“A home inspection report is important, but it doesn’t cover everything in the house.” A home inspector will perform a visual inspection of your property from top to bottom, including all the main systems. State laws and professional associations require home inspectors to give clients two documents as a matter of business and ethics: written home inspector contracts and written inspection reports.
Obtain a copy of the pre-inspection contract before the inspection takes place. Read and understand the document before the inspector starts the investigation. Ask the inspector to clarify anything you do not understand.
The agreement should contain the scope of the inspection services the person intends to perform as well as the cost of the services.
In some states, home inspection contracts must follow very specific guidelines. For example, the New York Department of State requires inspectors to provide pre-inspection contracts prepared in a certain size font and with specific language and provisions.
What’s included in a home inspection report
Licensed home inspectors are required to provide their clients written reports of the home inspection. The report needs to contain detailed information on the subject property, and should be delivered no later than a week after the inspection. Some inspectors provide their reports within 24 hours.
The inspection report needs to clearly identify the components and systems of the property observed by the inspector. Many inspectors will include photos; the reports can be up to 50 pages of information.
Here are the key areas you can expect to be covered in a home inspection report:
• Structural components including foundation and framing of the home.
• Exterior features including siding, soffit, porches, balconies, walkways, railings and driveways.
• Roof system including shingles, flashing and skylights.
• Electrical system including service panels, breakers and fuses.
• Plumbing systems including pipes, drains, water heating equipment and sump pumps.
• Heating system including equipment and venting.
• Cooling system including energy sources and distribution equipment.
• Interior features including walls, ceilings, floors, windows, doors, stairs and railings.
• Insulation and ventilation including those in the attic and other unfinished spaces.
• Fireplaces including chimneys and vents.
What’s not included in a home inspection report
Home inspectors only perform a visual inspection, and are only liable to inspect what they can see and access. Inspectors should not be taking apart equipment, putting holes in your walls or digging up your yard. That said, underground pipes, septic systems and components sealed inside walls are off the table from the beginning.
There are certain aspects to your home that home inspectors are not required to inspect, some of which require specific licensing requirements. Here are some of the things you will not find on your basic inspection report:
• Hot tubs and swimming pools
• Kitchen appliances and central vacuum systems
• Lawn sprinkler systems
• Fire and smoke detection and suppression systems
• Alarm/intrusion detection systems
• Television antenna or satellite dishes
• Detached structures like a garage or shed
• Well systems
• Code compliance
• Environmental hazard report like radon, asbestos or lead
• Termite and pest report
If you are concerned about what will or won’t be included in your home inspection, just ask your home inspector.
While it may not be included in the basic home inspection, you can hire a qualified home inspector with the necessary skills, equipment and licenses or certifications that qualify them to perform one or more of the specialty inspection services.