FAQ about a home inspection

What is a home Inspection?

The inspection is a reasonable effort to disclose the condition of the property on the day of the inspection-a look at your home with an experienced eye. The inspection should take 2-3 hours to perform. Some items such as windows and receptacles are checked by sampling. A representative number of light switches and receptacles are checked (one in each room). A representative number of windows are checked to see if they function. Other items such as shingles and siding are checked as a group, but not individually. Most people purchasing a home hire an inspector to check the roof, exterior, foundation/basement/structure, plumbing, electrical, heating, fireplace, air conditioning, insulation, and interior. 

Is there anything an inspection does not cover? YES.

 The inspection does not reveal information on the concealed areas or items not inspected. e.g Insulation in the visible areas of the attic does not imply insulation under the attic floor. Pre-purchase inspections do not cover asbestos, radon gas, lead paint, urea formaldehyde, toxic or inflammable  chemicals, etc.. Some inspection companies offer additional services such as radon, well, septic inspections, etc. under separate agreements. Personal property such as washers, dryers, refrigerators, portable appliances, playground equipment, hot tubs, and fireplace inserts, etc. are not inspected.  Cosmetics are not addressed. A home inspection does not cover soil conditions or defects caused by geological conditions. Inspectors will not endanger themselves or the property by going into wet crawlspaces or onto treacherous roofs. They will not purposefully damage the property.  Inspectors cannot find things that have been intentionally concealed from them. 


Does the inspection reveal code violations? NO

The inspector may have a general knowledge of local codes, but a prepurchase inspection is not designed to  reveal specific code violations. The inspector could not be expected to know and keep up with all the codes that may have been in effect over the years in all the local jurisdictions. Be aware that you may not be required to upgrade your home to meet current codes until you remodel. Electrical improvements must usually be made to todays standards. 

Who is an Inspector and what does he do?

Home inspectors are generalists with broad knowledge on many topics. Some home inspectors are engineers and some are not. A good inspector must be well versed in all fields of residential construction and have good communication skills. They do not know or see everything. They are not experts on every item or system. The home inspector gives an overview of the condition of the property and discloses major defects. 

What is a Major Defect?

Major Defects are any items costing more than $500.00 to repair or items affecting the habitability of the house. One dripping faucet is not a major defect, but ten might be. Delayed maintenance may cost over $500.00. Defects are disclosed in a report.

Is a Home Inspection an Insurance policy or a warranty against future repairs? NO.

Purchasing a home brings risk. An inspection cannot eliminate risk, but it discloses the condition of the house. The home inspector will never be able to predict every repair or maintenance item encountered while wning a house. An inspection does not constitute an insurance policy. It gives you an impression of the condition of the house and discloses necessary repairs. Insurance may pay for future repairs, but tells you nothing about the condition of the house. 

Does an inspection predict future performance? 

Not really. Statistically, a one year old water heater should last at least 5 to 10 years. It may not. A 23 year old asphalt shingle roof probably will not last another year. It could last 5 years. Water use, heat settings, and maintenance differ from owner to owner. 

Are there any other sources of information about this house? YES. 

Information can be obtained from realtors, county records, utility companies, appraisers, and mortgage companies, etc.. Do not forget the seller! No one source should be relied on when making the decision to purchase. You may have to find experts who perform more extensive tests. 

The inspection is not a recommendation of whether you should ”buy” or ”not buy” the property. Home inspections do not disclose the suitability of a building for a specific purpose or function. (e.g (1) A house appearing spacious occupied by a couple may feel crowded and cramped occupied by a family of six. 

The equipment may suffer from the additional wear and tear. (2) A residence converted into an office. The zoning, parking, and engineering required are outside the scope of the inspection.) 

Is there anything a buyer should not expect a home inspector to do at an inspection. YES. 

Generally home inspections are visual and not technically exhaustive. Each major part of the house may have some limitations preventing the inspector  from completing the inspection. It is your responsibility to see that steps are taken to remove those restrictions or to understand the ramifications of these restraints. Also read the contract for the inspection carefully for particular limitations of the company performing the inspection. There is no requirement for an inspector to use special instruments or testing devices like gas detectors, moisture meters, pressure gauges or amp meters. However, some inspectors may use gas detectors and moisture meters to determine hard to decipher gas or water leaks. 

A home inspection is visual and you should not expect the inspector to report on the interior of the flue of the fireplace. Until the chimney is cleaned by a chimney sweep, the condition is not visible. 

If the inspector performs the inspection according to a national standard, it would be wise to ask for a copy. The more you understand the limitations and exclusions of any inspection the better you’ll know what to expect when the inspector arrives to do your inspection. Inspectors do a valuable service but there is no way they are able to perform a totally comprehensive and exhaustive inspection in 2-3 hours and at a reasonable fee. A totally comprehensive and exhaustive inspection could run thousands of dollars and take many days to perform. 

The inspector’s report is an important aspect of the inspection. The report tells what was and was not inspected. It identifies the systems and items in the house and discloses their condition It may give repair suggestions and life expectancies. Take this information, combined with the other things you know about the house, and draw your conclusions.