Quality Home Inspection: Does It Matter? What Should It Cost?

When you need a home inspection, you want to make sure you get a good one. First, you need to know what a good home inspection is. Then you need to know how to find a home inspector who can, and will, give you the home inspection that serves you well. And last, you want to know how much you should pay for this quality home inspection by a good home inspector.

What Is a Home Inspection?

Let’s start with what a home inspection is – and isn’t. A home inspection is a professional and objective evaluation of the current condition of a house. It is not the same as an appraisal which attempts to place a value on a house and which may be required by a lending institution. Nor is it the same as a building code compliance inspection which may be required by local building regulations.

Who Needs a Home Inspection?

Home inspections are typically part of the home buying process, most often performed at the request of the buyer. It can protect the buyer from unseen issues and may sometimes even be required by the buyer’s bank to protect it from risky investments. In the event problems are found, a seller may be asked to effect repairs, to pay for the repairs or to renegotiate the sale price.

Sometimes the service is requested by a home seller so that problems with a house may be addressed prior to putting it on the market.

Homeowners not involved with a real estate transaction often have an inspection just as a way of learning more about their house. Home inspection, in this case, can be a valuable tool for helping to plan and budget maintenance, repairs or renovations.

What Makes a Good Home Inspector?

Not all states license home inspectors. The ones that do, generally follow guidelines enacted by the four main home inspection organizations: the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI), the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), the National Association of Home Inspectors (NAHI) and the National Academy of Building Inspection Engineers (NABIE). If your state does not currently license home inspectors, membership by your home inspector in one of these organizations is regarded as a trusted alternative.

The best home inspector is likely to have acquired considerable knowledge of common home repairs and of their costs. He may have great value for his clients as a source of general information – as one who can help them make sense of conditions the inspection has unearthed. However, objectivity demands that he not be an agent for repair contractors who might be trying to sell services.

The most valuable thing about a professional home inspection is that it is knowledgeable and unbiased.

What Is Included in a Good Home Inspection?

A quality home inspection performed according to industry accepted standards is non-invasive. An inspector will not drill holes or remove wall surfaces. He will view accessible areas of the house and will inspect:

Roof

general shingle condition, flashings, gutters and downspouts, and the general structure of the roof that can be readily accessed for viewing

Exterior

defects in siding, flashings, brick, or other wall coverings; doors and windows for fit, locks, etc.; porches and steps for proper rails and general conditions including rot; general vegetation and surface drainage as it may affect the structure of the house

Foundation

signs of shifting – cracks, out of square door frames, etc.; signs of water penetration; improperly cut or notched framing members

Heating and Cooling

type, age, energy rating if applicable, and testing for normal operation

Plumbing

determine type of supply, i. e., public or private; look for poor water pressure; look for poor drainage from sinks, tubs, etc.; inspect supplies – faucets and other fixtures; inspect toilets; inspect water heating equipment, including its type, capacity, venting

Electrical

inspection of the service drop, meter enclosure, disconnects and service panel – breakers or fuse box, verify GFCIs, smoke detectors and test representative number of switches, fixtures and outlets

Attic, Ventilation and Insulation

inspect insulation in unfinished, i.e., accessible, areas; inspect ventilation of attics and mechanical ventilation

Interior

inspect for loose plaster, drywall, moldings; inspect stairs and railings; test a representative number of doors and windows

Miscellaneous

garage, garage door operation, cracks in floor, viewable structure; inspect general conditions of driveway

How Much Should It Cost and Is It Worth It?

Given the value added by the reliability and certainty of a professional quality home inspection, its cost is well worth it and a minor part of the overall cost of a real estate transaction. The cost of no knowing can be considerable – you just never know.

A home inspector will have looked at hundreds of items. The inspection report will identify problems with the home. It will describe the findings in clear and easy to understand language, often accompanied by photographs. The home inspector may visit the home with the client to point out the various findings in person.

The cost of a professional quality home inspection is usually in a range between $250-$500, and varies according to the size and the age of the house. Some inspectors offer special deals at a lower cost but it is important for the prospective client to determine if the special deal follows all industry accepted standards.

Many home inspectors also offer ancillary services that are not considered to be a part of the standard inspection. These can relate to the client’s specific concerns about ensuring a safe and healthy environment for themselves and their families. These ancillary services may include tests for radon, asbestos, mold, lead and water or air quality. Another useful form of testing is thermal imaging which evaluates heat loss from the house and aids the client in minimizing heating bills. Consultation with the home inspector can help determine if these additional tests should be included.

A quality home inspection can mean great value to the client – depending on the need.

If you are a seller, an inspection can help you market your house more effectively. You may be able to make some minor repairs which will pay off in getting a better price.
If you are a buyer, an inspection may warn you of unnoticed and potentially costly repairs which will be needed for the house. They may be deal breakers. And if not, then having the inspector’s evaluation can help you get the very best deal.
If you’re a homeowner — neither buying nor selling at the present time, an inspection can simply help you to be sure that your home is a safe and healthy environment for you and your family. It can aid you in planning smart maintenance and repairs, renovations or refinancing.

In all cases, a quality home inspection provides way more value than cost because it can be that difference that helps you become a smarter homeowner, buyer or seller.

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.

Home Inspections – Their Purpose and Process

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

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.

What Makes a Good Home Inspection Report…Good?

Ask a dozen Home Inspectors, or make it a bakers dozen if you will, what it is that makes a Home Inspection report a GOOD Home Inspection report, and you are just liable to get 12 or, make it 13, different answers. Well, maybe there wouldn’t be that much disparity in response, but you get the general idea…there almost certainly wouldn’t be any unanimous consensus. Because individual Home Inspection reports, just as with individual Home Inspectors, simply aren’t created equally…one report absolutely is not (allow me to be repetitive here for emphasis)…is not just like the next…neither in content or in quality.

There are many differing opinions as to what constitutes a good Home Inspection report and this is evidenced by the large number of report formats and the myriad of various software programs that are used to create reports. Having been in the Home Inspection industry for more than 15 years, I was creating written (gulp…yes, hand-written) reports using carbon copy report forms, in triplicate (three copies…press hard, please) back when there weren’t any computers involved in the process. In fact, I had to be drug, not quite actually by my hair, and not quite literally…but almost…kicking and screaming, into what I’ll refer to as the modern computer age. In retrospect, it was a definitive change for the better (in most ways, anyway…I have yet to have my wrist “crash”…but I digress). As the owner of a Raleigh Home Inspection firm, I have my own professional opinion as to what goes into the production of a good Home Inspection, and as to what a good Home Inspection report should be.

There is differing opinion amongst professional Home Inspectors as to whether a checklist style of report should be used…or whether a narrative style report should be used. In the former, issues or problems (I have never have liked referring to issues as problems, even though an issue may very well be, and likely is, a problem for someone…) are conveyed to the reader using boxes that are checked off. In the latter, issues are presented using narrative, wherein each problem is identified by writing out those issues. In reality, most reports are a combination of the two. The combination style of report is the one that I prefer and recommend to other Home Inspectors; descriptive commentary e.g. materials or types of components, can be conveyed using a check box with the real issues conveyed using narrative.

So, what are the…ingredients…necessary to create and provide a good Home Inspection report?

To preface any discussion regarding this subject topic, and from a clients perspective (who is likely relying on the contents of the report to make a well-informed real estate purchasing decision), it is important that the Inspector be experienced, knowledgeable about most all related issues that might be encountered, and be entirely professional toward both the Home Inspection process as a whole and toward the client/buyer specifically. This must be, in my opinion, accepted as a given and be considered a baseline requirement. The overall philosophy of the Inspector should be to provide their client with not only a good inspection experience, but an excellent inspection experience. Of course, it should be herein acknowledged that if the home has a really large number of serious issues, then the experience may not seem like such a good one to the client at the time…but that’s likely (or should be) the fault of the condition of the home itself rather than the fault of the Inspector. In the event of a less than stellar report resulting from an Inspection of a particular home, the client is able to revel in the fact that their professional Home Inspector, and their most excellent and professionally produced Home Inspection report precluded their buying the proverbial Money Pit and their having any number of unexpected or unanticipated expenses associated with their home purchase.

Obviously, any report absolutely must provide the client value…with, at the very least, a good representation of the condition of the property. If a report doesn’t do that, then the report is likely not worth anything…it would be worthless even if it were free.

Among other things, a Good Home Inspection Report should:

Be well organized and well presented; the report should layout and presentation should be logical…it should be organized so as to provide a sort of road map, if you will, around and through the home
Be well written…and be readily understandable by anyone irregardless of whether or not they have ever been to the physical property and irrespective of their technical background. The report should, to every extent possible, be devoid of technical nomenclature that requires yet more explanation to be understood; it should be concise and clear. A report that has to be interpreted is of little overall value
Provide enough detail, description and direction to provide not only the client, but anyone involved in the transaction e.g. real estate agents, attorneys, mortgage lenders, etc., with a clear representation of the physical condition of the property
Contain enough, but not an excessive number, of digital photographs relating directly to significant or serious issues. It has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words…this is true of a home inspection report. Photographs make it immeasurably easier to identify and understand any particular issue. On the other hand, a report loaded with photographs that lend no additional value to a report and are provided as filler content, or to provide a CYB (Cover Your Buttocks..) function for the Inspector, are best left out of a report
Be presented using plain, but grammatically correct language. There is no place in a professional Home Inspection report for misspelled words, fragmented sentences, and general misuse of the English language (or whatever language is appropriate). A report filled with these types of deficiencies is, and again in my opinion, directly indicative of the professionalism of the Inspector
Be presented in a straight-forward manner…if there are reportable issues present, then they should be presented in such a way as to leave no doubt that they are, indeed, issues. There should be no Soft-Shoeing…no Song and Dance…no Weasel-wording…just straight talk, accurate description, and effective commentary. Further, there should be some commentary provided to explain why an issue is an issue, and how to go about correcting that issue or otherwise obtaining other professional opinion regarding its correction
Contain a well-designed Summary Section…a section of the report where all significant, and potentially significant, issues are clearly identified. General information, suggestion regarding routine maintenance, or recommendations regarding the upgrade of the property should not be included in the Summary section of the report. That type of information should most certainly be provided in the report for the benefit of the client…just not in the Summary section of the report

A client in search of a professional Home Inspection should inquire of any potential candidate Inspector as to what type of report they produce…nor should they be at all shy or hesitant about asking that the considered Inspector to provide a sample of their inspection report. That way, a client will have a very good representative idea of what they can expect from the Home Inspector. The nursery rhyme that goes…Patty Cake…Patty Cake, Bakers Man…Bake Me A Cake As Fast As You Can…may have been good for Mother Goose; but when it comes to a Home Inspection and the resulting report, you may or may not want to get it just as fast as you can… but you certainly, absolutely, and most unequivocally want it to be just as GOOD as you can get it!

If a Home Inspection report incorporates all of the previously identified components, then it is highly predictable that the result will be a Good inspection report…and maybe even an Excellent inspection report. Isn’t that what a consumer should be searching for…and be entitled to receive I might add, in exchange for their hard-earned dollars… a most Excellent Home Inspection report?