The same way your general practitioner gives you an overall picture of your body’s health, a general home inspection gives you an overall picture of your home’s health. If you had a troubling rash, your GP would send you to a dermatologist for more specialized tests. Similarly, if the home you’re looking to buy has mold, or asbestos, or a leaky roof, your general inspector will recommend you to someone licensed to handle those specific issues.
While additional inspections will cost money, the cost is more than worth it. Inspection costs are often about a tenth (if not less) of what repair costs would be, and if you’re still in the negotiation process, you can likely negotiate for the seller to handle the cost of inspection (and repair, if necessary). Given that one in five buyers expressed regret about not going through more thorough inspections, spending now and saving later is generally the right course of action.
With that in mind, here are 14 of the most common specialized home inspections to consider, including what they cover, when to get them, who to hire, and what they’ll cost. The same way you wouldn’t ignore a troubling skin mole, don’t let home repair warning signs go unheeded.
1. Sewer or Septic System Inspection
A qualified wastewater professional generally performs these inspections. Sewer lines can be damaged by things like seismic activity or root intrusions, and increased occupancy can mean more wear and tear on the sewer main than it was initially built for. In the long run, this can lead to sewer back-ups into a home — a nasty (and costly) situation. For septic systems, inspectors will examine the tank’s sludge level, whether the tank is big enough (or too big), and when it was last pumped. Certain health departments and plumbers are also qualified. Look out for slow-flowing toilets and/or drains, and ask your home inspector if the septic tank is big enough for the house. If the former owner renovated or added extensions to the home, this could be an issue.
Cost: Sewer line inspection, $601 (nationwide average0; Septic system inspection $100-$250, plus an additional $50-$250 if the inspector needs to uncover the tank
2. Pest, Termite, or Rodent Inspection
Licensed pest inspectors look for signs of damage, infestation, or areas that might attract pests. This can come in the form of mud tubes (termite tunneling systems), piles of insect wings, damaged wood, moist wood, or droppings (mice droppings in particular). Some financings (e.g., VA and FHA loans) require pest inspections. Be sure to ask your agent about pests common to your area to determine what inspections are necessary.
Cost: $75-$125, if bundled with a general inspection; $100-$200 if standalone inspection
3. Roof Inspection
Roof damage can be one of the costliest home repair jobs. A licensed, insured roof inspector will check for leaks, damage, mold, rotting wood, and more. Houses whose roofs are 20-25 years old are most vulnerable, but loose shingles and algae growth could be signs of a roof in need of repair.
Cost: $205 (nationwide average)
4. Chimney Inspection
Chimney fires, trapped smoke, and unwelcome odors can be the result of improper ventilation or cracked/deteriorated mortar. A Certified Chimney Sweet technician is the person for the job. This is a necessary step to take before the first time you use the fireplace, so you may as well get it out of the way early. Ask the sellers to provide paperwork to prove they’ve inspected the chimney recently — if they don’t have it, go ahead and do it right then.
Cost: $360-$400 (nationwide average)
5. Electrical inspection
Faulty electrical equipment is an extremely common cause of home fires — don’t wait till it’s too late. A licensed electrician will check for spliced wires, exposed wiring, ungrounded outlets, improperly modified electrical panels and other warning signs. This is necessary for anyone whose 40+ years old, but any pre-owned home should get this inspection, particularly if it’s been renovated, or if any major appliances have been added since the previous inspection.
6. Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) Inspection
Don’t wait for winter to learn that your central heating system is dirty or neglected. Reputable heating companies will check thermostat calibration, air filters, heat pumps, safety controls, and quality of installation to make sure that when you need it, your HVAC system is up to snuff. Look out for questionable temperature readings as a sign that your future home is due for an HVAC inspection.
Cost: $321 (nationwide average)
7. Plumbing and Water Systems Inspection
This can go one of two ways: A professional plumber will check visually, or with the aid of a specialized camera, to determine whether your plumbing is clear. They’ll check all connections under sinks and shutoff supplies, verify that all fixtures are up to code, check water pressure and water heater, and ensure proper drainage. Homes built before 1990, which use now-obsolete plumbing materials, should all get this inspection, but leaks, poor drainage, low water pressure, and other flagrant signs of improper plumbing are all red flags.
Cost: $150-$300 (plus $200 for the specialized camera)
8. Radon Inspection
A disturbingly high number of lung cancer deaths are linked to radon each year. To test for it, you can either do two short-term tests (2-3 days each), or one long-term test (90 days). The tests are lengthy because environmental factors, like the ground shifting, can cause radon levels to fluctuate significantly. Only recent tests (within 2 years) should be treated as valid. Surprisingly, the test will also cover methamphetamine, which can also be damaging to respiratory systems — more than half of all states require sellers to disclose whether methamphetamine was ever manufactured in the home. This can be done via DIY kit, or by several different professional organizations, including the National Radon Proficiency Program and the National Radon Safety Board.
Cost: $90-$250 (if bundled); $450 (independent nationwide average)
9. Asbestos Inspection
Asbestos is tricky — before 1980, no one knew how damaging it could be, and so it was commonly used in the construction of residential homes. It can only be positively identified under a microscope, so the best an asbestos abatement company can do on the spot is determine whether there’s “asbestos-like material” in your house, and then check it in a laboratory. Sellers are required to disclose whether there’s asbestos in a house (if they know about it), but they’re not obligated to pay the repair cost.
Cost: $250-$750 (sampling), $300-$1,200 (air monitoring after removal)
10. Mold Inspection
Another respiratory fiend, mold can cause a host of health problems, many of which mirror allergic reactions. Mold remediation specialists will perform visual tests, sometimes in addition to humidity tests, water intrusion tests, and thermal imaging tests, which can help identify moist spots on the insides of walls.
Cost: $651 (nationwide average)
11. Foundation or Structural Inspection
An apparent slope in the house’s foundation, cracks above doorways, and misaligned doors are all signs that the foundation could be in need of repair. Foundational issues can lead to a host of other problems, including roof damage, angled floors, and open your home up to potential water damage. Because of how integral these issues are to the health of your home, repairs are often quite costly — in the range of $5,000 to $6,000. If you suspect an issue, structural engineers can help you nip it in the bud.
Cost: $600 (nationwide average)
12. Landscaping/Soil Analysis
Landscapers and/or soil professionals will be able to analyze the makeup of your house’s land, and determine whether it’s able to accommodate the natural shifting and settling of the house. Hillside property can be especially vulnerable, with erosion, mudflows, gullies, and other weather-related issues as common concerns.
Cost: $700-$1,500 (nationwide average)
13. Pool and Spa Inspection
Any home that has a pool deserves the attention of a certified pool and spa inspector (there’s a national society). They’ll check the efficacy of latching and fences, as well as whether electrical equipment is far enough from the water to not pose an electrocution threat. Built-in maintenance systems like the filter, pump, and heater will also be examined.
Cost: $250-$600, depending on the size of the pool and where you live
14. Underground Oil Tank Inspection
Back in the ’60s and ’70s, underground oil tanks were commonly used to heat homes. We don’t do that anymore, but the underground tanks are still taking effect — sometimes to the tune of $100,000 repair costs. Any tank more than a couple of decades-old is at a significant risk of rust and leakage. Some home inspectors offer this as part of the general inspection, but if they don’t, you can usually find an oil tank testing and removal company in your area.
Cost: $30-$100 (compare that to $100,000 — no-brainer)
Be The Prudent Homeowner
If you were to undergo all of these inspections, you’d be looking at something in the range of $5,000-$7,500. Maybe that sounds like a lot on its face, but if you compare that to the total cost of all of these repairs, it’s practically nothing. Going to the doctor is not particularly fun, and perhaps looking at a long list of inspections will sound like a pain. But trust us, when it comes to home maintenance, the overriding principle of Better safe than sorry will never steer you wrong.
Check with your DRU Advisor on which inspections they would suggest for your specific translation. Most likely, all of these are not necessary, and we deploy unique strategies to both ensure you get the information you need while also keeping your costs as low as possible.