Before your homeowners insurance policy becomes active, or in force, your insurance company may send over an inspector to ensure all of the information in your application is accurate. A home inspection can uncover any unaccounted-for risks or determine that your home’s replacement cost is higher or lower than the initial estimate. Your insurance company can also cancel your policy if your home is considered too high risk based on findings in the inspection.
But despite being an industry standard, home inspections don’t always end up happening — it’s ultimately left to the discretion of your homeowners insurance company.
Is a home inspection required to get homeowners insurance?
That’s up to the company that is insuring your home — but generally no, there is no law or industry-wide rule that says every home must be inspected in order to be insured.
If your home is new or the previous owner of your home had an insurance inspection done the year prior with the same company, the insurance company may trust that the home is still in good shape and forgo the inspection.
What do inspectors look for during a 4-point inspection?
If your insurance company does require you to have a 4-point inspection, it’s typically your responsibility to pay for the inspection. A 4-point inspection is especially common if your home is over 25 years old or has a history of maintenance or repair issues. A 4-point inspection consists of a thorough look at four parts of the home:
Unlike the frame and exterior build, these four areas have a limited lifespan and need to be updated every so often through repairs or full-on renovations. Obsolete electrical work, rusty and leaky pipes, and an old roof are viewed as high risk by insurers and more likely to result in loss and insurance claims.
Once the inspector completes the inspection, they relay their findings to the insurance company, who may alter your coverage or rates.
Here’s an example.
The inspector determines that your roof has cosmetic damage and is nearing its expiration date. This may not cause you to fail your inspection, but it could mean significantly higher insurance premiums than if you replaced it with a new roof.
How much does a home inspection cost?
A home inspection can cost anywhere from $125 to $500 — it varies greatly depending on where you live and the type of inspection you need. Most insurance companies have a few inspectors they refer clients to, but you can also find an inspector on your own. Just remember that it pays to shop around for the lowest quote, especially since you’re likely going to be footing the bill.
Can you use an appraisal to get homeowners insurance?
It’s also possible, although not very likely, that your insurance company will accept a home appraisal in lieu of an inspector.
A home appraisal is an inspection of the home itself and its surrounding area for the purpose of arriving at a value for the home. You typically get a home appraisal when you take out a mortgage or second mortgage on the home, and they generally don’t provide the same level of specificity to insurers as a thorough home inspection.
Can you still get homeowners insurance if you don’t pass your inspection?
If you fail your home insurance inspection, you may simply need to fix whatever damage that’s making your home uninsurable. But it’s also possible that your insurer will write you a policy but include a stipulation that you make certain repairs within a limited time frame — usually 30 to 90 days.
For example, an insurance company may agree to insure your home, but with a contingency that you hire an arborist to trim the branches hanging over your roof from a large tree within a certain timeframe.
Repairing or replacing old roofs, HVAC systems, and replacing aluminum wiring with copper wiring are also common policy contingencies that can affect your home’s insurability. If your home is simply too old for standard home insurance companies to take a gamble on, you can still get insured through certain companies such as Foremost that specialize in high-risk properties.
5 tips for passing a home inspection
Before your home inspection, you should prepare your home and property as best as possible. Below are a few tips on how to do that.
Trim overgrown branches. You should trim or cut any branches that are overgrown and pose a risk to your roof.
Clean your gutters. Remove any debris and make sure your gutters are clear.
Make sure your fire alarms are functioning. Depending on the type of inspection you're getting, you should make sure that your alarms are all working properly.
Make sure your plumbing is in working order. Check that no pipes or drains are clogged or leaking.
Repair any minor roof damage. Replacing missing shingles or patching up small holes in your roof before the inspection may help you pass faster.