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.

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

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 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.