So What Is A Home Inspection Exactly?

Sometimes, as a professional Home Inspector, I get asked “Exactly what is a Home Inspection?”. And for someone who hasn’t ever been directly exposed to a residential real estate transaction, and perhaps for some that have, it is an excellent question.

In large part, any definition to be applied to the phrase Home Inspection is dependent on where the Home Inspection is being conducted (in what State or municipality) and on what organization, if any, the Home Inspector might have an affiliation. Many states have adopted licensing requirements; some have not. It is worthy of note that an inspection of a home (note that I did not refer to it as a Home Inspection…) conducted in a State with no licensing requirements, by an individual with no or minimal experience and no professional association affiliation, may just be whatever he or she decides it will be at any given time…very, very scary indeed! And, If things are as they should be, we ought to be able to answer the subject question without having to determine what the definition of “Is” is.

According to the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), one of the oldest and most generally respected Home inspector associations, a Home Inspection is a conducted in accordance with the ASHI Standards of Practice is an inspection of the readily accessible, visually observable installed systems and components of a home. ASHI Standards of Practice also state that an inspection performed to their Standards of Practice are intended to provide the client with objective information regarding the condition of the systems and components of the home as inspected at  the time of the Home Inspection. The inspector is required to provide a written report that identifies any systems or components inspected that, in the professional judgment of the inspector, are not functioning properly, are significantly deficient, are unsafe, or are at the end of their useful life. Further, reasoning or explanation as to the nature of the deficiencies reported must be provided if they are not self-evident.

In a state such as North Carolina, the state with which the author has the most familiarity and where licensing laws have been in effect since October of 1996, inspection reports must comply with the state requirements…period. Compliance isn’t voluntary…it’s the Law!  According to the North Carolina Home Inspector Licensure Board (NCHILB), a home inspection is intended to provide the client with a better understanding of the property conditions, as inspected at the time of the inspection. The NCHILB Standards of Practice further require (among a myriad of other specific requirements), that a Home Inspector must:

  • Provide a written contract, signed by the client before the Home Inspection is performed, that states that the inspection is conducted in accordance with the Standards, that states what services are to be provided and the cost of those services, and that stated when an inspection is for only one or a limited number of systems or components and exactly which systems or components those might be;
  • Inspect readily visible and readily accessible systems and components that are listed in the Standards as being required to be inspected;
  • State which systems or components that are required to be inspected, but that were not inspected, and the reason that they were not inspected;
  • State any systems or components that were inspected that do not Function As Intended, allowing for normal wear and tear, or that adversely affect the habitability of the building;
  • State whether any reported condition requires repair or subsequent observation, or warrants further investigation by a specialist; the statements shall describe the component or system and how the condition is defective, explain the consequences of the condition, and provide direction as to a course of action with regard to the condition or refer the recipient to a specialist:
  • State or provide the name, license number, and signature of the person(s) conducting the inspection.

The ASHI Standards of Practice (SOP) can be viewed HERE. Additionally, ASHI prescribes a Client Bill of Rights and as Professional Home Inspectors, our Raleigh Home Inspection firm subscribes to those key principles that serve to protect clients/customers.

The preceding has been a short and partial commentary regarding what a Home Inspection is…by definition. But much can be added to arrive at an answer to the initial question…”What Is A Home Inspection…Exactly?”.

A client typically uses the contents of a Home Inspection report as an assessment of the general condition of the property so that they can make a more informed and intelligent purchasing decision related to their real estate transaction.

  • A Home Inspection report should generally address the following systems and/or components (note that this may not be a complete list):Structural Components – Foundation, floors, walls, ceilings, etc.
  • Exterior Components –  Wall cladding, Door and Windows, Decks, flashing, eaves, fascia, driveways, walkways, steps, grading, drainage, any evidence of water penetration into the building envelope or etc.
  • Roofing – Roof covering, flashing, gutter systems, skylights, chimneys, roof penetrations, evidence of leakage or abnormal condensation, etc.;
  • Plumbing – Water distribution systems, drain/waste/vent piping systems, fixtures and faucets, functional flow and functional drainage, water heaters, safety controls, normal operating controls, fuel storage equipment, leakage, etc.;
  • Electrical – Service entrance conductors and equipment, main and distribution sub-panels, over-current devices, grounding equipment, fixtures, switches, receptacles, smoke detectors, Ground Fault protective devices, Arc Fault protective devices, etc.;
  • Heating – Furnaces and heat pumps, safety controls, operating controls, flues and vents, heat distribution systems, energy sources, etc,;
  • Air Conditioning – Cooling and air handling equipment, operator controls, distribution systems, energy sources, etc.;
  • Interior – Walls, floors, ceilings, stairs, railings, balconies, counter-tops, cabinets, door, windows, any evidence of water penetration or abnormal condensation, etc.;
  • Insulation and Ventilation – Insulation, vapor retarders, the absence of any required insulation, ventilation systems in kitchens/bathrooms/laundry rooms, attic ventilation systems/fans, etc;
  • Built-in kitchen appliances – Dishwashers, ranges, cook-tops, microwave ovens, trash compactors, garbage disposals, range hoods, etc.

So, what are some other “factoids” that might help us understand What a Home Inspection is…Exactly.

Home Inspections, by most all accepted definitions, are general and visual in nature and are not technically exhaustive.

A Home Inspection is a fee-paid service, prepared for a specific client (usually, but not always, a home buyer) that should give that client a good general assessment of the physical condition of the property to assist them is making a more sound purchasing decision.

A Home Inspection typically costs between $300.00 and $600.00, depending on the size and age of the home. Other ancillary services are often chosen by a home-buyer e.g. Radon Testing, Water Testing, etc.; but those additional services are usually provided outside the scope of the Home Inspection

A Home Inspection will typically take between 2 and 5 hours to complete, with that time period also being dependent on the size and age of the home.

It is recommended that a client, who has contracted for a Home Inspection, be present during the duration of the inspection so that they can learn about, and observe “first hand”, any reportable issues. Further, the client should be made to feel completely at ease to ask any question at any time; there should be no “silly” questions during a Home Inspection.

The report generated by a Home Inspector should be clear, concise, and able to be readily understood without the use of jargon or “techno-speak”; in other words, the Home Inspector should be capable of communicating using complete sentences and plain, common language. The report should contain digital photos of any significant issues. The completed inspection report should be delivered in a timely manner because, during a real estate transaction, time is typically of the essence and the information should be made available with that in mind.

In summary, a Home Inspection is a well-defined procedure intended to provide a good, thorough representation of the physical condition of a property on the date of the inspection. A report resulting from a Home Inspection is typically used by a home-buyer to make a more well-informed and intelligent purchase decision.

So…what is a Home Inspection…exactly? It is many things and is comprised of many different facets, both technical and practical. But mostly it is a valuable professional service that is…invaluable…to a home-buyer. Choosing to purchase a home, without the benefit of a professional assessment of the property, may not be a wise decision because…If you don’t “Inspect It”…then you very well may end up owning a home that is very much different than what you...thoughtthat it wasthat you bought!

Top Reasons to Hire a Professional for Elite Home Inspections

When buying a home, some people take it upon themselves to perform the inspection in order to avoid the home inspection cost. They think that since they will be the new homeowners, they know exactly what to look for and will be the best person to assess if the home is right for them or not. This is true to an extent. Certainly most buyers have already decided what basic features they want in a home and are already checking to make sure the house they buy will have these things. However, when it comes to assessing if the home is livable, functional and most importantly safe, then it is best to hand over the job to a certified inspector. Here are the reasons why:

Highly Trained

These professionals are adept at performing elite home inspections because they have been trained for it. They are not only good at checking walls, ceilings, floors, doors, and windows, but they are also informed about local and state building code. Hence, they can tell if the property is violating any rule that may later on present itself as a major cost, or worse, serious safety concern to you and your family.

The excitement and emotions you feel when you find the perfect home may cause you to overlook issues you wouldn’t otherwise. A certified home inspector will give you an unbiased opinion. After all it’s not their job to sell you the home, rather their goal is to help you make sure you buy a home that works. Their training also involves how to do the job systematically, so that no detail or area is left uninspected. Their findings are presented in a formal and detailed report making it easy for you to understand. A good inspector will also answer any additional questions you have to make sure you are informed about all of the issues the home has.

There is a catch, though, not all elite home inspection services have qualified staff. Some may even be practicing illegally. To avoid these providers, make sure to ask for credentials, certifications, and licenses. Check with the association of home inspectors that has jurisdiction over the area to see if they are legit.

Saves You Money and Time

Elite home inspections may seem costly, but that is nothing compared to the cost of major unexpected repairs you may miss if you do your own inspection. Are you prepared to crawl under the home or climb in the attic? Do you know what to look for when you get in there? You can hire a certified home inspector for less than 1/10th of 1% of the purchase price of most homes. Hire a professional and avoid buying a home that is going to cause you heartache for years to come. By going through the property inspection process you can move forward buying with the peace of mind that your family will be safe and secure your new home.

Added Features

Home inspection companies nowadays do more than just inspect your future property. They also offer other complimentary services as added incentive to hire them. For example, some offer insurances that will cover the repair of your sewer line for a specified period after the inspection is done. The thing is, it is difficult to check the sewers, especially the part that transcends underground to the main line. Inspectors will only be able to check the part that they can reach, so they cannot really tell if the sewer line is in a good condition and this will not be included in the scope of their inspection. Fortunately, with this type of insurance, the cost of undetected repairs will be covered. Look at the additional services each company offers as some of these may prove to be invaluable down the road.

Warranties

Another good thing about hiring professional inspectors is that they often offer warranties for their work. This covers the structural and mechanical component, so if you ever see a defect within a specified period after the inspection, they will have to shoulder the repairs for that. Some providers offer a 30-day warranty, while some can offer as long as 90-days, which is an indication that they do their inspections seriously and properly to avoid being liable and handling the cost.

As mentioned, there are home inspectors out there that cannot be trusted, so it is best to know the tell-tall signs to identify them. First, ask for a sample of their reports. If it is only five or so pages long, then back off. Most elite home inspections will be between 30-45 pages on average. These reports cover every detail, include color pictures and provide written explanations of all issues. Second, be wary of inspectors who will recommend contractors to do the repair. If they are connected to a builder or a handyman, there is a good chance that they will say that something needs repair even if it is not true. Of course, some may just be trying to be helpful, but in order to maintain their credibility then they should refrain from such conduct.

Ultimately, the cost of a home inspection is not a good reason for you to skip this step when buying a property. Just think of the problems and expenses that you will face if you buy a home with various defects. Remember, you cannot go after the previous owner once you sign the deed of sale, so be wise about it and hire a professional home inspector.

Home Inspection Checklist: What to Look for in a Home Inspection Company

Are you buying a home? Buying a home is probably the most complicated (and important) purchase most of us will make in our lifetime. Like any major purchase there are features and specifications for all homes. On paper it may be the features that sell the home but if any of those features are in disrepair, you might be signing up for more than you bargained for and getting less than you paid for.

When you’re purchasing a home, you need to know what you’re getting. There are a few ways you can help protect yourself — one of them is with a thorough home inspection. Hiring a qualified home inspection company to take a look at the home you’re interested in buying is very important. At the same time, you need to understand what’s involved with a home inspection so years after your purchase, you can keep up with the maintenance of your home. Here’s why…

When you are buying a home it is important that you understanding what’s involved with a home inspection. It can pay dividends for the rest of the time you own your house.

First, it’s important to note that some things are not covered in a standard home inspection:

  • Pests – Pest inspections require a licensed pest control specialist to perform inspections of building structures to determine damage or possibility of damage from pests.
  • Radon — Radon gas is an invisible, odorless gas produced by the normal breakdown of uranium in the soil.
  • Lead paint – Inspecting a home for lead-based paint is not typically included in a home inspection because it takes place over several days and requires special equipment.
  • Mold – Mold inspection is a separate inspection because it requires three separate air samples and surface sample analysis. Since mold inspection is beyond the scope of a traditional home inspection, be sure to specifically ask your home inspector if he or she would recommend a mold inspection.
  • Asbestos – Asbestos is generally outside the scope of a home inspection because asbestos requires its own thorough review. Like with mold inspections, be sure to specifically ask your home inspector if he or she would recommend a separate asbestos inspection.
  • Orangeberg Sewer Pipe — Also known as “fiber conduit”, Orangeberg Sewer Pipe is bitumenized fiber pipe made from layers of wood pulp and pitch pressed together. It was used from the 1860s through the 1970s, when it was replaced by PVC pipe for water delivery and ABS pipe for drain-waste-vent (DWV) applications.

The first thing to point out is that every home and home buyer are different which means that every home inspection is different and the importance of home inspection items are different. Below are some common things that are inspected during a home inspection. Keep in mind that some items in this checklist may not be necessary for your particular home – and that this list does not include all the item inspected by a professional home inspection service.

General Home Inspection Checklist

Lot and Neighborhood

Lot Area

  • Does the grade slope away from the home or towards the home
  • Are there any areas where the soil has settled near the foundation or driveway?
  • What is the elevation of the home in relation to the street and neighbors?

Exterior

Roofing

  • Is the peak of the roof straight and level? Or is there sagging?
  • What is the condition of the roof vents? Are they visible?
  • Are there gaps between flashing and chimneys, walls or other parts of the roof?
  • Is there sagging anywhere else on the roof such as between the rafters or trusses?
  • What kind of shingles are used? How much deterioration has set in such as curling, warping, broken shingles or wider gaps between shingles in the roof?

Chimney

  • Is the chimney square to the home and level? Or is it leaning?
  • What is the condition of the bricks? Are any bricks flaking or missing?
  • What is the condition of the mortar? Is it cracked, broken or missing entirely?

Siding

  • Is the siding original to the house? If not, how old is the siding and how is it holding up?
  • Are the walls square and level or bowed, bulged or leaning
  • What material is the siding? Brick, wood or plastic?
  • What condition is the siding in?
  • Is there loose, missing, rotten or deteriorated siding or paint?
  • How does the siding fit connect to the foundation?

Soffits and Fascia

  • What are the soffits and fascia made of? Common materials include wood, aluminum or plastic?
  • Are there any problems such as rotting or broken pieces?
  • Are there any missing pieces of soffit or fascia?

Gutters and Downspouts

  • Are there any leaks or gaps in gutters or downspouts?
  • Does the gutter slope toward downspouts?
  • Is there any rust or peeling paint?
  • Are all gutters and downspouts securely fastened?
  • Is there a sufficient separation of the downspouts from the foundation?

Doors and Windows

  • Are there any problems with paint, caulking or rotten wood?
  • Are the windows original to the home? If not, how old are they?

Decks or Porches

  • What is the porch or deck made of? Check for paint problems, rotted wood and wood-earth contact.
  • Is there any settlement or separation from the house?
  • If possible, inspect the underside of the porch or deck.

Foundation

  • Are there any cracks, flaking or damaged masonry?
  • Are there any water markings and powdery substances on the foundation? If so where are they located?
  • Are the walls square vertically and horizontally? Or bowed, bulged or leaning?

Basement

  • Is there any evidence of water penetration (stains, mildew/odors, powdery substances, loose tiles, etc.)

Flooring

  • Is there any deterioration of flooring or carpet?
  • Are there any cracks in the tiles or mortar?
  • Do you notice any water damage or stains from previous water damage?
  • Is there any sagging or sloped flooring?

Interior Walls

  • Check that the majority of windows and doors work.
  • Are the walls square and vertically and horizontally straight?
  • Is there any cracked or loose plaster?
  • Look for stains, physical damage or evidence of previous repair.
  • Are there any drywall seams or nails showing?

Ceilings

  • Review all plaster for cracks or loose or sagging areas.
  • Are there any stains from water or mechanical damage or evidence of previous repair?
  • Are there any seams or nails showing?

Kitchens and Bathrooms

  • Check that all fixtures are secure including sinks, faucets, toilets and cabinetry
  • Are there any cracks in the fixtures?
  • What is the condition of the tiles and caulking surrounding sinks and tub and shower areas?
  • What is the condition of the faucets? Do they work? Is there sufficient water pressure?
  • Check under countertops for any water stains or rotting materials.
  • Check that the majority of the cabinet doors and drawers are in working order.

Electrical and Mechanical

  • Type, style and age of heating and cooling systems with service history.
  • Type, age and condition of water supply piping and drains.
  • Size and age of electrical service — Are the outlets grounded? Visible wiring in good condition?

The Importance of a Home Inspection Professional

As you can see, the home inspection checklist is exhaustive (and this list doesn’t even cover it all!) So if you’re in the market for a new house or are in the process of purchasing a new home, make sure you have a home inspection done by a reliable home inspection company – so you can protect yourself from the unforeseen. Also periodically review the items on this home inspection checklist so you can ensure the working order of your home for years to come.

Is a Home Inspection Necessary?

If you are in the midst of buying a house or contemplating buying a home sometime in the near future the topic of a home inspection will come up. Do you need one? Are you required to have the home inspected? Are you required to have a home inspected. In some cases the answer is yes. Some cities require that a home be inspected if it is being purchased through land contract. However in most cases that answer is no, it is not required.

Financial organizations may require certain inspections not covered by a basic home inspection. These often required inspections are, well and septic, gas line inspection and warranty and of course a termite inspection.

There tends to be the belief that if a home is brand new or newer that there is no need to have a home inspection done. I admit that there are usually fewer issues with newer homes. There area however always some issues. Some issues can be very serious.

Several years ago I did a home inspection of a newly constructed home that had gone through and passed the final county inspection 3 months before I was contacted to do the inspection on it for the buyer. While in the home I noticed a low spot in the floor in the kitchen area of this property. I save looking at the crawl space last when I do inspections because these areas are often dirty and I would rather not bring dirt into a home. Because of the low spot in the floor I knew there was something to look at below. When I got into the crawl space the issue was very obvious.

The cause for the low spot was that someone had cut away a three foot section of the main support beam in crawl space under that area. The section of support was removed to make room for heating duct work. This was the cause of the floor sag. In this same house the cross bracing for the floor joists were not connected. Not a single one was installed completely. Sloppy lazy work by the builder and also by the county or city inspector who missed it.

In other brand new homes I have found missing insulation and damaged roof vents, I have also found gas leaks and water leaks in a home that was the model home for a building development. Always have a home inspection.

Builders and county inspectors are human and therefore not perfect. It is always to good idea to have another person take a look and help you determine if there are problems and where they are.

Professional Home Inspections. What Everyone Needs To Know.

This is a really good and important question. Many home buyers (and even agents) don’t know exactly what a home inspector does. So let me clear the smoke right now.

There are basically 3 aspects to every home inspection:

1st – A home inspection is a visual, non-intrusive, & fair effort to discover the real material condition of the home during the time and day that the inspection takes place.

2nd – A home inspection isn’t really about the home inspector telling you what’s wrong with the home more than it is a discovery session for you to make sure you understand what you’re buying so that you can decide if it falls within your expectations and is a good fit for your situation.

You see, my job is to make sure I align the reality of the home’s condition with your expectations. If I can successfully do that, then I’ve done my job.

3rd – The home inspection report. The report is designed to summarize and convey the findings in a way that is clear, simple, complete, and easy-to-understand. If a home inspection is a snapshot in time of the condition of a home, then the report is the photo, itself (and a good report will have lots of photos). Without the report there is no real home inspection. It allows you to go back through the inspection as many times as you like in order to decide if the house is a good fit for you and your circumstances.

By nature, it’s limited in scope to what can be seen, touched and tested, which particularly applies to vacant homes where a home inspector is forced to play detective and do the best they can during the short period of time they’re at the home to find everything (good and bad) that you’ll need to know in order to make an educated decision about the home.

If your schedule allows, you should also be encouraged to take advantage of the rare opportunity to follow a professional home inspector around your home who will invite your questions, concerns, and impart key information and advice that will certainly help you while you live in and maintain your home for years to come.

Some key points to remember about home inspections:

1. No house is perfect. Not even a brand new home. There will always be something worth noting in the report.

2. Not all home inspectors are created equal. Just like auto mechanics, some are better than others. Price should not be the most important consideration when comparing home inspection firms. Use word-of-mouth referrals, past client reviews, time in business, background, and expertise. This is especially true since you’re making such a large and important investment.

3. A home inspection is an investment in the quality of your new home. View it as one. Personally, I always have a goal that the items I find in a home will at least cover the cost of the inspection when they are negotiated for repair. Of course, that doesn’t always happens. Than again, sometimes my fee is tiny in comparison to what I find.

4. Old homes are like old people, the older they get the more attention they need (my sons laugh when I say that). Be sure to see older homes (50+) as they’re supposed to be seen and try to avoid bringing the same set of expectations you had when you looked at that 10 year old home earlier in the day. It will not look or perform the same way. The 3 biggest concerns in every old home? The plumbing, electrical system, and foundation.

Until next time…