Do Long Home Inspections Mean Bad News?

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Do Long Home Inspections Mean Bad News?

 by Reuben Saltzman, Structure Tech


If a home inspection is taking a long time, is this good or bad news for the seller? Or neither?

Great question! The quick answer: 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, and old houses take more time to inspect than new houses. Used houses have had time for components to fail, rot, or reach the end of their life. They 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 as well—especially if a house contains multiple.

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, one time I spent nearly an hour inspecting the roof surfaces because I used different ladders, and I took many photos of the roof.

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

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Inspector E&O

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 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, they might have to set up a tarp outside the crawl space so as not to make a mess when coming out, go out to their vehicle and change into some coveralls before going into the crawl space, spend 10 minutes inspecting the crawl space, then clean everything back up. This same inspector might not have any problem moving the seller’s 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 onsite, which adds considerable time to the inspection. At least, it should. Suppose a home inspector says that producing a report onsite doesn’t add much time to the inspection. In that case, 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” (e.g., “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 with 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 equal 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.

About the Author
Reuben Saltzman 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. He has worked for Structure Tech since it was purchased in 1997 and is now the owner and CEO of the company. To connect with him, visit


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One Comment

  1. Good article.

    Used older (50, 75, 100 year) homes have had many people living in them (and modifying them). In a sense, we put together the story of the home for our clients, best we can, to help them to understand the homes past and how it will affect it’s future. This takes time. Often, the older the home, the more time it takes.

    New build inspections don’t usually take as much time. However, I am constantly writing up new comments for new builds because, especially with production home builders, the sub-contractors have to work fast and the quality of work is sometimes lacking. These problems are often, but not always, cosmetic, like the time I found a huge belly in the sewer drain line in the crawlspace.

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