The process of buying a home can be stressful -- and oftentimes confusing! -- for potential home owners, and one area that many have unanswered questions is that of the home inspection. For example, what is the purpose of a home inspection? What is covered in an inspection, and what is not? These are all great questions and important ones to ask before you enter into the home buying process!
First and foremost, what is the purpose of a home inspection, and what exactly will an inspector look for when checking out your dream home? A home inspection is conducted by a certified home inspector and typically takes about two to four hours, depending on the size and age of the home. The inspection is essentially one expert's objective, visual inspection of a home's structure and different operating parts. It's important to remember that although inspectors do their best to find all potential problems within a home, they are not able to predict every problem that might arise in the future. In other words, they are only getting one snapshot in time and have no way of knowing what might go wrong in the home one, five, or even ten years down the line. A home inspector will take a look at all of the following during a routine home inspection: the HVAC system, the home's major appliances, the interior plumbing and electrical systems, the home's roof and attic, any visible insulation, the walls and floors, all of the windows and doors, the foundation, and the basement/crawl space if applicable.
Now that you know what to expect during an inspection, let's talk about what isn't part of a routine home inspection. The following items are outside the scope of a typical inspection.
A Warranty on the Inspection and Home Inspector's Findings
As previously mentioned, although inspectors do everything they can to find all potential problems in a home and are able to provide useful life predictions for many parts (and appliances) of a home, they can't possibly predict everything that might go wrong in the future and are not able to provide a warranty or guarantee as such.
An Inspection of Things the Inspector Can't See or Access
A common source of frustration for inspectors is the inability to see or access parts of a home during a routine home inspection. They are not required (or even expected) to move a seller's belongings or furniture out of the way when attempting to get into an attic or inspect other parts of a home. Home inspectors also do not inspect things that are not visible, such as insulation inside walls or furnace parts within an HVAC system.
A Pass/Fail Grade
Many buyers expect to receive a "grade" on their inspection report, essentially steering them towards a decision on whether or not to purchase the prospective home. This is a highly subjective and personal judgment and one that a home inspector ethically cannot provide in his/her report. There are many variables that factor into whether or not a buyer should purchase a home, such as how much time and money he/she is able to put into a home after purchasing it, and only the buyer (often with input from his/her real estate agent) can determine the feasibility of a purchase.
Additional Items That Require More Specialized Testing and Evaluation
Aside from the aforementioned items, some other things that fall outside the scope
of a standard home inspection are swimming pools, radon testing, wells and septic systems, mold and indoor air quality testing, testing for lead paint and/or asbestos, and structural engineering work. Many home inspection companies are able to do air quality testing and spot testing for mold as well as radon testing. One item that is sometimes excluded from a home inspection is evaluation for termites and other wood destroying insects. Many home inspection companies today do include this in their routine inspections, but buyers must remember to ask if this is a part of their inspection before booking with a reputable company.
Buying a home is a tricky endeavor and one that requires a lot of legwork on the part of the buyer. In order to ensure a smooth experience with minimal bumps and hiccups, it is a good idea for prospective buyers to be prepared and armed with knowledge of what to expect (and what not to expect!) during the home inspection process.