Home Buyer’s Guide to Home Inspection

You have invested your time and energy and found the new home you love. You have plunked down hand money and told your best friends about the house. You have already invested a little bit of your heart into the home. At this point, you don’t want problems. The seller and the Realtor who has spent the last eight weekends with you in their car don’t want any problems. Then enters the home inspector and you are overwhelmed with a primal fear that your dreams are about to be crushed.

This may surprise you, but most home inspectors don’t want your heart broken. The term “Deal Killer” is unfortunately alive and well when discussing good home inspectors. A more accurate description is a professional concerned with protecting their client’s safety and investment. You want an inspector able and willing to recognize and identify issues head on. After all, you still get to decide what you do with the information from the inspection, even if someone called your inspector “too picky.”

What to Expect From an Inspection In formal language, home inspections are “an objective visual examination of the physical structure and systems of a house.” It is a bonus to have an inspector who can discuss preventive maintenance and explain how the systems in a home operate. The goal of an inspection is to find accessible, visible conditions that you as a buyer should not be expected to know or have knowledge about.

What Not to Expect From Your Inspection It is also good to know what is not included in an inspection. Access panels can be removed, and ceiling tiles lifted, but inspecting anything nailed or sealed in place is off limits. The cosmetic features are also off limits for the purpose of the inspection. Torn carpets, nicks in walls and cabinets are not considered. All homes will have those things, but they do not affect your health, safety or investment. By the way, ugly or worn doesn’t count either.

Inspectors Widely Differ On Inspection Inclusions The scope of an individual inspection can vary widely. The level of service varies as much as the level of service can vary from one restaurant to another. As examples, some inspectors only check to see if the furnace turns on, others also check for important items such as venting and gas leaks. Some inspectors will lift ceiling tiles, others will not. Checking for polarity of outlets can range from one inspector not doing any outlets at all to another checking every accessible outlet.

Prepare for the inspection by building your real estate team ahead of time Just as with your realtor and lender, you want to know who is the right inspector for you. Once you have the signed sales agreement in hand, you will have a limited time to have the inspection performed. You do not want to waste any of those days researching inspectors. Ask friends, professionals in related businesses and Angie’s List for a referral. Consider more than only price. You wouldn’t go to the restaurant in town that is cheapest and has an empty parking lot just because you would be served quickly. Check websites and other information about the inspectors you consider. Make sure your sales contract allows you at least 15 days to have your inspections

As soon as you have the received signed sales agreement back from the sellers, schedule the inspection. Good inspectors are busy. Select a time that you and the inspector are both available. The buyer should attend the inspection which usually lasts between 3 and 4 hours. This will also be the longest stretch of time that you have to get to know the house before it becomes your home. Plan to bring a camera to the inspection to take pictures of the layout and colors.

Select the additional services to include with your inspection. Based upon the home’s features and conditions, select pest, radon, well, septic, mold, or any other appropriate test. When deciding your options, look at the cost of a potential repair after the sale is complete versus the cost of the test. Select t he options where the risk is more than the cost of the test.

Once the time for the inspection is set, you need to contact the realtor you are working with and confirm the time and date. That realtor working with the buyer will contact the listing realtor and clear the way with the current owners. Do not be afraid to use the time allotted in the contract. You are making important decisions about a major investment, not running a race. Many inspectors will also send an email confirmation to the buyer and the realtor they are working with.

The inspector will meet you at the home. They should explain the inspection process. This is a great time to discuss any concerns that you may have. The inspection should take from 3 to 4 hours. There should be time to discuss how the features in the home operate and how to take care of them to get the best life and performance. You should receive a report. Discuss when and how the report will be delivered before paying for the inspection.

Once you receive the report, you will need to draft a response to the inspection. There are several options which depend upon the sales contract. One option is that you may accept the house as it is. That is easy for everyone. You may ask for repairs to be completed by the seller or ask for a price adjustment. If you do not want to deal with the repairs being done, you should ask for the seller to handle the issues. If your preference is to select the professionals to complete work, you may ask for a cash credit.

The sellers may not negotiate at all. That is time for a gut check and numbers evaluation. If the problem is a $10,000 dollar structural or septic repair, you consider whether you are willing to pay $10,000 dollars more to have ownership of the home. If there is a $200.0 dollar repair, the answer may be that you still want the home. In either case, you didn’t waste the home inspection fee; you may have saved yourself a pile of money and purchased “peace of mind”

Before closing on a home, buyers have an opportunity to walk through to check the condition. That includes checking for damage or changes that may have occurred. It often includes checking repairs. If the repairs appear to be sub-standard or improper, that is you time to call for the inspector or other qualified person to check the work. You can expect to pay an additional fee for this service.

The whole buying a home process is complicated and scary. Each year the process is getting more complicated. Finding a good team of experts to help protect you can ease the pain and difficulty.




For most people, buying a new home is one of the most important decisions they will make. There are many details to think about--whether selecting a price range, choosing the number of bedrooms or bathrooms or searching for the best mortgage rate. Purchasing a home should never be a decision made on a whim. Fortunately, consumers can take steps to protect themselves when purchasing a home by hiring a home inspector.

If you are choosing your own home inspector, or working with a real estate agent to select one, you should be aware of Pennsylvania's law regarding home inspections. The Residential Real Estate Transfers Law, which went into effect in December 2001, was intended to ensure a certain level of professionalism in the work performed by home inspectors - providing guidelines and requirements to regulate the performance of home inspectors within Pennsylvania.

Among the law’s highlights are:

  • Home inspectors are required to be a full member in good standing of a national, not-for-profit home inspection association or must be supervised by someone who is.
  • Members must comply with a code of conduct and attend continuing professional education classes as an ongoing condition of membership
  • Home inspectors are prohibited from performing repairs on the same house he or she inspected within the preceding 12 months.
  • The party selling the property that is the subject of the inspection has the right to receive a free copy of the report upon request.
  • Home inspectors must maintain insurance against errors and omissions and general liability coverage.
  • A violation of this new law amounts to a violation of Pennsylvania?s Consumer Protection Law.

Please click here to review the Residential Real Estate Transfers Law or contact the Attorney General's Bureau of Consumer Protection at 1-800-441-2555.

FOR A COPY OF THE ASHI STANDARDS OF PRACTICE, Go to : http://www.ashi.org/inspectors/standards/standards.asp

TO VERIFY NAHI MEMBERSHIP  Go to: http://www.nahi.org/membership/how-to-apply-for-your-nahi-membership/dues-schedule/

TO VERFIY A PA RADON LICENSE Go to:   http://www.dep.state.pa.us/brp/Radon_Division/Rn_Services_Directory/Directory_Mainpage.htm

TO VERIFY A PA PEST LICENSE Go to: https://www.paplants.state.pa.us/PesticideApplicator/ApplicatorExternalSearch.aspx