Home Inspections – Their Purpose and Process

What is a home inspection?

A home inspection, as defined, is an examination of the physical structure and systems of a home, which provides a detailed ‘snapshot’ of the condition of the home at the time of the inspection. The purpose of a home inspection is to help reduce some of the risk involved in purchasing a home; however, it cannot eliminate those risks, nor can the inspector anticipate future events or changes in performance due to changes in use or occupancy. The inspection will cover any potential health and safety issues in addition to areas in need of repair or replacement.

In Texas, inspectors must be licensed by the Texas Real Estate Commission (TREC), and are required to comply with the TREC Standards of Practice when inspections are performed for a prospective buyer or seller of a one-to-four family residential property. The Standards of Practice are the minimum levels of inspection practice required of inspectors for the accessible parts, components, and systems typically found in improvements to real property.

Keep in mind that the inspector is not required to move any furnishings or stored items. Therefore, it is always a good idea to ensure the access to all the major components of the home is clear prior to the inspection commencing.

In the report, the inspector will note which items were Inspected (I), Not Inspected (NI), Not Present (NP), and/or Deficient (D). General deficiencies include inoperability, material distress, water penetration, damage, deterioration, missing parts and unsuitable installation. Items identified on the report do not obligate either the Seller or the Buyer to make any repairs or take any other action. The decision to correct a hazard or any deficiency identified in an inspection report is left to the parties to the contract for the sale or purchase of the home.

Please keep in mind that there may be several items on the report that are related to building codes or safety issues – and very few homes will comply with these. These same conditions may not have violated building codes or common practices at the time of the construction of the home, or they may have been ‘grandfathered’ because they were present prior to the adoption of codes prohibiting such conditions. The inspection is still required by law to report these items as deficient if found not to comply.

Why do I need a home inspection?

The purchasing of your home may be the largest single investment you will ever make. To minimize unwanted surprises, you will want to learn as much as you can about the condition of the home BEFORE you purchase it. An inspection may identify the need for repairs, as well as the need for maintenance to better protect your investment. After the inspection, you will know more about the property, which will aid you in making an informed decision as to purchase the home or not.

What does a home inspection cost?

The inspection fee for a typical single-family property varies depending upon a number of factors such as: size of the house; its age, particular features of the house (slab foundation, crawl space, etc…); and possible option systems inspected. Typically, a home inspection costs around $250 to $400…plus any ‘optional’ services, such as: lawn sprinkler systems; swimming pools, spas, hot tubs and associated equipment; outbuildings; outdoor cooking equipment; gas supply systems; private water wells; septic systems; whole-house vacuum systems; and other built-in appliances. Cost should not be a factor in deciding whether or not to have a home inspection – due to the potential costs involved should you decide NOT to have it inspected.

Can a home ‘fail’ an inspection?

No, an inspection is an examination of the current condition of the home. There is no ‘pass’ or ‘fail’ rating issued.

When do I schedule the home inspection?

Once the purchase contract has been signed, you will want to schedule your home inspection right away. This is because you will want to find out about any potential problems, have time to schedule any additional inspections that may be required, and of course…time to negotiate repairs with the Owner. All of this will need to occur DURING your option period. Should it exceed the time frame of your option period, and you have not extended the option period, you are stuck with purchasing the home, no matter what additional problems may be revealed in the condition of the home.

Should I attend the inspection?

If you are the Buyer, I recommend you have the inspector call you before his inspection is concluded. Allow yourself enough time to get there and attend a final walk-through with the inspector. You will want him to show you any potential problems – also, feel free to ask any questions about his report. If you are the Seller, you have every right to attend; however, I recommend that you do not follow the inspector around the house trying to justify any deficiency he writes down.

What if deficiencies are found in the home?

If the inspector identified any deficiencies, this does not mean that you should not purchase the home. It only notifies you in advance of what you can expect. Perhaps the major issues can be negotiated out, and the minor issues can be repaired by you after you purchase the home. Do not ‘nit-pick’ every little item on the report. That is a good way to get the Seller ticked off.

As the Seller, how do I prepare my home for the inspection?

  • Ensure all utilities are turned on
  • All pilot lights are lit
  • All locks are to be removed or unlocked from areas that may prohibit the inspector accessing, such as attics, doors, padlocks on gates, etc…
  • Attic access is clear. If attic access is in the garage, be sure there are no cars, shelving units, moving boxes, storage crates blocking the access. If attic access is in a hallway or closet, make sure thee are no light fixtures or furniture blocking the access panel or pull-down ladder
  • Crawl space (if applicable) access is clear
  • Electrical panels are accessible and not locked
  • Water heater is accessible
  • Furnace is accessible
  • Cooling system is accessible
  • Built-in kitchen appliances are accessible and ready to operate
  • Pets are secure

Spending a couple hundred dollars on the inspection, can potentially save you thousands of dollars.

Home Inspections Are For the Wise

There are a lot of myths about home inspections out there. People often don’t understand when a home inspection is necessary, who should perform it and how it should be conducted. These misconceptions can cost a buyer a lot of money. Basically, a professional home inspector looks over a home from the foundation to the rafters. He or she prepares a report that gives the condition of all the home’s major components.

However, the inspector will not rip into the walls, take apart any appliances or inspect the swimming pool. The inspector gives the home a close look with a professionally trained eye. Keep in mind that an inspection isn’t the same as an appraisal. The appraisal gives the value of the home, the inspection gives the condition.

The first myth is that a home inspection isn’t required as long as you can see the condition of the property is good. This isn’t true. You should always have your home inspected by a professional inspector, complete with certifications and licenses. You will receive a report that gives the condition of the inspected items. Many reports will include a list of items that need attention and photos of the findings. This is a written report of the home’s condition of the home on the day it was inspected. What is in writing is more important than any spoken claims you get from an agent or seller.

Don’t confuse a termite inspection, electrical inspection or a chimney inspection with a home inspection. These are important, but will not provide a complete picture of the home’s elements. A termite inspection only checks for termites, he won’t check the heating and air units.

General contractors cannot provide home inspections. In fact, many states forbid it, due to the potential for conflict of interest. A general contractor has a good background in becoming a home inspector, but you shouldn’t have your home inspected by anyone who isn’t a licensed home inspector.

The inspection is not a seller’s repair list. While the seller can use the inspection as a repair list, unless it is a contingency in the contract, there is no obligation for repairs. The exception is if the home inspection finds conditions that are require by law to be fixed before the home is sold. The inspection tells you what you are getting for your money. Some people even have inspections performed before signing a purchase agreement — to save time and money. Even if you are buying a home “as-is,” you should have it inspected. While the seller is not responsible for any repairs or improvements, the inspection lets you know what you are getting into. It is better to know before you live in the home.

And finally, new homes should be inspected as well. They should be inspected before the walls are closed in and after the building is complete. A study a few years back revealed that 15% of new homes sell with a serious defect. Other studies indicate that 41% of new homes sell with serious problems, including mold. Thirty-four percent can have structural problems, including missing connections.

Some builders will not allow you an inspection, but you should try your hardest to get it inspected before it is too far along. Many conditions will not show up once the home is complete until it is too late. You should definitely have it inspected by your professional once it is complete.

There is absolutely no reason not to have a home you are purchasing inspected. It protects you and your investment.

Home Inspections – A Question and Answer Guide

A home inspection is an evaluation of the visible and accessible systems and components of a home (plumbing, heating and cooling, electrical, structure, roof, etc.) and is intended to give the client (buyer, seller, or homeowner) a better understanding of the home’s general condition. Most often it is a buyer who requests an inspection of the home he or she is serious about purchasing. A home inspection delivers data so that decisions about the purchase can be confirmed or questioned, and can uncover serious and/or expensive to repair defects that the seller/owner may not be aware of. It is not an appraisal of the property’s value; nor does it address the cost of repairs. It does not guarantee that the home complies with local building codes or protect a client in the event an item inspected fails in the future. [Note: Warranties can be purchased to cover many items.] A home inspection should not be considered a “technically exhaustive” evaluation, but rather an evaluation of the property on the day it is inspected, taking into consideration normal wear and tear for the home’s age and location. A home inspection can also include, for extra fees, Radon gas testing, water testing, energy audits, pest inspections, pool inspections, and several other specific items that may be indigenous to the region of the country where the inspection takes place. Home inspections are also used (less often) by a seller before listing the property to see if there are any hidden problems that they are unaware of, and also by homeowners simply wishing to care for their homes, prevent surprises, and keep the home investment value as high as possible.

The important results to pay attention to in a home inspection are:

1. Major defects, such as large differential cracks in the foundation; structure out of level or plumb; decks not installed or supported properly, etc. These are items that are expensive to fix, which we classify as items requiring more than 2% of the purchase price to repair.

2. Things that could lead to major defects – a roof flashing leak that could get bigger, damaged downspouts that could cause backup and water intrusion, or a support beam that was not tied in to the structure properly.

3. Safety hazards, such as an exposed electrical wiring, lack of GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters) in kitchens and bathrooms, lack of safety railing on decks more than 30 inches off the ground, etc.

Your inspector will advise you about what to do about these problems. He/she may recommend evaluation – and on serious issues most certainly will – by licensed or certified professionals who are specialists in the defect areas. For example, your inspector will recommend you call a licensed building engineer if they find sections of the home that are out of alignment, as this could indicate a serious structural deficiency.

Home Inspections are only done by a buyer after they sign a contract, right?

This is not true! As you will see when you read on, a home inspection can be used for interim inspections in new construction, as a maintenance tool by a current homeowner, a proactive technique by sellers to make their home more sellable, and by buyers wanting to determine the condition of the potential home.

Sellers, in particular, can benefit from getting a home inspection before listing the home. Here are just a few of the advantages for the seller:

· The seller knows the home! The home inspector will be able to get answers to his/her questions on the history of any problems they find.

· A home inspection will help the seller be more objective when it comes to setting a fair price on the home.

· The seller can take the report and make it into a marketing piece for the home.

· The seller will be alerted to any safety issues found in the home before they open it up for open house tours.

· The seller can make repairs leisurely instead being in a rush after the contract is signed.

Why should I get a home inspection?

Your new home has dozens of systems and over 10,000 parts – from heating and cooling to ventilation and appliances. When these systems and appliances work together, you experience comfort, energy savings, and durability. Weak links in the system, however, can produce assorted problems leading to a loss in value and shortened component life. Would you buy a used car without a qualified mechanic looking at it? Your home is far more complicated, and to have a thorough inspection that is documented in a report arms you with substantial information on which to make decisions.

Why can’t I do the inspection myself?

Most homebuyers lack the knowledge, skill, and objectivity needed to inspect a home themselves. By using the services of a professional home inspector, they gain a better understanding of the condition of the property; especially whether any items do not “function as intended” or “adversely affect the habitability of the dwelling” or “warrant further investigation” by a specialist. Remember that the home inspector is a generalist and is broadly trained in every home system.

Why can’t I ask a family member who is handy or who is a contractor to inspect my new home?

Although your nephew or aunt may be very skilled, he or she is not trained or experienced in professional home inspections and usually lacks the specialized test equipment and knowledge required for an inspection. Home inspection training and expertise represent a distinct, licensed profession that employs rigorous standards of practice. Most contractors and other trade professionals hire a professional home inspector to inspect their own homes when they themselves purchase a home!

What does a home inspection cost?

This is often the first question asked but the answer tells the least about the quality of the inspection. Fees are based according to size, age and various other aspects of the home. Inspection fees from a certified professional home inspector generally start under $300. An average price for a 2,000 square foot home nationally is about $350-$375. What you should pay attention to is not the fee, but the qualifications of your inspector. Are they nationally certified (passed the NHIE exam)? Are they state certified if required?

How long does the inspection take?

This depends upon the size and condition of the home. You can usually figure 1.2 hours for every 1,000 square feet. For example, a 2,500 square foot house would take about 3 hours. If the company also produces the report at your home, that will take an additional 30-50 minutes.

Do all homes require a home inspection?

Yes and No. Although not required by law in most states, we feel that any buyer not getting a home inspection is doing themselves a great disservice. They may find themselves with costly and unpleasant surprises after moving into the home and suffer financial headaches that could easily have been avoided.

Should I be at the inspection?

It’s a great idea for you be present during the inspection – whether you are buyer, seller, or homeowner. With you there, the inspector can show you any defects and explain their importance as well as point out maintenance features that will be helpful in the future. If you can’t be there, it is not a problem since the report you receive will be very detailed. If you are not present, then you should be sure to ask your inspector to explain anything that is not clear in the report. Also read the inspection agreement carefully so you understand what is covered and what is not covered in the inspection. If there is a problem with the inspection or the report, you should raise the issues quickly by calling the inspector, usually within 24 hours. If you want the inspector to return after the inspection to show you things, this can be arranged and is a good idea, however, you will be paying for the inspector’s time on a walkthrough since this was not included in the original service.

Should the seller attend the home inspection that has been ordered by the buyer?

The seller will be welcome at the inspection (it is still their home) although they should understand that the inspector is working for the buyer. The conversation that the inspector has with the buyer may be upsetting to the seller if the seller was unaware of the items being pointed out, or the seller may be overly emotional about any flaws. This is a reason why the seller might want to consider getting their own inspection before listing the home.

Can a house fail a home inspection?

No. A home inspection is an examination of the current condition of your prospective home. It is not an appraisal, which determines market value, or a municipal inspection, which verifies local code compliance. A home inspector, therefore, cannot not pass or fail a house. The inspector will objectively describe the home’s physical condition and indicate which items are in need of repair or replacement.

What is included in the inspection?

The following list is not exhaustive. Not all of these may be in the inspection you get, but the inspector will be following a standardized checklist for the home:
· Site drainage and grading
· Driveway
· Entry Steps, handrails
· Decks
· Masonry
· Landscape (as it relates to the home)
· Retaining walls
· Roofing, flashings, chimneys, and attic
· Eaves, soffits, and fascias
· Walls, doors, windows, patios, walkways
· Foundation, basement, and crawlspaces
· Garage, garage walls, floor, and door operation
· Kitchen appliances (dishwasher, range/oven/cooktop/hoods, microwave, disposal, trash compactor)
· Laundry appliances (washer and dryer)
· Ceilings, walls, floors
· Kitchen counters, floors, and cabinets
· Windows and window gaskets
· Interior doors and hardware
· Plumbing systems and fixtures
· Electrical system, panels, entrance conductors
· Electrical grounding, GFCI, outlets
· Smoke (fire) detectors
· Ventilation systems and Insulation
· Heating equipment and controls
· Ducts and distribution systems
· Fireplaces
· Air Conditioning and controls
· Heat Pumps and controls
· Safety items such as means of egress, TPRV valves, railings, etc.

Other items that are not a part of the standard inspection can be added for an additional fee:
· Radon Gas Test
· Water Quality Test
· Termite Inspection (usually performed by a separate company)
· Gas Line Leak Test (usually performed by the gas company)
· Sprinkler System Test
· Swimming Pool and Spa Inspection
· Mold Screening (sometimes performed by a separate company)
· Septic System Inspection (usually performed by a separate company)
· Alarm System (usually performed by a separate company)

We recommend getting a Radon Test if your prospective home falls into an area of the country with known Radon seepage, since Radon gas produces cancer second only to cigarette smoking and can be easily mitigated by installing a vent system. We also recommend a water test to make sure you do not have bacteria in the water supply. Water can also be tested for Radon.

What is not included in the inspection?

Most people assume that everything is inspected in depth on inspection day. This misunderstanding has caused many a homebuyer to be upset with their inspector. The inspections we do are not exhaustive and there is a good reason for this. If you hired someone with licenses for heating and cooling, electrical, plumbing, engineering, etc. to inspect your house, it would take about 14 hours and cost you about $2000! It is much more practical to hire a professional inspector who has generalist knowledge of home systems, knows what to look for, and can recommend further inspection by a specialist if needed. Your inspector is also following very specific guidelines as he/she inspects your home. These are either national guidelines (ASHI – American Society of Home Inspectors, InterNACHI – International Association of Certified Home Inspectors) or state guidelines. These guidelines are carefully written to protect both your home and the inspector. Here are some examples: We are directed to not turn systems on if they were off at the time of the inspection (safety reasons); we are not allowed to move furniture (might harm something); not allowed to turn on water if it is off (possible flooding), and not allowed to break through a sealed attic hatch (possible damage). The downside of this practice is that by not operating a control, by not seeing under the furniture, and not getting into the attic or crawlspace, we will might miss identifying a problem. However, put into perspective, the chances of missing something serious because of this is quite low, and the guideline as it relates to safety and not harming anything in the home is a good one. There are other items that 95% of inspectors consider outside a normal inspection, and these include inspecting most things that are not bolted down (installed in the home) such as electronics, low voltage lighting, space heaters, portable air conditioners, or specialized systems such as water purifiers, alarm systems, etc.

What if there are things you can’t inspect (like snow on the roof)?

It just so happens that some days the weather elements interfere with a full home inspection! There isn’t much we can do about this either. If there is snow on the roof we will tell you we were unable to inspect it. Of course we will be looking at the eves and the attic, and any other areas where we can get an idea of condition, but we will write in the report that we could not inspect the roof. It is impractical for us to return another day once the snow melts, because we have full schedules. However, you can usually pay an inspector a small fee to return and inspect the one or two items they were unable to inspect when they were there the first time. This is just the way things go. If you ask the inspector for a re-inspection, they will usually inspect the items then at no extra charge (beyond the re-inspection fee).

Will the inspector walk on the roof?

The inspector will walk on the roof if it is safe, accessible, and strong enough so that there is no damage done to it by walking on it. Some roofs – such as slate and tile, should not be walked on. Sometimes because of poor weather conditions, extremely steep roofs, or very high roofs, the inspector will not be able to walk the roof. The inspector will try to get up to the edge though, and will also use binoculars where accessibility is a problem. They will also examine the roof from the upper windows if that is possible. There is a lot the inspector can determine from a visual examination from a ladder and from the ground, and they will be able to tell a lot more from inside the attic about the condition of the roof as well.

Should I have my house tested for Radon? What exactly is Radon?

In many areas of the country, the answer is a definite yes. You can ask your real estate agent about this or go on to the internet for a radon map of the country. Radon is a colorless, odorless, tasteless radioactive gas that’s formed during the natural breakdown of uranium in soil, rock, and water. Radon exits the ground and can seep into your home through cracks and holes in the foundation. Radon gas can also contaminate well water.

Health officials have determined that radon gas is a serious carcinogen that can cause lung cancer, second only to cigarette smoking. The only way to find out if your house contains radon gas is to perform a radon measurement test, which your home inspector can do. Make sure the person conducting your test has been trained to The National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) or The National Radon Safety Board (NRSB) standards.

What about a newly constructed home? Does it need a home inspection?

Yes! In fact, we find far more problems, some quite serious, in newly constructed homes than in homes that have been lived in for years. This is not due to your builder’s negligence – he/she has done the best job they could with subcontractors and planning – it’s just that there are so many systems in a home, that it is close to impossible to inspect everything, and correct it before the Certificate of Occupancy is issued. Then, for some reason, the subcontractors no longer want to work on the home, and final jobs and details are missed. We recommend getting several professional home inspections near the completion stages of the home to discover everything that should be corrected. If the house is still new but sitting for a while before sale, it’s even more important to get a home inspection. We have seen water lines not hooked up, plumbing lines not hooked up, sewer lines not hooked up, vents not hooked up, and a variety of other serious but easily correctable problems!

I am having a home built. The builder assures me he will inspect everything. Should I have an independent inspector make periodic inspections?

Absolutely yes! No matter how good your builder is, he/she WILL miss things. They are so concerned with the house, they get so close to their work, as do the subcontractors, that important items can, and will be, overlooked. Have a professional inspector make at least 4-6 interim inspections. They will be worth their weight in gold.

What is the Pre-Inspection Agreement?

Most service professionals have a service agreement, and home inspection is no different. In fact, there is enough confusion about what a home inspection should deliver that the agreement is even more important. Some homeowners who get a home inspection expect everything in the home to be perfect after the repairs. This is not the case! Imagine getting a call from a homeowner a year later who says the toilet is not flushing – remember that the inspection is a moment in time snapshot. In the inspection agreement the inspector is clear about what the inspection delivers and the things that are not covered, as well as what you should do if you are not pleased with the services. We really think that by reviewing this before-hand you will understand much more about the inspection and be happier with the results. A home inspection does not guard against future problems, nor does it guarantee that all problems will be found.

What kind of report will I get following the inspection?

There are as many versions of a “report” as there are inspection companies. Guidelines dictate that the inspector deliver a written report to the client. This can range from a handwritten checklist that has multiple press copies without pictures and 4 pages long to a computer generated professionally produced report with digital pictures that is 35 pages long and can be converted to Adobe PDF for storage and emailing. Be sure to check with your inspector about the report he or she uses. We recommend the computer generated report, since the checklist is more detailed and easier for the homeowner/buyer/seller to detail out the issues with photographs. In this modern age, we feel the reports must be web accessible and e-mailable to match the technologies most of us are using.

There are some great things you can use the report for in addition to the wealth of information it simply gives you on your new home:

· Use the report as a checklist and guide for the contractor to make repairs and improvements or get estimates and quotes from more than one contractor.

· Use the report as a budgeting tool using the inspector’s recommendations and the remaining expected life of components to keep the property in top shape.

· If you are a seller, use the report to make repairs and improvements, raising the value of the home and impressing the buyers. Then have a re-inspection and use this second report as a marketing tool for prospective buyers.

· Use the report as a “punch list” on a re-inspection and as a baseline for ongoing maintenance.

Will the report be emailable or available as an Adobe PDF file?

Yes. As discussed in the last question, you will probably want your inspector to be using the latest reporting technology.

What if I think the inspector missed something?

Inspectors are human, and yes, they do miss items. However, they routinely use advanced tools and techniques to reduce the possibility that they will miss something. This includes very detailed checklists, reference manuals, computer based lists, and a methodical always-done-the-same-way of physically moving around your home. That is one of the reasons that an inspector can miss an item when they get interrupted. The inspector will have a set way of resuming the inspection if this happens. If, in the end, something IS missed, call the inspector and discuss it. It may warrant the inspector returning to view something that you found. Remember, the inspector is doing the very best job they know how to do, and probably did not miss the item because they were lax in their technique or did not care.

What if the inspector tells me I should have a professional engineer or a licensed plumber or other professional contractor in to look at something they found? Isn’t this “passing the buck”?

You may be disappointed that further investigation is required, but, believe us, your inspector is doing exactly what they should be doing. The purpose of the inspection is to discover defects that affect your safety and the functioning of the home; the inspector is a generalist, not a specialist. Our code of ethics as well as national and state guidelines dictate that only contractors that are licensed in their specialty field should work on these systems and areas. When they tell you that a specialist is needed, there may be a bigger, more critical issue that you need to know about. If you move into the home without getting these areas checked by a qualified specialist, you could be in for some nasty and expensive surprises. The inspector does not want to cause you any more expense or worry either, so when they do recommend further evaluation they are being serious about protecting you and your investment.

Will the inspector provide a warranty on the inspected items?

Most inspectors do not give the homeowner a warranty on inspected items. Remember, a home inspection is a visual examination on a certain day, and the inspector cannot predict what issues could arise over time after the inspection. However, some inspectors are now including a warranty from the largest home warranty company in America – American Home Warranty Corporation, as well as others, on the inspected items for 60 or 90 days. This is a very good deal, and the agreement can be extended after the initial period for a relatively small amount of money.

Do most inspection companies offer money back guarantees?

Most inspection companies do not offer a satisfaction guarantee nor do they mention it in their advertising. It’s always a good thing if you can get extra services for no additional cost from your inspection company, and of course a satisfaction guarantee is an indication of superior customer service. You usually have to call your inspection company right after the inspection and viewing of the report to tell them you are not satisfied. If you are not happy with the services, you should talk to your inspector first and let him/her correct the issue(s) you are unhappy with first, as the inspector is trying to make an honest living just like the rest of us, and is not failing you on purpose.

What if my report comes back with nothing really defective in the home? Should I ask for my money back?

No, don’t ask for your money back – you just received great news! Now you can complete your home purchase with peace of mind about the condition of the property and all its equipment and systems. You will have valuable information about your new home from the inspector’s report, and will want to keep that information for future reference. Most importantly, you can feel assured that you are making a well-informed purchase decision.

What if the inspection reveals serious defects?

If the inspection reveals serious defects in the home (we define a serious defect as something that will cost more than 2% of the purchase price to fix) then pat yourself on the back for getting an inspection. You just saved yourself a ton of money. Of course it is disappointing, even heart wrenching, to find out that your well researched house is now a problem house, but you now know the facts and can either negotiate with the seller, or move on. You may want the home so much that it will be worth it to negotiate the price and then perform the repairs. Imagine, though, if you had not gotten the inspection – you would have had some very unpleasant surprises.

Can I ask my home inspector to perform the repairs?

You can, but if your inspector is ethical, he/she will refuse, and correctly so; it is a conflict of interest for the person who inspected your home to also repair it! Inspectors are specifically barred from this practice by licensing authorities, and it’s a good practice – an inspector must remain completely impartial when he or she inspects your home. This is one reason you should have a professional home inspector inspect your home and not a contractor – the contractor will want the repair work and you are likely to not have an objective inspection from this person even though they mean well and are technically competent.

Does the Seller have to make the repairs?

The inspection report results do not place an obligation on the seller to repair everything mentioned in the report. Once the home condition is known, the buyer and the seller should sit down and discuss what is in the report. The report will be clear about what is a repair and what is a discretionary improvement. This area should be clearly negotiated between the parties. It’s important to know that the inspector must stay out of this discussion because it is outside of their scope of work.

After the home inspection and consulting with the seller on the repairs, can I re-employ the inspector to come re-inspect the home to make sure everything got fixed?

You certainly can, and it’s a really good idea. For a small fee the inspector will return to determine if the repairs were completed, and if they were completed correctly.

What if I find problems after I move into my new home?

A home inspection is not a guarantee that problems won’t develop after you move in. However, if you believe that a problem was visible at the time of the inspection and should have been mentioned in the report, your first step should be to call the inspector. He or she will be fine with this, and does want you to call if you think there is a problem. If the issue is not resolved with a phone call, they will come to your home to look at it. They will want you to be satisfied and will do everything they can to do this. One way to protect yourself between the inspection and the move-in is to conduct a final walkthrough on closing day and use both the inspection report AND a Walkthrough Checklist to make sure everything is as it should be.

Copyright 2010 by Lisa P. Turner

Buying a House? Know What a Home Inspection Really Is

There have been a lot of articles written about home inspections and all types of information on the web and yet we still see a lot of clients that don’t understand what a home inspection really is, so I am going to write one more article trying to explain what a home inspection really is and what the expectations of the client should be when they have a home inspected.

Today with all the different TV shows about remodeling and flipping houses, Home Inspections and all different types of shows about Real estate and the many different types of home, these shows are informative and entertaining but remember it takes several weeks of work and a lot of money to make a 30 minute show and you don’t get to see all of the prep work and details it takes to renovate some of these houses.

The shortest description of a home inspection that I can come up with is; A home inspection is a very intense visual inspection of the home with written documentation of the condition of the property at the time of the inspection. With that said a home inspection really is like a snap shot in time, an average home inspection for me is about three hours from the time I drive up and look at the house and then depending on the size and condition of the house it will take me another hour to do the paperwork to generate the report, and a very important note here; you should receive your report in a very timely manner, it may not be of much use to you if you are a couple of days after the terms of your contract to receive your home inspection report.

There are state standards that all home inspectors in Tennessee have to adhere to and a copy is available on the TN.gov web site. A quick scan of the standards will let you know that the list of things home inspectors are required to look at isn’t much longer than the list of things that the inspector is not required to do. Here is another important thing about the home inspection process; the home inspector is limited to the things that they can visually look at and check the operating conditions of equipment and appliances and document that they are operating as intended and document the approximate age of the equipment. Any obvious problems will be listed and documented like wet areas inside the home, plumbing leaks, HVAC units that are not working properly, bad roofs and the list goes on. Of all the things we home inspectors write up in reports safety items are the most important, they may not be the most expensive repairs but for personal safety a few dollars should not be an issue.

A home inspector is limited to what they have access to and visually see, they cannot physically damage a home by cutting holes in walls or ceilings, if water stains or wet areas are discovered the report will state what was found and usually recommend a contractor or trade professional do an in-depth evaluation of the problem and make any necessary repairs. If a home inspector finds missing flashing or some low quality work done by an untrained person and is documented in the inspection report it should be investigated farther by a contractor because there may very well be issues already starting to cause a problem and failure to make repairs will almost always turn into a bigger problem if not addressed in a timely manner.

There is nothing wrong with buying a home that is “AS IS” meaning you are happy that you are getting a good deal on a piece of property and may hire a home inspector to evaluate it to help with the “Surprise Factor” whenever you move in. Most of the time these properties are foreclosures or estate sales where the seller has never lived in the home and there is no disclosure statement. We do a lot of these types of inspections and usually they are a lot of fun to do, but they can be very challenging. There are often many things that need attention and the reports tend to have a long list. Unless you are a do-it-yourselfer and just want to tackle the job it is best to have a contractor come in and give you a bid on repairs before closing to avoid the sticker shock of major repairs.

The Walk Through before closing is one of the most overlooked parts of the process. If you are unsure about anything now is the time to speak up, problems can be addressed at this time better than after closing. During your walk through pay close attention and look for anything that may have changed, and evaluate any repairs that were to have been done. There are a lot of things that can happen to a home between the time it is inspected and the time the new buyer moves in especially weather related concerns and theft.

I encourage anyone getting a home inspection to try to be present during the inspection. It will allow you to meet the inspector and ask questions and see just how the process takes place. When hiring a home inspector be sure of the type report you are getting and when it will be delivered.

Tips on a Thorough Home Inspection and Home Testing

A thorough home inspection is one of the most important steps before purchasing a home, and many buyers try to skip this step only to end up regretting it later when problems become apparent. Your home is the place you go to get away from the world, and to relax and put your feet up, or spend time with your family and friends. You want to be reassured that the home you buy is safe and in good condition. A home inspection can give you this peace of mind, using a visual inspection of every aspect of the home both inside and out. This should be done by a professional home inspector who has the education, knowledge, and experience needed to identify problems which may not be readily apparent.

There are some questions you should ask any prospective home inspection company, and things to consider, to guarantee you get a thorough and complete inspection. How long has the inspector been doing these inspections? How many home inspections does the inspector do in a year? How much experience does the home inspector have inspecting homes identical to the one you are buying? These questions are important, because without adequate experience the inspector may miss signs of a hidden problem. Choose a home inspection company that exclusively does only home inspections, and does not just practice this as a sideline to their day job. Ask about the reports that will be given, will you get a written report, an oral report, or both? Does the home inspection company have certification? Do they have insurance?

Set up an appointment for the home inspection with both the seller and the home inspector. Make the appointment during the daytime, when there is plenty of daylight so that flaws and problems will be noticeable instead of hidden in shadows. Allow for at least two to three hours for the home inspection, and make sure you are present. Ask questions of the home inspector, and listen to the answers closely. Make sure that you contact the seller, and that they agree to the visit by the home inspector at the specified time and day. Give the home inspector the name, address, and phone number of the buyer, and the address and directions to the home being inspected, as well as any codes needed to access any lock box that may be installed.

If you need to reschedule the home inspection appointment, make sure to give the inspection company at least twenty four to forty eight hour notice before the appointment time, to avoid being charged. Make sure that all utilities are on at the home, including the electric and gas, and make sure that all appliances like the furnace and hot water heater are on and running. Arrange with the seller for the home inspector to have access to everything, including any attics, basements, garages, outbuildings, closets, and other areas. This will ensure a complete and thorough professional home inspection. Also make arrangements with the seller to make sure any furniture or stored belongings which may block access to electrical panels, access panels, and appliances are moved before the inspector arrives. Payment is expected after the home inspection is done, before the inspector leaves the home, so make sure to have a check or money order ready when the inspection is finished.

When looking at homes, do a personal inspection of each home to narrow down the list of possibilities. A professional home inspection should be done on the home you finally decide to purchase, but doing a personal inspection on each potential purchase will help you weed out the obvious bad choices and save you time and energy. Look for things like apparent cracks or shifts in the foundation, obvious electrical malfunctions, sockets that have scorch marks, signs of severe water damage or mold growth, evidence of leaks, both inside and outside the home, the overall condition and age of the roof, dampness or signs of flooding in the basement or crawlspace, and other signs of repairs that may be needed.

There are some things that a home inspection may not cover, depending on where you live and what company you use for the inspection. Most of the time these are referred to as third party testing services, and they can include water quality testing, radon testing, mold testing, air quality testing, and inspection for wood boring and eating insects like termites. All of these tests may be considered important, depending on what the home inspection shows and any problems that may have been detected by the home inspector. If there is visible mold then mold testing may be suggested, to ensure it is not a toxic strain of mold that can cause human disease and illness. If the water quality is suspect, water testing may be suggested to guarantee that there are no bacteria or other organisms that can sicken you. Radon testing should always be done to make sure this cancer causing gas is not present in the home, and the home inspection report may suggest this as well. A termite inspection could be ordered if the inspector finds evidence that these pests may be present, and posing a danger to the structure of the home by eating the wood. Air quality testing may be done if there is any reason to suspect that the air in the home may be harmful to occupants, and this can be due to mold, radon, or other harmful airborne irritants and pathogens.

Knowing what to expect during a thorough professional home inspection, and the tips to make this process more effective and efficient, can help you get a good idea on any flaws in the home before you make the purchase, without any doubt or confusion involved. This step should never be omitted, even though it may seem costly, because it can save you significantly if there are hidden defects and unseen flaws.