I’ve been asked on more than one occasion about Home Inspections and Inspectors. There are a few things to keep in mind.
Is a Building Inspector the same as a Home Inspector?
First, the person that inspects your deck or addition when you build it is the Building inspector. They inspect it for compliance to codes, not usually for a real-estate transaction. This is different than the Home Inspector we are talking about. The Building inspector is employed but the local Municipality. A Home Inspector is employed by the Home buyer for inspection for a real-estate transaction, not code compliance.
Recently, I was called in on a case were the Home Inspector did miss some glaring issues. Some of them health and safety, some code items. Upon numerous re inspections by myself and others, including another reputable Home Inspector, we documented items that should have been brought to the fore front. I would hope bringing this to light now can help you later when you are looking for your new or next home.
What should the Home inspector look for?
A thorough home inspection is one of the most important steps in the home-buying process. Yet many potential homeowners don’t know what, exactly, an inspection entails — and some real estate agents, eager to make a sale, won’t do much to help a client understand what they should expect.
In its simplest form, a home inspection is a visual assessment of the structure and operational systems of a home.
Inspect the Homes Exterior
That includes an inspection of entryways (all the doors, including garage doors), the home’s foundation, exterior (siding, brick, stone, etc.), porches, windows and roof.
Inspect the Roof
If you can find one, hire an inspector who is willing to get up on the roof and inspect it for damage, or at the very least is experienced enough to check the roof from the ground using binoculars (though things can be missed this way).
Is the roofline sagging? Are there water spots in the attic? (That’s a sign that there is a leak, or that there may have been one in the past). How does the spouting and flashing look? If there are skylights, do they show signs of leaking?
Inspect the Foundation
Are there cracks in the siding, loose mortar between bricks, rotted wood? Is the porch sturdy? Is it pulling away from the house, or sagging? Is the foundation cracked, and if so, is it a flaw that affects the structural integrity of the home? Are there obvious signs that there are roots growing into, or near, the foundation or any power, water or sewer lines? In the basement or crawl space, is there rotted or soft wood, or insect damage where the house meets the foundation?
An inspector will also look at balconies, fascias, soffits and eaves for damage or structural problems.
Inspect the Land
A home inspector should also access the land around the house. Are there obvious drainage problems? What’s the condition of the sidewalks and the driveway?
Interior Inspection Items
Plumbing systems should be checked for pressure, leaks, age, and if the proper vents are installed and working. Septic systems should be checked as well: Do drains in the house empty slowly? Does sewage back up into the house? Are there wet, smelly spots into the yard or foliage? Does the dishwasher or laundry drain into the yard? Does the entire system drain somewhere else, like a ditch? Inspectors will often run three faucets simultaneously for about 45 minutes to test for slow drains, leaks, backups and more.
Inspection of Electrical Systems
The inspector should also check the electrical system. Is everything properly grounded? Is the breaker box adequate? What kind of wiring is in use? Is it a fire hazard, such as knob-and-spool or aluminum? Switches and outlets should be checked to ensure they work, and smoke/carbon monoxide detectors should be inspected, too. Are there ground fault circuit interrupters installed in the bathrooms and kitchens? If the garage doors have an electric opener, does it meet the current safety codes?
Inside the home, the inspector should look for uneven floors, walls or ceilings. Are there cracks? Signs of leaks? Do the windows open and close properly? Are there any visible signs of mold or rot?
Inspect the Basement
The inspector should also check the basement, examining any exposed plumbing or wiring, and checking any exposed insulation and vapor barriers.
An often-overlooked area of the home is its ventilation system. Is there an adequate vent in the kitchen or bath (not just a fan, that blows things around but not out)? Can moisture build up inside the home, causing problems with mold and rot?
Appliances need to be checked, too. Dishwashers should be run through a cycle, and any other appliances that are to be included, such as stoves or refrigerators, should be tested as well.
Ensure your inspector also takes a look at any wood stoves or fireplaces in the home. They need to ensure the chimney and flue are intact, clear and in working order.
Finally, heating and air conditioning systems should be checked. Do they work properly? How old are the systems, and are they gas, electric, oil, geothermal? If it’s oil or gas, is the furnace working properly, and are any leaks, cracks or other concerns about tanks or lines?
The exterior inspection is not expected to include outbuildings or fences, or any evaluation of hydraulic or geologic conditions.
The number of things an inspector should check may seem overwhelming, but keep in mind that you’re making what could be the biggest investment in your life. You don’t want to buy a home based on emotion, only to find out when it’s too late that it’s a money pit, not a dream home. Choose your inspector wisely, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Home Inspection Checklist
You can also print out a home inspection checklist here:
A Home Inspector may find issues that are not within their realm of specialty, ie a structural issue. At that point they should indicate that you may want a engineer, termite or HVAC technician for further evaluation.
Hopefully with this as a starting point it can help elevate stress down the road and help circumvent heartache and buyers remorse!
Read the first part of the home inspection series Home Inspection Part I