A “home inspection” refers to a service that is either requested by the property owner or residents, commissioned by a prospective buyer, or required by law to be performed. This service involves an inspector doing a physical tour of the house, noting information about the property, and providing both an oral and a written report about their findings. Common topics addressed can include a visual assessment to detect any building code violations that are visible to the naked eye, and any damage to the structure or interior from events such as flooding, termite infestation, or aging. An inspector will typically investigate the exterior of the house (the view from the ground), the rooms of the house, and potentially in any attic or crawl spaces outside of the main home. While most buyers place most of the weight of their purchasing decisions on the interior of a home, a trained eye can pick up on the signs of infestation, mold damage, or structural instability- which often present themselves in the attic or crawl space and the building exterior.
While it is not mandatory, inspectors often request that the person commissioning the inspection be present for the walkthrough. This is partially so that they can direct attention to any problem areas, and also so that the two parties can mutually agree on what was seen that day so the report does not get disputed or come as an unpleasant surprise1. This is important especially for any more expensive or pervasive types of damage.
Because of the quick turnaround time of more active housing markets, the results of a home inspection are made available in as little as two days, with an oral report delivered at the conclusion of the physical inspection1. Having early access to the findings of the investigator like this can be essential to the homebuyer, as any issues found can influence the maximum amount they are willing to offer for the house as they try to budget for the cost of repairs. In other cases, surprising results of a home inspection might cause the buyer to rescind their offer altogether.
Since buying a house involves a large transfer of money, and since prospective home buyers are some of the most common recipients of home inspection services, it’s important to talk about liability. “Home Inspection FAQs” states that home inspectors are required by law to be certified and hold liability insurance for these issues. Of course, the fact that they are trained in this specialty area of inspection decreases the risk of any incorrect information being given to the prospective buyer. This also transfers the liability from any realtor who would recommend their customers to a particular home inspection service, which is a positive incentive since it’s in the interest of the realtor, home buyer and inspection service chosen1.
Additionally, home inspections can be requested by renters who wish to understand the state of their current or prospective rented home, and by property owners who want to asses what repairs should be made.