The Chicago Real Estate Minute

A Definitive Step: The Real Estate Inspection

5 minute read

Whether you’re the buyer or the seller, the real estate inspec­tion is a vital “make-or-break” juncture early on in the process. Here’s a rundown of what can happen and what to expect.

When the Real Estate Inspection Happens

It most often occurs within a few business days of the home going under contract. This is done for many reasons — a buyer wants to know ASAP if they are going to move forward with the home or not, and the seller does too so they can get back on the market if this deal goes south. Inspectors are accus­tomed to working on quick turn­around times, so that’s normally not an issue.

What to Expect During the Inspection

Regardless of the age of a home, there are always things that will come up. After all, the inspec­tor’s job is to inspect — and no home is perfect, even new con­struc­tion. Since we know that there will be things that are found, the question is: what will be dis­cov­ered and how important/detrimental is it? A cracked tile or a dirty furnace is a far cry from a bad foun­da­tion or mold run amuck. Do not expect that nothing will be found, and be sure to discuss the findings and best way to take action with your attorney and broker.

The inspec­tion is also (by far) the single longest single period of time that you will have free and unre­strict­ed access to the home. Do not waste the time you have there. Take mea­sure­ments, get quotes from painters or other trades if needed, and if you have family that wants to see the home now is the time.

The Aspects of a Home that get Inspected

There are many things that an inspector should check. Here is a list of some of the most common things reviewed, broken down into three cat­e­gories: condos, single-family homes, and what’s always done regard­less of the home type.

All inspections should include a review of:

  • Electrical panel and outlets
  • Mechanicals: furnace/boiler, air con­di­tion­ing, water heater
  • Appliances: stove, microwave, dish­wash­er, fridge, washer/dryer
  • Plumbing: toilets, sinks, showers
  • Checking for moisture/leaks — both visually and using testing equipment, both inside and outside the home
  • The nuts & bolts: doors, windows, cabinets, light fixtures
  • All potential safety items
  • A review of the side of the structure (tuck­point­ing, vinyl siding, etc.)
  • A general review of the exterior of the property
Image by Russell Holden from Pixabay

Single family homes

  • Roof, including the chimney, flashing and parapets walls
  • Attic space (some inspec­tors charge extra for this or don’t do it since it can be chal­leng­ing, but the good ones always do it and include it)
  • Foundation
  • Structural integrity
  • Sump pump and/or ejector pump


This is a list of the common areas that should be inspected and at no addi­tion­al cost. As mentioned, some inspec­tors either refuse to inspect them or will charge extra. Ask them before­hand, and only work with one who will do it as part of their standard cost.

  • Storage area
  • Basement as a whole
  • Common hallways and stairways
  • The home’s private deck/porch
  • Any main­te­nance concerns
  • Building’s mechan­i­cals

The Quality of the Inspector

Choosing who you use really matters — just as with realtors, there are some good ones and many lousy ones. They should know that this is not your line of work and explain every­thing in terms a layperson would easily under­stand. The best ones will be non-judg­men­tal and very straight­for­ward, telling you what they see and why it’s important. If something is done par­tic­u­lar­ly well or par­tic­u­lar­ly poorly, they should show it to you and make sure you clearly under­stand everything.

Additionally, you should leave the inspec­tion with a very good under­stand­ing of the inspec­tor’s overall opinion of the home in relation to all that they’ve seen. Note: inspec­tors cannot directly tell you to buy or not buy a home. So be sure to listen to what they say about how con­cern­ing things might be.

Final Word

The real estate inspec­tion is not something to skimp on. Getting your cousin who’s a handyman or your old college pal who does some con­struc­tion to take a look so you can “save a few bucks” may be the most expensive lesson you will ever learn. A good inspector will catch things that others miss, which could save you tens of thousands of 💰…

Thanks for Gregg Dimpfl of RFH & Associates for his valuable con­tri­bu­tions to this article.

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