What to Expect from Your Home Inspection

Why do I Need a Home Inspection?

The purchase of a home is probably the largest single investment you will ever make. You should learn as much as you can about the condition of the property and the need for any major repairs before you buy, so that you can minimize unpleasant surprises and difficulties afterwards.

Of course, a home inspection also points out the positive aspects of a home, as well as the maintenance that will be necessary to keep it in good shape. After the inspection, you will have a much clearer understanding of the property you are about to purchase.

If you are already a homeowner, a home inspection may be used to identify problems in the making, and to learn preventive measures that might avoid costly future repairs. If you are planning to sell your home, you may wish to have an inspection prior to placing your home on the market. This will give you a better understanding of conditions which may be discovered by the buyer’s inspector, and an opportunity to make repairs that will put the house in better selling condition.

What does a Home Inspection Include?

Inspectors typically do not provide warranties or guarantees with their inspections and reports. Buyers should therefore not rely on the inspection as any form of insurance policy against any latent, hidden, concealed or future defects and deficiencies.

The standard home inspector’s report will review the condition of the home’s heating system, central air conditioning system (temperature permitting), interior plumbing and electrical systems; the roof, attic, and visible insulation; walls, ceilings, floors, windows and doors; the foundation, basement, and visible structure.

The following are also some key items that buyers should remember and consider when reviewing their inspection reports:

  1. Inspections are not code-compliance evaluations.
  2. Inspection reports are not structural engineering reports.
  3. Systems and components that are off during the inspection are not tested or reactivated.
  4. Buyers should consult with and ask questions of owners and their representatives.
  5. Roof inspections and their components are typically done by an inspector walking on the roof. However, steeply sloped roofs or roofs covered with a material that can be damaged will be inspected from the eave or by binoculars.
  6. Reports are confidential and are meant exclusively for our client.
  7. Inspectors typically will not find each and every defect in a building; hence buyers should anticipate future typical defects and deficiencies.
  8. Further evaluation by specialists is recommended for any areas showing defects/deficiencies.
  9. A final walk-through inspection should be carried out the day before passing by the new owners to double-check the condition of the building.

What Will it Cost?

The inspection fee for a typical one-family house varies geographically, as does the cost of housing. Similarly, within a given area, the inspection fee may vary depending upon the size of the house, particular features of the house, its age, and possible additional services, such as septic, well, or radon testing. It is a good idea to check local prices on your own.

However, do not let cost be a factor in deciding whether or not to have a home inspection, or in the selection of your home inspector. The knowledge gained from an inspection is well worth the cost, and the lowest-priced inspector is not necessarily a bargain. The inspector’s qualifications, including his experience, training, and professional affiliations, should be the most important consideration.

Before the Inspection:

Choose a home inspection company with top credentials. You have a goal, you want to be well informed, and you want to make a wise investment. Choose a home inspection company that understands your needs and will work with you to help you meet your goals.

Be Sure To Obtain a Written Home Inspection Report

Be sure that your home inspection report will be a detailed written report, not a handwritten checklist that is given to you at the conclusion of the home inspection. A checklist may be void of details and may not provide all of the information advice you need.

Don’t Be Confused by Home Inspector “Certifications”

Don’t be confused by home inspector “certifications” offered by, or sold by trade societies or companies, or obtained via home inspection home study courses, certifications are available to anybody, a high school diploma is not a requirement and certifications can be readily purchased. Choose an ISHI Certified member that follows strict Operating Principles and Inspector Standards.

During the Inspection:

Be Sure to Attend the Home Inspection

Be sure to attend the home inspection; the inspection should take about two hours. One picture is worth a thousand words, and this is a unique opportunity to learn about your new home and its systems.

Be Sure that the Home Inspector is Well Equipped

The home inspector should be fully equipped with necessary tools including electrical testers, a fuel gas and carbon monoxide detector, moisture meter, ladder, inspection mirror, flashlight, level, and other home inspection tools.

Be Sure to Follow the Home Inspector and Ask Questions

“Location, Location, Location.” You’ve heard that often enough when looking for a home. But once you find the home that’s right for you, there’s nothing more important than Foundation!

You need to know that the home you are purchasing is properly leveled (that’s an important reason for retaining the services of a home inspection company an ISHI-Certified PhI Member).

The physical, plumbing, heating, air-conditioning, and electrical systems should be thoroughly inspected and evaluated. The home inspector should look for aluminum electrical distribution wires, electrical systems that are not adequate for modern usage, lead and galvanized steel water supply pipes, aged and inefficient heating and air-conditioning systems, etc.

The home inspector should be able to include an inspection for wood-destroying insects that will be accepted by your mortgage lender. Let the inspector know up front so that he can bring along a qualified specialist.

If the home has a well and/or septic system, these systems should also be able to be evaluated. Please let the inspector know up front so that he can bring along a qualified specialist.

Consider Optional Ancillary and Environmental Services

Where applicable, testing underground storage tanks, testing paint for lead, testing drinking water for lead, testing well supplied drinking water for bacteria, testing for radon gas in air, testing for urea formaldehyde foam insulation, etc. Please let the inspector know up front so that he can bring along a qualified specialist.

Be Sure to Obtain a Full Verbal Report at the Time of Inspection

The home inspection report should be available the next working day after the home inspection but a full verbal report should be obtained at the conclusion of the home inspection.

After the Inspection:

You Should Know:

  • The condition of the home you are purchasing, including all positive and negative aspects.
  • What repairs are needed (as well as the urgency of those repairs) and the magnitude of the repair costs.
  • The proper course of corrective repairs, and whether alternatives are available.
  • If there are any safety issues that need immediate attention.

You Should Expect:

  • An easy-to-understand, detailed home inspection report in writing.
  • Answers to any questions you may have regarding the report.
  • The home inspector to be available to answer future questions.

You Should Not Expect:

  • The home inspector to offer to repair, for a fee, any uncovered defects.
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What is a Home Inspection

A home inspection is defined as an objective visual examination of the physical structure and systems of a home, from the roof to the foundation. In layman’s terms, having a home inspected is akin to giving it a physical check-up. If problems or symptoms are found, the inspector may recommend further evaluation.

As a home buyer/seller or real estate professional, you have a right to know exactly what a typical real estate inspection is. The following information should give you a better understanding of exactly what your inspector should (and should not) do for you during the course of a home inspection.

First and foremost, an inspection is a visual survey of those easily accessible areas that an inspector can clearly see. No destructive testing or dismantling is done during the course of an inspection, hence an inspector can only tell a client exactly what was clearly in evidence at the time and date of the inspection. The inspectors eyes are not any better than the buyers, except that the inspector is trained to look for specific tell-tale signs and clues that may lead to the discovery of actual or potential defects or deficiencies.

Inspectors base their inspections on the current industry standards provided to them by their professional societies. These Standards tell what the inspector will and can do, as well as what the inspector will not do. Many inspectors give a copy of the standards to their clients. If your inspector has not given you a copy, ask for one, or contact us.

The Industry Standards clearly spell out specific areas in which the inspector must identify various defects and deficiencies, as well as identifying the specific systems, components and items that are being inspected. There are many excluded areas noted in the standards that the inspector does not have to report on, for example; private water and sewer systems, solar systems, security systems, etc… These are usually considered ancillary inspections. The inspector is not limited by the standards and if the inspector wishes to include additional inspection services (typically for an extra fee) then he/she may perform as many specific inspection procedures as the client may request. Some of these additional services may include wood-boring insect inspection, radon testing or a variety of environmental testing, etc.

Many inspectors do not test or inspect appliances, for many good reasons. Appliances can break down almost immediately after the inspection and the buyer may hold the inspector liable. There have been cases where homeowners have switched appliances with lesser quality units after the inspection. If your inspector does test and inspect appliances you should keep in mind that any appliance can fail at anytime, particularly if the units are several years old or older. Our inspectors are thoroughly trained to test appliances to give our customers top-notch service.

Most inspectors will not give definitive cost estimates for repairs and replacements since the costs can vary greatly from one contractor to another. Inspectors typically will tell clients to secure three reliable quotes from those contractors performing the type of repairs in question.

Life expectancies are another area that most inspectors try not to get involved in. Every system and component in a building will have a typical life expectancy. Some items and units may well exceed those expected life spans, while others may fail much sooner than anticipated. An inspector may indicate to a client, general life expectancies, but should never give exact time spans for the above noted reasons.

The average time for an inspection on a typical 3-bedroom home usually takes 2 to 4 hours, depending upon the number of bathrooms, kitchens, fireplaces, attics, etc., that have to be inspected. Inspections that take less than two hours typically are considered strictly cursory, “walk-through” inspections and provide the client with less information than a full inspection.

Many inspectors belong to national inspection organizations such as ISHI, NACHI, ASHI, and NAHI. These national organizations provide guidelines for inspectors to perform their inspections. The International Society of Home Inspectors, (ISHI) requires its members to write a Fair & Balanced report by requiring such notations as, positive attributes, discretionary improvements, general comments, etc. to be included in their findings. Professional associations also provide educational materials and programs for its members in order to provide a continuing education for professional inspectors. Make sure that you as a consumer ask your inspector about his/her credentials and affiliations.

All inspectors provide clients with reports. The least desirable type of report would be an oral report, as they do not protect the client, and leave the inspector open for misinterpretation and liability. Written reports are far more desirable, and come in a variety of styles and formats.

The following are some of the more common types of written reports:

  1. Checklist with comments
  2. Rating System with comments
  3. Narrative report with either a checklist or rating system
  4. Pure Narrative report

Inspectors differ on what they consider the best type of report. Some prefer one over the other. ISHI recommends that the report be such that the reader can fully understand the findings of the inspector and all of the ramifications of such findings. In this case either #3 or #4 would suffice, while #1 and #2 types of reports are considered less than adequate.

Four key areas of most home/building inspections cover the exterior, the basement or crawlspace areas, the attic or crawlspace areas and the living areas. Inspectors typically will spend sufficient time in all of these areas to visually look for a host of red flags, telltale clues and signs or defects and deficiencies. As the inspector completes a system, major component or area, he/she will then discuss the findings with the clients, noting both the positive and negative features

The inspected areas of a home/building will consist of all of the major visible and accessible electro-mechanical systems as well as the major visible and accessible structural systems and components of a building as they appeared and functioned at the time and date of the inspection.

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