Home Inspections – Their Purpose and Process

What is a home inspection?

A home inspection, as defined, is an examination of the physical structure and systems of a home, which provides a detailed ‘snapshot’ of the condition of the home at the time of the inspection. The purpose of a home inspection is to help reduce some of the risk involved in purchasing a home; however, it cannot eliminate those risks, nor can the inspector anticipate future events or changes in performance due to changes in use or occupancy. The inspection will cover any potential health and safety issues in addition to areas in need of repair or replacement.

In Texas, inspectors must be licensed by the Texas Real Estate Commission (TREC), and are required to comply with the TREC Standards of Practice when inspections are performed for a prospective buyer or seller of a one-to-four family residential property. The Standards of Practice are the minimum levels of inspection practice required of inspectors for the accessible parts, components, and systems typically found in improvements to real property.

Keep in mind that the inspector is not required to move any furnishings or stored items. Therefore, it is always a good idea to ensure the access to all the major components of the home is clear prior to the inspection commencing.

In the report, the inspector will note which items were Inspected (I), Not Inspected (NI), Not Present (NP), and/or Deficient (D). General deficiencies include inoperability, material distress, water penetration, damage, deterioration, missing parts and unsuitable installation. Items identified on the report do not obligate either the Seller or the Buyer to make any repairs or take any other action. The decision to correct a hazard or any deficiency identified in an inspection report is left to the parties to the contract for the sale or purchase of the home.

Please keep in mind that there may be several items on the report that are related to building codes or safety issues – and very few homes will comply with these. These same conditions may not have violated building codes or common practices at the time of the construction of the home, or they may have been ‘grandfathered’ because they were present prior to the adoption of codes prohibiting such conditions. The inspection is still required by law to report these items as deficient if found not to comply.

Why do I need a home inspection?

The purchasing of your home may be the largest single investment you will ever make. To minimize unwanted surprises, you will want to learn as much as you can about the condition of the home BEFORE you purchase it. An inspection may identify the need for repairs, as well as the need for maintenance to better protect your investment. After the inspection, you will know more about the property, which will aid you in making an informed decision as to purchase the home or not.

What does a home inspection cost?

The inspection fee for a typical single-family property varies depending upon a number of factors such as: size of the house; its age, particular features of the house (slab foundation, crawl space, etc…); and possible option systems inspected. Typically, a home inspection costs around $250 to $400…plus any ‘optional’ services, such as: lawn sprinkler systems; swimming pools, spas, hot tubs and associated equipment; outbuildings; outdoor cooking equipment; gas supply systems; private water wells; septic systems; whole-house vacuum systems; and other built-in appliances. Cost should not be a factor in deciding whether or not to have a home inspection – due to the potential costs involved should you decide NOT to have it inspected.

Can a home ‘fail’ an inspection?

No, an inspection is an examination of the current condition of the home. There is no ‘pass’ or ‘fail’ rating issued.

When do I schedule the home inspection?

Once the purchase contract has been signed, you will want to schedule your home inspection right away. This is because you will want to find out about any potential problems, have time to schedule any additional inspections that may be required, and of course…time to negotiate repairs with the Owner. All of this will need to occur DURING your option period. Should it exceed the time frame of your option period, and you have not extended the option period, you are stuck with purchasing the home, no matter what additional problems may be revealed in the condition of the home.

Should I attend the inspection?

If you are the Buyer, I recommend you have the inspector call you before his inspection is concluded. Allow yourself enough time to get there and attend a final walk-through with the inspector. You will want him to show you any potential problems – also, feel free to ask any questions about his report. If you are the Seller, you have every right to attend; however, I recommend that you do not follow the inspector around the house trying to justify any deficiency he writes down.

What if deficiencies are found in the home?

If the inspector identified any deficiencies, this does not mean that you should not purchase the home. It only notifies you in advance of what you can expect. Perhaps the major issues can be negotiated out, and the minor issues can be repaired by you after you purchase the home. Do not ‘nit-pick’ every little item on the report. That is a good way to get the Seller ticked off.

As the Seller, how do I prepare my home for the inspection?

  • Ensure all utilities are turned on
  • All pilot lights are lit
  • All locks are to be removed or unlocked from areas that may prohibit the inspector accessing, such as attics, doors, padlocks on gates, etc…
  • Attic access is clear. If attic access is in the garage, be sure there are no cars, shelving units, moving boxes, storage crates blocking the access. If attic access is in a hallway or closet, make sure thee are no light fixtures or furniture blocking the access panel or pull-down ladder
  • Crawl space (if applicable) access is clear
  • Electrical panels are accessible and not locked
  • Water heater is accessible
  • Furnace is accessible

Tips on a Thorough Home Inspection and Home Testing

A thorough home inspection is one of the most important steps before purchasing a home, and many buyers try to skip this step only to end up regretting it later when problems become apparent. Your home is the place you go to get away from the world, and to relax and put your feet up, or spend time with your family and friends. You want to be reassured that the home you buy is safe and in good condition. A home inspection can give you this peace of mind, using a visual inspection of every aspect of the home both inside and out. This should be done by a professional home inspector who has the education, knowledge, and experience needed to identify problems which may not be readily apparent.

There are some questions you should ask any prospective home inspection company, and things to consider, to guarantee you get a thorough and complete inspection. How long has the inspector been doing these inspections? How many home inspections does the inspector do in a year? How much experience does the home inspector have inspecting homes identical to the one you are buying? These questions are important, because without adequate experience the inspector may miss signs of a hidden problem. Choose a home inspection company that exclusively does only home inspections, and does not just practice this as a sideline to their day job. Ask about the reports that will be given, will you get a written report, an oral report, or both? Does the home inspection company have certification? Do they have insurance?

Set up an appointment for the home inspection with both the seller and the home inspector. Make the appointment during the daytime, when there is plenty of daylight so that flaws and problems will be noticeable instead of hidden in shadows. Allow for at least two to three hours for the home inspection, and make sure you are present. Ask questions of the home inspector, and listen to the answers closely. Make sure that you contact the seller, and that they agree to the visit by the home inspector at the specified time and day. Give the home inspector the name, address, and phone number of the buyer, and the address and directions to the home being inspected, as well as any codes needed to access any lock box that may be installed.

If you need to reschedule the home inspection appointment, make sure to give the inspection company at least twenty four to forty eight hour notice before the appointment time, to avoid being charged. Make sure that all utilities are on at the home, including the electric and gas, and make sure that all appliances like the furnace and hot water heater are on and running. Arrange with the seller for the home inspector to have access to everything, including any attics, basements, garages, outbuildings, closets, and other areas. This will ensure a complete and thorough professional home inspection. Also make arrangements with the seller to make sure any furniture or stored belongings which may block access to electrical panels, access panels, and appliances are moved before the inspector arrives. Payment is expected after the home inspection is done, before the inspector leaves the home, so make sure to have a check or money order ready when the inspection is finished.

When looking at homes, do a personal inspection of each home to narrow down the list of possibilities. A professional home inspection should be done on the home you finally decide to purchase, but doing a personal inspection on each potential purchase will help you weed out the obvious bad choices and save you time and energy. Look for things like apparent cracks or shifts in the foundation, obvious electrical malfunctions, sockets that have scorch marks, signs of severe water damage or mold growth, evidence of leaks, both inside and outside the home, the overall condition and age of the roof, dampness or signs of flooding in the basement or crawlspace, and other signs of repairs that may be needed.

There are some things that a home inspection may not cover, depending on where you live and what company you use for the inspection. Most of the time these are referred to as third party testing services, and they can include water quality testing, radon testing, mold testing, air quality testing, and inspection for wood boring and eating insects like termites. All of these tests may be considered important, depending on what the home inspection shows and any problems that may have been detected by the home inspector. If there is visible mold then mold testing may be suggested, to ensure it is not a toxic strain of mold that can cause human disease and illness. If the water quality is suspect, water testing may be suggested to guarantee that there are no bacteria or other organisms that can sicken you. Radon testing should always be done to make sure this cancer causing gas is not present in the home, and the home inspection report may suggest this as well. A termite inspection could be ordered if the inspector finds evidence that these pests may be present, and posing a danger to the structure of the home by eating the wood. Air quality testing may be done if there is any reason to suspect that the air in the home may be harmful to occupants, and this can be due to mold, radon, or other harmful airborne irritants and pathogens.

Knowing what to expect during a thorough professional home inspection, and the tips to make this process more effective and efficient, can help you get a good idea on any flaws in the home before you make the purchase, without any doubt or confusion involved. This step should never be omitted, even though it may seem costly, because it can save you significantly if there are hidden defects and unseen flaws.

Olympian Civil Home and Building Inspections (866) 476-2056