Brief guide to property inspection

Whether you rent, own, or are looking to invest in real estate, property inspections are a normal part of the real estate landscape. Property inspections are carried out on both residential and commercial properties and can affect the value of a property investment, so they're important to understand. Read on to learn more about the different kinds of property inspections, the purposes they serve, and how you can prepare for them.

Man with a hard hat and clipboard stands next to a house and takes notes.

Table of contents

When do property inspections take place?City and state inspectionConstruction inspectionBank inspectionRental property inspectionInsurance inspection

When do property inspections take place?

Property inspections normally take place when a home has been recently built or renovated, when a property is being sold, or when it's being rented out. They can be required by your landlord, your local government, or by a private party like an insurer or potential home buyer. Some inspectors work for the agencies sending them to your home, and others are third-party contractors who specialize in specific kinds of inspections.

City and state inspection

Your city will inspect to ensure that certain property conditions are met. These will usually be conducted by a property inspector employed by the city, and they will be working from a property inspection checklist prepared by that municipality. Ideally, at the end of the inspection, you’ll be issued certifications showing that your property passes official muster and is ready to be occupied. 

There are two common certifications you can expect to be assessed for: 

  1. Certificate of Occupancy, which states the home is habitable. 

  2. Certificate of Habitability, which states that the property has met certain health and safety standards. 

On top of city inspections, your state may also require periodic inspections to make sure you meet their guidelines, as well. Each state has its own. It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the guidelines, so you can fix any existing issues and don’t have to scramble when inspection time comes around.

Construction inspection

When undertaking any building projects or renovations, you will often undergo a construction inspection, both by the city and state, to ensure that everything is being built to code. The home inspector will look into a variety of issues to make sure the property meets safety standards. 

A fire inspector will check to make sure that proper fireproofing is in place, an electrical inspection will ensure you’ve properly wired the home, and a plumbing inspection may assess everything from new pipes to bathroom sinks. They will also conduct a building inspection, which looks at everything outside those three categories, such as the siding and roofing.

Bank inspection

Bank inspections are usually carried out when a home is being bought or sold. A bank will send an appraiser out to look at the house and make sure it is worth the amount of money they’re going to loan the buyer, and to make sure there aren’t any issues with the building. External inspections are more common than internal ones, but if you are selling, be prepared to deal with both. 

Buyers can also ask for additional inspections to be made when purchasing a home, including environmental, termite, and radon inspections.

Hand holding a magnifying glass over a house.

Rental property inspection

Property inspection is an important step in renting a house and is one of the landlord’s responsibilities. Before a tenant moves in, the landlord and tenant will walk through the property together to note the condition of the home and the appliances and fixtures in it. 

When a tenant moves out, another inspection is due. After the tenant moves their belongings out and cleans the unit, the landlord and tenant walk through together to look for any damages beyond normal wear and tear, which are typically deducted from the security deposit.

Insurance inspection

When you apply for insurance coverage for a property, the insurer will want to make sure that you’re accurately representing the building. They will send out an inspector to look for possible liabilities, and to make sure you’ve applied for the appropriate kind of insurance, especially if you are buying rental property. 

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