How To Look At A House

McGarry and Madsen's home inspection blog for buyers of  

site-built, mobile/manufactured and modular homes

What happens at a home inspection?

Thursday, October 25, 2018

The first thing to know is that a home does not “pass” or “fail” an inspection. The inspector simply observes the condition of the structure and its components, along with any safety issues, then makes repair recommendations—in a report based on a non-invasive, visual examination.

   A typical home inspection lasts between two and four hours, with the buyers and at least one realtor attending. While the seller may also be present, it is not recommended. After introductions, the inspector will have the buyer sign an inspection agreement that outlines the responsibilities of both parties. Sometimes the agreement can be reviewed and signed online before the inspection.

   The inspector will then ask about any special concerns and problems the homebuyer may have already seen that warrant further evaluation. Then he (or she) will begin the inspection process. Inspectors are of several different persuasions regarding customer participation. Some take the “sit and stay” approach, asking the buyers to wait for them to complete the entire inspection without following them around, then review their findings in a tour around thehome at the end. Others welcome buyers to tag along while they work, and carry on a conversation as they examine the property. We fall between those two extremes, asking a homebuyer to give us about a half-hour or so alone to get familiarized with the house before we begin walking around and talking with them about the defects as we examine the house room by room.

   All inspectors have their own standard sequence for evaluating a home,  with some doing the roof first, for example. We look at it it last, after inspecting the exterior, interior, and attic. But no matter what the inspector’s personal sequence, it can disruptive to insist that they examine something you are concerned about right way. When an inspector gets out of sequence, it increases the possibly of missing a defect. You won’t get the best inspection possible.

   The inspection ends with a wrap-up review of the findings with the buyers and their realtor. A written report, often with a summary of key items, follows at the site or the next day by email.

    To learn more about the home inspection process, we suggest reading several of our other blogs. Check out What questions should you always ask before hiring a home inspector? for HUD’s ten suggested questions for evaluating a potential home inspector. To get a list of suggested items to bring with you to improve your home inspection experience, see What should I bring to the home inspection?. See What questions should I ask the home inspector during the inspection? for ways to get the information you need from the inspector. And visit What is the best way to negotiate repairs after the home inspection? for tips on working with your realtor to get any necessary repairs worked out with the seller.

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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?

   Visit our HOME INSPECTION page for other related blog posts on this subject, or go to the INDEX for a complete listing of all our articles.

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