Your Family, Your Home, Your Trust
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Home Inspection: the inspector will examine (essentially visually) the physical condition of the building and its mechanical systems and at other conditions that may affect the building (such as site drainage) and will provide a written report.
A Written Home Inspection Report: There is too much information, some of it possibly involving significant cost or important safety findings, for any professional to provide an "oral only" home inspection. The inspection findings must be provided in writing. We use the Home Reference Book which is delivered at the end of the inspection. Other inspectors may provide a typed narrative report or an annotated "checklist" report. Any report form can be acceptable provided it is clear, thorough, and sufficiently detailed.
Watch out: A so called home inspection "report" which is a simple "ok" or "not ok" checklist, or a sort of "inventory" (Asphalt shingle roof, vinyl siding, concrete block foundation) is really just an "inventory" of building material types. As an inspection for costly or dangerous defects such a report is totally inadequate and does not meet the standards of practice for the profession.
All home inspection findings will be written in your report. What the inspector tells you orally at the inspection must agree exactly with what's written in your report, and vice versa. If you receive an oral warning of something costly or unsafe, that information should appear clearly in the written report too.
Ancillary tests which are not required by the home inspection standards of practice may nonetheless be offered by your inspector, such as water or septic testing, or a termite or radon inspection or test. These are discussed below.
Time and Attention at the Property: You should accompany the inspector (me) and look, listen, and ask questions. Be prepared to spend 3-5 hours at the property to receive a detailed, thorough inspection.
The time required to inspect a building is not fixed. But if I were inspecting an easy one-family house in good condition, and if I were working alone, with no one to ask questions or chat with, it would still take me at least 2 1/2 hours simply to direct my attention to every item and system on a building that needs my consideration.
The time required to inspect properly depends not only on building size but on the age and complexity of the structure and its mechanical systems as well as the ease or difficulty of access to various systems and components. But if your inspector is spending an hour and a half at a property, unless it's a very small and simple structure, you might wonder what shortcuts are being taken.
If you must bring children to an inspection, be sure you bring along another adult who can watch or entertain the kids while you accompany me during the inspection. Also bring along a book or magazine for those times you do not wish to accompany me.
Be sure your real estate agent knows how long you expect to be at the property and that they let the property owners know as well.
I feel that it's much better for you, the buyer, to accompany me towards the end of the inspection. This will allow me to complete a thorough and detailed inspection without any interruptions or distractions. You will still get the same level of professionalism and time needed by me at the end of the inspection to review any findings and to ask any questions you may have about the property.
A home inspection fee: Fees for the inspection and any other services are usually payable at the site, usually by cash, cheque, debit or credit card. An invoice will be provided on-site or with your report if you are unable to attend.
Follow-up consulting: In my professional home inspection, there is no fee for follow-up questions in clarification of the inspection report. In fact we like you to call to ask questions - it increases the value of our service, and the feedback makes us better at our job. Some inspectors feel differently and may discourage follow-up conversations or email. An inspector who knows your property and who is committed to protecting your interest should be willing to discuss the report or even future problems that may come up.
Lead Paint inspection and testing: for houses built before 1978, you should assume that lead paint is present, more so on an older house as it would be unusual for this not to be the case unless all old paint has already been removed or the building was never painted.
Lead paint is a potentially serious health hazard, especially to children or during renovations, but an old house is should not be stigmatized compared to its peers on this issue (since it's not much different from its peers), so this is not usually a point of negotiation between buyers and sellers. A little on lead hazards is at http://InspectAPedia.com/Environment/Environment_Building.php in the section on "Lead"
You may want to use a lead testing professional to screen the house to prepare a lead abatement plan but I'd wait to see the general condition of the home and wait to see that the purchase is otherwise secure.
Environmental issues in general: a home inspection is not focused on environmental conditions and those hazards are excluded from the standards of practice. Furthermore, a home inspection fee in no way reflects the costs and fees involved in environmental site surveys. However, I will point out to you certain obvious conditions if I happen to spot them during a home inspection, such as asbestos heating pipe insulation, pipes probably related to a buried oil tank, or a lead water entry main line. In exchange for this benefit from your home inspection you will have to agree that you're not holding the inspector responsible for having performed any sort of environmental survey at the property.
Assure access to the property when scheduling a home inspection
In addition to confirming the inspection appointment with the property owner or real estate agent, please be sure that someone will be available, usually the realtor, to let me in to the building at the time and on the day of the inspection. As a courtesy, be sure the realtor/seller are informed that our inspections are typically 3-5 hours in length but could be longer, and won't be ended until you, the client, are finished asking your initial questions at the site.
In discussing the inspection with the realtor or owner, make sure that all of the mechanical systems are turned on and working, such as heat, electricity, air conditioning. If any systems are to be left shut off or areas are to be inaccessible or locked, the inspection will be limited. Discuss these limitations with your inspector.
For example, an expert home inspector may spot evidence of a history of plumbing leaks at a fixture even if water to the building is shut down. But other critical data, such as fixture flow and drainage adequacy can't be assessed if there is no water.