(A portion reprinted from American Society of Home Inspectors, By Permission of Alan Carson, Carson Dunlop & Assoc.)
Some problems can only be discovered by living in a house. They cannot be discovered during the few hours of a home inspection. For example, some shower stalls leak when people are in the shower, but do not leak when you simply turn on the tap. Some roofs may leak when certain weather conditions arise (such as wind driven rain). Some problems will only be discovered when carpets are lifted, furniture is moved or finishes are removed.
These problems may have existed at the time of the inspection, but there were no clues as to their existence. Our inspections are based on the past performance of the house. If there are no clues of a past problem, it is unfair to assume we should foresee a future problem.
Some say we are inconsistent because our reports identify some minor problems but not others. The minor problems that are identified were discovered while looking for more significant problems. We note them simply as a courtesy. The intent of the inspection is not to find the $200 problems; it is to find the $1000 problems. These are the things that affect people’s decisions to purchase.
A common source of dissatisfaction with home inspectors comes from comments made by contractors. Contractors’ opinions often differ from ours. Don’t be surprised when three roofers all say the roof needs replacement, when we said that the roof would last a few more years with some minor repairs.
While our advice represents the most prudent thing to do, many contractors are reluctant to undertake these repairs. This is because of the “last man in” theory. The contractor fears that if he is the last person to work on the roof, he will get blamed if the roof leaks, regardless of whether or not the roof leak is his fault. Consequently, he won’t want to do a minor repair with high liability, when he could re-roof the entire house for more money and reduce the likelihood of a callback. This is understandable.
There is more to the “last man in” theory. It suggests that it is human nature for homeowners to believe the last bit of “expert” advice they receive, even if it is contrary to previous advice. As home inspectors, we unfortunately find ourselves in the position of “first man in” and consequently it is our advice that is often disbelieved.
There are several reasons for these apparent oversights:
In conclusion, a home inspection is designed to better your odds. It is not designed to eliminate all risk. For that reason, a home inspection should not be considered an insurance policy. The premium that an insurance company would have to charge for a policy with no deductible, no limit and an indefinite policy period would be considerably more than the fee we charge. It would also not include the value added by the inspection.
A home inspection is a visual inspection of the structure and components of a home to find items that are not performing correctly or items that are unsafe. If a problem or a symptom of a problem is found the home inspector will include a description of the problem in a written report and may recommend further evaluation.
A proper and comprehensive home inspection will review the accessible and visible condition of the home from the roof to foundation, which includes the following systems and areas: Structural, Roofing, Exterior of Building, Electrical, Heating, Cooling/Air Conditioning, Plumbing, Interior of Building, and Functioning Permanently Installed Kitchen Appliances. Many inspectors will also offer additional services not included in a typical home inspection, such as termite, mold, sewer scope, etc.
What should I NOT expect from a home inspection?
A home inspection is not protection nor a prediction against future failures. Stuff happens! Components like air conditioners and Heat Systems can and will break down. A home inspection tells you the condition of the component at the time the component was inspected. For protection from future failures we recommend extending your home warranty prior to the end of your FREE 90-day period.
No. A professional home inspection is an examination of the current condition of the house. It is not an appraisal, which determines market value. It is not a municipal inspection, which verifies local code compliance. A home inspector, therefore, will not pass or fail a house, but rather describe its physical condition and indicate what components and systems may need major repair or replacement.
No house is perfect (even new construction). If the inspector identifies problems, it doesn’t mean you should or shouldn’t buy the house, only that you will know in advance what to expect. If your budget is tight, or if you don’t want to become involved in future repair work, this information will be important to you. If major problems are found, a seller may agree to make repairs.
The home inspection has inherent limitations in that it is restricted to a visual inspection of the property. Inspectors do not move furniture/appliances, open walls, ceilings, or damage the property during the inspection. Any discrepancies not visible during the inspection will not be included in a home inspection report. Please note: defects may be found during remolding or demolition. For example: We cannot see discrepancies concealed behind walls, baseboards, flooring, kitchen cabinets, etc.
While it’s not required that you be present for the inspection, it is highly recommended. You will be able to observe the inspector and ask questions as you learn about the condition of the home how to maintain it. It is often helpful to be there so the home inspector can explain in person and answer any questions you may have. This is an excellent way to learn about your new home even if no problems are found. But be sure to give the home inspector time and space to concentrate and focus so he can do the best job possible for you.
For most Home Inspectors, the home inspection ends with the final report being sent to you. The only contact you will receive from them is only when you call or they need something from you. While this is not unusual, it is important to make sure that your home inspector will take and or return your call 7 days a week and be willing to help and or guide you towards finding your answer in a pleasant manner.