The cost of a Home Inspection - why they vary between companies, inspectors and areas of the country
If you’re purchasing a home, you’ve probably been advised about all the various costs associated with this process. It seems like there is no end. Even though there are so many costs, your due diligence is probably one of the single most important steps in the homebuying process, and not the place to skimp on costs. Knowing this, it still surprises me how people are so surprised about the costs of a home inspection. Many people are scared off by the inspection fees they are quoted, figuring that it should really only cost a couple hundred dollars. The reality is that home inspection pricing varies by many factors, including location, inspection company, services offered and/or included, the inspector’s experience level, and more.
Lots of our clients assume that what they have read in the news about an average cost is pretty much what they are going to pay (Bankrate says National average is $341.00). As an experienced, Boston-area multi-inspector firm, our average is way above that - at $675.00 (This includes our Commercial side, which has higher fees but is only about 5% of our business). A software industry leader ran a study in 2022 and found our state (Massachusetts) to have an average fee of $500-$600, vs Florida, which had an average of $300-$400 Why so different? Why would a home inspection cost more in Boston vs Las Vegas?
Age of homes in the area - This is probably the single most important factor. In Boston we can be inspecting a home that is anywhere from brand new construction to over 300 years old (yes 300! - We inspected this one last week). This means that inspectors in Boston are going to have a more challenging job than in an area where most of the housing stock is post WW2. They have to build in their expertise and knowledge base into the fees. Ask your inspector what their experience is with the local housing stock and types of homes in the area.
Cost of living and doing business - Generally services cost more in major metro areas and especially in the Northeast or other East Coast urban areas. Taxes, insurance, equipment, fuel, and other things are higher in these areas. When considering the fees in your area, consider the local costs of doing business.
Expertise of the inspector- You’re going to pay more for an inspector with expertise and experience. Expect to pay at the top 25% of the range of costs just for this one element/aspect. (Our fees, for example, are around the 75th percentile in the range of fees in our market). Ask your inspector what their experience level is – how long have they been doing this? How many inspections have they done?
Equipment and certifications - Some inspectors have no certifications and little equipment costs, whereas others might have state licensure requirements, radon and pest certifications, Infrared and drone certifications, and they may have - and use- the equipment that goes along with it. Ask your inspector what they include in their service, and if they have additional tech and services beyond a basic inspection (Do they use a drone? Do they use infrared?)
Education - Some inspectors do very little, if no, continuing education, and some do a lot. Some states and/or professional organizations requires it. ASHI (American Society of Home Inspectors) for example, requires 20 hours of continuing education for their members, annually. Our state, Massachusetts, is a licensed state (all home inspectors are required to be licensed here – not all states have licensure) requires 12 hours of continuing education per license period (every 2 years). Generally, this means that they have to pay for and attend this continuing education. This also takes up time they could be generating revenue. Ask your inspector if they are licensed and if they belong to any professional organizations.
Services/resources - Some inspectors have detailed and resource-rich inspection reporting software, and others have a run-of-the-mill, basic inspection report. Software-as-a-service (SAAS) and other resources have costs associated with them, and many inspectors incorporate these resources into their products/services, to enhance the quality of their services. For example, we use a company called Spectora for our reports- which we have found to be the industry-leaders in reporting, and in our experience, provides the best, easiest to read report for our clients. Ask your inspector what they use, and to see a sample report. Ask your inspector what is included in their reports.
Attention and care to clients - At the end of the day you need an inspector who cares about you during this incredibly stressful time, and during this crucial part of the homebuying process. This means that reputation is key, and the most reputable inspectors are probably going to be above the average cost in your area. For any inspector you might be looking to hire, check out their google reviews, yelp reviews, and any other reputation-based websites in your area. Check the state website for any license infractions and the BBB for complaints. Have a phone conversation with your inspector before committing to hiring them – ask them a few basic questions just to see how they respond – this will give you a much better feel for their character and disposition.
Services included/not included - This is an important one as well. Pricing may vary widely because one Home Inspector may include service like a Pest Inspection while another inspector charges an additional fee for this service. Make sure you are comparing all the same services when shopping inspectors. Ask exactly your inspector what’s included and not included in the inspection so you can accurately compare pricing between companies.
This all goes to say: You get what you pay for. The range of pricing will vary depending on your market, but bottom line - whatever you do, do not go with the cheapest inspector. Make sure you research the individual and/or company so you’ve got a trustworthy, experienced person on your side, who cares about you. The cost of hiring a bad or incompetent home inspector is far higher than the cost to hire a proven professional.