What a Home inspector does
A home inspector will take two to three hours or more completing a detailed walk-through of the home you’re looking to buy. It’s a top-to-bottom review of the physical structure, as well as its mechanical and electrical system–including roof, ceilings, walls, floors, windows, and doors. The inspector will check that major appliances are functional, scrutinize the heating and air-conditioning system, examine the plumbing and electrical systems and crawl up into the attic and down into the basement.
All the while, the inspector will be taking notes and pictures and, if you’re tagging along, commenting on what he sees. Most importantly, the inspector will provide an objective opinion on the home’s condition, detached from the emotional roller coaster you’ve been on during the entire home buying process.
What a home inspection doesn’t do
A home inspection is a general check-up, not an X-ray exam. Although inspectors should have a keen eye for details, they won’t be able to detect the unseen. That means hidden pests, asbestos, lead-based paint, and mold or other potentially hazardous substances might go unnoticed. Those sort of issues can require specialized evaluations, perhaps even a geologist or structural engineer.
An inspector might have a thought or two on child safety issues found in the home, but again, that depends on the inspector’s experience and competencies. A home inspector doesn’t necessarily determine whether your home is compliant with local building codes.
The goal of the inspection is to uncover issues with the home itself. Inspections won’t tell you if you’re getting a good deal on the home or offer an opinion of the sales price.
An inspection is not a pass/fail exam. But you’ll learn much about your potential new home and gain confidence in the decision to move into your new address–or find out enough to pass on the purchase.
The Home inspection Report
A good home inspection report is extensive, containing checklists, summaries, photographs, and notes. It will estimate the remaining useful life of major systems and equipment, as well as that of the roof, structure paint, and finishes. The critical information you will gain will include recommended repairs and replacements too.
Ask any potential inspector for samples of prior reports and note whether they’re simply completed checklists or extensive reviews. That way you’ll know whether you’re paying for a stapled 10-page report or for a three-ring binder of detailed information. Home inspections are not cheap, they can cost $300 to $500 or more, so you want to be sure you’re getting what you pay for.
Be a part of the process
It’s a good idea to join the inspector on his home tour. You don’t have to climb into the attic with him or crawl under the porch, but following along where you can and take notes. He may make some great home improvement suggestions along the way–as well as point out peculiarities and unique features.
Although inspections can turn up serious defects, every house will have its imperfections. You might choose to think of many of these as simply endearing beauty marks.