Everything You Need To Know About Home Inspections

Ed Frank, P.E.

Everything You Need To Know
About Home Inspections

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Ed Frank, C.E.O. of InspectAmerica Engineering, P.C., is a nationally known Licensed Professional Engineer (P.E.) with 25 years of experience conducting engineering inspections for persons purchasing residential homes and commercial buildings. The following article tells you everything you need to know about home inspections.

Why A Home Inspection Prior To Purchase?

There's a lot more to know about the home you are about to purchase than location, location, location. Licensed Professional Engineers who specialize in pre-purchase home inspections will tell you that there is nothing more important than structural, structural, structural. If the home you are about to purchase does not have the structural integrity to give you peace of mind, you may be buying into a money pit and sleepless nights.

A home consists of many complex components including structural framing, physical components, electrical, plumbing, heating, and air-conditioning systems. Wow! I thought finding the home of my dreams was a job, how can I determine what's under the cosmetics. Sure, the bathrooms and kitchen are good looking, the wallpaper is not my taste but I can take it down along with the paneling in the playroom, but what's happening beneath the surface, is everything cool? Exactly the reason why you need a competent home inspection engineer to assist you with the evaluation of the home's major systems.

Finding A Good Home Inspector Is Like Finding A Good Doctor

Be sure to retain a home inspection company with top credentials, a Licensed Professional Engineer is a good credential. If you want your home inspection conducted by a Licensed Professional Engineer (P.E.), be sure that your home inspection report will be stamped with the home inspector's licensed P.E. seal. The practice of engineering is State regulated and licensed; the P.E. seal on the home inspection report is the key to your protection.

Consumers who retain the services of a home inspector who is not a P.E., may be faced with paying a second home inspection fee if the home inspector uncovers a problem, such as a structural defect, that requires the opinion of a Licensed Professional Engineer. Shouldn't you retain the services of an inspection company licensed to practice engineering right from the start? Makes sense, tell me more.

A lot of information will be provided to you at the time of inspection, it's difficult to absorb it all. Terminology like heat exchanger, over fused circuit, plumbing vent stack, steel flitch plate, etc. may not sound like oven, sink, and entrance stairway, but these are terms that are part of a home. That is why you should be sure that your home inspection report will be a detailed written report, not a hand written checklist that is given to you at the conclusion of the home inspection. A checklist may not provide all of the information and engineering advice you need.

Home inspectors come in various shapes and sizes with a multitude of backgrounds. Be sure that the home inspection company you retain has professional affiliations, such as NABIE (National Academy Of Building Inspection Engineers) and NSPE (National Society Of Professional Engineers). Unlike home inspection trade societies (and there are many), NABIE and NSPE accept only Licensed Professional Engineers as members. Members of NABIE need to meet tough entrance requirements, are highly qualified in the home inspection profession, and adhere to a strict code of ethics.

Don't be confused by home inspector "certifications" offered by, or sold by trade societies or companies, or obtained via home inspection home study courses, certifications are available to anybody, a high school diploma is not a requirement.

I've Found A Good Home Inspection Engineer. What Else Should I Know Before the Home Inspection?

Be sure to attend the home inspection. One picture is worth a thousand words, make every effort to attend your home inspection.

Be sure that the home inspector is well equipped. The home inspection engineer should be fully equipped with necessary engineering tools including electrical testers, a fuel gas and carbon monoxide detector, moisture meter, ladder, inspection mirror, flashlight, level, and other home inspection tools, etc.

Be sure to follow the home inspector and ask questions. No questions are foolish, learn as much as you can from the home inspector during the home inspection.

Be sure that all of the following points are fully covered. There's nothing more important than knowing that the home you are purchasing is structurally sound including the framing and foundations (that's an important reason for retaining the services of a home inspection company licensed to practice engineering).

In addition, the physical, plumbing, heating, air-conditioning, and electrical systems should be thoroughly inspected and evaluated. The home inspection engineer should determine the condition of the roof surface, the exterior facades, doors and windows. The land grading around the home should be examined, as well as the condition of decks, patios, porches, driveways and sidewalks.

The physical condition of the interior of the home should be evaluated searching for tell tale signs of problems. The engineer should determine if there are indications of past water intrusion into the attic or lower levels of the home and whether the home is susceptible to water intrusion in these areas. The home inspection engineer should look for materials that may be asbestos containing materials. The home inspection should include an inspection for wood destroying insects that will be accepted by your mortgage lender.

The home inspection engineer should inspect all electrical and mechanical components of the home and look for aluminum electrical distribution wires, electrical systems that are not adequate for modern usage, lead and galvanized steel water supply pipes, aged and inefficient heating and air-conditioning systems, etc. If the home has a well and/or septic system, these systems should be evaluated as well by the home inspector.

Where applicable, consider optional testing of underground storage tanks, testing paint for lead, testing drinking water for lead, testing well supplied drinking water for bacteria, testing for radon gas in air, testing for urea formaldehyde foam insulation, etc.

What An Inspection, I'm Tired! I Took Some Notes, What Happens Next?

Be sure to have the home inspection engineer summarize the findings and obtain a full verbal report at the conclusion of the inspection. The home inspection engineering report should be available the next working day after the home inspection.

At the conclusion of the inspection you should know the condition of the home you are purchasing, including all positive and negative aspects. You should know what repairs are needed, as well as the urgency of the needed repairs, and the magnitude of the repair costs. You should know a proper course of corrective repairs and whether alternatives are available. You should know if there are any unsafe conditions, and whether there are any risks of hidden deterioration.

You should expect an easy to understand detailed written home inspection report (not just a checklist); look for the Licensed Professional Engineer's P.E. seal at the end of the home inspector's report. You should expect the home inspection engineer to provide the answers to any questions you may have regarding the report. You should expect the engineer's door to be open for answers to future questions.

You should not expect the home inspector to offer to repair, for a fee, any uncovered defects (that would be a conflict of interest and may erode confidence you may have in the home inspector's findings).

My Engineer's Report Shows Some Problems I Was Not Aware Of. What Should I Do?

There's hardly a perfect home, a good engineer will always find some defects but you need to weigh the positives against the negatives. Remember, every deal is different, every deal is negotiable, there are many factors to consider, and a lot depends upon whether the real estate market is currently a buyers or sellers market. Some defects, such as a termite infestation, have historically been the seller's responsibility in real property transactions. The bottom line is that it can't hurt to negotiate for a better sale price on the home based upon the defects uncovered by the engineer.

Ed Frank, C.E.O. of InspectAmerica Engineering, P.C., is a nationally known Licensed Professional Engineer (P.E.) who has 25 years of experience conducting engineering inspections for persons purchasing residential homes and commercial buildings.

More information on home inspections, including the Home Inspection TechTalkTM Library, home inspection checklists free for down loading, a national list of Licensed Professional Engineer home inspectors, etc. can be found at the Home Inspection SuperSiteTM at www.inspectamerica.com. Additional information on NABIE, the National Academy Of Building Inspection Engineers can be found at www.nabie.org.

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