Frequently Asked Questions
- What is a home inspection?
- Why do I need a home inspection?
- Why can’t I do it myself?
- What if the house fails the inspection?
- Do you offer an opinion on whether I should buy the house, or what I should pay?
- When do I call a home inspector?
- Do I have to be there?
- What if the report reveals problems?
- What does a home inspection include?
- What does the home inspection exclude?
» What is a home inspection?
A home inspection is a non-invasive visual examination of the physical structure and systems of a house, from roof to foundation, as they exist and can be seen to perform at the time of the inspection.
» Why do I need a home inspection?
If you are buying a home, you want to learn as much as you can about the house before you buy it. A home inspection by an independent professional is how you accomplish this — it helps a buyer understand what to expect from a house in a way not otherwise possible without actually living in it. The inspection assesses the condition of all of the major systems, identifies the needs for major repairs or builder errors, and specifies the maintenance required to keep it in good shape. The basic purpose is to minimize unpleasant surprises or unexpected difficulties. After the inspection, you will know more about the house, which will allow you to make decisions with confidence.
If you already own the home and have no plans to move, a home inspection can identify potential problems early and suggest preventive measures that can help avoid costly future repairs.
If you are planning to sell your home, a home inspection can identify the components likely to be criticized so you can accurately disclose these conditions in advance, repair them or adjust your asking price if necessary, and thereby protect yourself against surprises during negotiations.
» Why can’t I do it myself?
Even the most experienced homeowner lacks the specialized systems knowledge and expertise of a professional home inspector. An inspector is familiar with all the elements of home construction, proper installation, maintenance and home safety, including obscure but important considerations that a home owner may never consider. He knows how the home’s systems and components are intended to function together, as well as why they fail.
Furthermore, by the time a house is being inspected, potential buyers have already developed an attachment to the house and don’t want it to have any problems. This can have an effect on their judgment. An impartial, “arm’s length” opinion by an home inspector will force you to confront and evaluate the real importance of any defects.
» What if the house fails the inspection?
An inspector doesn’t pass or fail the house, he provides a current snapshot of the condition of the house’s systems, along with their implications from an ownership perspective. It is not a market value appraisal, although the information provided may cause you and your realtor to reconsider what you are willing to pay, nor is it a building code-compliance inspection. A home inspector, therefore, will not pass or fail a house, but rather will describe its physical condition and indicate what components and systems may need major repair or replacement.
» Do you offer an opinion on buying the house, or what I should pay?
No. There are a number of factors going into your purchase decision to which an inspector does not contribute. While it can be said that every property is a good deal at the right price, determining that price falls well outside the inspector’s expertise — your realtor is the one with the specific expertise to help you determine if the price is reasonable, and whether, in light of the information included (and any costs implied) in the inspection report, you may want to reconsider your purchase offer. Similarly, the fact that a house is “a real fixer-upper” may be exactly what you want. Ultimately, the decision is yours — and the inspection report is there as a valuable tool to help you make it an informed one.
» When do I call a home inspector?
A home inspector is usually contacted immediately after the purchase agreement has been signed, where a clause that the house pass an inspection is specified as a condition of sale. This clause should specify the terms and conditions to which both the buyer and seller are obligated.
» Do I have to be there?
Yes. Part of the value of the inspection is in accompanying the inspector as the house is examined, so you can ask questions as you learn about the condition and any unusual features of the home, and how to maintain it, and so the inspector can help you when he sees where you may need more detailed explanations.
» What if the report reveals problems?
It probably will — no house is perfect. When the inspector identifies problems, it doesn’t mean you should or shouldn’t buy the house, only that now you know what to expect in terms of how that house will perform and what it will cost to maintain it in the short and medium term. If the house is going to require immediate major repair work, that information may change what you would be willing to pay, may cause the seller to agree to make repairs or adjust his price, or may encourage you to look elsewhere.
» What does a home inspection include?
The standard home inspector’s report looks at the condition and performance of eleven general home systems each of which includes a number of detailed sub-systems:
- exterior components
- roof system
- structural condition and integrity
- electrical system
- heating system (temperature permitting)
- cooling (air conditioning) system (also temperature permitting)
- safety issues
» What does the home inspection exclude?
Anything that cannot be seen directly, or reasonably inferred from what can be seen, is not included. The inspection is non-invasive – we cannot open up walls, rip up carpets, or damage surface finishes in any way. There are also a number of other specific exclusions, such as air quality and the presence of mold, the presence of underground oil tanks, or the condition of outbuildings. Review the inspection contract carefully before proceeding so that you understand the scope of the inspection, and what it does and does not provide.
In specific instances, there may also be things excluded that would normally be included. When that happens, it will be identified in the written report. For example, large quantities of stored materials may inhibit the inspection of floors or walls hidden by them; three feet of snow on a roof affects what can be seen there, and so on.