This guide will help make the process of having your home inspected as easy and smooth as possible by answering the most commonly asked questions about home inspection and by providing helpful information on how to prepare your home to be inspected.
What is a professional home inspection?
A professional home inspection is a primarily visual examination of the visible, safely accessible, and readily accessible components of the interior, exterior, structural, roof, electrical, heating, cooling, and plumbing systems of a home for conditions that are currently adversely affecting or that have the potential to adversely affect the normally intended function or operation of those systems and their components.
The information developed from the inspection is documented in a written report, and recommendations for appropriate actions to address the conditions noted in the report and the report presented to the inspector’s customer. The written report will also describe the main water, gas, electrical shut-offs, and certain materials and installation methods and construction used in the home.
In the course of performing the inspection, the inspector will typically give the home buyer maintenance information to assist them in caring for and getting the most out of what will soon be their new home. Some professional home inspectors also include the kitchen appliances in their inspections, and some provide other services such as testing for radon gas, swimming pool inspection, and mold testing.
What does an inspector do?
While each inspector will bring a unique perspective to an inspection, all professional home inspectors cover the same areas. They’ll inspect the exterior, including walking the roof to inspect the roof covering materials and the other components above the roofline when it’s safe to do so. They’ll examine the eave gutters, downspouts, chimneys, grading, drainage, driveways, walkways, porches, decks, balconies, patios, exterior wall claddings, and other exterior components.
They’ll inspect the plumbing, electrical, heating, and cooling systems, including the operation of plumbing fixtures and water heaters. Inspectors examine the interiors of the electrical system main and sub-distribution panels and the operation of heating and cooling equipment, including, in some instances, removal of heating and cooling equipment access panels to permit closer examination of interior components. They’ll inspect solid-fuel heating appliances such as wood stoves and fireplaces. Inspectors may enter under-building crawl spaces and attic spaces, open closets, cabinets, and cupboards, and enter and inspect every room of the home, including garages and the function of automatic garage door operators.
A thorough professional home inspection of a typical home may take from two to four hours. It’s customary for the buyer to accompany the inspector for a part, if not all, of the inspection.
Will I receive a copy of the inspection report?
Typically the home seller will not get a copy of the report. The inspection and report are the property of the party paying for the inspection. If this is the buyer, then it’s their report. Unless they authorize the report's release to other parties, only customers are provided with the report.
Can my home “fail” the inspection?
Absolutely not! Homes don’t “pass” or fail” inspections. Homes “speak” for themselves, and a good inspector knows how to listen and what to listen for. The inspection report documents the conditions noted in the inspection course and provides recommendations for appropriate actions to address those conditions. Depending on what the inspector finds, the inspector’s recommendations may range from simply monitoring some conditions to addressing others as normal maintenance items to recommending immediate attention for some others. However, a professional home inspector is a disinterested third party and does not get involved in negotiations between buyers and sellers. It does not assign responsibility to either buyers or sellers responsible for any recommended corrective measures.
Should I be present during the inspection?
While it may not always be practical, sellers and occupants should be away during the inspection. In most cases, sellers or occupants are not present during the inspection. The inspection is the buyer’s time to really become familiar with the home under the inspector's guidance. Buyers typically feel more at ease when they’re free to ask the inspector questions or make comments and observations in an uninhibited atmosphere. If you need to leave special instructions for the inspector, they are best communicated through your agent or leave written instructions for the inspector.
If you must be home during the inspection, keep in mind that the buyer is paying for the inspector’s time and expertise. Following along or “chatting” with the inspector or the buyer consumes their time, making the buyer uncomfortable. It’s always best to go about your normal daily routine and allow the inspector and the buyer to proceed through the house unaccompanied and uninterrupted from start to finish.
Can I get my home ready for an inspection?
By all means! Not only can a home be prepared for an inspection, but it should also be prepared for an inspection. When your home is properly prepared for an inspection, everyone benefits. It makes it easier for the inspector, reduces the time required to conduct the inspection, and shows consideration for the buyer’s time. The results are fewer headaches for the inspector and fewer disruptions, and less inconvenience for you.
What should I do to prepare my home for an inspection?
Remove obstacles that may block the inspector’s access to the following:
· Electrical panels
· Heating and cooling equipment
· Water heaters
· Under-building crawl space access
· Attic space access (this includes removing clothing and other personal property which may impede access through a closet or garage)
· Under-sink areas
· Ground fault interrupter type electrical receptacle outlets
· Kitchen sinks
· Ranges and ovens
· Interior areas, including garages and basements
· Any locked item or area (remove locks, unlock doors and gates, or provide keys or other means of access so that the inspector can have access to yards and open electrical panels, storage rooms, etc.)
Take measures to the kennel, cage, or otherwise remove pets that cannot be let out, that may harm the inspector or others present at the inspection, or the inspection may harm that.
All space heating and water heating equipment should be operational (this means that standing pilot lights must be lit and fuel gas valving must be on), and all systems (water, gas, and electrical) should be on. If the inspector finds electrical circuit breakers in the off position, standing pilot lights unlit, gas valves, water stops, or main water supply valves shut off or other essential or major component controls disabled; the inspector will assume that they are in such condition for a reason and the written report will state that they are inoperable.
If the inspector operates a light switch for a permanently installed light fixture and the fixture has a burned-out light bulb or no light bulb at all, the inspection report will state that the light was inoperable and will recommend further evaluation by a qualified electrician. To avoid this, replace burned-out light bulbs or missing light bulbs in permanent light fixtures before the inspection.
Clean eave gutters and properly extended downspouts, a roof that’s in good repair, a clean furnace/air-conditioning system filter, proper labeling of all of the circuits in the electrical panel, and having intact cover plates on all electrical switches and receptacle outlets are among the things that reduce the number of conditions an inspector will have to include in the report.
Inspectors haven’t drilled sergeants and, while they’re not there to perform a military “white glove” inspection, an environment that’s neat and easy to move about in will present your home’s “best face” to the buyer and will make the entire inspection process more enjoyable for everyone.
What about after the inspection?
Sit back and relax. Your agent or representative will assist you in the process after the inspection. Remember, competent professional home inspectors, provide their customers with unbiased and clear information. They put the conditions noted in the course of their inspections in perspective. This allows buyers to make calm and informed decisions about the information in the inspection report. Experience has shown that most buyers aren’t obsessive perfectionists. Unless there are significant conditions that require immediate modifications or corrective measures, they typically understand that your home is where people like they live. They anticipate a reasonable amount of “normal wear and tear” and minor deferred maintenance.