The cost of an inspection ranges from inspector to inspector and house to house. I've seen them as cheap as $150 but usually no more than $450 (for an average single family home). A lot of inspectors charge depending on square footage, age of the home, and the scope of work involved.
More important than price is the inspector's knowledge and experience. Research an inspector's work and background before choosing one. An inspection should take a good 3 hours at least if the inspector is doing a thorough job. It may save you thousands of dollars to pay a little bit more for an experienced inspector who really knows what he/she is doing vs. hiring the least expensive inspector who just started inspecting homes a few weeks ago and has little or no training/experience.
Not to be rude but, Seanf, there is no average home inspection cost. There is a RANGE of home inspection costs from $250 for a Studio/Condo under 1,000 Sq. Ft. to a few thousands for a waterfront mansion with an acre of land.
A good home inspection includes basement or crow space, attic , exterior, building structure, appliances, and mold and past inspection. Typically, to estimate an inspection cost, an inspector will ask you for the property details, such as built year, Sq. Ft., bedroom and bathroom number, and property style (Condo, Townhouse, SFH with or without basement), before they give you a price.
Then, it also depends on the quality of inspection. Some inspectors from a well-known company will charge you 10 or 20% more but provide you a typed, formal, and detailed inspection report. Some independent inspectors charge less and provide you a hand-written quick inspection result on site.
Third, it all depends on what you aim for on the inspection. If my clients are experience buyer and don't need the inspection to cut down the offer price, I recommend a less expensive one. If my clients are new to home purchase and are making negotiation after home inspection, I would recommend a detailed inspection report.
The best way for you is to trust your Realtor. Ask your Realtor to provide you a few inspector names to contact. S/He should have a few inspectors with different price ranges for different types of clients. If you don't have much options, contact me and I can give you some names I trust.
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Please don't risk getting an average inspection, get a great inspection. Prices vary, you can interview inspectors and review sample reports on their websites or by email. I've seen some pretty pathetic inspection reports and some inspectors I would never recommend. It's a wide open competitive field.
Ideally you want someone with a background in building who has years of inspection experience. They know their limitations and will recommend more specific detailed inspections when necessary.
A home inspector is a generalist, they know a little about a lot of things and then they refer out for HVAC, Sewer Scoping, Arborists, etc which they are not qualified or trained to address.
If you are spending a few hundred thousand dollars a home, don't be afraid to know what you are buying by getting a good inspection.
If you want a referral, contact me. My preferred inspector uses great technology, writes a very useful report and is priced competitively.