How long does a home inspection take?

Of course a home inspection should take however long is necessary, but there are some general guidelines for how long to expect it to take.

For a typical single family home, around 1,500 to 2,500 square feet I usually expect about 3 to 3.5 hours for an inspection.  A newer house might take a little less time, an older house maybe a little more.  A larger house will of course take more time, but it’s not usually in proportion to the size.  For example, houses in the 3,000 to 5,000 square feet range won’t take twice as long.  A newer and nicer house will usually go faster because there are fewer problems to stop and evaluate and explain.  A house with a wide open basement will usually go faster, just because it’s easier to get to all the places I need to see.

The time to inspect a condominium can vary tremendously depending on what the common areas are like.  For most condominiums I want to see not just the unit that my client is buying but all of the common areas as well, and how long it takes to see these areas will vary depending on the type and age of the building.  For a typical 6 to 12 unit condominium building in Chicago I plan on about 2 to 2.5 hours for a 2- or 3-bedroom and 2-bath inspection.  A small unit in a high-rise building might take just an hour.

Here are some of the issues that affect the length of a home inspection.

When my client asks a lot of questions it definitely slows down the process, sometimes by quite a lot.  But that’s fine.  That’s what we’re there for, and I personally enjoy it when my client is engaged and interested and asking questions.  But it slows things down.

Multiple HVAC systems will add some time, because each piece of equipment has to be looked at but also once the system is running I need to walk around and be sure it’s working properly everywhere.  And this is even more of an issue in the summer when I need to run and test both a furnace and an air conditioner.  Sometimes in a house with multiple HVAC systems it’s not even clear what each thermostat does, so it can take some time just to figure that out.  This can involve a lot of exercise too, going up and down stairs to determine what system is working where.

Lots of bathrooms slows things down.  Each bathroom is a potential water leak spot, so I need to not only check for leaks at the sink and toilet but run a lot of water at the tub/shower so that I can eventually check for water leaks below each fixture.

I generally operate each window, so lots of windows will slow things down.  And if the windows turn out to be hard to operate then I’ll wind up spending an awful lot of time checking each one.

A crawl space can slow things down quite a bit, because it can be hard to navigate through it, and it might even take a lot of time to prepare.  Sometimes I’ll put on coveralls for protection, as well as knee pads, and getting the equipment on and off can be time consuming.  And some attics take a long time to get into, especially if I have to move personal objects in order to get my ladder into place.

A few years ago I was inspecting a condominium unit in a 4- or 6- unit building, fairly new.  We started outside, and my clients had a lot of questions, so we weren’t moving very fast.  After about 45 minutes we were still outside when my clients’ real estate agent showed up.  When he discovered that we hadn’t even gotten inside the building yet he became a little bit agitated and said that we should be just about done with the entire inspection.  What?  I don’t think I could inspect a doghouse in just 45 minutes, but most importantly my clients were still asking me questions so it’s not as though I was the bottleneck.  The inspection was taking as long as it should have.  I won’t allow myself to be pushed along by a real estate agent who just wants to get out of there.  I told my clients that the inspection would take as long as it takes and they continues to ask lots of questions.

I’ve had other agents try to push me along, but I refuse to be rushed.  I’m working for my client.  It’s their inspection.  And it will take however long is necessary to do a thorough home inspection.

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