On average, a home inspection takes about 3 hours, but many factors affect this time, and time is not a direct indicator of quality. It may be useful in planning your day around the inspection, but prospective buyers should not assume a quick inspection is deficient, or that a longer inspection is thorough.
The short answer is that the industry average is around 3 hours. There are a lot of factors that can influence this time though. There is no good rule of thumb.
The house it self is the single biggest factor in how long an inspection will take. The size of the home is the biggest factor of course. Larger homes take longer than small homes. Larger homes may have multiple HVAC systems, extra bathrooms, and even more than one water heater.
Many inspectors will budget at least 1 hour per 1000 square feet.
The condition of the home can be a bigger factor though. If the inspector needs to stop every 2 minutes to take a photo of a defect, and write down his observation, it is going to take a long time to finish the house. Well maintained homes are lot easier and quicker to inspect than neglected homes with a lot of major issues.
The age of the home can significantly affect how long the inspection takes. Older houses have different electrical systems such as knob and tube, and different HVAC systems such as boilers with radiators. An older home will generally take longer than a newer home of the same size. A new home is not always in good condition, but on average take less time.
The features of the house is another factor. For example complicated HVAC systems with many zones, or a basement with a mini bar and kitchenette can increase the length of a home inspection.
A general home inspection includes the roof (only required to be inspected from the ground); the exterior including siding, trim, decks, windows, doors, stairs, grading etc; the electrical systems including the electrical panel, receptacles, switches, lights and fans; the plumbing system including the water heater, toilets, sinks, showers and supply and drain piping; the foundation and structure including the attic framing, foundation walls, columns, beamns, and joists; and the insulation and ventilation.
Basically, a home inspector inspects the major systems looking for safety hazards, major mechanical issues, and visible structural damage. A good home inspector can help make sure that your dream home does not become a nightmare.
Not everything is included in a standard home inspection though. For example inspectors exclude environmental testing, and they don’t inspect for code violations.
Some home inspectors offer additional services such as Radon testing, mold testing, sewer scopes, chimney inspections, infrared thermography and well and septic inspections.
Any additional services will add additional time to the inspection, but give you a more in depth idea of the homes condition.
What tools is the Inspector Using?
What tools is the inspector not using?
Drones VS. Ladders
One factor that can dramatically affect the duration of a home inspection is the tools that the inspector uses, or doesn’t use.
For example, an inspector using a drone to inspect the roof is going to take longer than an inspector using a ladder. Drones can take a while set up, and can be slow moving around the roof to get photos. This is also a perfect example about how longer, isn’t better.
While a drone is safer than using a ladder, many defects will be missed by an inspector using a drone. A ladder is quicker, but results in a much more thorough inspection.
An inspector using a drone will not be able to check nailing patterns, adhesive strip failure, wobbly chimneys, soft spots, how many layers of roofing there are, and many other defects.
A home inspector will need to remove electrical panel covers, HVAC panel covers, whirlpool panels, and sometimes the screws from an attic, or crawl space door. Having a cordless drill can end up saving a considerable amount of time.
Some home inspectors are still writing all of their notes on a notepad, and taking photos with a digital camera. At this point, using a digital camera at all is obsolete and slower. Professional home inspection companies leverage technology to make their inspection process more efficient.
Apps for home inspectors allow them to take their photos, write their notes, and deliver their reports all from one place. This is an incredible time saver that does not diminish the quality of the inspection.
How Many Inspectors are Present?
The vast majority of home inspection companies send out one home inspector to complete the job. This is mostly because the vast majority of companies are single man shops.
Industry experts estimate that approximately 80 percent of home inspection companies have only one inspector on staff. Realtors, home buyers, and sellers have come to expect just one inspector when factoring in how long the inspection will take.
The industry is changing though. It is a new industry after all. Industry lore estimates that the first home inspection was performed approximately 50 years ago. A few inspection companies are starting to set the minimum number of inspectors at a property at 2.
This allows the average inspection time of 2-4 hours to be decreased, to 1-2 hours. Our average inspection time is about 1.5 hours.
Personality, physical fitness, and experience can all affect the duration of the home inspection.
Personality of the Home Inspector
Some home inspectors are chatty. Other home inspectors are not very social. Many home inspectors feel late if they show up on time, and some will show up right on time (if not late). There are inspectors that prefer to inspect by system moving all around the house. Yet others move around the house linearly and inspect the components as they come.
(Sometimes it’s even the Real Estate Agent that is chatty and slowing down the home inspector ????)
All of these factors can significantly add or decrease the duration of the inspection without substantially affecting the quality.
Physical Fitness of the Home Inspector
A physically fit, or athletic home inspector will be able to move through the inspection process much quicker than an unathletic or inactive home inspector. Inspections can be physically demanding. You have ladders to set up and scale, stairs to climb, crawl spaces to crawl in, and you’re definitely getting in your 10,000 daily steps.
This can make the difference of an hour or more.
Again, this doesn’t necessarily affect the quality of the inspection. As long as both inspectors are inspecting the house fully and thoroughly, it doesn’t really matter.
The Experience of the Home Inspector
An experienced home inspector is generally quicker than a newer inspector.
10 years ago, my inspections took much longer. I was green and still figuring out my process. Writing up my observations did not come as naturally, and running into new and unique defects was much more common.
These days, writing up any defect is second nature, and there isn’t much that I have not seen before. My inspections go much quicker than they did 10 years ago, but not from any exclusions or omissions. I have really honed in on my home inspection process over the years.
That is not to say that a green, and slower inspector isn’t as good. In fact, I would expect that a newer inspector as thorough, and knowledgeable as me would take longer. It’s just the nature of the job.
Yes, the industry average is about 3 hours. Knowing how long it will take can help plan your day around it, but it’s not any sort of indicator into the quality of the inspection.
A home buyer would be better off knowing how long the inspection has been in business, whether or not they walk on the roof, the online reputation of the inspection company, and what additional training the inspector has such as infrared thermography training, or chimney inspection training.
Ultimately, you want the inspector to identify safety issues, potential problems, and necessary repairs regardless of how long the inspection takes.