Home Insurance Inspection — What to Expect and How to Prepare

A home is too big of an investment for you to not feel secure. If you’ve purchased a policy, a few days have passed, and you get a notice for a home insurance inspection, don’t fret, these are commonplace in the insurance world. Companies have self-imposed deadlines of up to 90 days after the policy is signed to decide whether or not your home needs inspecting.

The process itself is fairly simple and begins with a person showing up at your front door; one that’s going to carry out the aforementioned procedure — an inspector. 

What is an insurance inspector? Well, the name pretty much stands for the job description. To put it bluntly, they’re a problem spotter, a professional in assessing homes whose main job it is to help the company avoid a large number of claims. They are an individual that you welcome into your home who plays a pivotal role in evaluating your policy and deciding whether it goes through and under which conditions. 

But what do insurance inspectors do exactly? Well, they walk around your humble abode and check for any potential hazards that might harm people or the property itself. More often than not, they take photos as well.

The process isn’t initiated solely by the insurance company. If you’ve recently bought a home and you want to get it insured, you can ask the company to perform one for you. 

You can even get home insurance without an inspection, in some instances. It’s also a good idea to inquire whether your insurance company accepts appraisals when preparing your insurance. Appraisals are often mandatory when applying for mortgages or when you’re selling the property. If the home is not that old, the company might accept one, however, this is entirely up to them.

So, without further ado, let’s dive right in.

Home Insurance Inspection — What Do They Check

In essence, insurance companies assess homes based on the risk they represent. A new report will likely be vastly different from an old one. Things change — no one and nothing is immune to time. Thus, newer homes might pass with flying colors when it comes to interior inspections, whereas older ones may not. Different kinds of factors impact the overall outcome and assessment of the insurance property inspector; the size, the location, and the age of a house all have a part to play.

The two main reasons for a home inspection are to appraise the home’s replacement cost (not the same as its market value) and to see whether any pre-existing risks should be addressed. The replacement cost determines the price of insurance premiums and it encompasses the costs of both the labor and the materials to rebuild a home. Other areas home insurance inspectors have to focus on entail the analysis of the property’s overall condition.

The person that conducts the whole process is highly-skilled, and despite the whole procedure being relatively short, they are trained to detect even the slightest shortcomings and dangers with a simple visual inspection. They know exactly what to look out for — hence why these people are paid handsomely by insurance home inspection companies.

Different Kinds of Inspections

Exterior Inspection

Essentially, it all starts with the general measurement of the dimensions of the property. Mainly because the tax info is usually lacking or incorrect, so the inspector has to make sure what these are. They will look over the outside of the home, enquire about the roof’s age, and inspect the downspouts and gutters to make sure that everything is in perfect order. They might even ask whether there’s a dog about and inquire about its temperament. Once they conclude the exterior insurance inspection, they will include all their notes and photographs into their file for further study (later on).

Interior Inspection

If the home is relatively new, you might just get a pass on this one. However, if the inspector does step foot through the door, know that they will most likely head for the attic first to check how the roof sheathing is holding up, and to spot any potential ventilation and moisture problems. 

They will look for these things throughout the home as they move and check the ceilings, walls, floors, windows, cupboards, staircases, and basements (if there are any). So, if you think you don’t have to clean up and move things around for a house inspection, well, guess again. Clutter restricts movement and hinders the whole process; tidiness is always appreciated.

Wind Mitigation Inspection

Simply put, it’s an analysis of the property’s weather-withstanding features. This type of assessment informs the insurance company of the general stability and sturdiness of a home in case of strong winds or storms. The features examined here can range from roofs to doors and window coverings. This type of home inspection for insurance is commonplace in coastal areas of the Southeastern United States.

4-Point Inspection

Often unavoidable for homes over 40 years old and properties available for rent that have passed the 30-year mark. In short, it focuses on the biggest areas for concern. This might also mean that the inspector will pay less attention to the previously-discussed things when conducting this particular kind of insurance home inspection. Namely, they will spend their time on four aspects of the home: the roofing, the plumbing, the HVAC, and the electrical system.

Full Home Inspection

While most companies settle for a mere 4-point inspection, seeing how these are the most common places where liability issues are found, there might be some companies out there that demand a greater, deeper dive into the home’s condition and insist on doing a full home inspection for insurance purposes

On top of the usual exterior and interior check-ups, this inspection might also include the audit of appliances, the review of the building’s architectural features, as well as general things such as structural integrity and possible system issues. With the abundance of areas that need covering, this is a more thorough, time-consuming, and expensive checkup — hence why it isn’t common practice.

How to Prepare for a Home Insurance Inspection

While no one enjoys paying a fee month after month, as an accountable homeowner, you know that having the right policy in place is crucial for protecting one of your most valuable possessions — your home. After all, you live in it. Ensuring its overall security is one of the most responsible things you can do. And, you usually can’t get home insurance without an inspection first.

Like with all things, preparation is key. You don’t want to be caught off guard and have something held against you that could have easily been avoided. If you have an inspection scheduled, it might seem a tad nerve-racking at first, so it’s critical that you prep in advance, formulate a plan, and be ready when the inspector comes knocking on your door. It’s best you put together your own DIY home inspection checklist.

Use common sense. Walk around your property and keep a lookout for weird things while you think of areas that could be seen as potential liabilities, places where people could get hurt, or areas where the property could get damaged easily such as overgrown trees, unsecure pool areas, fire hazards, etc. After you have identified and dealt with them, start checking them off one by one from your home insurance inspection checklist. 

Exterior

  • Roof (chimneys and skylights)
  • Gutters, downspouts, and drainage
  • Carports or garages
  • Driveways, walkways, and patios
  • Balconies, porches, steps, and railings
  • Exterior doors
  • Eaves, soffits, and fascias

As soon as you finish circling the perimeter and jotting down everything that might appear as a problem on the outside of the property, move on inside.

Interior

  • Ceilings, walls, and floors
  • Garage doors
  • Cabinets 
  • Kitchen appliances
  • Duck work
  • Foundations
  • Stoves and fireplaces 

Take a look at how many potential problems you have written down and think of ways to lower your insurance with this home inspection checklist.

After going through the superficial/visual inspection, dive a bit deeper and get your hands dirty by looking for electrical and plumbing issues. 

Check faucets, fixtures, pumps, and waste systems. Then get the right tools and check whether all the power switches, receptacles, and light fixtures work. Examine overcurrent protection devices, service cables, entrance conductors, and most importantly of all — do an HVAC check. Once you’re finished, you’re done with the home insurance inspection checklist and you need to move on to some paperwork.

Documentation

  • Footage of your home
  • Documents and receipts concerning renovation or interior design work
  • Information about your alarm system, water damage prevention devices, and water sensors
  • Documents pertaining to updates in plumbing, heating, and electrical systems 

This is the final step of the preparation process after which you will neatly put away all these documents into a folder, and start working on fixing whatever issue you may have found to pass your residential insurance inspection with flying colors.

The Cost of Home Inspections

According to the department of housing and urban development, the average price of a home inspection falls somewhere in the range of $300 to $500. However, this rough estimate does not factor in many criteria that will affect what the final figure might be, such as age, size, location, and so on. All these impact what a home inspection for insurance purposes might end up costing.

Another key ingredient is the inspector. If they’re well-established, hailing from a background in the construction industry with years of experience, then their fee might be as high as $1000. Many are dumbfounded when they find out that half the states in the US don’t have licensing requirements for people performing this task, but that doesn’t change the fact that an inspector plays a pivotal role in what the end home inspection insurance cost would be.

The great majority of them charge about $450 for a 2,000 square-foot home, whereas it’s just around $100 less for a two-bedroom condo. Some of them will even throw in an additional fee if they have to crawl under the home or enter a crawlspace to inspect whether it’s damp or bug-infested. Overall, a lot of them look for these extra charges as many are contractors, according to home insurance inspection stats.

Most insurance companies do not have in-house inspectors — hence why they seek out third-party companies that specialize in home inspections, and not just for insurance but for all kinds of different goals. They hire them to conduct thorough home inspections for their clients and provide a detailed report that lets them decide what their next step should be (if any).

Home Insurance Inspection — What to Expect After

After the inspection is concluded, all observations, information, and data are put together into an extensive report that includes summaries, checklists, notes, and photographs. This is a document that contains an educated assessment of the overall lifespan of all major systems and equipment, it also contains various recommendations for replacements and repairs. Given that there is no such thing as a surprise insurance home inspection, if you’ve done your prep right, you’re pretty much aware of what might be inside this document.

The report then goes out to the insurance company, where it’s put up for review. There are only two possible results. Pass or fail. The insurance company can’t make you fix the identified issues after the process has been finished. If everything goes according to plan with your homeowners’ insurance inspection, you will be granted a new policy on desirable terms, or your current one will simply remain in effect.

If issues have been identified, your carrier will notify you, explain what the problems are and how to fix them in whatever time-frame they’ve set. Once you do this, you should send all the receipts and photos that show that you have followed through with their suggestions and that you are in compliance with all the remarks that have stemmed from the home inspection for your insurance policy.

If you fail to fix the issues by the set deadline or you fail to provide proof that you’re in the process of doing so, then you will not be given a policy or — in the case you have an existing policy — you will receive a cancellation notice for your current one. In essence, that will be your last opportunity to bring the property up to the desired level. If you fail to respond to queries, your policy could get voided and you will be left with no insurance due to the failure to comply with the findings and recommendations of one of your homeowners’ insurance inspections.

Why Some Homeowners Could Fail Home Insurance Inspections

As previously mentioned, there could be a myriad of grounds why someone’s home could receive a negative assessment on their home inspection report.

Common reasons include:

  • no central heating and air ventilation system
  • a damaged roof
  • aluminum wiring (prone to overheating)
  • polybutylene plumbing (prone to bursting)
  • a water heater that’s over 20 years old (prone to bursting)

If you weren’t one of the lucky ones that were blessed with a no-inspection homeowners’ insurance policy and you had to go through the whole process only to get an unfavorable report, don’t despair. Most companies will provide you with an opportunity to correct all the identified issues; most likely, they will give a list of recommendations for home improvements that will up the safety of your property. At the end of the day, companies that deal with insurance want home inspections to go well, as it means more business for them, after all.

Bottom Line

Insurance is the best thing to buy, just hope you never have to use it. You don’t even require a home as sometimes landlords demand their tenants to have renter’s insurance coverage. But even if it’s not required, it’s always the smart thing to do.

People that have researched and prepared adequately for their home insurance inspection know what to expect. A pass should be a no-brainer for them if the condition of their property is acceptable, or close to it, and all the right steps were taken beforehand.

Remember, the inspection criteria vary from company to company, and the person performing said inspection is just someone that’s documenting the state of your estate. Ultimately, the outcome is not up to them, they are just there to relay information of the home insurance inspection to the company which then makes the final assessment.

Homeowners insurance isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity. Companies want you to be insured, they need clients. So, if it’s possible, they will do their best to try and work with you.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why does my insurance company want to inspect my house?

To ensure that the policy reflects the costs of rebuilding the property in the event of a catastrophic loss.

Can you get homeowners insurance without an inspection?

Yes, it’s up to the discretion of the insurer. However, we’re not aware of any insurance companies that don’t require home inspections as a general rule.  

What do home insurance inspectors look for?

They look for liabilities — things that are a potential danger to people and to the property itself. 

What happens when you can’t get homeowners insurance?

Ask an insurance professional for help. If your home didn’t pass the inspection, ask for a copy of the report, check whether there are improvements and disaster-resistant features that you could implement to your home. If you live in an area where there’s high exposure to risk, look into shared market plans and whether your state provides them.

How long does a home insurance inspection take?

Anywhere between 30 minutes and 4 hours in most cases.

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