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?

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • 

  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.

Water Heaters

Water Heater Age

Wells

Septic Tank Systems

Structure and Rooms

Plumbing Pipes

Termites, Wood Rot

& Pests

Sinkholes

Stairs

When It First

Became Code

"Should I Buy A..."

Park Model Homes

Site

Shingle Roofs

Safety

Stucco

Remodeling

Wind Mitigation Form

Roof and Attic

"Does A Home

Inspector...?"

Pool and Spa

"What Is The Difference Between..."

Radon

Brick

Plumbing

Concrete and

Concrete Block

Metal Roofs

Foundations

Modular Homes

Rain Gutters

Mold, Lead & Other Contaminants

Condominiums

Older and

Historic Houses

Crawl Spaces

Mobile/Manufactured Homes

Building Permits

Life Expectancy

Clay Soil

Insurance

Floors

Insulation

Toilets

Exterior Walls & Structures

Generators

Common Problems

HUD-Code for

Mobile Homes

Garages and Carports

Flat (Low Slope) Roofs

Electrical Panels

Sprinkler Systems

Electrical Receptacle Outlets

4-Point Inspections

Hurricane Resistance

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Home Inspection

Heating and Air Conditioning

Building Codes

Fireplaces and Chimneys

Inspector Licensing

& Standards

Energy Efficiency

Washers and Dryers

Electrical

Kitchens

Doors and Windows

(placeholder)

Cracks

Electrical Wiring

Click Below  

for Links

to Collections

of Blog Posts

by Subject

Plumbing Drains

and Traps

Appliances

Smoke & CO Alarms

Aging in Place

Top 5 results given instantly.

Click on magnifying glass

for all search results.

Bathrooms

Lighting

AFCI, CAFCI,

DFCI, & GFCI

Sinks

Air Conditioner & Furnace Age/Size

Attics

Electrical Switches

Siding

Search

This

Site

Water Intrusion

Electrical - Old

and Obsolete

(placeholder)

Foundation Certifications

Tiny Houses

How To Look At A House

McGarry and Madsen's home inspection blog for buyers of  

site-built, mobile/manfuactured and modular homes

About Us