You may be wondering why a structural engineering blog is writing about home inspection costs. Well, it’s because structural engineering inspections and regular home inspections go hand in hand; and we get asked about both….a LOT.
You see, many times it’s the home inspector who requests that a structural engineer further investigate a questionable area within a home.
For example, it is not uncommon that a home inspector will discover a foundation that is in rough shape. Perhaps the foundation is even made of wood (this is a Big NO NO in the north) and appears to be rotting. In a scenario like this, a home inspector may request an engineer to come inspect the condition of the foundation. Of course, there would be additional costs for this.
So, what this all boils down to is that there are times when you need a traditional home inspection and times when you need a structural engineer inspection. This blog will focus on the importance of that traditional home inspection, what they entail and what to expect that inspection to cost.
Let’s get to it.
What is a Home Inspection?
Before we go into the cost of a home inspection, we want to talk about what it actually is.
A home inspection is a visual, non-invasive examination of the physical condition of a home’s structure and systems from rooftop to soils. This means that a home inspector will come to your home and visually examine various components of the home for safety and to ensure the listed items meet building codes and regulations.
These types of inspections are most frequently required in the following two scenarios:
- Private- A private party (such as a buyer or seller) requests a home inspection to ensure the home’s condition is adequate for their needs
- Public- A city requires a home to be inspected by a city employee or city subcontractor before it can be offered for sale.
There is an interesting distinction here; being forced to have an inspection versus choosing to have an inspection. In Minnesota, there is actually a list of communities that require home’s to have an inspection prior to putting it on the market; these types of inspections are most frequently referred to as: city inspections, point of sale inspections, truth in housing or time of sale inspections. This type of home inspection does cost you money out of your pocket in case you were wondering.
If anomalies (items that are NOT up to code) are found on the property, some cities may even require repairs to be made before the home can be offered for sale. Other cities may only require the homeowner to disclose issues, not repair them.
Now that we know what a home inspection is, you may be wondering what parts of the home are examined.
Keep reading to find out.
What is Inspected During a Home Inspection?
Home inspection companies are privately owned (unless you are getting an inspection from a city employee). This means that not all home inspections are created equal.
With that, make sure you do your research before hiring a home inspection company. It’s beneficial if your home inspectors are members of the American Society of Home Inspectors. If so, they hopefully abide by the ASHI Code of Ethics and implement the ASHI Standards of Practice. This standard of practice is what sets a baseline requirement for a general home inspection.
You can find that list here.
However, many companies throughout the twin cities have spent decades building their own inspection lists. This means that they not only incorporate the list of items linked above, but they have expanded the list to incorporate other items they feel deserve to be there. One such company is, Structure Tech Home Inspections, based out of St. Louis Park, Minnesota. We have included their list below.
List of items to be examined when a private party requests a home inspection:
- We walk roofs to inspect them. Some common-sense exceptions would be unsafe roofs, roofs not accessible with a 28′ extension ladder, snow covered, etc.
- Gutters and roof drainage systems. We’re big proponents of gutters.
- Flashing. Lack of kickout flashing is also typically reported.
- Skylights, roof caps, roof vents, plumbing vents, and other roof penetrations are inspected.
- Chimney crowns
- Chimney walls
- Chimney flashing
- Fuel-burning fireplaces, stoves, and fireplace inserts. This usually means wood burning fireplaces or gas fireplaces.
- Fuel-burning accessories installed in fireplaces, such as gas logs.
- Wall coverings (aka ‘siding’)
- Guards (aka ‘guardrails’)
- Drainage and grading that is likely to affect the building
- Retaining walls
- Vegetation that is likely to affect the building
- Foundation walls
- Vent terminals and air intakes
- Exterior faucets
BASEMENT / FOUNDATION / STRUCTURE
- Foundation walls
- Basement floor
- Crawl spaces
- Sump Systems, including the sump basket, sump pump, sump cover, and extension piping.
- Floor structure (posts, beams, joists, etc.)
- Basement insulation
- Signs of basement moisture/water intrusion are always a concern for buyers, and we always inspect for this. We use Protimeter Surveymaster moisture meters to check for elevated moisture levels when they’re suspected.
- Exterior electrical components, including the service drop, service entrance conductors, cables, and raceways.
- The main panel and any subpanels. We remove panel covers to inspect the wiring inside. For the record, this is not something that sets us apart from our competition; every ASHI inspector in Minnesota should do this as standard practice, and any home inspector who claims to follow ASHI’s Standards Of Practice should do this.
- Service grounding
- Interior electrical components, including the majority of outlets, switches, and lights.
- Ground fault circuit interrupters
- Arc fault circuit interrupters
- Smoke and CO alarms are recommended when not present
- Drain, waste, and vent pipes
- Water distribution pipes
- The visible portion of the water main, which is the water supply pipe that brings water into the home
- Water heaters
- Water heater vents. We perform worst-case scenario draft testing at natural draft water heaters.
- Clothes washers and dryers
- Floor drains
- Gas lines. We have electronic gas leak detectors to locate gas leaks, but gas leaks are only reported by using a liquid gas detection solution. This prevents reporting any false gas leaks. More info on where we typically find gas leaks here: where to look for gas leaks.
- We report the locations of the main gas and water valves, and typically point these out during the inspection.
- Installed heating equipment such as furnaces, boilers, and space heaters. Carbon monoxide testing of heating plants is standard for us.
- Furnace filters are inspected and clients are shown how to change the filter.
- Registers are all checked for operation with an infrared camera, whether an infrared inspection is included or not.
- Vent connector and vent
- Heat Recovery Ventilators (HRVs) or Energy Recovery Ventilators (ERVs)
- Central and permanently installed cooling equipment
- Temperature difference testing is used to determine if cooling equipment is operational
- Condensate disposal
- Stairs, handrails, and guards
- Counters and cabinets
- Vent fans
- Kitchen appliances
- We access nearly every attic to inspect them; see our blog post on the importance of this: Break the attic ‘seal’? If we can walk or crawl through the attic without trampling the insulation, we’ll do so to inspect the attic.
- Framing and sheathing
- Exhaust fans and ducts
- Locating attic air leaks typically requires some minor disturbing of insulation. We’ll disturb a little insulation to look when attic air leaks are suspected.
- Overhead doors
- Garage door openers
- All of the other stuff that most folks would probably expect; doors, stairs, walls, floor, electrical, etc.
Phew, that’s a long list. Hopefully that brings you some confidence about what will be covered in your home inspection.
But wait, we did not forget about city inspections. What items will be covered there? See the list below to answer your question.
NOTE- The list below is only a general list and is from Structure Tech’s website. Each city has their own requirements, so only ubiquitous items were included here. A city inspection typically only takes 1 hour compared to a private inspection which could take anywhere from 2-4 hours.
General list of items to be examined during a city inspection:
- Vacuum Breakers
Aka backflow preventers. This is a device that can be purchased at most hardware stores, and should be screwed onto the end of any exterior sillcocks, or indoor faucets that could accept a garden hose thread (typically the laundry faucet). These are basically one-way valves that protect the city’s water supply from potential contamination. Note the set screw in the vacuum breaker pictured to the right – this set screw should be tightened down until broken off to make sure the vacuum breaker is permanently installed.
- Smoke Detectors
Smoke detectors are recommended in every bedroom and one in a common area on every level, such as a hallway. Take time to test every detector in the house, install new batteries if needed, or replace the detector if defective. Smoke detectors should ideally be located on the ceiling in the middle of the room, and never closer than four to six inches to a wall if mounted on the ceiling. If mounted on a wall, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for location.
Leaks and electrical hazards make up a large portion of the repair items. Before having your inspection, take time to make sure there are no leaking plumbing fixtures. To test the sink, fill the sink up with four inches of water, and then let it drain. Look underneath with a flashlight to make sure there are no small drips, and also check the faucet handles for leaks – laundry faucets are the most common offenders. To ensure no electrical issues, replace any missing cover plates at outlets and switches – check the outlet behind your fridge too! Make sure there are no permanently installed appliances running on extension cords – the most common offenders are garage door openers and water softeners.
How Long Does a Home Inspection Take?
Before we get into the cost of a home inspection, we want to quickly touch on how much time is spent on these inspections.
Private Home Inspection:
A good home inspector will take the time needed to closely look through each item on their list. This list should be thorough and at a minimum comply with the ASHI Standards of Practice. It goes without saying, the larger the home, the longer it will take to inspect each item.
A good inspector also budgets time to answer the client’s questions. If you are a first time home buyer, they may spend even more time going over general home maintenance requirements.
All in all, a private home inspection will take anywhere from 2-4 hours to complete.
City Home Inspection:
A city home inspection is not as extensive as a private home inspection and therefore does not take as long.
Most city home inspections take less than 1 hour to complete.
What Do I Get From My Home Inspection?
Again, this question directly impacts the cost of an inspection which is why it’s worth discussing.
Many home inspection companies (at least the good ones) will provide you with the following:
- Education on home ownership & home maintenance
- Education on major issues & general building science
- A report detailing the findings, analysis and recommendations for each item inspected with corresponding photos, possible diagrams/illustrations
- Further information and/or recommendations for problem areas
If you are wondering how to find a great home inspector or how to know if your current home inspector has delivered properly, check out this blog.
Will I Need a Structural Engineer Inspection in Addition to My Traditional Home Inspection and Will it Affect Costs?
This is a great question. Your home inspector should be able to let you know if a structural engineer inspection is necessary. Listed below are a few examples of when it may be required:
- The home inspector found extremely large cracking (particularly horizontal cracks), crumbling, or bowing in the foundation.
- The home inspector found non code compliant structural alterations in the building such as a cut joist or rafter.
- The home inspector found over-cut plumbing notches
- The home inspector found severe soil erosion/grade issues
- The inspector found severe open bypass in the attic leading to ice dams in the winter
If you end up needing a structural engineer inspection, you could expect costs to range from $300-$1,500 depending on the severity of the issue at stake. Engineers charge for their time, so the longer they spend working on a project, the more expensive it will be.
All of the above information has led to this last (but not least) question.
What Does a Home Inspection Cost?
We have finally arrived. Let’s look at what a home inspection costs.
Private Home Inspection
Ok, there are various factors that affect a private home inspection cost. We talked about many of these factors above.
Square footage and the year your home was built greatly impact the cost.
The quality of your home inspector will also come into play here. For example, some inspectors choose to keep it simple or in the worst case scenario, cut corners. They may choose NOT to walk roofs completely or inspect an attic thoroughly. They may produce a cheap report on site or something that only takes 30 minutes or less to generate. Their recommendations may not be clear to the homeowner.
With that being said, a high quality inspector will: spend a lot of time on site, walk roofs and attics completely, and generate a complete report that includes crystal clear explanations regarding repairs & recommendations.
So, when it comes down to it, you are looking at about $300-$400 for an average home inspection and upwards of $600 for either high quality inspections or a home with a high square footage. Multi Family homes are charged per unit.
Note- Other fees may be tacked on if you end up needing say a radon inspection or structural engineering inspection.
City Home Inspection
City home inspection prices have a little less variability because you don’t have a choice who inspects your home.
The price for a city inspection typically ranges between $160-$350 for single family homes. Multi family homes are charged per unit.
This concludes our blog on traditional home inspections and what they cost. If you have any questions on how to obtain a home inspection via home inspector or structural engineer, please reach out at 763-544-3355.