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...thought…that it was…that you bought!