What is a home inspection?
A home inspection is a limited, non-invasive examination of the current condition of a home and systems, often in connection with the sale of that home. Home inspections are usually conducted by a home inspector who has the training and certifications to perform such inspections. The inspector prepares and delivers to the client a written report of findings. The client then uses the knowledge gained to make informed decisions about their pending real estate purchase.
A home inspector is sometimes confused with a real estate appraiser. A home inspector determines the condition of a structure, whereas an appraiser determines the value of a property.
A professional home inspection is an examination of the current condition of a house. It is not an inspection to verify compliance with appropriate city codes though items covered in the home inspection may often cover items related to code.
What does a home inspector look at?
Inspectors often inspect the Roof, Attic, Exterior surfaces, Basements, Foundations, Heating, Air-Conditioning, Plumbing (Supply Lines & Waste Lines), Water Heaters, Gas Meters and lines, Electrical panels and wiring, and many other aspects of buildings including interiors, floors, walls, ceilings, doors, windows, outlets, switches, fixtures, appliances, etc. (Note: Washer / dryers and refrigerators are generally not checked) They look for system and major component defects and deficiencies, improper building practices, those items that require extensive repairs, items that are general maintenance issues, and some fire and safety issues. A general home inspection is not designed to identify building code violations, although some deficiencies identified may also be code violations. Cosmetic items (scratches, chips and scuffs) are mostly ignored by a general inspector.
A home inspection is not technically exhaustive and does not imply that every defect will be discovered.
Home inspection "standards of practice" serve as a minimum guidelines that describe what is and is not required to be inspected by the various associations mentioned during a general home inspection. Many inspectors exceed these standards (permissible) and may offer additional services.
Guidelines can be found here: https://www.homeinspector.org/files/docs/standards.pdf
What about blocked or hidden items?
The home inspector will do their best to get to all necessary areas though sometimes they can be blocked with stored items or painted and sealed shut. It is important to ensure there is clear access to all systems, components and rooms in the home. If there is something preventing access the inspector will inform you of such so you can work with the seller / buyer / agent to get those items removed or opened in order for the inspector to look at the area. Although some areas are inaccessible (inside walls, etc) a thorough examination of the rest of the home is performed so as to gather enough information to inform you of the existing condition of the home and its components.
What doesn't a home inspector look at?
This may vary from inspector to inspector. Check with your inspector to determine what is and is not looked at during the inspection on site. If you want something looked and do not know if the inspector will check it, ask. Some inspectors will check those areas even if beyond their scope as a professional courtesy.
A home inspector is not a building code inspector though some items checked may be a building or code deficiency.
A home inspector is not a mold inspector though some inspectors offer this service for an additional fee or refer you to a specially trained mold check professional as necessary.
A home inspector is not a wood destroying organism inspector (often called termite inspector). This is a completely different inspection and should be done before the close of escrow.
A home inspector is not a chimney inspector. If your home has a chimney or fireplace this should be looked at by a chimney inspection company. A home inspector will do a brief check of the interior fireplace and exterior chimney but can not access or inspect the interior chimney flue which is often where all the issues are found. The chimney inspector will send a camera into this area for a complete inspection.
A home inspector is not a sewer inspector. While the waste lines under the sinks and in the crawl space can be viewed the sewer line under the ground from the house to the city sewer is not visible and requires a camera and specially trained sewer inspector to observe and report on.
What additional inspections should I get?
The home inspector will check and inform you if you need the following areas further evaluated and inspected by a professional: Roof, Foundation, Plumbing, Electrical & HVAC (Heating & Cooling). If you know you have a problem with any area above based on disclosures then it is a good idea to have this specialist come out for a full detailed evaluation with price quotes of needed repairs.
Additional Recommended Inspections: Chimney, Mold, Sewer, Geologist (If on a hillside), Termite and any other area of concern not covered above.