This is often the first question prospective home buyers ask a home inspector. (Asking the inspector about their qualifications, experience and how they get most of their business, should be the first questions.) In home inspection, one size does not fit all. The level of experience and talent of home inspectors varies. The size and age of homes varies. Some homes / condos can be inspected in 2 to 3 hours. Older, larger homes can take 4 or more hours. Some inspection reports might take an hour or two to complete, while others might take 4 hours or more. Some so called "informational" web sites state that home inspection fees run from $175 to $300, however, these "low" fees are usually based on an inspector doing 2 or 3 inspections per day. If a thorough inspection and report takes around 5 to 6 hours, how "thorough" is the inspector who does 3 inspections & reports in one day? Remember, home inspectors know the value of their service and charge accordingly.
Inspectors quote inspection fees using different criteria or methods. Some charge a flat rate, others charge by the square foot of living area. Some charge by square foot of area under the roof, some charge by the price of the house and others charge by the amount of time spent (which is reflective of not only size but condition.) Some consider detached garages as part of the main house and do not charge for them (but may include the square footage into the overall size calculation) while others consider detached garages as outbuildings and charge extra for them.
Some inspectors charge for all the optional items, others charge for some of them, others will not inspect for certain items such as swimming pools or septic systems. Most inspectors have a minimum charge for their services. In some parts of the country the "general rule" of $100.00 per hour applies. Some charge for mileage from their location to the inspection site. Some inspectors maintain web sites where a prospective client can submit information about the property and receive a quote by e-mail.
Aside from the time invested, the value of the inspection and report can be measured by its usefulness. If the inspection turns up little wrong with the house, you've bought some relatively inexpensive peace of mind. If the inspection finds serious problems, your $600 could end up saving you many thousands of dollars. Take a look at what some of the clients of Independent Inspectors have said about their experience.