While most of us ogle granite countertops and plush carpeting, home inspectors look beyond the veneer and into the very heart of a home’s structural, mechanical, and electrical systems.
According to an online survey  from the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), 88% of respondents say hiring a home inspector to walk through a property increases their confidence about a property’s condition.
You can search for an inspector near you, using ASHI’s directory  or the American Home Inspectors Directory . Most states require home inspectors to be licensed , pass a certification exam and fulfill continuing education requirements.
ASHI notes that the home inspection company should provide a contract with the specifics of the home inspection to be performed, as well as its limitations. Many inspectors will allow prospective homeowners to accompany them during the inspection, and will answer questions, demonstrate how to operate various systems in the home, and provide helpful maintenance suggestions.
Inspection fees vary by region and the size and features of the home. A typical inspection fee for a 2,000 square foot is $250 - $350. Most inspectors charge extra for services like radon testing, termite inspections, and well/septic inspections.
Inspectors start by taking in the “big picture,” inspecting the exterior including wall coverings (brick, wood, aluminum) and the condition of windows, doors, porches, decks, roof and foundation. They’ll note how the home sits on the lot and its condition in comparison to neighboring homes.
Inside, inspectors check walls, ceilings and floors, the furnace, hot water heater, electrical panel, and plumbing systems. Additionally, they’ll test faucets, lighting systems and appliances.
Inspectors should provide written inspection reports detailing their findings. The report gives you options on moving forward with a purchase or sale: You can accept certain conditions "as is,” ask that certain items be repaired before closing, or (if major problems are found) revisit the sales price or contract terms. And if you’re having your existing home inspected, you can prioritize improvement projects.