Everyone knows that a home inspection is part of the process when buying a house. The type and extent of the inspection will depend on who requested it. Some savvy sellers have an inspection conducted before they put their house up for sale. Typically, once both parties have agreed to the conditions of purchase, the buyer usually has a set period of time (5-10 business days) to arrange an inspection and consider the report.
But What Exactly Does An Inspector Inspect?
There are several key areas which are important to evaluate during a building inspection. Typically a professional inspector will look for areas of concern that the general public may not be familiar with. In addition, a thorough inspection will also look for “hidden defects” – those things which may take more skill, or some deconstruction to review.
Home inspectors have standards of practice that serve as a minimum level of care required by the various associations. Many inspectors exceed these standards within their basic inspection or offer additional services such as inspecting pools, sprinkler systems, thermal imaging, checking radon levels, and inspecting for wood destroying organisms.
Here is a brief overview of what generally happens. Check with inspectors in your area to see what is and isn’t included and to find inspectors that offer any additional services you may require.
The stages of the inspection are fairly straight forward. The inspector does a visual inspection of the exterior, the interior and specific systems.
The inspector will consider the area the house is located in, and the general condition. Depending on the inspector and any association they may belong to, the inspector may note anything in the immediate neighborhood that might impact the home, such as power lines, proximity to transportation (such as railways), and any industry.
Typically an inspection will start with the exterior of the house. A good inspector will go up on the roof and examine it for any current or potential problems. They will look at framing, ventilation, type of roof construction, flashing and gutters.
They look for weather damage, unusual wear, pooling (in the case of flat roofs) and the general condition of the materials.
From this information and the age of the roof, a replacement date may be projected.
It does not include a guarantee of roof condition or a roof certification.
The other major area of concern is the foundation of the building. The inspector will examine exterior walls for any signs for cracks or settling. They may also examine cracks in surrounding paths or drives for signs of shifting or heaving.
The exterior inspection should include all wall covering, landscaping, grading, elevation, drainage, driveways, fences, sidewalks, fascia, trim, doors, windows, lights and exterior electrical receptacles. They may also look at any other issues on the exterior that require attention, such as rotting wood, overhanging tree branches, drainage, signs of infestation and so on.
In the interior of the house, an inspector will review many categories, based on general impression and also inspection. Some of these categories include, but are not limited to:
Cracks, Bows And Dips
If there are cracks inside but not outside (or the reverse) an inspector will look for cause and also any signs of repairs made to try to cover-up any issues.
He will review any dips in the ceiling or floors.
He may check to see the floor is level to check for any foundation support issues.
He may not investigate the reason for any bows or checks in the walls, but will at least note them.
Doors and windows
The inspection would ensure that all doors and windows function as intended. They will verify that any house settling has not caused impairment of mechanisms, such as locks no longer working properly, windows not sliding or door bottoms scraping . A good inspector will also verify the number of screens or storm windows if these are not installed at the time of inspection.
Plumbing and Electrical
The inspector will determine the type of plumbing (copper, PVC, ABS, galvanized metal, etc.) potable, drain, waste and vent pipes. The will look at fixtures in the kitchen and bathroom, evaluate water pressure and check for broken items and leaks. If there is a water heater with a tank, it would be checked for age and leaks. Tankless systems would also be inspected for ventilation, drainage and function. Typically, it does not include a sewer inspection, although some inspectors will send a camera through the main drain to view it from the inside.
The inspection will include a verification of the breaker panel and evaluation as to the load on the number of breakers present and grounding. The panel would also be checked for any improperly exposed elements, such as exposed wires or missing panel covers. The inspection would also make a determination as to the material of the wiring (copper or aluminum) within the house, and if it is consistent throughout. In addition, the inspector will examine exhaust fans, receptacles, ceiling fans and light fixtures.
Water damage can occur in several basic ways. Depending on where you live, an inspector will pay close attention to leaks from rain on the ceilings and walls, water from leaking pipes, fixtures or appliances, damage from flooding or sewer back ups and moisture in the basement (if you have one).
Mold, Mildew or Poor Ventilation
An inspection will review any major unexpected odors in the house that would be caused by mold or mildew. Part of this may include inspection for rot or mold, but this may depend on the state you live in.
If there is a natural gas system, it will be inspected for any leaking. Depending on the buyer and geographical location, they may also do an energy audit to check for drafts and heat or cooling efficiency. The attic and any basement or crawlspace would be inspected for damage and level of insulation.
Furnaces, air conditioning, duct work, chimney, fireplace and sprinklers should all be reviewed.
A more recent technology for this type of inspection uses thermal imaging with an infrared camera to get information on structural heat loss, moisture leaks. It can also be used to check electrical wiring overheating conditions that are not normally detectable during a visual inspection.
While the buyer may wish to check out the neighborhood at different times of the day and week to check for noise in the environment, such as late night parties or loud vehicles, an inspector will generally concern themselves with any noise inside the house.
Noise from appliances, especially if they are older may be of note to the inspector. If the floors creak more than what would be considered normal, the inspector may investigate the structure underneath it.
He may investigate the garage door opener noise level, too.
Dishwasher, range and oven, built-in microwaves, garbage disposal and, yes, even smoke detectors. They may also look at the fridge, washer and dryer, or at least electrical connections and ventilation and drainage.
An inspector may (depending on the area) look for infestations in the house. Typical concerns are ants, termites, scorpions, spiders or rodents.
The garage will have its own review for the slab, walls, ceiling, vents, entry, firewall, garage door, openers, lights, receptacles, exterior, windows and roof.
If there are signs of renovations, the inspector may try to determine if these were the result of improvements or if they were an attempt to hide an existing problem with the house. For example if the house is completely freshly painted after a known flood, the inspector may investigate further to see if there was hidden water damage and subsequent mold issues. In addition, the inspector may verify that work was properly permitted and that the new owners will not have any issues with the municipality for the work done.
Non Included Areas
Pool And Spa Inspection
A typical inspector will often exclude swimming pools and from a general home inspection because they require special training and require additional time to inspect and report.
A typical inspection will not include, for obvious reasons, the insides of the walls. If there are concerns about mold, insulation or infestations, a buyer would have to make arrangements with the seller to open up the walls and do a visual inspection or use a scope.
Estimates For Repairs
An inspection will describe any irregularities in the condition of the house, but the report will not include any estimates. If roof or chimney repairs would be indicated, an inspector would not go into detail as to the extent of repair needed, since more damage may be discovered as layers are removed. The buyer would have to consult the appropriate contractors to get estimates.
Septic systems are not included during a building inspection. Normally the seller must disclose their inspection schedule and a buyer may request an inspection if one has not been done in the last year.
Wells And Water Quality
Wells and water quality would not be covered under a normal inspection.
Additional Exterior Structures
Any exterior structures such as sheds, work spaces or additional detached garages may not be included.
While these inspections may seem like unnecessary stress, they can offer the buyer and seller peace of mind. The buyer knows exactly what they are purchasing and the seller can know that they will be leaving without facing any legal responsibilities down the road.
A good inspector will be respectful and unobtrusive as possible during the tour.
But what happens when things go wrong?
If you are concerned about a bad inspection, or you have come to the realization that it is time to move right now to have a better life, but your house isn’t prepared, or if you are juggling too many responsibilities to sell your house yourself this summer, then there are people who specialize in the sale of properties "as is" - usually within a week to resolve the situation quickly. Contact me for details.
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