A home inspection is a limited, non-invasive examination of the condition of a home, 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. The home inspector describes the condition of the home at the time of inspection but does not guarantee future condition, efficiency, or life expectancy of systems or components.
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. In the United States, although not all states or municipalities regulate home inspectors, there are various professional associations for home inspectors that provide education, training, and networking opportunities. A professional home inspection is an examination of the current condition of a house. It is not an inspection to verify compliance with appropriate codes; building inspection is a term often used for building code compliance inspections in the United States. A similar but more complicated inspection of commercial buildings is a property condition assessment. Home inspections identify problems but building diagnostics identifies solutions to the found problems and their predicted outcomes.
The formation of the Home Inspection Profession is clouded in myth and mystery.
It is certain, that in the United Kingdom Properties have been inspected prior to the sale for many years. These inspections were performed by members of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors. This organization dates back to 1868, so is undoubtedly the catalyst for global property condition assessment during a sale process.
The modern day form of Home Inspection started in North America, in the United States.
Again, there are conflicts of actually when it started, or who started it.
Some sources say the first known home inspection company, Home Equity Loss Protection Services dba/H.E.L.P.S.(Glen Ellyn, IL), was founded by Christopher P. Nolan and Loyola Professor, Mark Goodfriend. Mr. Nolan was initially inspired by Coldwell Banker Realtor, Carole Kelby, a top producer from Wheaton, IL. He first trained DuPage County Deputy Sheriff, George Wick, as H.E.L.P.S. first official Home Inspector. Years later, the company was officially incorporated in the early 1980s by Jane Garvey, surviving wife of Professor Mark Goodfriend of Glen Ellyn, IL following its purchase from Christopher P. Nolan. As a founder of the home inspection business and entrepreneur, Mr. Nolan was inspired to create a comprehensive system of home inspections. He found because as an investor of distressed real estate (then a nationally recognized real estate expert and speaker for Lowry Seminars) he realized a need to have skilled professionals inspect key areas of the home prior to his purchases in order to mitigate the risk of his investments.
In Canada and the United States, a contract to purchase a house may include a contingency that the contract is not valid until the buyer, through a home inspector or other agents, has had an opportunity to verify the condition of the property. In many states and provinces, home inspectors are required to be licensed, but in some states, the profession is not regulated. Typical requirements for obtaining a license are the completion of an approved training course and/or a successful examination by the state's licensing board. Several states and provinces also require inspectors to periodically obtain continuing education credits in order to renew their licenses.
In May 2001, Massachusetts became the first state to recognize the potential conflict of interest when real estate agents selling a home also refer or recommend the home inspector to the potential buyer. As a result, the real estate licensing law in Massachusetts was amended to prohibit listing real estate agents from directly referring home inspectors. The law also prohibits listing agents from giving out a "short" name list of inspectors. The only list that can be given out is the complete list of all licensed home inspectors in the state.
Ancillary services such as inspections for wood destroying insects, radon testing, septic tank inspections, water quality, mold, (or excessive moisture which may lead to mold), and private- well inspections are sometimes a part of Home Inspector's services if duly qualified.
In many provinces and states, the practice standards for home inspectors are those developed and enforced by professional associations, such as, worldwide, the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI); in the United States, the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), and the National Association of Home Inspectors (NAHI)(No Longer active 10/2017); and, in Canada, the Canadian Association of Home and Property Inspectors (CAHPI), the Professional Home & Property Inspectors of Canada (PHPIC) and the National Home Inspector Certification Council (NHICC).
Currently, more than thirty U.S. states regulate the home inspection industry in some form.
Canada saw a deviation from this model when in 2016 an association independent Home Inspection Standard was completed. This was developed in partnership with industry professionals, consumer advocates, and technical experts, by the Canadian Standards Association. The CAN/CSA A770-16 home Inspection Standard was funded by three provincial governments and is aimed to be the unifying standard for Home Inspections carried out within Canada.
It is the only Home Inspection Standard in Canada that has been endorsed by the Standards Council of Canada.
In Canada, there are provincial associations which focus on provincial differences that affect their members and consumers. Ontario has the largest population of Home Inspectors which was estimated in 2013 as part of a government survey at being around 1500.
To date, only one Association, Ontario Association of Certified Home Inspectors, has mandated its members migrate to the CAN/CSA A770-16 Home Inspection Standard, with a date of migration set as February 28, 2020. Other National and Provincial Associations have set this standard as an option to be added to the other standards supported by the associations.
In Canada, only Alberta and British Columbia have implemented government regulation for the Home Inspection Profession. The province of Ontario has proceeded through the process, with the passage of regulatory procedure culminating in the Home Inspection Act, 2017 to license Home Inspectors in that province. It has received royal assent but is still awaiting the development of regulations and proclamation to become law.
In Ontario, there are two provincial Associations, OAHI( the Ontario Association of Home Inspectors) and OntarioACHI (the Ontario Association of Certified Home Inspectors). Both claim to be the largest association in the province. OAHI, formed by a private member's Bill in the Provincial Assembly, has the right in law to award the R.H.I. (Registered Home Inspector) designation to anyone on its membership register. The R.H.I. designation, however, is a reserved designation, overseen by OAHI under the Ontario Association of Home Inspectors Act, 1994. This Act allows OAHI to award members who have passed and maintained strict criteria set out in their membership bylaws and who operate within Ontario. Similarly, OntarioACHI requires equally high standards for the award of their certification, the Canadian-Certified Home Inspector (CCHI) designation. To confuse things, Canadian Association of Home and Property Inspectors (CAHPI) own the copyright to the terms Registered Home Inspector and RHI. Outside of Ontario, OAHI Members cannot use the terms without being qualified by CAHPI.
The proclamation of the Home Inspection Act, 2017, requires the dissolution of the Ontario Association of Home Inspectors Act, 1994, which will remove the right to title in Ontario of the RHI at the same time removing consumer confusion about the criteria for its award across Canada.
Through education and advocacy, both Organisations cultivate a thriving Home Inspection profession based on the highest standards of professional development and ethical standards.
A home inspector in the United Kingdom (or more precisely in England and Wales), was an inspector certified to carry out the Home Condition Reports that it was originally anticipated would be included in the Home Information Pack.
On July 18, 2006, the Government announced the postponement of compulsory Home Condition Reports, which had been due to become part of the Home Information Packs on 1 June 2007, leaving the future for the inspectors somewhat uncertain.
Home inspectors were required to complete the ABBE Diploma in Home Inspection to show they met the standards set out for NVQ/VRQ competency-based assessment (Level 4). The government had suggested that between 7,500 and 8,000 qualified and licensed home inspectors would be needed to meet the annual demand of nearly 2,000,000 Home Information Packs. In the event, many more than this entered training, resulting in a massive oversupply of potential inspectors.
With the cancellation of Home Information Packs by the coalition Government in 2010, the role of the home inspector in the United Kingdom became permanently redundant.
Inspections of the home, as part of a real estate transaction, are still generally carried out in the UK in the same manner as they had been for years before the Home Condition Report process. Home Inspections are more detailed than those currently offered in North America. They are generally performed by a chartered member of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors.
The concept of home inspection in India is in its infancy. There has been a proliferation of companies that have started offering the service, predominantly in Tier-1 cities such as Bangalore, Chennai, Kolkata, Pune, Mumbai, etc. To help bring about a broader understanding among the general public and market the concept a few Home Inspection companies have come together and formed the Home Inspection Association of India
After RERA came into effect, the efficacy and potency of Home Inspection companies has increased tremendously. Vast majority of the people who own homes or are potential home buyers do not know what Home Inspection is and such a service even exists.
The way that Home Inspection is different in India than in North America or United Kingdom is that, Home Inspectors do not have a licencing authority that is government authorised. Apart from the fact that houses in India are predominantly built using kiln baked bricks or concrete blocks or even are just concrete walls (predominantly in high rise apartments) this means the tests conducted are vastly different. Most companies providing Home Inspection services conduct non-destructive tests [NDT] of the property, in come cases based on customer requirement tests that require core-cutting etc are also performed.
Vast majority of home owners are not aware of the concept of Home Inspection in India. The other issue is the balance of power is highly tilted toward the builder, this means the home buyers are vary of stepping on their proverbial toes. This is the case because in most cases, that home would be their single most expensive purchase in their lifetime and the home owners do not want to even come across as antagonising the builders.
One salient feature that Home Inspectors perform in India, is check the carpet area of the apartment. This is important because that is the most expensive unit of the apartment, since the home buyer pays the builder per square foot of apartment. Along with this Plumbing, Electrical, Safety checks are also performed within the apartment to ensure the home owner gets what was promised to them and they only pay for what they get.
Home inspection standards and exclusions
A home inspection is a visual examination of the home's major structure, systems and components including the roof, exterior, basement or crawlspace, foundation and structure, heating and cooling, plumbing, electrical, fireplace, attic, insulation and ventilation, doors, windows, and interior of a residential property. Home inspectors 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.
A home inspection is not technically exhaustive and does not imply that every defect will be discovered. Some inspection companies offer 90-day limited warranties to protect clients from unexpected mechanical and structural failures; otherwise, inspectors are not responsible for future failures.
A general inspection standard for buildings other than residential homes can be found at the National Academy of Building Inspection Engineers.
Home inspection "standards of practice" serve as 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), some, however, do not and use the standard as a means to provide less and charge more.
The existing standards have, until recently been developed by Home Inspection Associations that represent the interests of the Inspector. Each of these standards suffers from the same concern to regulators, the fact that they can be re-scoped by the inspector to perform only a portion of the inspection. While this has its reasons for the need for inspecting single components, some regions have had this ability manipulated by savvy Realtors to get Home Inspectors to perform minimal inspections in order to market the homes and sell them quicker. In Canada, the CSA Group released the CAN/CSA-A770-16 home Inspection Standard. As an independently developed standard, its focus is on consumer protection. While it covers all of what the existing standards cover, it has mandatory requirements placed within it, which prevent the minimizing of scope for a residential home inspection.
Many inspectors may also offer ancillary services such as inspecting pools, sprinkler systems, checking radon levels, and inspecting for wood-destroying organisms. The CAN/CSA-A770-16 standard allows this (in-fact it demands swimming pool safety inspections as a requirement) and also mandates that the inspector be properly qualified to offer these. Other standards are silent on this.
Types of inspections
Home buyers inspection
Buyers inspections are the most common type of inspection in the United States. The persons purchasing the property hire an inspector to help identify major defects and other problems so they can make an informed decision about the building's condition and the expense of related repairs.
Home sellers inspection
A homeowner who is selling their house hires an inspector to identify problems with their house. The seller can elect to share the report with any potential buyers or to make any necessary repairs so the house is known to be in good condition encouraging a quick sale. One home inspectors' organization offers a program which helps market a house as "Move-In Certified", that is, the house is in a condition where the new owners can promptly move in without making substantial repairs.
Foreclosure inspections are often referred to as REO (real estate owned) inspections. Professional home inspectors are qualified to do these, but there are other inspectors that also do only minimal foreclosure inspections: Certified Field Inspectors and Certified Property Preservation Specialists. These inspectors may or may not be qualified to do state licensed home inspections.
Four point inspection
Insurance companies sometimes require an inspection of a house's roof and the HVAC, electrical and plumbing systems before providing homeowners insurance. This inspection is usually only required on homes which are 20–25 years old or older and is commonly required in Florida and other coastal states. The name derives from the four areas of interest.
A disaster inspection occurs after a natural disaster such as a hurricane, earthquake or tornado in which large numbers of buildings may have been damaged. In the United States, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) prepares for and coordinates large scale disaster relief efforts, including the inspection of damaged buildings. Disaster inspectors document conditions of buildings for government disaster relief payments.
Section 8 inspection
In the United States, the federal and state governments provide housing subsidies to low-income people through a program often known as Section 8. The government expects that the housing will be "fit for habitation" so a Section 8 inspection identifies compliance with HUD's Housing Quality Standards (HQS).
The pre-delivery inspection, which generally applies to newly built homes, is a real estate term that means the buyer has the option (or requirement, depending upon how the real estate contract is written) to inspect the property prior to closing or settlement. These inspections generally take place up to a week before a closing, and they generally allow buyers the first opportunity to inspect their new home. Additionally, the inspection is to ensure that all terms of the contract have been met, that the home is substantially completed and that major items are in working order.
Along with a representative of the builder (generally the construction supervisor or foreman), the buyers may be accompanied by a home inspector of their choice. Any noted defects are added to a punch list for completion prior to closing. Often a second inspection is conducted to ensure that the defects have been corrected. This is called a 'snag list' or 'snag report' in the United Kingdom.
Many local governments within the United States and Canada require that new-home builders provide a home warranty for a limited period, and this typically results in home builders conducting a pre-delivery inspection with the buyer.
In a resale situation, this type of inspection is often termed the final walk-through, and, based on the contract's provisions, it allows the buyer the opportunity to inspect the home prior to closing to ensure that agreed-upon repairs or improvements have been completed.
A better inspection for a newly built home is to inspect the home during the stages it is being constructed. The typical inspection stages include:
- foundation pour
- insulation, and
Important issues such as structural support, duct routing, and plumbing can not be completely inspected after the drywall or attic insulation is installed.
Illicit residue inspection
Drug residue inspections are a newer and more common type of inspection in the United States due to the drug crisis and collateral damage caused to real estate. Those purchasing the property hire an inspector to help identify prior drug usage, processing, and clandestine laboratories so they can make an informed decision about the building's condition and the expense of related repairs or remediation. Most qualified home inspectors offer this service at a reasonable cost to clients.
Eleventh month inspection
In the United States, some states require a builder to warranty a new house for one year. An 11th-month inspection is an inspection of the new home before the warranty ends to discover any defects requiring warranty service.
Structural inspections report on the foundation and supporting elements of a home. When performing a structure inspection, the home inspector will look for a variety of distress indications that may result in repair or further evaluation recommendations.
In the state of New York, only a licensed professional engineer or a registered architect can render professional opinions as to the sufficiency structural elements of a home or building. Municipal building officials can also make this determination, but they are not performing home inspections at the time they are rendering this opinion. Municipal officials are also not required to look out for the best interest of the buyer. Some other states may have similar provisions in their licensing laws. Someone who is not a licensed professional engineer or a registered architect can describe the condition of structural elements (cracked framing, sagged beams/roof, severe rot or insect damage, etc.), but are not permitted to render a professional opinion as to how the condition has affected the structural soundness of the building.
During a home inspection, a home inspector carries out a visual observation and general operation of the plumbing system. The inspection will consider readily accessible pipes, fixtures, and components while noting recognized adverse and material defects present at the time of inspection. Minor defects may also be reported. The inspection typically reviews the visible water supply and waste removal sewage system. Furthermore, a plumbing inspection often involves a closer observation than just the outside, especially in the case of galvanized pipes, which may not appear to have defects superficially. A plumbing inspection may also include the sewer line. The inspector will use a high definition camera. This camera will be inserted into the main sewer lateral access point. The sewer lateral will be investigated for defects and deficiencies such as steps, offsets, cracks and root intrusion. It may also denote wear and tear condition.
Water flow performance is judged by running water through the pipes and sewage systems in normal modes and in a representative manner. The water heater is usually inspected for heating of the water and safe operation which may include venting (gas/oil/butane models) and the temperature and pressure relief valve. Water heater types include storage tank and on-demand systems using a variety of energy sources (typically electric or gas).
Most homes obtain water supply from a city, nearby town, cooperative or private source. Water may be obtained from a lake, river, reservoir, or well. If the source of water happens to be private or non-approved, the home inspector should recommend the client opt for an expert to evaluate the integrity of the water supply. Testing private wells for contaminates is important. Ideally, the inspection intends to reduce the risks for the buyer by reporting observed material defects. A defect may be a repair, maintenance or improvement consideration with or without a safety association.
Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) inspection
A heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) home inspection reviews the heating and cooling systems of a home from a performance perspective. The inspection usually does not inspect or compare to codes or manufacturer requirements. Heating is provided typically by a forced-air furnace distributed by ductwork or a water/steam boiler using radiators or convectors, but space heaters, heat pumps and other methods are also in use. The energy source is usually natural gas, fuel oil, or electric, but other sources include butane, wood and geothermal. Cooling can be described as a split system, packaged unit, fan coil, heat pump, an evaporative cooler, or window/through-the-wall air conditioning unit.
A typical inspection will carry out a visual observation and operation of the HVAC system. The inspection will consider visible and readily accessible components while noting recognized adverse and material defects present at the time of inspection. Home inspectors are not required to disassemble the equipment. The home inspection report may include a description of the system by its key components. Ideally, the inspection intends to reduce the risks for the buyer by reporting observed material defects. A defect may be a repair, maintenance or improvement consideration with or without a safety association. An optional statement on perceived useful remaining life may be provided but is not required. According to the InterNACHI Residential Standards of Practice, a home inspector is not obligated to make estimates on lifespans of home systems including the roof, HVAC, plumbing or electrical.
Thermal imaging Inspection
A thermal imaging inspection using an infrared camera can provide inspectors with information on home energy loss, heat gain/loss through the exterior walls and roof, moisture leaks, and improper electrical system conditions that are typically not visible to the naked eye. Thermal imaging is not considered part of a General Home Inspection because it exceeds the scope of inspection Standards of Practice.
Pool and spa inspection
Inspection of swimming pools and spas is not considered part of a General Home Inspection because their inspection exceeds the scope of inspection Standards of Practice. However, some home inspectors are also certified to inspect pools and spas and offer this as an ancillary service.
Tree health inspection
Inspection of trees on the property is not considered part of a General Home Inspection because their inspection exceeds the scope of inspection Standards of Practice. This type of inspection is typically performed by a Certified Arborist and assesses the safety and condition of the trees on a property before the sales agreement is executed.
Property inspection report for immigration
The UK Border Agency issued guidance on the necessity of ensuring that properties must meet guidelines so that visa applicants can be housed in properties which meet environmental and health standards. Part X of the Housing Act 1985 provides the legislative grounding for the reports - primarily to ensure that a property is not currently overcrowded, that the inclusion of further individuals as a result of successful visa applications - whether spouse visa, dependent visa, indefinite leave to remain or visitor visa, can house the applicants without the property becoming overcrowded. Reports are typically prepared by environmental assessors or qualified solicitors in accordance with HHSRS (Housing Health and Safety Rating Scheme). Property inspection reports are typically standard and breakdown the legal requirements.
- A general list of exclusions include but are not limited to: code or zoning violations, permit research, property measurements or surveys, boundaries, easements or right of way, conditions of title, proximity to environmental hazards, noise interference, soil or geological conditions, well water systems or water quality, underground sewer lines, waste disposal systems, buried piping, cisterns, underground water tanks and sprinkler systems. A complete list of standards and procedures for home inspections can be found at NAHI, ASHI or InterNACHI or IHINA websites.
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