How To Look At A House

McGarry and Madsen's home inspection blog for buyers of  

site-built, mobile/manufactured and modular homes

What different types of specialized home inspections can I get?

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Home inspectors are generalists. We are familiar all of the components of a home and recognize the symptoms of their defects, but sometimes further evaluation by a specialist is necessary—or just a sensible part of due diligence in evaluating your potential home purchase. Your home inspector may also have the specialized training to provide the additional inspection you need. Here’s a list of options:

Septic system - Florida law requires that a septic system inspection can only be done by a licensed septic tank contractor or a master plumber with additional certification. Plus, the tank must be pumped out as part of the inspection. The typical cost is around $300, so it’s probably a good idea to wait until any other issues with the general inspection are resolved before ordering this one. The inspector will locate the tank, typically using a ground probe and following the main drain line out from the house, open the tank lid, evaluate the level and composition of the effluent, check the baffles and ports, then pump out the tank to further examine it. The report is called a “certification” and verifies the size and condition of the system, along with whether it is functioning adequately. To learn more about septic system inspections, go to our blog Where is the septic tank? Are you going to inspect it?

Termite - Thanks to our warm weather, multiple species of termites flourish in Florida. But what is commonly called a “termite inspection” is officially a Wood Destroying Organism (WDO, for short) inspection, because the inspector also checks for wood rot and wood-destroying beetles. WDO inspectors are licensed by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Some home inspectors, like us, are also licensed to do WDO inspections; but all others are happy to refer you to a Licensed Pest Control Operator for this service. Typical cost is $100 to $175. To find out more about these miniature wood munchers, go to our blog Do termites eat concrete?.

Roof inspection - If your home inspector determines that the roof of your prospective home is in poor condition, a roof inspection report by a licensed building or roofing contractor will bolster your negotiating position for getting a new roof. Also, if the roof is past an average lifespan for the material, your insurance carrier may request one. We are licensed building contractors and include a free roof inspection report, also called a “roof letter,” with our home inspections when requested. But if your home inspector does not have the necessary licensing to provide one, they cost about $100 from a roofing contractor. To read more, go to our blog What does a home inspector look for when examining a roof?

Sewer inspection - Several local plumbers offer a video inspection of the drain piping in home. Starting at a vent pipe in the roof, they fish a long, metal snake  with a video head through the system and out to the sewer or septic tank. To learn more, see our blog post Does a home inspector check the plumbing under the floor slab?

Pool and spa - Most home inspectors, including us, will inspect a pool and spa area for you. But it is a visual inspection only and we do not operate the equipment and demonstrate the valve functions for you, which pool inspector will do. We often recommend that our customer hire a pool inspector when the pool is older and has big defects that need to be quantified. Pool inspectors charge around $100 and we recommend that you be present during their inspection for a demonstration of all the equipment.

Arborist - While your home inspector will call out tree branches overhanging or touching the house and roof, and also note any trees that appear to be too close to the home’s foundation or that have obvious structural problems, laying out a strategy for repairing the problems and putting a price on it is what an arborist can do for you. Be sure to select one that is certified by the International Arborist Society, which means they have training to evaluate tree structural defects and prune a tree so that it grows in a healthy pattern. You can find a certified arborist on the Florida chapter’s website at

4-point inspection - If the home you are buying is more than 30 years old, it’s likely that your insurance agent will ask you to provide a 4-point inspection report before quoting you on your insurance. The four points are the roof, electrical, plumbing, and HVAC systems. Insurance statistics show that older homes have more claims than newer ones, and the claims are often due to the deteriorated condition of older building components. A four point inspection is unusual in that it is for the sole benefit of an insurance underwriter, but you pay for it. Prices range from $100 to $200, but are sometimes discounted when done with a home inspection. See our blog Why does my homeowner's insurance want a four point inspection?

Air conditioning - Home inspectors identify HVAC systems that are not working properly or not functioning all, but do not troubleshoot the underlying problem. So you may want to get an a/c technician to pinpoint the defect and cost to fix it.

Radon - Testing for radon as part of a real estate transaction requires a minimum 48-hour test in a closed home with the HVAC system functioning to keep the temperature in a normal range for occupancy. The test must be performed by a person licensed by the Florida Department of Health, and results are reported the DOH’s database. The cost is around $150. To learn more, see our blog How can not testing for radon be an expensive mistake for homebuyers?

Infrared - While we include an infrared scan of the building envelope as part of all our home inspections, most inspectors that have infrared technology provide this service at an additional fee of $100 to $200. It is especially valuable in locating hidden moisture problems, like roof, plumbing, and window leaks. Infrared is also useful in identifying air conditioning duct leaks and missing or damaged areas of insulation.  

Chimney Sweep - Heavy creosote buildup or a cracked firebox in a fire place can start a fire in the chimney that is hard to put out. If your inspector finds problems with the fireplace, call a chimney sweep for evaluation and cleaning. Prices vary widely.

Lead Paint - Before it was banned in 1978, lead paint was widely used for residential coatings, especially pre-1960. Ingestion of lead, either as paint chips or dust, leads to debilitating health problems.  A lead paint inspector tests each wall surface of every room and exterior wall for lead content, using a handheld gun-meter that contains a small amount of radioactive material. Cost is about $300. To learn more about lead paint, go to our blog Why is there a lead paint disclaimer in my real estate sales contract?

Wind mitigation - Insurance discounts are available for homeowners that provide a windstorm mitigation inspection report to their insurance agent that documents windstorm-resistant features such as tie-down straps, roof sheathing nailing, and FBC rated roofing material. Most home inspectors can also do a wind mitigation inspection for you for about $100 to $150. See our blog for more info at What is the wind mitigation inspection for homeowner's insurance?

Mold - Inspecting for mold in a home begins with a visual inspection, but also typically includes air and tape samples that are sent to a lab for evaluation. Mold inspection requires an additional license that is separate from home inspection. Visit our blog for more mold information at What should I do if mold is found during a home inspection?

Electrical - When significant electrical defects are found during the home inspection, a follow-up evaluation by a licensed electrician may be necessary to determine the extent and cost of necessary repairs. 

Water Testing - Some home inspectors like us include a basic water test (for hardness, ph, and iron) as part of the home inspection when the house uses a well for water service to the house. But a more extensive test by a certified lab is required by FHA, VA, and USDA for mortgage approval for rural homes.

Other specialized inspections include EIFS (Exterior Insulated Finish System), Chinese drywall, sinkhole and clay soil, foundation, and asbestos.

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  To learn more strategies for getting the best possible home inspection, here’s a few of our other blog posts:

How can I make sure I don't get screwed on my home inspection? 

How thorough is a home inspector required to be when inspecting a house?

Should I trust the Seller's Property Disclosure Statement?

Can I do my own home inspection?

How can homebuyers protect themselves against buying a house over a sinkhole? 

The seller gave me a report from a previous home inspection. Should I use it or get my own inspector? 

If we already looked at the house very carefully, do we still need a home inspection?

    To read about issues related to homes of particular type or one built in a specific decade, visit one of these blog posts:

What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1940s house?

What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1950s house?

What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1960s house?

• What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1970s house?

What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1980s house?

What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1990s house?

What problems should I look for when buying a country house or rural property? 

What problems should I look for when buying a house that has been moved?

What do I need to know about buying a foreclosure? 

What should I look for when buying a former rental house?  

What problems should I look for when buying a house that has been vacant or abandoned?

What are the most common problems with older mobile homes?

What should I look for when buying a house that is being "flipped" by an investor seller? 

What do I need to know about a condo inspection?

What are the "Aging In Place" features to look for when buying a retirement home?

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