Home Inspection 101

backyard of hotel with pool and trees

What is a Home Inspection?

Most of us don’t really know what’s involved in a home inspection. Ask the average person, and they’ll say something like this. “You are going to look at everything in the home and tell me whether or not it meets code.” Both are wrong. Home inspectors look at thousands of components in the average home, but they can’t see everything and some things are outside the scope of a home inspection.

Home inspectors do not inspect for code compliance. They can’t. Who knows what code was in effect when a 30 year old home was built, or how codes were interpreted or enforced in any particular community. While we may identify issues that are code related, we aren’t enforcing building codes. That happens at the time of construction and requires viewing components that are concealed after the house is built.

What Does a Home Inspection Include

The inspection is a visual, non-destructive inspection of the roofing system, electrical system, plumbing system, structural components, interior components, air conditioning and heating system, exterior siding and trim, doors and windows, garage doors, chimneys and fireplaces, appliances, driveways, walkways, site conditions that affect the home, and optionally, swimming pools. In Florida the inspection and report are required to conform to a published standard of practice for Home Inspectors found in Chapter 61-30 of the Florida Administrative Code.

It is important to understand that there may be some exceptions. If certain areas are inaccessible for example, such as water in a crawl space, a locked door, the owner’s belongings in the way or unsafe conditions exist such as steep roofs or poor structural integrity the inspector will explain the situation and note that they were not able to inspect that specific area or system.

Home inspectors are required to produce a written report that identifies items that are significantly deficient and items that are near the end of their useful lifespan. If not self-evident to the client, inspectors are required to explain why a system or components is significantly deficient or near the end of it’s useful lifespan.

Inspectors are required to make recommendations for correction and/or monitoring or further evaluation of the reported deficiencies.

What’s Not Included

While an inspection includes thousands of items, there are many that are excluded, including anything that’s not readily visible without damaging the home, fences, cosmetic issues, septic systems, termite infestation, environmental issues and compliance with any law or governmental regulation including zoning, land use or building codes.

Do I Need to Attend?

It’s not absolutely necessary, but we recommend you attend the inspection if at all possible. It’s a valuable learning experience. Being able to see issues while they are explained to you by your home inspector is the best way of fully understanding them. You’ll have a chance to learn about maintenance issues and to ask the inspector any questions you might have.

Having said all that, a good home inspection report should anticipate and answer any questions that you might have about any issues that are found, so even if you can’t attend, a good report will provide you with all the information you need.

How Long Does it Take?

There is no one answer to that question. It depends on the size of the home, the age and the condition. Two to three hours is typical time on site, but older and larger homes may take longer. Generally, we schedule half a day for performing an inspection and writing a report for the typical home.

Does a House Pass of Fail?

No, a home inspection is not a pass/fail evaluation. All homes have defects. As a home buyer, you should look at the individual major systems and their condition. Each of these may be in varying condition. For example, a home may have a leaking roof that needs replacement, but everything else is in reasonably good condition. At that point, you have the information you need to decide what action to take.

Do New Homes Need Inspection?

Absolutely. We inspect brand new homes on a regular basis and regularly find problems. Sometimes minor, sometimes significant problems. Homes are typically built by sub-contractors to the lowest possible price. This doesn’t always result in the best possible result. Personally, I’ve never inspected a new home and found it perfect. No new home client has ever said, “Gee, that wasn’t worth it.” Get your new home inspected!

What Happens if There are Problems?

No house is perfect. A home inspection will provide you with the information you need to decide whether or not to move forward with the purchase or look elsewhere. As most homes in the FL market are now sold as-is, you can walk away if you are not satisfied with the condition and the repairs that might be needed. You always have the option to re-negotiate with the seller, even though your contract is “as-is”.

Will You Fix Problems Found?

No. It’s a huge conflict of interest to offer to make repairs arising from the home inspection. Home inspectors should be unbiased and offer neutral opinions on the condition of the home, unaffected by the possibility of obtaining repair work.

I’m Selling, Do I Need an Inspection

Having your home inspected before listing it for sale is a great idea. You’ll know the condition before hand and can eliminate any surprises that might arise during a buyer’s inspection. Homes that are pre-inspected tend to be viewed as more desirable. The inspection eliminates some of the uncertainty that’s always in the mind of a potential buyer.