The Home Inspection Defined

A general home inspection is a visual inspection for system and major accessible component defects and safety issues. Consequently, the inspection is not technically exhaustive. A “general home inspection” and a “home inspection” are the same thing. So what do home inspectors look for?
 
A home inspection is designed to reflect, as accurately as possible, the visible condition of the home at the time of the inspection. Conditions at a home for sale can change radically in only a day or two. Therefore, a home inspection is not meant to guarantee what condition a home will be in when the transaction closes. In other words, it’s not uncommon for conditions to change between the time of the inspection and the closing date.
 

It’s a Visual Inspection

Overloaded outlet with no cover

Overloaded outlet with no cover

A “visual” inspection means that a home inspection report is limited to describing conditions in those parts of a home that an inspector can see during the inspection. Certainly, parts of the home that are permanently hidden by wall, ceiling and floor coverings are excluded. In addition, parts of the home that were inaccessible during the inspection for some other reason are also excluded. For example, some reasons might include lack of an access point (such as a door or hatch), a locked access point, or because an occupant’s belongings blocked access. Dangerous or unsanitary conditions may also cause inaccessibility.

That is to say, there can be many reasons for exclusions. To clarify, if an inspector can’t see a portion of the home, the inspector can’t assume responsibility for ensuring that a safe and proper condition exists or that systems are operating properly in that hidden space.

Safety

Cutting torch and gutter system of roof draining management

Cutting torch and gutter system of roof draining management

Safety can be a matter of perception. Some conditions, such as exposed electrical wiring, are obviously unsafe. Other conditions, such as the presence of mold, aren’t as clear-cut.

In the case of mold…

In the example of the possible existence of mold, it’s difficult to accurately call it out during a general home inspection because mold sometimes grows in places where it can’t be readily seen. This may include inside walls, making its discovery beyond the scope of the inspection. Moreover, the dangers to human health are from the inhalation of spores from indoor air.

Most people with healthy immune systems have little or no problem inhaling spores. A few people whose immune systems are compromised by lung disease, asthma or allergies can develop serious or even fatal fungal infections from mold spore levels that wouldn’t affect most people. Every home has mold. Mold colonies can grow very quickly, given the right conditions. Mold can be a safety concern, but it often isn’t. The dangers represented by mold are a controversial subject. Other potential safety issues also fall into this category.
 
System Defects
Although the majority of the inspection is visual, the InterNACHI Standards of Practice do require inspectors to operate space and water heating equipment, and air-conditioning equipment, if it can be done without damaging the equipment. Likewise, inspectors will examine the major accessible components of certain systems as required by the Standards of Practice (for example, furnace air filters.)
 
A home inspection is not technically exhaustive. To specify, systems or components will not be disassembled as part of the inspection. For instance, an inspector will not partially disassemble a furnace to more accurately check the condition of the heat exchanger. Inspectors typically disclaim heat exchangers.

 

Hazardous Materials

Asbestos, mold, lead, water purity, and other environmental issues or potential hazards typically require a specialist inspection. In addition, they may require laboratory analysis.

Home Inspectors are Generalists

Result of subfloor movement

Result of subfloor movement

Home inspectors are not experts in every home system but are generalists. Inspectors are trained to recognize evidence of potential problems in the different home systems and their major components. Inspectors need to know when a problem is serious enough to recommend a specialist inspection. Subsequently, recommendations are often made for a qualified contractor, such as a plumber or electrician, and sometimes for a structural engineer.
 
Inspector Qualifications

Micah Stephens, TREC #22271

Micah Stephens
TREC-Licensed Professional Inspector #22271
InterNACHI ID #16122724
Texas Professional Real Estate Inspectors Association (TPREIA) ID #869
HAR Associate Member

This doesn’t mean that inspectors with a background in something other than the building trades are not qualified. Building the skills and developing the judgment to consistently recognize and interpret evidence correctly and make appropriate recommendations are things that can be improved with practice and continuing education.

Managing Expectations

Part of a home inspector’s job is to manage the expectations of their client. Above all, this is true when a client has never dealt with a home inspector before. Maintaining transparency and explaining the limitations of a home inspection to a client helps them develop realistic expectations. This includes what to expect from a home inspection report, and what lies beyond the scope of the inspection.

When a home buyer is interviewing inspectors, the buyer should ask about how the inspector handles special safety concerns.

Disclaimers

Disclaimers are portions of an inspection agreement or report in which an inspector notifies the client that the inspector will not accept the responsibility for confirming the condition of a portion of the home or of a particular system or component. 

In short, creating realistic expectations in a client’s mind will help prevent misunderstandings and promote smooth real estate transactions.

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InterNACHI Buy Back GuaranteeSafeShield Inspections Offers InterNACHI Buy Back Guarantee to Qualifying Clients

If your inspector misses anything during the inspection, InterNACHI will buy your home back.*

  • It’s valid for home inspections performed for home buyers only by participating InterNACHI® members.
  • The home must be listed with a licensed real estate agent.
  • The Guarantee excludes homes with material defects not present at the time of the inspection, or not required to be inspected, per InterNACHI’s Residential Standards of Practice.
  • The Guarantee will be honored for 90 days after closing.
  • We’ll pay you whatever price you paid for the home.

*LEGAL TERMS

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Nick Gromicko, InterNACHI Founder
Nick Gromicko is the founder of InterNACHI®, the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors, based in Boulder, Colorado. InterNACHI® is the world’s largest association of property inspectors — with one of the largest websites on the Internet at www.nachi.org — offering education, training, benefits and support to its members to help them succeed in the home inspection industry.

Mr. Gromicko also serves as executive director of the Master Inspector Certification Board, which awards qualified property inspectors the title of Certified Master Inspector®, the industry’s highest professional designation.