What is a Home Inspection, and Do I Really Need One?

By Leo Cannyn, PMP, P.E., ENV SP
Principal Project Manager
Beryl Engineering & Inspection

There are few investments as significant as home ownership. By the time you are ready to make an offer on a house, you may think you know all there is to know about the property. However, a home inspection provides buyers with insight to any potential problems. It allows you to see what might need to be addressed before closing on your new home, and when a mortgage is involved, is usually a required component in the purchase process.

What is a Home Inspection?

A home inspection is conducted by an independent party, preferably not associated with the seller. It is a non-invasive visual examination of the physical structure and systems of the house. A good home inspection covers the roof to the foundation and can take an inspector anywhere from two to four hours to complete, depending on the size of the house.

A standard inspection can include the condition of the home’s:

  • heating system
  • central air conditioning system
  • interior plumbing system
  • electrical system
  • roof
  • attic space and visible insulation
  • walls
  • ceilings
  • floors, windows, and doors
  • foundation and structural components

It is important to note that there may be some exceptions. For example, areas that are difficult to access or that appear to be unsafe may not be inspected. However, exclusions are documented in the final report. The American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) publishes a Standard of Practice and Code of Ethics outlining expectations of a home inspection report.

A home inspector could recommend a specialized inspection if aspects of the property were flagged as defective. For example, certain homes may need to address asbestos, lead-based paint, mold, or the stability of a chimney, etc. Septic tank inspections as well as termite inspections can also be added to a home inspection. Additionally, as a Florida resident, obtaining a wind mitigation survey as part of your inspection could save you hundreds of dollars yearly on your insurance premiums.

What Should I Expect to See on a Home Inspection Report?

After your inspection, you will receive a written report. It will cover your property’s primary attributes and make mention of any areas that need attention. A quality inspector will take the time to walk you through their findings. This may include traditional wear and tear, larger areas of concern, or even minor issues that are easily remedied. It’s their job to identify everything and let you decide which issues cause red flags and may prevent you from moving forward with your purchase, or which you may want to address with the seller.

An inspector will include the age of the systems if they are older and appear to need servicing. However, a home inspection is not a guarantee. It is only a snapshot of the home’s condition when the inspector is there. For example, the plumbing was working when the inspector was present, but it could stop working for any number of reasons by the time you move into the home. The International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI), however, has just released its “We’ll Buy Back Your Home” Guarantee. If the client’s participating Certified Professional Inspector® (Beryl Project Engineering) misses anything in the inspection, InterNACHI will buy back the home. It’s that simple. There’s no deductible and no “weasel” clauses. Here are the no-frills terms of this groundbreaking Buy-Back Guarantee.

Why is a Home Inspection Necessary?

A detailed inspection should be at the top of your to-do list before closing if you plan to purchase a home in Florida. According to a recent survey, home inspectors identified issues in 86 percent of inspections. Sellers may sometimes leave out pertinent information when putting a house on the market. Non-disclosure of an item that materially affects the value of a property may significantly impact your investment, so an independent inspection is in your best interests.

Many buyers are concerned with keeping costs as low as possible. Home inspections are not expensive. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, a home inspection averages $300-$500 nationally, but no two houses are the same. Buyers should be suspicious of any inspection service that offers a one-size-fits-all price. Your actual cost will depend on several factors, including the age of the home, the location, and the size. Overall, it is a small price to pay when considering what it may save you in the long run.

Final Thoughts

A home inspection aims to arm you with as much information as possible. You are purchasing a new home, and want to ensure there are no surprises. Hidden issues can be costly and possibly disastrous to anyone’s budget. Hiring a certified home inspector is essential and will help to limit the risk of hidden repairs. In addition, your inspector will ensure that you have all the information you need to make the right decision for you and your family. After all, it is likely one of the largest purchases of your life.