Amid a highly competitive housing market, should you ever skip a home inspection to make your bid more competitive? Or try to get an inspection on the cheap? Here are the dos and don'ts.
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If you're considering purchasing a home, condominium, or even a commercial building, having the structure thoroughly inspected before finalizing the sale is a critical step. Though some brave buyers may opt to skip this step in overheated housing markets in order to increase their chances of securing the property in a competitive bidding situation, few experts advise such a risky approach.

Inspections conducted by an impartial professional allow for a visual examination of the property from top to bottom including a review of such things as the structure's roof, foundation, drainage, plumbing and heating systems, and even walls, windows, and doors. Here's a closer look at what you can expect to pay for an inspection, how to select a home inspector, and whether it's possible (or even advisable) to try and cut costs on the inspection process.

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Average cost of a home inspection

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development reports that a typical home inspection costs anywhere from $300 to $500. Though most real estate industry professionals say the actual fee you pay varies significantly based on where in the country you live, and any additional elements you choose to include in the inspection process.

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"There are add-on services buyers can consider for an additional cost, such as a formal pest inspection report…radon tests, and inspections for wells or septic—which are often done by a different company," explains Avon, Conn., real estate agent Alison Malkin, of RE/MAX Essentia. "The minimum for a simple, no-add-on inspection for a small house is $399. The highest I have seen for an average inspection, which is about an 1,800-square-foot house, including pest, radon, pool, well and septic, and sewer line inspections, was around $2,000."

Selecting a home inspector

In order to find a reputable, professional inspector and one who offers a reasonable price, you'll need to do your research and shop around.

"Get multiple recommendations and not just from your real estate agent," says licensed real estate broker Kris Lippi, a member of the Forbes Real Estate Council and owner of the real estate website ISoldMyHouse."Ask for referrals from friends and family, and the American Society of Home Inspectors, to find the best inspector for the job."

As you're reviewing all the options, however, remember that finding the absolute lowest price for an inspection should not necessarily be your only motivation. It's best to find a balance between a competitive price and an inspector who has a solid reputation.

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"Generally, a lower cost inspection is delivered by a provider with less experience and knowledge, or one who has automated some or most of the process," says Atlanta-based home inspector John Mease, owner of John Mease Home Inspections. "Much like a fast-food hamburger joint versus a steakhouse—you generally get what you pay for."

The Department of Housing and Urban Development recommends asking some, or all, of the following questions as your searching for a home inspector:

  • How long have you been practicing in the home inspection profession and how many inspections have you completed?
  • Are you specifically experienced in residential inspection?
  • Do you offer to do repairs or improvements based on the inspection?
  • What type of inspection report do you provide and how long will it take to receive the report?
  • Will I be able to attend the inspection?
  • Do you maintain membership in a professional home inspector association?

Cutting costs on inspections

There are various ways buyers can try to save money on the cost of a home inspection. The real question is whether the options for accomplishing this goal are advisable. For instance, Los Angeles-based Chantay Bridges, a senior real estate specialist with EXP Realty, says everything can be negotiated in real estate—including who pays the inspection cost.

"Home inspections are not mandatory, they can be waived, and they can be paid for by the seller," explains Bridges. "A buyer can ask the homeowner to cover the costs in their original offer to purchase the property."

Of course, you'll want to think very carefully about whether, amid the current competitive real estate market, it's wise to ask a seller to cover inspection costs. Often, you'll find the answer is a hard no. And you risk having a bid rejected simply for making the request.

"Real estate is extremely competitive here in Los Angeles and this is definitely not the market where you would ask the seller to pay for your home inspection," says Bridges. "Many homes receive multiple offers and you're competing with another person who may not be asking for anything. They may even be waiving the inspection altogether."

You might also save a bit of money by asking your realtor to provide a referral to an inspector that he or she regularly works with. "Many realtors have relationships with vendors in this space and because of that, the inspector may be willing to reduce [their fee] or offer you a discount or a percentage off if you're recommended to them by a brokerage," says Bridges. 

Skipping the inspection altogether

In an extreme seller's market like the one the country experienced during the height of the COVID pandemic, more than a few buyers chose to waive home inspections altogether to make their purchase offers more competitive. But buyer beware, this is often a move that can cost you more in the long run in the form of unexpected problems arising with the home.

"This is not something I recommended or allowed my clients to do, but many buyers were doing this," says Malkin, of Connecticut-based REMAX/Essentia. "A home inspection is really important because even though it's not a guarantee, it can help you identify and get things fixed or get credited for the repair, or even walk away if necessary."

Buying a home is a huge investment and inspections offer a snapshot of the property's overall condition, which is an important part of the home-buying journey. If the inspector finds a significant number of problems with the home, for instance, you can assume there are also many issues that can't be readily seen during an inspection, explains Malkin. On the other hand, if the home inspection yields only minimal issues, you can breathe a little easier knowing the home is likely in decent shape.

"Skipping an inspection means you might not discover that the electrical box needs to be replaced, or there are structural issues due to insect infestation, or that the roof is inadequate," explains Malkin. "All of these things can cost thousands of dollars to repair. [An inspection] won't necessarily catch everything (you can't see what's going on behind the walls), but it can catch a lot."

Paying for problems identified during an inspection

The issues identified during an inspection can range from minor fixes that are inexpensive to address to major, costly repairs. How you respond to such discoveries as a prospective buyer may be impacted by a variety of factors, including your budget, how much you want the home, and how serious the challenges are.

"Depending on the issue, buyers may request a price reduction, request a repair made and paid for by the seller prior to closing, or even decide to walk away from the home," says Malkin. 

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It's also important to remember that an inspection is not a guarantee that all issues with a prospective home purchase will be identified. However, if something significant should arise post-inspection, there are remedies to consider before laying out all the money yourself for repairs.

"If something 'should have been caught'—which can be subjective common sense or legally—then the owner may request a refund from the inspector or a reduction in the sales price or a credit to address the missed problem," says Malkin. "For major issues, a buyer may choose to even go back to the seller to request that they pay for the repair costs, again making the argument that the seller should have known about the issue."

And finally, you might even consider litigation in such situations, but bear in mind that it may well be a very expensive and long, drawn-out process.