What is a home inspection


Buying a home can be stressful time.  It is a large investment both in dollars and time, there is also a lot of worrying whether you made the right decision or not.  That is where a home inspection come into play.  So, let us look at what a home inspector’s association says about what a home inspection is (taken from The International Association of Home Inspectors):


A general home inspection is a non-invasive, visual examination of the accessible areas of a residential property (as delineated below), performed for a fee, which is designed to identify defects within specific systems and components defined by these Standards that are both observed and deemed material by the inspector. The scope of work may be modified by the Client and Inspector prior to the inspection process. I. The general home inspection is based on the observations made on the date of the inspection, and not a prediction of future conditions. II. The general home inspection will not reveal every issue that exists or ever could exist, but only those material defects observed on the date of the inspection. 1.2. A material defect is a specific issue with a system or component of a residential property that may have a significant, adverse impact on the value of the property, or that poses an unreasonable risk to people. The fact that a system or component is near, at, or beyond the end of its normal, useful life is not, in itself, a material defect. 1.3. A general home inspection report shall identify, in written format, defects within specific systems and components defined by these Standards that are both observed and deemed material by the inspector. Inspection reports may include additional comments and recommendations. The International Association of Home Inspectors


What does all that mean?  Let us take a look.   The definition says it is a non-invasive, meaning they are not going to take apart, pry apart, poke holes any part of the home.  Remember most inspections are done during a home purchase and is finished before you take possession of the home, so it is technically not your house yet.  Don’t want to leave the current owner with damage.  Next it states that it is of the visible accessible areas of the home.  The inspector can’t get into areas that are not accessible or safe at the time of the inspection.  They don’t want to put themselves or anyone else in danger and again they don’t want to be causing any damage to the home.  Now it states that it is for a fee, this is the inspectors career and how they earn a living.  Now it is saying that it is designed to identify defects within specific systems of the home that is deemed material to the inspector.


The inspector will be using his or hers experience to find and report to you the defects that can inversely effect the purchase of the home.  Meaning they aren’t going to report on every defect, like a chip in drywall. But will report on the conditions that might adversely affect the structure and integrity of the home.  The inspector will also report on any system that might affect the safety and health of the occupants.  That being said they don’t test the safety equipment in the components, like the TPR valve on a water heater.  Reason being is that there isn’t a way to test the components safely.  You would have to create the conditions that would cause the device to work and that would be dangerous.  Like the TPR valve example you would have to create a pressure in the tank to see if it operates and if it doesn’t you have an unsafe heater that can cause damage.  Pushing the TPR doesn’t test the valve it just tests to see if it opens or not.  It is the same with smoke detectors, pushing the button on the detector doesn’t test the operation but just of the noise it makes. The inspector doesn’t report on the life expectancy of any system since it is hard to tell how long systems last.  A well-maintained system can last a long time and an ignored system won’t last as long, there is no way to tell how long a home system will last.


A home inspection is made on the observation of the time that it is finished at.  It is not a prediction of what might happen in the future or can say what defects might come in the future.  Home inspectors are not fortune tellers, if they were they would be winning the lottery every week.  This means that if you are going through a dry spell and there are no leaks present, the inspector won’t be able to see the failure.  There might also be system failures between the time of the inspection and the closing of the home.  Also note that a home inspection is not a code inspection.  Homes built at different times were built to different codes, a home built in the 1940s will not have the same code as a home built today.


Reports will be written, usually this day in age it will come as a pdf file, that states the defects found by the inspector and have a recommendation based on what was found.  The recommendation might be to repair, replace, further evaluate (getting a specialist’s opinion), clean and other suggestions.  Yes, the inspector might recommend getting a specialist in the area that the defect is in, like a hvac technician to come and look at the furnace.  The course I took from Carson Dunlop Home inspection had a good example “The home inspector is like a GP doctor, they do a general analyzation of the home but will refer to specialists when it requires it.  Just like your GP will refer you to specialists.”.


In short the home inspection is a good tool to get information about the home and make the decision a little easier.