Home Inspection Guide

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When a home is sold or purchased a normal part of the sales process involves a property or home inspection by a professional inspection company. Such inspections are routinely performed and should be considered as a positive approach to limiting the possibility of future litigation and providing as much disclosure as possible.

Most home inspection reports usually conclude in the successful purchase of the property, and are used by the buyer in maintaining the newly purchased home.

1. What is a Home Inspector?
2. Pre-Listing Inspection
3. Preparing for an Inspection
4. Special Inspections
5. Did My Home Pass?

1. What is a Home Inspector? Most states don’t license the service of home inspections. As such, home inspections may be performed by anyone with a business license. There are many home inspection training schools and trade associations but too many of those are businesses who’s primary purpose is to make money from the training and certification of home inspectors. Many of these businesses and associations concentrate their efforts in marketing their services to people who want to enter the home inspection trades.

Experience and reputation are the keys to finding a good inspector.

2. Pre-Listing Inspection: Many home sellers contract for an inspection report prior to the listing of a home. Such an inspection report will determine if any easily remedied defects can be repaired prior to the listing of the property; thus improving the quality of the listing. It can also be used as a potential tool in the sale of the house.

However, by having the home inspected prior to listing the home, the seller may become aware of new information about defects in the home. Such new information may have to be disclosed to any potential buyer. Sellers are advised to consult with their attorneys about locally applicable disclosure laws, and how these laws apply to the information gained from a pre-listing inspection.

A pre-listing inspection may also not eliminate the desire of the prospective buyer of the property to have an independent inspection performed. The prospective buyer may decide that their own inspection is less likely to be biased on behalf of the seller. More importantly, the prospective buyer may decide that their inspection is needed in order to make preliminary determinations regarding their proposed use and modifications of the structure in question. For example, the prospective buyer may want to know if the electrical system is adequate for its existing use, and for any planned additions of a bathroom, hot tub, or the use of various power tools.

3. Preparing Your Home for an Inspection: As a general rule, it is unwise to try to anticipate the results of a home inspection, or to make any last minute corrections. It might be a good idea to reattach missing gutter downspouts, reposition splash blocks, or replace missing electrical cover plates. Such detailed corrections may give the house a neater appearance, but are unlikely to effect major findings about drainage systems, electrical wiring, or the life expectancy of a roof system. Some last minute corrections, such as the painting of basement walls to cover water stains, or the use of caulking to reattach loose bathroom tiles, may provide the experienced inspector with additional clues to possible problems. Making the house accessible and easier to inspect would help the inspector. It will not change the material findings of the inspection, but could eliminate some unnecessary aggravations.

A Few Suggestions:

  • Remove any furniture and stored material from access panels to crawl spaces, electrical panel boxes, furnaces, and spa pump motors.
  • If the access panel to the attic crawl space is in a closet, you might remove the clothes from that closet, or cover the clothes with a sheet, in order to protect them from bits of insulation and debris that fall down in the process of removing the access panel.
  • Overly friendly or unfriendly dogs can complicate the inspection process and are best kept away from the house during the period of an inspection.

  • A copy of building permits, construction contracts and drawings, septic tank service reports, utility bills and similar documents can be helpful to an inspector. If you have such documents, you may want to collect them prior to the inspection and have them available at the time of inspection. If you do not have such documents, don’t go out of your way to search for copies.
  • Be honest! Many states have laws that require seller to disclose a home’s defects. If, for example, your basement has leaked, disclose that information! If you have made repairs that appear to have solved the problem then disclose that you think the problem has been solved.
  • Most inspectors will perform the inspection in the company of the prospective buyer. This is a time for the buyer to take another look at the house and discuss various items with assistance, and then provide full access to the house. It is customary and recommended that the seller be absent from the house during the actual inspection, or remain in portions of the house not being inspected.
  • Inspector should have prior permission from the customer to discuss the inspection report with a third party. As such, it would be best to refrain from asking the inspector about the inspection report, unless you have contracted for the report.

4. Special Inspections: The home inspector is the general practitioner, familiar with most of the standard systems in a residential structure. However, he/she is unlikely to have the licensing or expertise necessary to analyze all of the specialty problems that may arise in some inspections. In addition, the inspector is prohibited from doing any sort of destructive testing, which precludes the inspector from making a complete examination of certain portions of systems, such as furnaces. The home inspector may find conditions in a particular structure that require further analysis. Such analysis may have to be performed by a specialty inspector; for example, a soil engineer, a testing laboratory, a furnace service company, or a licensed electrical contractor.

5. Did My House Pass the Inspection? Home inspections do not result in passing or failing grades. The inspection report is an analysis of the condition of the various systems in the house. It is the customer of the inspection who determines whether the inspection results are satisfactory. An inspection report indicating that the roof of a structure needs immediate replacement may be an acceptable finding to the customer who expects to do some rehabilitation to the structure. The same report can result in significant concerns to the customer who expected few (if any) short-term major maintenance requirements.

Very few inspection reports result in a completely clean bill of health. There are always a few maintenance items that will need attention or repair in the near future. Experience at Sound Home Inspections and other data available suggest that the average home requires 1-2% of the value of the structure in annual maintenance and repair costs. Most inspection findings show a need for 2-4 years worth of normal annual repairs, or 2-8% of the value of the structure.

The most common items found to require repair, or maintenance include the following:

  • Wood rot, as a result of moisture and soil-wood contact in areas such as decks, foundations and porches.
  • Roofs and roof venting systems, including flashing and deteriorating chimneys.
  • Tub and shower walls, as well as, bathroom floors.
  • Furnaces that have not been serviced or cleaned in several years.
  • Outdated electrical systems and unsafe electrical wiring.
  • Gutters, downspouts and improper downspout drains.
  • Asbestos containing material, especially in homes built or remodeled prior to 1978.


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