Buying & Selling Houses

Do You Really Need a Home Inspection?

Expertise: Real Estate Investing Basics, Real Estate News & Commentary, Personal Development, Flipping Houses, Landlording & Rental Properties, Personal Finance
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Property assessment. Wooden house with magnifier and calculator.

Is a home inspection necessary when buying a house?  

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TL;DR YES!!!

OK, now the longer version. The mere fact that you’re asking whether or not you need an inspection tells me that yes, in fact, you DO need a home inspection.

Home Inspections Are Worth It

Why are home inspections important?

Because you aren’t a home inspector, and you most likely have either no experience or just enough to be dangerous. I don’t mean this in a mean way, everyone started off with no experience. But both scenarios SCREAM to me that you DO need a home inspection.

I just bought my favorite kind of house: ugly, outdated, and in need of a LOT of love. There are weeds in the backyard, a smokey smell in the house, wallpaper from the 70s, used-to-be-white carpet, tiled counters, and wallpaper from the 80s. It has a weird-but-fixable layout, out-of-code stair railings, and more wallpaper. (UGH!! Curses on the person who invented wallpaper!)

I wrote up the offer while on vacation, because that’s how it always seems to happen. We negotiated the price, locked it in, and I frantically scheduled my inspections for that week, as I was off to another conference the following week. I set my inspection period for something like 18 days in case I wasn’t able to get all of them performed before I left.

This home has an in-ground pool, so I knew I wanted a pool inspection, too. Oh, and after I submitted the offer, the listing agent drops on me that the pool heater does not work and has not worked for at least five years.

Um, what? Why was this very known piece of information NOT included in the listing?! 

Reasons You Need to Get a Home Inspection

The home itself is in very rough shape, and radon is very common in our neck of the woods, so I knew I wanted a full home inspection. I’ve done this before, I know what I’m looking for, and I STILL got an inspection, because I want a second TRAINED set of eyes on this property. (Actually, like a sixth or seventh pair of eyes. I brought three rehabbing friends with me to a showing, plus my husband.)

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

There is an inspector in the area I invest that EVERY agent I know recommends, and I’ve used him before with satisfactory results. However, I just helped my friend Jake buy a house that had previously been under contract and fallen out due to inspection issues. (Jake also likes unattractive houses, and this one was no exception.)

The listing agent for Jake’s house very helpfully offered up the previous inspection report, which we absolutely took advantage of.  This was THE MOST comprehensive, thorough inspection report my client had ever read—and I have to say I 100 percent agree with him.

I called this new inspector to inspect my property, and he came out and brought his fine-tooth comb with him.

Not only did his report share the things that were readily apparent: broken window in the master bedroom, smoke smell, outdated, etc., but his report also included safety issues I was not aware of. Specifically, the fence surrounding the pool was inadequate, built backward, and needed to be replaced ASAP in order to comply with the state-mandated fencing regulations for pools.

Dirty pool sits unattended covered in leaves

I’ve had homes with pools before. I didn’t realize the fence was backward—or that this would be the smallest of my problems. 

The seller shared the name of the person who has taken care of his pool for the last couple of years. This guy came out and spent about an hour with us, and boy, did he spill the dirt! There is a leak in the pipe that runs between the filter basket and the pump. Currently, the filter basket is inoperable, having been circumvented during the pool opening this year. 

This kind of repair is the WORST kind of repair—what I call “the unknown cost repair.” The pipe is underground, which means you can’t really see where the leak is—you have to dig until you find it. Part of the pipe is under cement, so if you have to break that up to find the leak, it gets really expensive really quickly. The pool guy said it would cost between $500 and $5,000, simply because they don’t know where it is. 

But even more costly were the known issues with the pool—that broken pool heater and the re-plastering it needed five years ago. Not to mention the complete retiling and re-bricking I could already see it would need.

40X Value

You’ve heard 10X thrown around on the site, the podcast, etc. My home inspections were a 40X! They literally saved me 40 times the value of what I paid them to inspect my house.

After we received the inspection reports, my husband and I sat down and talked about it. The amount of work we could SEE needed to be done paled in comparison to the work uncovered during the inspections. Did we even want to continue with this contract?

Related: What Investors Should Know About the Home Inspection Process

We decided we still liked the neighborhood and still liked the house. I sent a note to the listing agent that night, letting him know the inspections uncovered far more issues with the home than we were aware of, and unless we could negotiate a significant discount, we'd have to cancel the contract.

He asked what I meant by significant, and I replied with $42,000. I didn’t hold out much hope for this transaction to continue, as we are in a fairly hot real estate market, the house is located in a great neighborhood, and nothing has sold here for under $400,000 since 2017. They countered with $40,000 and I accepted as fast as I could.

So, $1,000 spent on home inspections yielded a $40,000 drop in price. I’d say that’s money WELL spent.

Protect yourself and your investment. Get a home inspection with a QUALIFIED home inspector.

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Can I answer any other home inspection-related questions for you? Have you heard any horror stories from buyers who skipped getting a professional home inspection? 

Share in the comment section below!

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.

    Joseph M. Rental Property Investor from Sacramento Area, CA
    Replied about 2 months ago
    @Mindy: I totally agree. Home inspectors are a very important part of the TEAM.
    Katie Rogers from Santa Barbara, California
    Replied about 2 months ago
    My last inspection cost $450 and netted me a $32,000 discount. Our actual repairs cost $41,000, so we did okay. Another advantage to having an inspection done is because the inspection report is taken seriously. It doesn't work as well to say, "My rehab friend looked at the house and says ..." Also even when I look at a house with my contractor, we might spend an hour. The inspector usually spends maybe 3 hours.
    Mark JOhnson Investor
    Replied about 2 months ago
    I've been thru dozens of purchases, sales, and inspections. My biggest complaint is that some home inspectors often use opinions and not facts. Once an inspector states an opinion, even it is wrong, it can prevent a loan from going through. For example, a home inspector recently stated we needed straps and other items on a water heater for earthquake reasons. I looked up the code and our region is not in an earthquake 0zone as stated on report. It was submitted to loan company in a state 1000 miles away and they didnt know better. In short, it was cheaper to waste money on unneeded repairs then to get it fixed for loan. I've seen these types of things happen over and over. In SC, the educarion and experience required to be a home inspector are too minimal!
    Bob Elliott
    Replied about 2 months ago
    Joseph 100% agree with you on importance but Home Inspectors are not part of your Team and are the only truly independant party not dependant on if a property sells or not.
    Joseph M. Rental Property Investor from Sacramento Area, CA
    Replied about 2 months ago
    @Bob: I consider my team to be anyone that I have built a long term relationship with. In this case, my Home Inspector has been part of my team for many years. While you are correct that they are not dependent on the deal closing, they are VERY happy to have a repeat business that I bring. Due to that, a relationship has been built and he has done a wonderful job and will continue to do so. He has saved me many tens of thousands of dollars. For my business, a team member does not need to be part of the day-to-day business; they are part of the overall success of my business even though they do not participate as often as my PM's. Home inspectors, bankers, attorneys, CPA's, tree trimmers, HVAC, plumbers.....they are all part of my team. At least that is the way I have been doing it for the past 2 decades.
    Alex G. from Eastern Massachusetts & Central Maine
    Replied about 2 months ago
    We paid $300 for a septic inspection that uncovered a failed septic system. Because the property was a HECM foreclosure, the property owner could not, per HUD guidelines, reduce the price without a new appraisal. A month later, the property was back on the market priced $10,000 lower.
    Chris Hummel
    Replied about 2 months ago
    The unbiased opinion of a seasoned property inspector is money well spent. Always attend the inspection because you can learn from the inspector when he or she tells you the meaning of what is seen. You can be told how long things are designed to last and most importantly, the inspector can tell you what is reasonable to expect in a "repair allowance" situation when material defects are discovered.
    Roy Johnson Property Inspector - Commercial
    Replied about 2 months ago
    Because you are a general contractor dont think you are qualified. Tip: find inspector who uses infared thetmal imaging. Sees what the naked eye cant detect. Terd mites better than an actual termite inspection. Ways to cut heating and cooling costs through locating areasxthat are under insulated or air intrusion. Mite not tell you inspectors qualifications, but tells you he is willing to go extra mile, spend big bucks, to provide best service he can
    Eric Gamble from Charlotte, NC
    Replied about 2 months ago
    Well said Mindy! Very well said. I am a newbie to real estate investing and the strategy I am executing requires me to get an inspection before closing. I will also use that inspection to assist in selling the property, as evidence of a "pre" / "post".
    Ritch Bonisa Specialist from Indianapolis, IN
    Replied about 2 months ago
    Wonderful article. Loved it!
    Ron Alexander Rental Property Investor from Florida
    Replied about 1 month ago
    Totally Agree,you need to see the Inspector as the person dropping the price of the house for you
    Michael King Rental Property Investor from St. Louis, MO
    Replied about 1 month ago
    The key is to get a good inspector. It usually seems that the guy I hire when I buy a place, is not anywhere near as capable as the guy the people buying my house hire, and uncovers more headaches than I ever dreamed of.
    Daniel Gengaro from Bloomsbury, NJ
    Replied 29 days ago
    Great info and glad you got that inspection. Always good to double check