So What Is A Home Inspection Exactly?

Sometimes, as a professional Home Inspector, I get asked “Exactly what is a Home Inspection?”. And for someone who hasn’t ever been directly exposed to a residential real estate transaction, and perhaps for some that have, it is an excellent question.

In large part, any definition to be applied to the phrase Home Inspection is dependent on where the Home Inspection is being conducted (in what State or municipality) and on what organization, if any, the Home Inspector might have an affiliation. Many states have adopted licensing requirements; some have not. It is worthy of note that an inspection of a home (note that I did not refer to it as a Home Inspection…) conducted in a State with no licensing requirements, by an individual with no or minimal experience and no professional association affiliation, may just be whatever he or she decides it will be at any given time…very, very scary indeed! And, If things are as they should be, we ought to be able to answer the subject question without having to determine what the definition of “Is” is.

According to the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), one of the oldest and most generally respected Home inspector associations, a Home Inspection is a conducted in accordance with the ASHI Standards of Practice is an inspection of the readily accessible, visually observable installed systems and components of a home. ASHI Standards of Practice also state that an inspection performed to their Standards of Practice are intended to provide the client with objective information regarding the condition of the systems and components of the home as inspected at the time of the Home Inspection. The inspector is required to provide a written report that identifies any systems or components inspected that, in the professional judgment of the inspector, are not functioning properly, are significantly deficient, are unsafe, or are at the end of their useful life. Further, reasoning or explanation as to the nature of the deficiencies reported must be provided if they are not self-evident.

In a state such as North Carolina, the state with which the author has the most familiarity and where licensing laws have been in effect since October of 1996, inspection reports must comply with the state requirements…period. Compliance isn’t voluntary…it’s the Law! According to the North Carolina Home Inspector Licensure Board (NCHILB), a home inspection is intended to provide the client with a better understanding of the property conditions, as inspected at the time of the inspection. The NCHILB Standards of Practice further require (among a myriad of other specific requirements), that a Home Inspector must:

Provide a written contract, signed by the client before the Home Inspection is performed, that states that the inspection is conducted in accordance with the Standards, that states what services are to be provided and the cost of those services, and that stated when an inspection is for only one or a limited number of systems or components and exactly which systems or components those might be;
Inspect readily visible and readily accessible systems and components that are listed in the Standards as being required to be inspected;
State which systems or components that are required to be inspected, but that were not inspected, and the reason that they were not