new, and the people who were buying it from us DID get a home inspection. Even though we lived there for eight years, that home inspection discovered that the fireplace — you know, that giant stack of HEAVY bricks and mortar on the side of the house — had no additional support underneath it, and it had started to sink. Pro tip: That’s not a cheap fix.


Home Inspections Are So Expensive — I Know What I’m Doing

Not everyone needs a home inspection. If you are an inspector, go ahead and do it yourself. If you’ve done 500 deals, you might not need one, either. If the property is a 100 percent teardown, you can probably skip it then, too.

But to forego an inspection simply because it is too expensive is the wrong reason to skip it. And the “wasted” $500, $800, $1,000 can actually save you tens of thousands in unexpected issues.

You can almost bet that your end buyer is going to get a home inspection.

Additional Tasks

Check for permitted rehabs. If the property you are buying is recently rehabbed or has been rehabbed since it was built — think built in the ’60s but looks like the ’80s — check with the city to make sure all the permits were pulled, inspected and completed. This isn’t covered in a property inspection, so you should do it yourself.

My current home was purchased through foreclosure. It had an original house and a large addition. I’ve been investing since before dirt was invented, but I didn’t think to check on permits. Guess what happened? We applied for a permit to build over the existing large first-level addition and were told that the addition didn’t exist. Uh-oh.

Related: 8 Common Questions Investors Have About Home Inspections – Answered!

The illegal addition didn’t meet current setbacks, but my city is gracious enough to grandfather in existing structures as long as they meet current code.

An inspector came out and checked the foundation, which I had to dig up by hand. (Jealous?)

It turns out that even though the addition wasn’t permitted, it was still OK. We had to do some monkey business around the foundation for freeze/thaw issues, but we didn’t have to tear the whole thing down.

I have heard of people with unpermitted basements who had to rip out several parts of the drywall and ceiling to have the electric and plumbing inspected. If you’re unsure, a quick call or stop into the permit office can tell you an awful lot about your property.


How Do I Find A Good Home Inspector?

I’m hoping you have a good real estate agent who can give a great recommendation, but even that isn’t always the best way to find a good inspector.

Get recommendations from several different people — the forums or a local meetup is a great place to start networking with people. Other investors don’t have any skin in the game, so it makes no difference to them if you close on the house — or if you choose to walk away from it due to inspection issues. They’ll be more inclined to refer you to a great inspector.

A home inspection isn’t cheap, and it isn’t a guarantee. But skipping it — and finding huge issues after you’ve bought the home — can cost you so much more.

Do yourself a favor and get a good, quality home inspection.

Have you found issues in an inspection that led to the cancellation of the contract? Do you have any tips for finding a good inspector?

Please share them below.

About Author

Mindy Jensen

Mindy Jensen has been buying and selling homes for almost 20 years. She buys houses, moves in, makes them beautiful, sells them, and starts the process all over again. She is a licensed real estate agent in Colorado, author of How to Sell Your Home, and the community manager for BiggerPockets.com, where she helps new and experienced investors learn the proper ways to invest in real estate to grow their wealth. Mindy is an alumnus of the School of Hard Knocks and will happily share her experiences with anyone who asks. When you can get her to stop talking about real estate, you can find her on her bike or adventuring in the beautiful mountains of Colorado.


  1. Mike McKinzie

    Mindy, I agree 100 %. I am under contract for two Turnkeys right now and the Home Inspection has saved me a lot of headaches. The one difference for me is that I NEVER want to see the house. Not before I buy it, not while I own it and not when I sell it. Therefore, the Home Inspection and Appraisal is my “view” of the house. So let me reiterate what Mindi said, NEVER buy a house without a Home Inspection unless it is a tear down or if it is a house that you cannot inspect such as a Foreclosure sale.

    • Mindy Jensen

      I can’t get on board with not ever seeing the property, but if it works for you, you’re the only one it has to work for.
      In your case, if you are investing in the same area, and use the same great inspector over and over, it could be a great system.
      Thanks for reading.

  2. Troy Fisher

    Other reasons to get a home inspection as I tell my investor friends all the time:

    A wholesaler –
    can order a home inspection and have a report to readily hand to buyers that give a scope of work and a detailed view of the property without having investors need to tromp through the house.
    They can use that report to get multiple bids on the repair cost of the property.

    A Landlord –
    can have strong documentation of the state of a house and the condition it was in before tenants moved in and after they moved out.
    Maintain a trail of improvements and maintenance issues every year. And budget accordingly

    A Flipper-
    can have things looked at that most contractors won’t get to (like belly crawling the crawlspace, or checking the electrical service) and develop a scope of work quicker.
    verify the work of a new contractor
    head off any end user concerns by having it inspected just like an end buyer will.

  3. Roy N.


    My parents no longer have a wedding album either, but it was as a result of a BBQ and a little petrol, not a flooded basement.

    Unless we are purchasing a derelict where we know everything will be gutted, we always get a building and engineering inspection (home inspection for the residential properties), even it it’s not a condition of the sale. The resulting report provides a basis for our retrofit and upgrade plans for the property.

  4. Matt Swartzendruber

    I am a little biased here (I am an Inspector), but an Inspection definitely can save you money. Depending on the market you are in, you may be able to pay less or get a little more. If nothing else you know what will have to be fixed/repaired at some point so that money can get into a budget.

    • Troy Fisher

      Some banks require Radon Testing and you should reference the EPA Radon Map for more details on if it is something to be worried about. Retail buyers are going to be more worried about it, so it helps if you are a flipper to be ahead of it, or as a landlord to have it tested and documented for liability protection.

  5. Ryan Ball

    I have never had an inspection that was not worth the price paid. Either we were able to negotiate repairs /cash in lieu of repairs worth more than the inspection cost or we walked away from the deal based on something major the inspector found.

    • Mindy Jensen

      Thanks for reading, Ryan.
      Absolutely right. I have never had an inspection that wasn’t worth the cost. Even when I had to walk away, I was glad to have the information to make an informed decision. Better to be out $500 than lose tens of thousands when you can’t sell the property…

  6. Rebecca B.

    I had an inspection but I also had an electrician, plumber and basement repair person give me quotes. Also had a sewer line inspection with a camera. I gained very little from the inspection and the trades people have me better info. I know of an investor who doesn’t get inspections. He gets tares people out to give him quotes.

    Since it’s in their interest to spot every little thing that they can charge you for I found them to be more thorough.

    • Mindy Jensen

      The electrician, plumber and basement repair person who came out to give you quotes, also did an inspection of sorts. They had to inspect the property to see what needed to be repaired. Trades people coming out can be a form of home inspection, but the electrician is only going to give you electrical information – they’re not going to tell you anything about the state of the roof, HVAC system, test the plumbing, etc.
      A home inspection isn’t an end-all be-all, but it is an excellent place to start to get a good, general idea of the state of the property.

    • Troy Fisher

      Sounds like you needed a better Inspector. Was he associated with any national organization and was his education evident? Did you ask detailed questions or tour the property with them? Just like any profession there are people who are great at it, and people who are poor at it. Look at all the post about crappy GC’s that circle around. Having trades people investigate may sound like they are going to spot everything they can charge you for but since they are also interested in a larger pay day they may be looking at bigger picture than the reason why. In general a home inspection should take about 4 hours, longer for bigger houses. If the inspection is shorter than that you are probably getting short-changed.

  7. I interviewed four inspectors-the first three had no background in construction or repair, and none were landlords.-they basically had taken the course to become an inspector and sounded like it— the fourth man had ten years of hands on construction, also built and owned rentals–I hired him and he was worth the cost.
    You really have to interview an inspector, & ask specific questions. I found ours because we had an illegal marijuiana grow operation at a house & he had extensive experience with that — what happens to walls, electrical, etc. with that situation–
    I also agree with Rebecca B. in her comment about quotes from tradesmen–we do that also–it usually confirms what our inspector has noted in his report.

    • Mindy Jensen

      The buyer pays for the inspection, because it is in their best interest. I make my house sales contingent upon inspection usually, although my market is so hot that people have been making offers with no inspection or mortgage contingency, just to be considered.

  8. The most expensive issues are the issues that you do not know about. As you said, getting an inspection can help bring those issues to light and save thousands down the road. People trying to save a buck in the beginning can end up kicking themselves afterwards. This is a cheap version of insurance when you look at the overall purchase price of a home.

  9. I definitely agree that you need to be there. It is important that you are there to ask questions and it will give you a piece of mind to know that every crevice of the home was inspected properly. It can be very difficult to understand what the inspector is explaining to you after the fact. It is always better to be there in person so you get a visual and better understanding of what is wrong.

  10. PJ Muilenburg

    I might add…I found an inspector who has a special service for investors where he does his usual inspections but without the written report. I walk through the house with him and it’s pretty much a verbal report, which allows me to ask a lot of questions in addition be being much cheaper cost.

    • Mindy Jensen

      PJ I’ve heard about this too. Less expensive, and if you’re there with the inspector, just hearing it may be enough.
      I know I don’t have to provide a copy of the report to the seller if I choose to cancel the contract due to inspection issues. I would bet you could take your own pictures as you go along.

    • Troy Fisher

      We Call it a a Pre-Inspection Report. Hopefully the inspector is doing a full inspection with notes and photographs, so if you need/want a written report for negotiating with the seller one can be provided at an additional cost. That’s my standard offer to investors also Knock off $100 for the written inspection but it can be made available at a later date.

      To be fair it is a gray area in the ethics of the national certification agencies but my client is the buyer and not a bank, if they don’t need a written report then I’m not going to give them a written report.

  11. Bryan Drury

    Like PJ we also utilize our inspector by obtaining a verbal inspection as we walk thru with him.It is a less expensive process and gives us another set of eyes so we don’t miss something major that will cost us major later on.Good write up

    • Mindy Jensen

      Thanks for reading, Kay.
      Every home is different, and while they all have plumbing, electric and roof, that’s about where the similarities end.
      The best tip I can give you is to be there during the inspection. Walk around with the inspector, and ask questions.
      “Is there anything that concerns you about the habitability of this home?” “What do you consider the biggest issue(s)?”
      Sometimes, a big issue may not seem like a big issue to you, but a small one might seem enormous. Ask the inspector while he’s there, and keep asking questions until you feel comfortable with the answer.

  12. In 2004 my husband and I were the general contractors/ owners for a house that we built and sold to a buyer. The buyer lost the house in foreclosure. We bought it back. The house appeared in good condition. No need for an inspection, right? Once we purchased the home and had the water turned on, water sprang from the living room ceiling. Crooks had ripped out the copper plumbing!! Though the bank wouldnt have fixed the issue, we could have avoided all the drywall and carpet replacement. We always do inspections.

    • Mindy Jensen

      Oh Cynthia. Unfortunately, I have been in your shoes. I had a thief steal some of my copper pipes – my husband walked in on him doing it and he ran out the back. He didn’t get them all, but what a horrible feeling.

Leave A Reply

Pair a profile with your post!

Create a Free Account


Log In Here