Buying a House? Know What a Home Inspection Really Is

There have been a lot of articles written about home inspections and all types of information on the web and yet we still see a lot of clients that don’t understand what a home inspection really is, so I am going to write one more article trying to explain what a home inspection really is and what the expectations of the client should be when they have a home inspected.

Today with all the different TV shows about remodeling and flipping houses, Home Inspections and all different types of shows about Real estate and the many different types of home, these shows are informative and entertaining but remember it takes several weeks of work and a lot of money to make a 30 minute show and you don’t get to see all of the prep work and details it takes to renovate some of these houses.

The shortest description of a home inspection that I can come up with is; A home inspection is a very intense visual inspection of the home with written documentation of the condition of the property at the time of the inspection. With that said a home inspection really is like a snap shot in time, an average home inspection for me is about three hours from the time I drive up and look at the house and then depending on the size and condition of the house it will take me another hour to do the paperwork to generate the report, and a very important note here; you should receive your report in a very timely manner, it may not be of much use to you if you are a couple of days after the terms of your contract to receive your home inspection report.

There are state standards that all home inspectors in Tennessee have to adhere to and a copy is available on the TN.gov web site. A quick scan of the standards will let you know that the list of things home inspectors are required to look at isn’t much longer than the list of things that the inspector is not required to do. Here is another important thing about the home inspection process; the home inspector is limited to the things that they can visually look at and check the operating conditions of equipment and appliances and document that they are operating as intended and document the approximate age of the equipment. Any obvious problems will be listed and documented like wet areas inside the home, plumbing leaks, HVAC units that are not working properly, bad roofs and the list goes on. Of all the things we home inspectors write up in reports safety items are the most important, they may not be the most expensive repairs but for personal safety a few dollars should not be an issue.

A home inspector is limited to what they have access to and visually see, they cannot physically damage a home by cutting holes in walls or ceilings, if water stains or wet areas are discovered the report will state what was found and usually recommend a contractor or trade professional do an in-depth evaluation of the problem and make any necessary repairs. If a home inspector finds missing flashing or some low quality work done by an untrained person and is documented in the inspection report it should be investigated farther by a contractor because there may very well be issues already starting to cause a problem and failure to make repairs will almost always turn into a bigger problem if not addressed in a timely manner.

There is nothing wrong with buying a home that is “AS IS” meaning you are happy that you are getting a good deal on a piece of property and may hire a home inspector to evaluate it to help with the “Surprise Factor” whenever you move in. Most of the time these properties are foreclosures or estate sales where the seller has never lived in the home and there is no disclosure statement. We do a lot of these types of inspections and usually they are a lot of fun to do, but they can be very challenging. There are often many things that need attention and the reports tend to have a long list. Unless you are a do-it-yourselfer and just want to tackle the job it is best to have a contractor come in and give you a bid on repairs before closing to avoid the sticker shock of major repairs.

The Walk Through before closing is one of the most overlooked parts of the process. If you are unsure about anything now is the time to speak up, problems can be addressed at this time better than after closing. During your walk through pay close attention and look for anything that may have changed, and evaluate any repairs that were to have been done. There are a lot of things that can happen to a home between the time it is inspected and the time the new buyer moves in especially weather related concerns and theft.

I encourage anyone getting a home inspection to try to be present during the inspection. It will allow you to meet the inspector and ask questions and see just how the process takes place. When hiring a home inspector be sure of the type report you are getting and when it will be delivered.