Does a long home inspection mean bad news?

Is this good or bad news for the seller if a home inspection takes a long time? Or neither?

Great question. The quick answer is there are so many variables that affect the duration of a home inspection that the time of the inspection alone won’t give much meaningful information when it comes to determining the condition of the home. I’ll discuss several of these variables to help better understand what makes a home inspection take longer.

With all of the items listed below, the assumption is that all other things are equal.

The House

Large houses take more time to inspect than small houses.

Old houses take more time to inspect than new houses. Part of the reason is that the house has had time for components to fail, rot, or reach the end of their life. Used houses typically have many different components in different stages of their life expectancy, and it’s the home inspector’s job to let the client know about components at the end of their life expectancy.

Remodeled/renovated houses take longer to inspect. When new systems are mixed in with old systems, the house gets more complex. This frequently means additional HVAC systems, electrical subpanels, etc. All of these additional components considerably add to the time it takes to inspect a house.

Complicated houses take longer to inspect. The more types of roof coverings, siding, windows, floor coverings, etc., the longer the inspection will take. Several small rooms will take significantly more time to inspect than one large room.

Attics and crawl spaces add to the inspection time. Multiple attics and/or crawl spaces considerably add to the inspection time.

Tall buildings take more time to inspect than short buildings. This is because it’s more work to access the roof. It’s a piece of cake for a home inspector to pull a Little Giant ladder out of their vehicle and hop onto the roof. That works great for shorter buildings or buildings where the upper roof areas can be accessed from the lower roof areas. It’s a lot more work to unstrap a 28′ extension ladder from the truck and set it up, then carry it back and strap it onto the truck when done using it.

For example, I spent nearly an hour inspecting the roof surfaces at the home pictured below because I used different ladders and took many photos of the roof.

Long Roof Inspection

Houses with deferred maintenance (aka – “no maintenance”) take a lot longer to inspect. It takes time to document problems, and these problem areas then need to be further inspected to help determine what else might be wrong.

The Inspector

One inspector could easily take twice as long as the next inspector to inspect the exact same property. Sometimes, this is a direct reflection of the quality of the inspection.

Inspector F might inspect the crawl space by looking into the opening, inspect the roof from the ground with binoculars, and say the attic was obstructed with personal items and could not be inspected.

On that same house, inspector A might inspect the crawl space by crawling through it. Before doing so, she might have to set up a tarp outside the crawl space so as not to make a mess when coming out, go out to her vehicle and change into some coveralls before going into the crawl space, spend ten minutes inspecting the crawl space, then clean everything back up. This same inspector might not have any problem moving the sellers items to gain access to the attic, and would surely walk the roof to inspect it. Just these three items could easily add an hour onto the inspection time.

Some home inspectors produce their inspection reports on-site, which adds considerable time to the inspection. At least, it should. If a home inspector says that producing a report on-site doesn’t add much time to the inspection, they’re probably producing a poorly written inspection report filled with generic disclaimers about everything under the sun and lots of sentences ending with “for its age” (eg – “The 30-year-old roof was in normal condition for its age”).

And some home inspectors talk more.

The Client

Clients with tons of questions make the inspection take longer. Especially the “why” questions.

Engineers take more time. They’re usually not satisfied until they can successfully explain a problem back to us

Inspections for first-time home buyers often take longer than inspections for experienced homeowners. First-time home buyers often need to have the basics explained: what a furnace is, how it operates, how to change the furnace filter, etc.

Multiple clients at an inspection will usually make things take longer. More questions, more conversations.

The bottom line

Don’t put too much stock in the amount of time that a home inspection takes. The duration of a home inspection is affected by too many variables for a home seller to draw any conclusions. A long home inspection isn’t necessarily bad news.

Written By

Reuben is a second-generation home inspector with a passion for his work. He grew up remodeling homes and learning about carpentry since he was old enough to hold a hammer. Reuben grew up thinking he was going to be a school teacher because he enjoyed teaching others so much. In a sense, that’s a lot of what home inspections are about, so Reuben truly does what he loves. Sharlene has worked with Structure Tech since 2000 and Reuben has been contributing to her blog since 2008.

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