All About the Home Inspection

As a home buyer/seller, you must understand the home inspection process. Home inspection results influence whether a buyer wants to move forward with the purchase or even if the bank will agree to finance it. Additionally, the results may require the seller to lower the price, make repairs, or make certain concessions to close the deal. Whether you are a seller or a buyer, the information below should provide you a much better understanding of precisely what the inspector will and will not evaluate during the home inspection.

What is a Home Inspection?
A home inspection is an unbiased visual evaluation of the physical structure and systems of a home. Specifically, the inspection will evaluate all areas from the roofing system down to the home structures. If issues or suspected issues are discovered, the home inspector may advise additional evaluations by a specialist.
For the most part, a home inspection is an evaluation of the readily available locations that an inspector can see without extraordinary efforts. No safety screening or taking apart of items is done throughout an assessment. Thus, an inspector can only tell the parties what it can visually see during the inspection. In general, the inspector’s vision is not any better than the buyers or sellers. However, an inspector is trained to look for certain indicators and clues that might signal possible problems or deficiencies. For example, an inspector is trained to look for indicators that mold may be present throughout a home. In that event, the inspector may advise that an indebted mold inspection takes place to confirm the inspector’s suspicions.

Reasons for a Home Inspection
There are typically two reasons that home inspections are ordered. First, a home inspection may be ordered by the seller before putting their home on the market. This proactive approach prevents surprises when the buyer and home mortgage company requests their own inspection.
The second reason home inspections are typically ordered is for a pre-purchase home inspection. This inspection is required to obtain financing from a lender.

What is an Inspector Looking For?
The industry standards clearly define the specific locations in which the inspector should look for defects or issues with and recognize the specific systems, elements, and items that are being inspected. There are lots of left out areas noted in the requirements that the inspector does not need to report on, for example, personal water and drain systems, HVAC system, security systems, etc.
These industry standards tell what the inspector will and can do, and what the inspector will not do. If your inspector has not provided you a copy of these standards, you should ask for one. You can also view these standards on the American Home Inspector Directory or your local home inspector’s association website.
The standards do not limit the inspector. If the inspector wishes to include additional inspection services (usually for an additional cost), then the inspector may perform as many special inspections as the client requested and paid for.
Most home inspectors will not provide conclusive cost estimates for repair work and replacements because the costs can vary significantly from one specialist to another. Inspectors will generally tell customers to secure three trusted quotes from contractors who perform the repair work type.
Life spans are another area in which most inspectors attempt not to get involved. Every system in the home will have a general life span. Some items and systems might surpass those life expectancies, while others might stop working much sooner than expected. An inspector might show a client some basic life expectancies. However, the inspector typically can’t give an exact estimate.

Time Needed for an Inspection
The average time for an assessment on a typical 3-bedroom home usually takes two to four hours, depending on the number of additional rooms like the bathrooms, kitchens, fireplaces, attics, etc., that have to be inspected. Inspections that take less than two hours are usually considered strictly cursory, “walk-through” examinations, and offer the client with less information than a full examination.

The Home Inspection Report
All inspectors will provide clients with reports. While some inspectors will give an oral report, written reports are always better, and they protect the parties throughout the transaction.
Below are some of the more typical types of written reports:

  1. Checklist with comments

2. Score system with comments

3. Narrative report with either a checklist or ranking system

4. Pure narrative report

Most home/building examinations cover four key areas: 1) the exterior, 2) the basement or crawlspace, 3) the attic or crawlspace, and 4) the living areas. Inspectors usually invest sufficient time to visually search for a host of red flags, telltale hints, and indications or flaws and shortcomings. As the inspector finishes a system, major part, or location, he/she will then go over the findings with the customers, keeping in mind both the positive and negative features.

The examined areas of a home/building will include all of the major noticeable and accessible electro-mechanical systems and the major visible and available structural systems and parts of a building as they worked and appeared at the time and date of the examination.