|What Is A Home Inspection?How To Choose A Home InspectorWhat’s The Big Deal About Home Inspection?
What Is A Home Inspection?
In the course of a home inspection, the inspector will evaluate the foundation, framing, roofing, site drainage, attic, plumbing, heating, electrical system, fireplaces, chimneys, pavement, fences, stairs, decks, patios, doors, windows, walls, ceilings, floors, built-in appliances, and numerous other fixtures and components.
In all homes, even brand new ones, some building defects will inevitably be discovered during the inspection. All pertinent findings will be detailed in a written report for the buyer’s reference and review, and the inspector will make a complete verbal presentation of these conditions for those who attend the inspection.
This information enables a home buyer to make educated decisions about a home purchase: whether to complete the transaction, whether to ask the seller to make repairs, or whether to buy the property as is. Buyers can also determine how much repair and renovation will be needed after taking possession, which problems are of major concern, which ones are minor, and what conditions compromise the safety of the premises.
A thorough inspection enables a home buyer to avoid costly surprises after the close of escrow. It is an indispensable component of a well-planned purchase.
How To Choose A Home Inspector
2) Inspection Experience: Home inspectors are often perceived as general contractors who happen to inspect homes. This view underlies an essential misunderstanding of the home inspection process. Although building knowledge is essential to a home inspector, construction itself has little or no relation to the skills of forensic investigation. A home inspector is primarily a property detective – someone who observes and ascertains defects. Inasmuch as a traffic patrolman is not a crime detective, home inspectors should be viewed as distinct from other contracting professionals. The average apprenticeship for a home inspector is approximately 500-1000 inspections. For contractors who disagree, I propose the House Detective Challenge: Call the nearest professional home inspector with at least three years of full time field experience, and conduct separate inspections of the same building. Then compare findings. That’s where the consumer protection difference becomes apparent.
3) Errors & Omissions Insurance: A critical aspect of professional accountability is insurance for a faulty inspection. Undiscovered defects can range from minor maintenance problems to structural failure; from leaking faucets to major fire hazards. Inspectors who take their business seriously carry insurance for these untimely mistakes. Note: There are two types of E&O insurance. The best of these is a ‘per occurrence’ policy, because coverage remains in effect, even after the inspector goes out of business. The other type is called ‘claims made.’ This can be effective on the date of inspection but invalid when it’s time to file a claim.
4) Building Code Certification: The primary focus of a home inspection is not code compliance. Nevertheless, property defects often have their basis in code-related standards. To ensure inspector competence in this area of knowledge, seek someone with building code certification. This is required for municipal building inspectors in most areas of the North America.
5) Ask for a Sample Report: The proof is in the product: So request a copy of a previous report. The best format should be not only detailed and comprehensive, but easily interpreted, making a clear distinction between defective building conditions and ‘boiler plate’ verbiage. Some reports are so encumbered with maintenance recommendations and liability disclaimers, that pertinent information about the property is obscured. A quality report lets defect disclosure stand out distinctly, in contrast with less pertinent data.
6) Let the Choice Be Yours: When choosing a home inspector, don’t rely on others. The final selection should be your own. New and inexperienced inspectors often obtain professional recommendations, regardless of competence or lack thereof. You want the most meticulous, detailed inspector available — the one who will save you from costly surprises after the close of escrow. The best inspectors are often labeled as ‘Deal Killers’ or ‘Deal Breakers.’ Someone with this reputation is likely to provide comprehensive consumer protection.
7) Avoid Price Shopping: Inspection fees vary widely. The price of a quality inspection is typically between $250 and $300 for an average size home. Lower fees should be regarded with suspicion, as they often identify those who are new to the business or who spend insufficient time performing the inspection. A home is the most expensive commodity you are likely to purchase in a lifetime. One defect missed by your inspector could cost 100 times what you save with a bargain inspection. The best method of price shopping is to shop for quality.
Since the late 1980’s, disclosure of property defects has become the primary focus of most residential real estate transactions after first emerging as a service during the mid-1970’s. Gaining gradual recognition over the past decades, home inspectors attained prominent acceptance as a distinct and essential profession providing the service of inspecting and disclosing property defects.
To those who approach real estate with the old ‘as-is’ mind-set, the advantages of home inspection are not immediately apparent. But make no mistake; a thorough inspection can shield you from costly discoveries after the close of escrow. It’s one of the best consumer protection services available.
Every home, regardless of age or quality, harbors a small, medium, or large list of defective conditions. Some are obvious, while others are only apparent to those who know how and where to look. When you hire an experienced, qualified home inspector, there is no question as to whether unknown defects will be found; but rather what, where, and how serious, dangerous, or expensive the defects will turn out to be.
Above all, let’s not forget building safety. An inspector can alert you to red flag issues involving the electrical wiring and fixtures, fireplaces and chimneys, gas fixtures such as furnaces, water heaters, cook tops, and ovens, railings at staircases and decks, tempered safety glass in required locations, and automatic reverse of garage door openers.
Furthermore, an inspector can forewarn you of problems involving faulty ground drainage, defective plumbing, substandard construction, firewall compliance, building settlement, leakage, general deterioration, inoperative fixtures, and so much more.
Clearly, your agent understands this process and the importance of equipping you to make an informed purchase decision. Be thankful that your agent is working to protect your financial interests. With a detailed home inspection, you will know what you are buying, before you buy it. And that could save you thousands of dollars and years of regret.
Do New Homes Need Inspection?
Inspectors polled from across the US on new home defects unanimously agree that most, if not all, new homes are not totally free of defects. None have ever discovered a perfect specimen, regardless of the quality of construction or the integrity of the builder.
Even when the builder warrants the work for one full year, such guaranties are of no benefit unless inherent defects are discovered. Unfortunately, many types of building problems and safety violations do not become apparent for many years. A faulty wiring condition might not be revealed until it damages your computer or causes a fire. Other defects might only be discovered when you finally resell the property, and the buyer decides to hire a home inspector.
The list of faulty conditions that have been found in new homes is extensive and includes such items as, defective roof installation, improper fireplace construction, errors in electrical wiring, excessive water pressure, fire safety violations, unsafe venting of heater exhaust, leaking drains, faulty site drainage, hot water piping connected to the toilet (can you imagine a steaming bowl?), etc, etc. In one infamous case, a new home was built and approved on a concrete slab without a perimeter foundation. Obviously, we’re not likely to find a major list like this in any particular new home, but every new structure contains a few undisclosed defects, sometimes minor, sometimes not. New homes are often presumed to be exempt from human error, and consequently many close escrow without the benefit of a final examination. For buyers preparing to make such a large investment, assumptions about quality of workmanship can be financially fatal.
Your best advice is to take nothing for granted. The cost of an inspection is incidental when compared to the price of a new home. A qualified home inspector will most assuredly find items that need repair. Better to discover them now than after the close of escrow.
Inspection Report Not A Repair List For Seller
This can be all very disillusioning. This is a common misunderstanding about the purpose of a home inspection. People often view an inspection report as a mandatory repair list for the seller. The fact is sellers are not required to produce a flawless house. They have no such obligation by law or by contract.
With a termite report, requirements are different: Real estate contracts usually obligate a seller to repair conditions classified as ‘section one’ in the termite inspector. Section one includes instances of active infestation — termites, fungus, dryrot, etc. Other faulty conditions, such as earth to wood contact, generally do not require action on the part of the seller, unless infestation is found.
With a home inspection, most repairs are subject to negotiation between the parties of a sale. Typically, buyers will request that various conditions be repaired before the close of escrow, and sellers will usually acquiesce to some of these demands. But with most building defects, sellers make repairs as a matter of choice, not obligation; to foster good will or to facilitate consummation of the sale. There are, of course, those few rigid sellers who will flatly refuse to fix anything, even at the risk of losing the sale. Fortunately, this response is the exception, rather than the rule.
Sellers maintain the legal right to refuse repair demands, except where requirements are set forth by state law, local ordinance, or the real estate purchase contract. Legal obligations include earthquake straps for water heaters and smoke detectors in specified locations. Contracts usually stipulate that fixtures be in working condition at the close of escrow, that windows not be broken, and that there be no existing leaks in the roof or plumbing.
Before you make any demands of the seller, try to evaluate the inspection report with an eye toward problems of greatest significance. Look for conditions which compromise health and safety or involve active leakage. Most sellers will address problems affecting sensitive areas such as the roof, fireplace, gas burning fixtures, or electrical wiring.
Routine maintenance items warrant a lesser degree of concern and should not be pressed upon the seller. If the house is not brand new, it is unreasonable to boldly insist upon correction of all defects. Such demands can alienate the seller and kill the sale. Your willingness to accept minor problems may persuade a seller to correct conditions of greater substance.
The purpose of a home inspection is not to corner the seller with a repair list. The primary objective is to know what you are buying before you buy it. All homes have defects; it’s not possible to acquire one that is perfect. What you want is a working knowledge of significant defects before you close escrow. As the old sea captain once told me: ‘It doesn’t matter if your boat has a leak, as long as you know it’s leaking.
Home Inspection Limited To What Is Visible
According to these criteria, a home inspection is limited to conditions that are visually discernible. Specifically excluded from an inspection are conditions which are concealed from view, such as items contained within walls, ceilings, and floors, or which are buried beneath the ground. According to ASHI standards, inspectors are not required to perform dismantling of construction or excavation of ground surfaces to discover conditions that are not normally visible.
For clarification of the standards by which your inspector performed his services, I recommend that you review the inspection report. Most inspectors are careful to define the scope and limitations of their inspections. These parameters are generally outlined in either the contract or the report or both. Nearly all home inspection contracts clearly specify that concealed items are outside the scope of the inspection. Additionally, most inspection reports specifically identify ASHI standards as the basis upon which the inspection is to be performed.
How To Negotiate After A Home Inspection
In most cases, a residential sale is contingent upon the buyers’ acceptance of the home inspector’s report. This means that you, as buyer, have a specified number of days to accept or decline the property in “as is” condition. If you decline acceptance, you have four basic choices:
1) Ask the sellers to make a few repairs;
If you request repairs or a price adjustment, based upon the home inspection report, the sellers also have choices. They can:
1) Agree to all of your requests;
The sellers’ only obligation is to address defects that are named in the purchase contact or required by state and local laws. If the contract specifies an “as is” sale, the sellers may refuse to make repairs of any kind or to adjust the price in any way. Lawful exceptions may include strapping water heaters for earthquake safety, providing smoke alarms at specified locations, or upgrading plumbing fixtures for water conservation. Aside from such requirements, completion of the sale hinges upon whatever is agreeable between you and the sellers.
Most Common Defects Found During a Home Inspection
Ceiling Stains, Indicating Past or Current Roof Leaks:
Electrical Safety Hazards:
Building Violations Where Additions and Alterations Were Constructed without Permits:
Unsafe Fireplace and Chimney Conditions:
Faulty Installation of Water Heaters:
Hazardous Conditions Involving Gas Heaters:
Firewall Violations In Garages:
Minor plumbing defects:
Failed seals around windows:
An unabridged list of likely home inspection findings would probably fill a few volumes. For home buyers, this underscores the importance of a thorough evaluation prior to closing escrow. This is why your agent will strongly advise you to obtain a Home Inspection.
Shirley A. Kistler, Broker
Realty World – A + Real Estate
7840 Madison Ave. Suite 122
Fair Oaks, CA 95628