A home inspection is defined as an objective visual examination of the physical structure and systems of the subject home, from the roof to the foundation.

In plain language, having a home inspected is comparable to giving the house a physical check-up. If problems or symptoms are found, the inspector may recommend further evaluation by a qualified professional.

As a home buyer/seller or real estate professional, you have a right to know what a typical home inspection entails. The following information should give you a better understanding of exactly what your inspector should (and should not) do for you during a home inspection.

First, a home inspection is a visual survey of those easily accessible areas that an inspector can visibly see. No destructive testing or dismantling is done during a home inspection; hence an inspector can only tell a client exactly what was clearly in evidence at the time and date of the home inspection. The inspectors’ eyes are not any better than the buyers, except that the inspector is trained to look for specific telltale signs and clues that may lead to discovering actual or potential defects or deficiencies.

Home Inspectors base their inspections on the current industry standards of their professional societies. These Standards tell what the inspector will and can do and what the inspector will not do. Many inspectors give a copy of the standards to their clients. If your inspector has not given you a copy, ask for one, or contact us.

The Industry Standards spell out specific areas in which the inspector must identify various defects and deficiencies and identify the specific systems, components, and items that are being inspected. There are many excluded areas noted in the standards that the inspector does not have to report on, for example, private water and sewer systems, solar systems, security systems, et cetera.

The standards do not limit the inspector. If the inspector wishes to include additional inspection services (typically for an extra fee), they may perform as many specific inspection procedures as the client may request. Other services may consist of wood-boring insect inspection, radon testing, various environmental testing, et cetera.

Many inspectors do not test or inspect appliances for many good reasons. Appliances can break down almost immediately after the inspection, and the buyer may hold the inspector liable. There have been cases where homeowners have switched appliances with lesser quality units after the home inspection. Suppose your inspector does test and inspect appliances. In that case, you should keep in mind that any appliance can fail, mainly if the units are several years old or older—another reason for you to consider an A-Pro® inspector. Our home inspectors are thoroughly trained to test appliances and provide an All-In-One™ guarantee to assure their customers of top-notch service.

Most inspectors will not give definitive cost estimates for repairs and replacements since the costs can vary from one contractor to another. Inspectors typically tell clients to secure three reliable quotes from those contractors performing the type of repairs in question.

Life expectancies are another area that most inspectors try not to get involved with. Every system and component in a building will have a typical life expectancy. Some items and units may exceed those expected life spans, while others may fail much sooner than anticipated. An inspector may indicate to a client general life expectancies but should never give exact periods for the above-noted reasons.

The average time for an inspection on a typical 3-bedroom home usually takes 2 to 4 hours, depending upon the number of bathrooms, kitchens, fireplaces, attics, et cetera that must be inspected. Inspections that take less than two hours typically are considered strictly cursory, “walk-through” inspections and provide the client with less information than a full inspection.

Many inspectors belong to national inspection organizations such as ISHI, ASHI, and NACHI. These national organizations provide guidelines for inspectors to perform their inspections. The International Society of Home Inspectors (ISHI) requires its members to author a Fair & Balanced report by requiring such notations as positive attributes, discretionary improvements, general comments, et cetera, to be included in their findings. Professional associations also provide educational materials and programs for their members to provide continuing education for skilled inspectors. Make sure that you ask your inspector about his/her credentials and affiliations as a consumer.

All inspectors provide clients with reports. The least desirable type of report would be an oral report, as it does not protect the client and leaves the inspector open for misinterpretation and liability. Written reports are far more desirable and come in various styles and formats.

The following are some of the more common types of written reports:

1. Checklist with comments
2. Rating System with comments
3. Narrative report with either a checklist or rating system
4. Pure Narrative report

Inspectors differ on what they consider the best type of report. Some prefer one over the other. ISHI recommends that the home inspection report be such that the reader can fully understand the findings of the inspector and all the ramifications of such results. In this case, either #3 or #4 would suffice, while #1 and #2 types of reports are considered less than adequate.

Four key areas of the most home/building inspections cover the exterior, the basement or crawlspace areas, the attic or crawlspace areas, and the living areas. Inspectors typically will spend sufficient time in all these areas to visually look for red flags, telltale clues, and signs or defects and deficiencies. As the inspector completes a system, major component, or location, they will discuss the findings with the clients, noting both the positive and negative features.

The inspected areas of a home/building will consist of all the major visible and accessible electro-mechanical systems and the major visible and accessible structural systems and components of a building as they appeared and functioned at the time and date of the inspection.

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