Common Client Questions
When should I arrive?
The ideal arrival time is 30 minutes prior to the start of the walk-through. There are times when I finish the inspection portion ahead of schedule – and this allows us to start the walk-through earlier - allowing for more discussion time. If the inspection is not yet completed when you arrive, you can use any extra time to get a closer look at the home. Some of my clients choose to be at the home for the entire inspection time. That is definitely okay, but most of the verbal review will be reserved for the end.
Who should be present?
It’s important to be focused on the results during your walk-through; Anything you can do to limit/eliminate distractions is recommended. Generally, the smaller the number of people present, the better. We understand if you want to bring a family member or friend who is knowledgeable about homes, but it is best to avoid bringing family members who simply want to see the home for the first time. This often results in much more conversation directed towards other homes, rather than the one that is being inspected. Remember - this is not a showing; it's an inspection review. Since our walk-through time is limited, we would rather focus every minute of the walk-through on the condition of your home.
The walk-through is where you will hear an overall assessment of your home. Summarizing a home in a 45-minute time period can be a challenging task for an inspector, so rather than talk about every item that was documented, your inspector will focus on items he believes are the most significant / concerning. This will include some maintenance suggestions as well. Ultimately, your inspector wants to let you know what things are normal - based on the home age - and what things are unusual.
Should I take notes?
It’s not necessary to take notes during your inspection because everything that’s discussed will be documented for you in your report. However, if taking notes helps you, please feel free to do so.
Will your home inspection guarantee that there will be no unwanted surprises after you move in?
I have performed thousands of inspections and am confident that I can assess and summarize any style and age of home accurately. Unfortunately, there are too many variables that limit what can be seen, so there is no way to guarantee that every item will be found or reported.
Some of the things that can limit an inspector's observations:
Storage: If a home is full of storage, this will obviously limit what can be seen. Things such as moisture stains, or cracked windows can be overlooked in these conditions. In some cases, storage areas/rooms, or even attic spaces are not accessible. If you know that your home is overloaded with storage, it is important to alert your inspector to this prior to the inspection. Contacting the listing agent directly is also recommended.
Renters: If there are renters in the home and they do not cooperate/do not agree to leave the home during the inspection, the inspection will not take place. There simply is no way to see a home completely while people are inside the home (for many reasons). In these situations, we will be forced to reschedule the inspection.
Vacant homes: A vacant/empty home has much more accessibility, which increases what we can see. However, some vacant homes have had water off, or appliances unplugged for an extended period of time. This will limit our ability to inspect some of these items (i.e. unplugged water softener condition will be unknown, hot water heaters that are off may not be ignited, or may not have time to warm completely, etc.).
Snow: If there is snow on the roof, it simply cannot be evaluated. Your inspector may also determine that it is just not safe to walk on the roof (ice often exists at the overhang areas – making the first step completely unsafe). In these situations, it is important to know what the age of the roof is - so more details from the seller will be needed.
Other frustrations that inspectors must deal with.
1) Main Drain Pipes:
During the inspection, we will run the water for at least 30 minutes - throughout the home. If there is a problem with the main drain pipe (from the home - to the street) this volume can result in water backing out of the floor drain, which would indicate a problem / clog in the main drain pipe. Unfortunately, when no backup occurs, this does not always guarantee that there are no problems.
Since sewer pipe repair/replacement can cost thousands of dollars, we highly suggest that you hire a specialist to evaluate the sewer pipe interior (particularly if your home was built before 1980). We have two preferred specialists that we refer for this service - and we would be happy to schedule this service for you. Just be sure to request it with your inspection. The fee for this is generally $195.
2) Fireplace / Chimney Flues:
Fireplaces tend to be very difficult to evaluate - and oftentimes, almost none of the chimney flue liner is visible to the naked eye. Even in cases where a majority of the flue interior is visible, there are still potential problems that are not detectable from the chimney openings (at top of the chimney and at the interior fireplace opening). Any cracks/gaps that exist in the clay flue tiles - or at the flue mortar joints - represent potential concerns. These are repairable, but repairs to chimneys tend to be expensive. If you plan to use your wood-burning fireplace, it makes sense to request a chimney inspection from a specialist. If you do not plan to use your fireplace, there is no need for further inspection, but keep in mind that damaged chimneys could become an issue during resale if left unrepaired. Note: If you plan to convert your fireplace to a gas-burning unit, the condition of the flue is no longer a concern and there should be no need for further evaluation.
3) Moisture damage inside exterior wall cavities:
No intrusive analysis is performed during your inspection. This means that no walls/ceilings are opened. If water intrusion is suspected, it will be noted and if the inspector is concerned that damage to the wall structure has occurred, it will be indicated. If we feel there is potential for concealed damage, we will refer you to a specialist for further evaluation.
Moisture damage can exist even when there are no visible indicators. Ultimately, the only way to know the condition of exterior walls is to have an intrusive, moisture test performed. If you are buying a stucco home, built between the late '80's - and early 2000's, we will encourage intrusive moisture testing every time. This is because we know how common it is for a specialist to find damaged / decayed areas - and the company we have referred for years is CMT - Certified Moisture Testing
We don’t recommend this service to ‘upsell’ our clients; we recommend it because there is no substitute for it.
4) Electrical Modifications:
Most portions of a home's electrical system are not exposed. However, if all electrical in the home has been professionally installed, a home inspector can evaluate the system and feel reasonably confident that the overall condition has been determined. Unfortunately, many older homes have had modifications/changes to the electrical system over the lifespan of the home. Your inspector will look for evidence of amateur work. If evidence of widespread modifications/additions is found, further evaluation/repair by a licensed electrician will likely be recommended. Unfortunately, improper work can be buried behind walls/ceilings, so it will not be possible to catch every issue.
Does the inspector provide an overall grade for the home?
People often ask, "is this a good home?", or "on a scale of 1 - 10, where does this house fall?", or even, "would you let your mother purchase this home?". These are all fair questions, but in reality, the answer will depend on your situation. All homes have some things that will likely be in need of attention/replacement/repair. Whether the home is good or not generally depends on the buyer's ability to deal with repairs when they arise. Your inspector's overall assessment of the home will compare your home to others of a similar age and style. In other words, he will let you know if the list of items he is presenting is normal - or unusual for the age and style of the home.
What are the things my inspector will focus on?
Water problems are the most pervasive issues that we find - whether it be from roof leaks, frost in the attic, ice dams, plumbing leaks, wet basements, or water intrusion through the walls - water issues are the most destructive to a home, so they are the focal point of the inspection.
The most basic way of finding moisture is to simply look for it. We begin this process when we pull up to the home. We think about where water will go after it hits the roof, and we focus on the areas that get really wet. These areas are always the first to fail.
Plumbing leaks make up the bulk of the moisture problems we find. We run the plumbing in the home for a very long time at all locations. The reason is that some leaks will not appear until certain fixtures have been in use for an extended period of time. Many leaks are found visually. Others are found with an infrared camera, which we use after the plumbing has been on for a while - and all tubs, etc. have drained.
Click here to see samples of things we have found with infrared. Note: Because this tool is not required in the Standards of Practice, many inspectors do not own an infrared camera. If your inspector is not using this tool, he will simply not be able to detect certain problems.
The two most difficult places to identify water issues are finished basements and exterior walls. Those are two places where we absolutely can’t guarantee that we’ll find water, but we sure try.
For wet basement issues, we think about where water might be an issue and we poke, prod, and pull back the carpet in areas where we’re suspicious. We also use pin-probe moisture meters at carpet tack strips to make sure they’re not wet.
When ice buildup at the roof overhangs becomes excessive, it is referred to as an ice dam. Ice dams can occur on any roof, but they are far more problematic at older homes. The reason is that older homes tend to be poorly insulated, and there are more locations where heat loss occurs. When heat enters the attic space and warms the underside of the roof structure, it melts the snow on the roof. Water then travels to the colder overhang locations where it refreezes. If this process repeats it eventually forms a dam. When ice buildup becomes extensive, it can result in leakage into the home.
Your inspector will be looking for evidence of current, or past ice dams. If he suspects that this will be a problem at your home, he will let you know and will provide suggestions for improvements.
We made a one-minute YouTube video that explains ice dams further. Click here to watch.
What about mold?
We will always report on potential mold when we see it, but positively identifying mold requires a specialist – so this is not included in a standard inspection. Clients often ask if mold testing should be performed, but the situations where mold testing provides any value are few and far between. Generally, intrusive moisture testing is recommended when mold problems are suspected; Not mold testing.
For the record, the Minnesota Department of Health does not recommend mold testing, and neither does the EPA.
What will not be inspected?
There are some things at each home that will not be inspected and as previously mentioned, this will depend on the specific home, and the conditions in and outside the home. For a complete list of the standards of practice, click here. Listed below are some of the most common exclusions/limitations:
Determining asbestos containing products is not a part of your inspection. Your inspector may alert you to specific areas where asbestos is suspected (i.e. vermiculite attic insulation), but positively identifying asbestos is not possible without testing the material at an appropriate lab. For that reason, we do not assume responsibility for pointing out every product that may contain asbestos. If you are buying an older home there obviously is a greater chance that some asbestos containing materials will exist in the home. If this is a concern to you, you must contact an appropriate specialist for a separate analysis / inspection.
No test for lead products is performed.
No environmental tests are performed. This includes testing for the presence of airborne particles such as asbestos or noxious gases (i.e. formaldehyde, molds, mildews, toxic / carcinogenic / malodorous substances) or other conditions of air quality that may be present.
The existence of abandoned wells cannot always be determined. The existence of abandoned septic systems, or underground fuel storage tanks cannot be positively determined during the inspection.
The quality of drinking water is not a part of this inspection.
Active private wells and septic systems are not included in the inspection.
No tests are performed to determine the presence of rodents and insect pests.
Security systems, cable / satellite, phone and sound systems are not included.
Cosmetic conditions such as floor coverings, counter-top condition, wallpapering & painting, and general woodwork (including cabinets) are also excluded.
Your inspection is not a code compliance inspection.
No test for mold are included in this inspection. If mold / mildew-like substances are viewed, it will be noted, but positively identifying mold requires specific testing, which is not performed during your inspection. Note: If wetness / leakage is noted in your report, mold / mildew is often times also present.
What happens after the inspection is complete?
The report is e-mailed to you by the following day. Since the report is your property, it is sent only to you (and your agent, if desired). We do not share the information with any other individuals (particularly the seller).
Once you have had time to review the report, you and your agent will determine what - if any items - you will request the sellers to address prior to closing. There are no rules for this, but your agent can help instruct you with what type of issues are most commonly requested.
Generally, the most common types of items that buyers ask sellers to address include:
1) Safety concerns - of any kind: This includes items like gas leaks, amateur electrical wiring, deck connection problems, or a request for a furnace tune-up/safety check.
2) Structural issues: This includes items such as rotted support posts, damaged roof trusses, or bowing foundation walls.
3) Plumbing leaks: We find leaks at almost every home and anything water related is generally a "requested fix".
The variables in each transaction will vary - and this will affect what you are able to request of the seller. For example, are there multiple offers on the home? Are the sellers in a poor or good financial situation? Is the home being sold by the owner or by an estate?
If you want to read more about negotiations after the inspection click here. This page will provide more detail regarding this portion of the transaction - and what to expect.
If you don’t care about exact pricing and just want to get some ballpark ideas for home repairs, I have a couple of suggestions for you.
HomeAdvisor’s TrueCost Guide
Just type in the project and zip code, and you’ll get a range of prices back. If you want HomeAdvisor to find a repair professional for you, you fill out more information and then HomeAdvisor will sell your information to service providers in your area.
Porch’s Project Cost Guide
This is similar to HomeAdvisor’s cost estimator. You look up a project, and they’ll have a price range listed. Like HomeAdvisor, you can ask for someone to do the work for you, and Porch will sell your information to service providers who will then contact you.
How accurate is pricing from these services? Prices will vary depending on who you ask, this will give rough, ballpark estimates – at best.
There is a company that will take a home inspection report and create a repair estimate for each item in the report. I asked them to take the sample report on our website and create a repair estimate from that report. They did, and I was actually quite impressed. They claim to be 98% accurate with their estimates.
The part that’s different from HomeAdvisor and Porch is that you need to pay for it; they don’t make money by selling your information to service providers. The cost is $59.99 for a 24-hour turnaround or a little more for a 4-hour turnaround. The company is called Repair Pricer.
Be warned, however, that using this service makes it easy to confuse a home inspection report with a repair list. If you assign a dollar value to everything in a home inspection report and then try using that to negotiate a better price on a home, be prepared to have some offended sellers. As I’ve said before, a home inspection report is not a repair list and shouldn’t be confused as such.