What is a Home Inspection?

A Home Inspection is a visual examination of a home from the roof to the foundation. Before you make your final buying or selling decision, you should have the home inspected by a professional. An inspection can alert you to potential problems with a property and allow you to make an informed decision. The inspection process can also alert you to items in the home that need attention right away that can be completed after possession or may even be something you ask a seller to repair prior to closing. The inspector evaluates and documents the current condition and safety of the home. Every aspect of a home can be inspected, however, sometimes other types of inspections may be desired or required depending on each buyer's particular scenario. Other types of inspections can also include radon, pest, mold, well/water, septic system, or mold. 

What a Home Inspection Should Cover

Home inspections will vary depending on the type of property you are purchasing. A large historic home, for example, will require a more specialized inspection than a small condominium. However, the following are the basic elements that a home inspector will check. You can also use this list to help you evaluate properties you might purchase.

Structure. A home’s 'bones' impacts how the structure stands up to weather, gravity, and the earth. Structural components, including the foundation and the framing, should be inspected. 

Exterior. The inspector should look at sidewalks, driveways, steps, windows, and doors. A home’s siding, trim, and surface drainage also are part of an exterior inspection. 

  •         Doors and windows
  •         Siding (brick, stone, stucco, vinyl, wood, etc.)
  •         Driveways/sidewalks
  •         Attached porches, decks, and balconies 

Roofing. A well-maintained roof protects you from rain, snow, and other forces of nature. Take note of the roof’s age, conditions of flashing, roof draining systems (pooling water), buckled shingles, loose gutters and downspouts, skylight, and chimneys. 

Plumbing. Thoroughly examine the water supply and drainage systems, water heating equipment, and fuel storage systems. Drainage pumps and sump pumps also fall under this category. Poor water pressure, banging pipes, rust spots, or corrosion can indicate problems. 

Electrical. Safe electrical wiring is essential. Look for the condition of service entrance wires, service panels, breakers and fuses, and disconnects. Also take note of the number of outlets in each room.  

Heating. The home’s heating system, vent system, flues, and chimneys should be inspected. Look for age of water heater, whether the size is adequate for the house, speed of recovery, and energy rating.

Air Conditioning. Your inspector should describe your home cooling system, its energy source, and inspect the central and through-wall cooling equipment. Consider the age and energy rating of the system. 

Interiors. An inspection of the inside of the home can reveal plumbing leaks, insect damage, rot, construction defects, and other issues. An inspector should take a close look at: 

  •         Walls, ceilings and floors
  •         Steps, stairways, and railings
  •         Countertops and cabinets
  •         Garage doors and garage door systems 

Ventilation/insulation. To prevent energy loss, check for adequate insulation and ventilation in the attic and in unfinished areas such as crawlspaces. Also look for proper, secured insulation in walls. Insulation should be appropriate for the climate. Excess moisture in the home can lead to mold and water damage. 

Fireplaces. They’re charming, but they could be dangerous if not properly installed. Inspectors should examine the system, including the vent and flue, and describe solid fuel-burning appliances.

Questions to Ask Home Inspectors

Are you licensed in the State of Ohio?  Senate Bill 255 was signed into law on Jan. 4, 2019, creating the Home Inspector Program, to be headed up by the Department of Commerce’s Division of Real Estate & Professional Licensing. This Bill requires that all home inspectors performing an inspection to be licensed. Further, the bill also requires a real estate broker or salesperson who provides the name of a home inspector to a purchaser or seller of real estate to provide the names of at least three licensed home inspectors.

Will your inspection meet recognized standards? Ask whether the inspection and the inspection report will meet state requirements and comply with a well-recognized standard of practice and code of ethics, such as the one adopted by the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI), the National Institute of Building Inspectors, (NIBI) and the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI.)

Do you belong to a professional home inspector association? There are many state and national associations for home inspectors that provide standards and additional training opportunities.
How much experience do you have? Ask how long inspectors have been in the profession and how many inspections they’ve completed. They should provide customer referrals on request. New inspectors also may be highly qualified, but they should describe their training and let you know whether they plan to work with a more experienced partner.

How do you keep your expertise up to date? Inspectors’ commitment to continuing education is a good measure of their professionalism and service. Advanced knowledge is especially important in cases in which a home is older or includes unique elements requiring additional or updated training.
Do you focus on residential inspection? Make sure the inspector has training and experience in the unique discipline of home inspection, which is very different from inspecting commercial buildings or a construction site. If your customers are buying a unique property, such as a historic home, they may want to ask whether the inspector has experience with that type of property in particular.
How long will the inspection take? On average, an inspector working alone inspects a typical single-family house in two to three hours; anything significantly less may not be thorough. If your customers are purchasing an especially large property, they may want to ask whether additional inspectors will be brought in.
What’s the cost? Costs can vary dramatically, depending on your region, the size and age of the house, and the scope of services. The national average for single-family homes is about $337, but customers with large homes can expect to pay more. Customers should be wary of deals that seem too good to be true.
What type of inspection report do you provide? Ask to see samples to determine whether you will understand the inspector's reporting style. Also, most inspectors provide their full report within 24 to 48 hours of the inspection.
Will I be able to attend the inspection? The answer should be yes. A home inspection is a valuable educational opportunity for the buyer. An inspector's refusal to let the buyer attend should raise a red flag.