Home inspections are limited, non-invasive, examinations of the condition of a home. The sale of a home is often contingent on a home inspection. Typically, home inspections are conducted by a home inspector who has the training and certifications to perform such inspections. The inspector prepares and delivers to the client a written report of findings. The client then uses the knowledge gained in the report to make informed decisions about their pending real estate purchase. The report describes the condition of the home at the time of inspection but does not guarantee the future condition, efficiency, or life expectancy of systems or components. A good home inspector will, however, recommend either the services of an engineer, disciplined in a particular field, or other specialist when the need for further investigation is warranted.
A home inspection doesn’t just provide you with a list of problems to negotiate with the seller to have fixed or something catastrophic that may cause you back out of the deal altogether. It will provide you a detailed report that is something of a “new owner’s manual” for the home. It is your opportunity to learn the exact condition of the house including maintenance tips and schedules you should follow. If you’re like most home buyers, you want to know the condition of the house and its components, questions like: Is the roof leaking? Is the heating system working properly? Does the plumbing function properly? Are there any electrical hazards? Are there items in the house that will need repair or replacing and when? Does the wood framing have any damage? Do the doors and windows function properly? Does the basement get wet? Etc. Answering these, and other similar questions is precisely the job of a professional home inspector during a complete visual examination of the property.
Home inspections are sometimes confused with a real estate appraisal. An inspection determines the condition of a structure and all its components including but not limited to plumbing, electrical, roofing, doors/windows and siding. An appraisal determines the value of a property. While not all states or municipalities regulate home inspectors, there are professional associations for home inspectors that provide education, training, and networking opportunities. A professional home inspection is a snapshot in time of the current condition of a house. It is not a building inspection; building inspection is a term often used for building code compliance inspections in the United States.
Most inspectors, at a minimum, will invite you and your agent for a walk-through with them at the end of the inspection. You can ask to attend the entire inspection if you wish. The time you will be the varies by the size, age and condition of the home. Ask your inspector in advance how long you should plan on being there. Your inspector should explain your home’s systems and give you maintenance tips. Those should also be in the final report, along with pictures. But hearing and seeing it in person is helpful.
Your realtor can provide you with contact information for reputable home inspectors. Most will refer more than one inspector and let the buyer make their own choice. This way there is no conflict of interest. Referrals from friends or relatives who may have used a quality inspector in the past are also good. These same people may also have suggestions on what companies to avoid. If you know someone who does a lot of real estate transactions, they may have some good suggestions.