So what's a home inspection anyway?

A short question with a surprisingly long answer that we will explore over several blog posts to come. For today let's get some basics out of the way!


While the technical (and legal) answer varies from state to state a home inspection has three parts:

  1. A visual examination of a property by a...

  2. Licensed home inspector who prepares a...

  3. Thorough written report about the conditions of the property.

There's more to each of these three parts and 14 states (we'll cover which later) don't require a license at all, but this gives a general idea.


Ok. But what does that mean?


A fair question. Let's dig in!


Visual Examination of a Property


An inspector will look with their eyes and the 'eyes' of a drone or camera over a client's home for issues, or defects. A home inspector may also 'look' with their feet to find certain issues such as soft spots on the roof. Out-of-place smells and noises can also be clues to finding defects. The inspector will also open and close accessible parts of the house such as doors, windows, and access panels to make sure those elements are functioning properly. The inspection covers the structure and permanent systems of the home. Major areas include:


  • Foundation

  • Roof

  • Exterior

  • Interior

  • Framing and Structure

  • Walls, Doors, and Windows

  • Insulation and Ventilation

  • Heating System

  • Plumbing System

  • Cooling System

  • Electrical System

  • Attached structures

The inspection generally takes 3 - 4 hours for a 3 bedroom, 2 1/2 bath home. Smaller homes, condos, or mobile homes might take as little as 2 hours, but it's still a good idea to allow 3 hours just in case. Things that can add extra time include:

  • Additional bedrooms and bathrooms. Bathrooms in particular can add extra time because of the plumbing involved.

  • More than 1 HVAC unit.

  • Age of the home. Older homes have older components and/or differently aged components from one part of the home to the other. For example, if the kitchen was renovated, but the dining room wasn't, then they may have different electrical wiring in the two rooms.

Some elements that are not typically included in a home inspection are:


  • Pools or spas

  • Barns or other structures that house animals

  • Elevators

  • Fences

  • Invasive stucco testing - drilling holes in the stucco and checking for moisture damage


Licensed home inspector


Most, but not all states regulate who can and can't inspect homes. Most of the time regulations mean licensing, but not always. I don't want to get too far into the weeds today so let's just look at three states; Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Maryland. Coincidentally these are the three states where we do home inspections!


In Delaware, the Board of Home Inspectors issues licenses to successful applicants. Applicants must have completed a high school education, passed the National Home Inspector Examination, and completed a 140-hour course of study approved by ASHI (American Society of Home Inspectors) or InterNACHI (International Association of Certified Home Inspectors).


Applicants also need to have practical experience. They must have 5 years of home inspecting experience or a log of 75 documented home inspections completed and membership in ASHI. Before being issued a license applicants must also be covered by errors and omissions insurance and liability insurance to protect the home inspector and the home buyer or seller. 4100 Board of Home Inspectors (delaware.gov)


The Maryland State Commission of Real Estate Appraisers and Home Inspectors issues home inspection licenses. Applicants must complete a "72-hour on-site training course approved by a national home inspection organization." Part of that course must include the National Home Inspection Examination or an equivalent. Applicants also need a high school education and general liability insurance. Laws - Statute Text (maryland.gov)


Pennsylvania, on the other hand, does not issue licenses. Pennsylvania law


Written Report


The written report is the 'deliverable' of the home inspection experience. It's the artifact you can bring to the sellers to negotiate for lower costs or it's something you can present to your buyers for peace of mind and an idea of the needs of the home before the buyer moves in.


The report is written, but a lot of the value comes from the photographs of defects in the home. Particularly photos of hard to reach places like inside crawl spaces, the attic, or on the roof.


The format and breakdown of the report varies from inspector to inspector. Today we're going to talk about ASHI reports and how ASHI defines defects.


ASHI recognizes four tiers of defect:


1. Major Defect - These are big-ticket items, most contracts will require the seller to fix these before closing. ASHI definition: An item that is broken and will have a substantial monetary value to repair, or needs evaluation to determine the cost of a likely expensive repair.​


2. Safety Concern - These May or may not be expensive to fix, but they could be the cause of injury or harm. The seller is also required to fix these. ASHI definitions: An item that affects the safety of the occupants of the home, and is in need of immediate repair.


3. Service and repair - These are smaller ticket items in need of repair. The seller is not required to fix these. ASHI definition: An item in need of repair or maintenance, the expected cost of which should be at a level less than that of a major defect, at the time of inspection. Also noted, may be some inaccessible items or items not working.


4. Monitor and maintain - Keep an eye on these, they're not broken yet, but they could use a little TLC. The seller is not required to fix these, ASHI definition: An item that will require immediate maintenance and should be carefully monitored to avoid larger problems.


And that's what a home inspection is folks! Click here to learn more about a Reliable home inspection.



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