What is the difference between a building inspector and a home inspector?

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

A building inspector works for a government agency, typically a city or county building department, and inspects both residential and commercial buildings for compliance with local codes and ordinances. This is done in conjunction with a building permit, and is often a sequence of progress inspections necessary for building or renovating a structure, ending with a final inspection and close-out of permit.  A building inspector may also be involved in code enforcement duties for existing buildings.

   Building inspectors are primarily concerned with life-safety issues, such as smoke alarms, correct installation of gas appliances, adequate strength of structural members and their connectors, and providing a means of safely exiting a building in an emergency. They are not concerned with things like the quality of workmanship of a building, problems with paint finishes, whether all the ceiling fans work properly, or if the air conditioner is cooling adequately. Much of a building inspector’s most important work involves checking parts of a home under construction that will be covered up—inside the walls or under the floor slab, for example—by the time a home inspector arrives on the scene.

    A home inspector is not affiliated with a government agency, and evaluates the condition of a house for a homebuyer, as part of the due diligence in purchasing a property. Although some home inspectors do progress inspections on a residence under construction, most of their work involves evaluating existing or newly completed houses. The home inspector does a visual inspection of readily accessible areas of a home, and also tests the electrical and plumbing systems, doors and windows, and major appliances. Looking for evidence of foundation or other structural problems, along with evaluating the condition of the roof, are also part of a home inspector’s work.  The inspector delivers a report that provides an overview of the condition of the home, listing any defects and necessary maintenance.

   A recurring complaint that home inspectors get from sellers is: “The building department inspected this home and signed off on it. Why are you now finding all these things wrong?” The answer is that home inspectors are looking at the home from a different and more comprehensive viewpoint, and checking things that are not the responsibility of a building inspector. Also, as time passes, building components deteriorate, and a home inspector takes note of areas that are ready for repair or replacement. 

    Also, see our blog posts What is the difference between a home inspection and a final walkthrough inspection? and What is a "Private Provider" building inspector? and What is the difference between an FHA inspection and a home inspection?

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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? 

    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 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 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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