Dissecting You Home Inspection
The most frequently asked questions I get from my clients is “what are you going to inspect”? It seems that most people are confused as to what, exactly, a home inspection is. Knowing what your home inspector is going to inspect is important, especially in Michigan because there isn’t a state mandated standard so every inspector could inspect things differently.
In order to know exactly what your inspector is going to do ask to see their Standards of Practice (SOP) document. This document lays out what an inspector is required, and not require, to inspect. The document is usually very detailed but sorted by system (i.e. plumbing, hvac, electrical, ect). Again, in Michigan there is no state mandated standard so you must check out each individual inspectors SOP. Be sure to read through this document and ask your inspector any questions you may have. See mine by clicking here.
It is also important to understand the goal of the inspector. Each individual inspector may have a slightly different answer to what goal they have for the home inspection, but a general overview would be:
A home inspection is a visual only, non-invasive inspection of the general condition of the home.
So I would like to break down this general statement of what a home inspection is. “A home inspection is a visual only, non-invasive inspection” means that there is going to be limitations to the inspection. Limitations can be a whole host of things, some of which I would like to discuss below.
I think most people forget that they do not own the home yet. As inspectors we have permission to be in the house but we don’t have permission to move the homeowners things or cause any damage. When we leave the home should be exactly as we found it. This means that there could be issues when it comes seeing around people belongings or accessing certain areas of the home. If a persons belongings are on a shelf below an attic hatch I rarely move them, if its just a couple towels then I’ll move them but if there is a chance that something I move could get broke I will not move the items. Peoples belongings often block important areas such as breaker boxes, closets, sometimes even full rooms.
Another limitation could deal with weather. Snow or icy conditions could make walking a roof impossible or block view of sidewalks, decks, or driveways. Even something as simple as it not raining at the time of the inspection could cause us to miss a leak in a roof or foundation.
Time can also be a limitation of the inspection. My inspections normally take between 3 and 4 hours. This is the time range we give the homeowners to let them know so they know when they can return to the property. Inspectors try not to go over the allotted time as to not inconvenience the homeowners. This limitation in time prevents us from fully following through with deficiencies we see. For example, I may see an problem with a furnace however I may not know the actual cause of the issue because tracking down the actual cause could take hours.
The limitations above are only a few examples of the types of limitations your inspector could experience. Due to these limitations, your inspector is providing you with a “general condition of the home”. This means the report will not include everything that is wrong with the home. I tell all my clients that rarely, if ever, will I be able to report every deficiency with a home. You must be aware that there may be more things wrong with the inspected home than the items listed in the report. The report should be used as a general report card of the home, not a grade of every test that could be performed.
The best way to know what your inspector is going to inspect is to ask what they inspect. If there is anything in particular you are worried about be sure to mention it to your inspector. The only way to know for sure what your inspector is going to do when on-site is to talk with them and understand what they consider a home inspection. Do they test every accessible outlet, window, and door? Do they inspect pools or spas? Do they run appliances to ensure proper operation? Do they inspect outbuildings? Asking questions such as these can be imperative to setting your expectations as to what you are going to get from your inspection. Rest assured, most inspectors are going to do their best to uncover and discover issues within the home. Well trained inspectors will know the signs to look for that point toward bigger issues that may be hidden. I have had many clients tell me that the money they spent was more than worth the information I provided at the end of the inspection, just because there are limitations to the inspection doesn't mean your inspector won't provide you with a lots of important information about your home.
The most important part about understanding what your inspector is going to inspect is getting to know your inspector before you hire them. Often my clients only call me one time before they hire me, a phone call that lasts between 5 and 10 minutes. I urge you to spend time looking for a qualified inspector, you can learn about hiring and inspector by reading my article "Hiring a home inspector like you would a hair dresser".