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What is a Home Inspection?

A home inspection is an unbiased, non-invasive inspection of the general condition of a property, most often in association with the purchase of that particular property. Home inspectors are trained and certified to do these inspections, typically performed by a residential home inspector who has the appropriate training and certifications to carry out such inspections. The purpose of the inspection is to provide the seller with information regarding the condition of the property as it exists on the date of purchase, and what the expected condition will be upon the closing date. This information can have a significant impact on both the success and failure of the transaction. In order to have a successful real estate transaction, the home inspection must be completed as scheduled.

The four parts of a thorough home inspection are physical examination, testing of mechanical systems, inspection of building framing and walls, and review of electrical and plumbing systems. The purpose of each of these four parts is to uncover potential problems and defects that will require repair and expensive modifications to the property, or require the immediate purchase of parts or materials to remedy the problem(s). The physical examination is conducted from the exterior to the interior of the home. This examination is done at regular intervals, and is typically a two-hour process. The inspector is looking for the presence of deterioration, visible signs of water damage, and other problems that might warrant the need for repairs.

The purpose of testing systems is to discover whether there are any dangerous conditions that can pose a danger to the occupants of the home while the property is in the hands of the home buyer. Specifically, the inspector is looking for: loose gas lines, inadequate insulation, dangerous electrical wiring, and leaking pipes, water pipes or drainage systems, and defective air ducts. Again, this part of the home buying process is to discover what, if anything, may pose a hazard to the life of a home buyer during the course of the purchase transaction.

A home inspection report, if complete and accurate, provides a great deal of insight into the overall condition of the property. Based upon the information gathered during the inspection, homebuyers can make an informed decision regarding any repairs needed prior to closing. For example, a homebuyer who discovers major defects in the roof that will require ripping out portions of it may want to request that the home inspector supply estimates of the cost of tearing the roof down. In some instances, the home inspector will identify and discuss with the homebuyer the option of purchasing a home improvement warranty to cover the cost of repair. By providing this information to the homebuyer ahead of time, potential savings are identified and the potential for unforeseen expenses mitigated.

It is important for homebuyers to understand that their inspector is not there to pick out furniture or choose perfect fixtures and appliances. Inspectors do not make recommendations, and as such, a home inspection does not make recommendations for specific actions to be taken. Rather, the inspector is looking for signs of structural damage, concerns about pest infestation, and issues with drainage and plumbing. These are all areas that homebuyers can work with the inspector to identify and resolve prior to closing.

In essence, a home inspection report is simply a report on the condition of the house as it exists on the day of closing. While repairs, replacements, and improvements can be recommended at closing, the focus of the report remains the same: Determine what needs to be replaced, repaired, or renovated. This means home inspectors should not offer suggestions for remodeling unless requested by the seller. They should not make recommendations for changes to the heating system unless asked to do so by the home buyer. The goal of the report is to provide a neutral assessment of the house and its current condition as opposed to offering opinions regarding the homebuyer’s wishes for the house. If a home inspector makes recommendations to homebuyers based upon their personal preferences for the house they are inspecting, both buyer and seller can be adversely affected.

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