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Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Home Inspections
The home inspection is arguably the most important part of your due diligence process. Next to issues with the buyer's loan, homes most often fall out of escrow due to the buyer's and seller's disagreement over who should pay for any requested repairs.
But what does a home inspection cover?
First off, let's define what a home inspection is and isn't.
A home inspection:
IS: only supposed to be used as a general guide to help the buyer evaluate the overall condition of the property
IS NOT: intended to be an indication of the property's value or to advise the buyer whether or not they should actually purpose the property
IS: a professional opinion of the property's condition based on visual impressions
IS NOT: intended to uncover every possible property defect, meaning the inspector will not look inside of walls, in pipes, or in places that are reasonably difficult to inspect
To reiterate, the home inspector is giving his or her opinion of the property's condition based on a reasonably and competently performed visual impression. Anything that you yourself would not be able to see walking through the property is not something that will be inspected.
That being said, let's go through some of the things an inspector would and would not look for in each part of the property:
This would include the driveway, sidewalks, any type of deck/patio and patio cover, and any fences or gates on the property. Some common defects the inspector may point out are cracks in the driveway, water or pest damage to the structure, and any additions, repairs, or fixtures that were obviously improperly installed.
Here, the inspector will investigate the condition of property's exterior, such as the walls, sprinklers, chimney, and gutters. However, the inspector will not test the gutters or downspouts for functionality.
Because most foundations are covered with tile, carpet, and other floor coverings, the inspector can only comment based on what he can see. He or she will note the gradient of the property level, and may inspector a crawl space or basement if it is reasonably accessible.
As a general disclaimer, most inspectors note in their report that it's common for most foundations to have some minor cracking which usually does not affect the integrity of the structure.
Although an inspector will not check for leaks in the home's roof, when possible, he or she will usually get on top of the roof and perform their usual visual inspection. If the roof is inaccessible or impractical to walk on, he or she will inspect the roof from a ladder, and then from ground level.
At this time, the inspector will also make a note of the condition of any skylights.
Again, the inspector will only be able to offer an opinion based on what is visible, so anything underground or in the walls is beyond his or her responsibility.
But as it relates to plumbing, the inspector will note the material used for the water main and waste supply piping as well as their condition. Any improperly installed fixtures or valves should be noted.
The inspector should also note the condition of the water heater and whether it is properly installed and braced.
Heating and Cooling
Pretty straight forward - the inspector will examine the heater and any air conditioning units to determine if they were properly installed and their overall conditions.
Beyond the general testing of all light fixtures within the property, the inspector will also examine and note the voltage of the electrical panel and sub-panels (if any). However, the inspector only tests for basic functionality. Requests for more detailed information should always be deferred to an electrician.
If obvious code violations are visible, the inspector will note those as well. Minor code infractions are things such as exposed wires from ceiling light fixtures.
For the interior portion of the inspection, the doors, windows, walls, ceiling, floors, fireplace (if applicable) and stairs (if applicable) will all be examined.
If access to an attic is available, the inspector will also that too.
As a note, cosmetic deficiencies that are considered normal wear and tear are usually not included in the inspection report.
The inspector will test the functionality and condition of the sinks, faucets, visible pipes, cabinet doors, garbage disposal, dishwasher, microwave, and range/stove.
The inspector will test the functionality and examine the condition of the faucets, showers, and toilets. He or she will also examine the condition of the shower/bathtub walls and enclosure as well as ventilation, such as a ceiling fan.
If any fixtures were added or improvements were made that show obvious signs of improper installation, the inspector should be able to point those out as well.
Here, the inspector will test the functionality of the garage door, making sure safety features are up to date, as well as it's condition. The condition of the garage floor will be noted, and any improvements such as storage racks will be examined too. Proper ventilation and electrical components will be evaluated at the same time.
Once the inspection is complete, the home inspector will usually run through any defects with the buyer, the buyer's agent, and the listing agent. A few days later, a formal inspection summary will be forwarded to all parties.
The inspection summary notes the conditions and components of the property that need attention and/or repairs.
Once the buyer and the buyer's agent have had a chance to review the inspector's findings, they will make a formalized request for any repairs to the seller, which the seller can then accept, reject, or counter.
It's important to note that any repairs be completed well before the close of escrow, as a licensed professional may find additional repairs beyond the scope of a general inspection that need attention. Most often, evidence of termite damage may indicate more costly and more time consuming work may be involved.
Having the right expectation going into a home inspection is key. While an inspector won't be able to tell you everything that's wrong with the property, they should be able to uncover the most pertinent items that should be addressed.
I hope you find this article helpful. If you have any questions about anything we discussed, please don't hesitate to reach out and ask.
Andrew Ramirez was born and raised in Orange County, living in Irvine and Tustin as a child before moving to Costa Mesa in 2001. He lived there for twelve years before marrying his high school sweethe....