Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Home Inspections: Pass or Fail?

Get a Home Inspection

Nearly all real estate Purchase Agreements (contracts) for homes sold today include a home inspection contingency clause. This provision allows the buyers to choose and hire a professional home inspector, usually at their own expense, to thoroughly evaluate the home for any major problems. A home inspector 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. 

Once the purchase agreement has been signed, inspections usually happen quickly, most often within 5 days.  After an appointment is made with the seller, the home inspector arrives and goes through the entire house.  Typically, a home inspection will take two to three hours and include a check of the home’s structural and mechanical condition.  But besides the structural and mechanical inspection, home inspectors may also do tests for radon gas, look for mold, check for wood destroying insects, or perform other services requested by the buyer.  Most buyers will meet the inspector at the house to review the inspector's findings.

Since 1976, home inspections have been standardized by the nation’s leading home inspector association, the American Society of Home Inspectors, Inc. (ASHI). The Society’s “Standards of Practice” dictate what must be inspected and how far home inspectors need to go to report those findings.

Minnesota does not currently have regulations in place for home inspectors but according to ASHI, a basic home inspection includes an evaluation of 10 different areas of the home: structure, exterior, roofing system, plumbing system, electrical system, heating system, air conditioning system, interior, insulation and ventilation, and fireplaces.

Within these areas, ASHI’s Standards of Practice details what inspectors must look at, as well as what may be excluded, from the inspection. For example, when inspecting the roofing system, inspectors must evaluate the roof shingles, gutters, flashing, skylights, chimneys and other penetrations like plumbing vents.  However, an inspector is not required to inspect a satellite dish, or to look inside chimneys that are not easily accessible.

When the home inspection is complete, the inspector will issue a report to the home buyer detailing what was found.  Inspectors will report on problems needing immediate attention, as well as conditions that can lead to more serious defects down the road.

No house is perfect. If the inspector identifies problems, it does not mean you should or shouldn’t buy the house, only that you will know 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 or you may cancel the purchase agreement if this is within your contingency terms.

Only inspectors that are ASHI members are required to follow these strict guidelines.  However, some states also require licensing to become a home inspector, which carries with it it’s own set of requirements of what to inspect.  Even so, many states have adopted ASHI’s standards and its Code of Ethics as the benchmarks of professional performance.

Please interview your inspector about their education, experience and insurance prior to hiring them and ask if they have passed the National Home Inspector Examination. Also, be sure to know the time constraints within your purchase agreement contingency.

Need inspector referrals?  Call me!