What Does And Doesn't A Home Inspector Do?
What Is A Home Inspection?
Home inspectors evaluate the condition of a home and report on its defects, so a home buyer can make a choice about whether they want to request repairs or even move forward with purchasing the home. But it's not a pass/fail kind of thing! They will look at all the major systems of a home (electrical, plumbing, roof, A/C) as well as inspect for common safety issues, structural issues, and any other details that may be wrong with the home's major components. While a home inspector may bring certain cosmetic issues to the buyer's attention (cracked tiles, rotting fence, etc), they are not going to record every cosmetic defect in their report (like nail holes in walls, dented cabinet doors, and dirty caulking).
Does a Home Inspector determine if a house is up to code?
No. Inspectors are looking for defects that could affect the safety of your family or the value of your home. Code inspections, on the other hand, look for compliance with certain current building standards. But just because something is not up to code, does not inherently make it a home inspection defect. For example, a home built in the 1980s may have roof features that are not up to 2020 code standards are would be expensive and unnecessary to bring into current compliance, but that doesn't mean the roof is inherently unsafe. Home inspectors can, however, provide a four-point inspection which lists any defects in four main systems (roof, electrical, plumbing, AC), and some of those defects are also code violations (for example, a recalled electrical panel or a washing machine that drains straight outside instead of through the plumbing system properly).
Will the seller will repair every defect the home inspector finds?
Likely no. While the inspector’s report can be used as a negotiating tool, sellers are not obligated to make any repairs if you have submitted an As-Is contract. Even with the standard Far-Bar contract, not everything a home inspector calls out on their report is required to be fixed by the seller. Note: If negotiating over repairs, focus on issues that could be costly to fix.
Should I Have A New Construction Home Inspected?
Yes, you should have a home inspection done if you are buying a new construction home. New construction homes can sometimes have serious defects that could be costly to repair. Problems occur when a builder cuts corners, manufacturer’s recommendations are not followed, or workers simply make mistakes. You can hire a home inspector to inspect the home in phases throughout the build process, or to do a final inspection prior to closing to make sure there is nothing you missed during your final walk-through. I also recommend that if you have purchased from a builder who has a one year warranty, that you call the inspector out on month ten or eleven to have them re-inspect the home and make sure there are no new issues now that the home has been lived in for a while.
Do home Inspectors determine the value of a house?
No. The focus of the home inspection is the condition of the home; an appraiser determines a fair market value.
Do home Inspectors check for termites?
No. In Florida, termite inspections have to be performed by a separately licensed pest inspector. Some home inspector companies will have a licensed pest inspector on staff, or they can recommend pest inspection companies.
If the VA/FHA appraisal includes a home inspection, should buyers still pay for a separate one?
YES! While it is true that anyone purchasing a home with a VA or FHA loan will have a special appraisal that looks at certain features of the home from a safety and functionality standpoint, the VA/FHA appraisal is not a thorough inspection and should not be a substitute for having a licensed home inspector do a complete inspection of the home. Additionally, a Wood Destroying Organism (WDO) inspection is required to get final approval for a VA loan.
Will the Inspector will find every problem?
No. Home inspectors can only inspect what they can see and therefore can only report on what they see. The nature of homes means that a lot of things can be hidden. And certain systems in a home may work fine for the short time frame that an inspector is in the home, but fail under constant use after the new owner moves in. While it is not common, there are definitely times when home inspectors will not be able to report on certain defects, and those defects may only be discovered after the new owner moves in. For example, if there are cast iron pipes behind a wall but all the external fixtures (under the sink, running to the hot water heater, etc) have been replaced with PVC, the inspector won’t be able to note the home has cast iron piping. If your cast iron pipes get a leak or back up, the inspector cannot be blamed for not disclosing the home had cast iron pipes if they could not see them at the time of inspection. In general, if something is functioning as it should at the time of inspection but has a problem after closing, unfortunately that becomes the responsibility of the new homeowner. Also, keep in mind that an inspector has to give objective reviews based on set standards of operational capacity. For example, an air conditioning unit may be fully functioning, and cooling within the required temperature range at the time of the inspection, but you may find that it does not cool to your preferred temperature efficiently. Though discovering that after you move in may be frustrating, this is not a defect of the system or an oversight on the home inspector's part.
Any special advice for vacant or flipped homes?
Sometimes when a home has not been lived in for a while, certain systems can be working during the inspection but once put under the strain of every day use after a buyer moves in may develop problems. Unused air conditioning units that could work for a few hours during an inspection may break under the strain of being operated consistently all day, ever day. Pipes that may have leaks or back ups may not show symptoms in the few minutes they are used during the inspection, but may cause major water damage once an owner moves in and is showering, flushing the toilet, and running the dishwasher every day. Roof leaks may not be apparent in the dry season but develop as soon as the summer rains come along. For this reason, home buyers are encouraged to look into purchasing a home warranty.
Are there any other kind of inspections I can get?
A home inspector will do a general review of the entire home, and sometimes make suggestions that the buyer hire other licensed contractors to do inspections of specific systems. Or a buyer can choose up front to schedule these professional inspections at the same time as their home inspection. Some of these include:
Pest/WDO (Wood Destroying Organisms)
Mold / Air Quality
Energy Efficiency Test