The Home Inspection Defined
By: David Selman, Certified Master Home Inspector, TREC#10299
A home inspection is a visual inspection of systems, major accessible component defects and safety issues performed by a licensed home inspector. The inspection is not a technically exhaustive list of every deficiency in a home. At Selman Home Inspections, our inspectors exceed the Texas Real Estate Commission training requirements and are as thorough as possible without causing damage to property.
A home inspection is designed to reflect, as accurately as possible, the visible conditions of the house at the time of the inspection. Conditions at a home for sale can change radically in only a day or two. A home inspection is not meant to guarantee what condition a home will be in when the transaction closes. It’s not uncommon for conditions to change between the time of the inspection and the closing date. For these reasons, we recommend a final walk through just prior to closing to make sure conditions have not changed.
A “visual” inspection means that a home inspection report is limited to describing conditions in those parts of a home that an inspector can see during the inspection. Obviously, parts of the home that are permanently hidden by walls, ceilings, and floor coverings are excluded, but so are parts of the home that were inaccessible during the inspection for some other reason. Some reasons might include lack of an access point, such as a door or hatch, or a locked access point, or because an occupant’s belongings blocked access, or because of dangerous or unsanitary conditions.
There can be many more reasons. The point is that if an inspector can’t see a portion of the home, the inspector can’t assume responsibility for ensuring that a safe and proper condition exists or that systems are operating properly in that hidden space.
Safety can be a matter of perception. Some conditions, such as exposed electrical wiring, are obviously unsafe. Other conditions, such as the presence of mold, aren’t as clear-cut. In the example of the possible existence of mold, it’s difficult to accurately call it out during a home inspection because mold sometimes grows in places where it can’t be readily seen, such as inside walls, making its discovery beyond the scope of the inspection. Also, the dangers to human health are from the inhalation of spores from indoor air.
Mold Safety Concerns
Most people with healthy immune systems have little or no problem with inhaling spores. A few people whose immune systems are compromised by lung disease, asthma or allergies can develop serious or even fatal fungal infections from mold spore levels that wouldn’t affect most people. Every home has mold and mold colonies can grow very quickly, given the right conditions. Mold can be a safety concern, but it often isn’t. The dangers represented by mold are a controversial subject. Other potential safety issues also fall into this category.
Dallas Home Inspector Standards of Practice
Although the majority of the inspection is visual, home inspector Standards of Practice require inspectors to operate appliances, water heating equipment, and air-conditioning equipment, if it can be done without damaging the equipment. Inspectors will also inspect the foundation, roof covering, attic, interior walls, exterior walls, ceilings, floors, doors, windows, electrical systems, plumbing systems and more.
Inspectors will also examine the major accessible components of certain systems as required by their Standards of Practice.
Furnace air filters are one example. A home inspection is not technically exhaustive, meaning that systems or components will not be disassembled as part of the inspection. For example, an inspector will not partially disassemble a furnace to more accurately check the condition of the heat exchanger. Inspectors typically disclaim heat exchangers.
Generally, home inspectors are comparing each home to the most current construction and building best practices. A home inspection is designed to test the performance of the major systems in a house and report on those conditions.
Asbestos, mold, lead, water purity, and other environmental issues or potential hazards typically require a specialist inspection, and may additionally require laboratory analysis.
Inspectors are generalist. Home inspectors are not experts in every home system but are generalists trained to recognize signs of potential problems in the different home systems and their major components. Inspectors need to know when a problem is serious enough to recommend further evaluation by a specialist. Recommendations are often made for a qualified contractor, such as a plumber or electrician, and sometimes for a structural engineer.
Very few home inspectors have been in the inspection industry for their entire working lives. According to an InterNACHI poll, about half the home inspectors have a background in the building trades. Those with a construction background started with a general idea of the systems and components that they might find installed, as well as how those systems age and fail.
This doesn’t mean that inspectors with a background in something other than the building trades are not qualified — only that they started in the inspection industry at a relative disadvantage.
Building the skills and developing the judgment to consistently recognize and interpret deficiencies correctly and make appropriate recommendations are things that can be improved with practice and continuing education.
Home Inspection Written Report
The final product of a home inspection is the written report. Some home inspectors also provide an onsite review to walk clients and agents through the inspectors findings verbally. Good home inspectors are not scary. It is not our job to scare homebuyers, home sellers or make things difficult for Realtors. It is our job, (our mission at Selman Home Inspections) to educate people about the conditions and maintenance needs of houses.
David Selman, Certified Master Home Inspector
Selman Home Inspections, Inc.
TREC#10299, TDA#660210, FHA#F37, Septic Systems #6454, TREC Trainer #51
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