Any home inspector who takes his (or her) job seriously has already spent hundreds – if not thousands – of hours studying to learn everything possibly about the structure, materials, and systems in a variety of homes. And, for conscientious home inspectors, studying and learning is a process is continuous and that never ends.
“Best practices” for buildings and systems are ever evolving, and new technologies are emerging at an unprecedented rate. This means that home inspectors do not have the luxury of thinking that they know everything about homes no matter how many years they have been working in the industry. Inspectors must always be learning and growing professionally.
Despite all of the training, experience, and attention to detail that an inspector may bring to a property, there are still challenges involved with performing a home inspection. These challenges include time, the visual nature of home inspections, and the potentially intermittent appearance of some problems.
Most home buyers spend only a relatively short time walking through a home before making an offer. A home inspector has the luxury of spending more time in the home, but in most cases it is still only a few hours.
While home inspectors try to be efficient during the time available for a home inspection, it’s still typically only a few hours. A home inspection encompasses the roof, the basement or crawlspace, and everything in between. During the course of a home inspection, an inspector is looking at and evaluating literally thousands of data points.
It’s just not possible to look in every nook and cranny during the few hours available for a home inspection. As a result, home inspectors usually focus on the big issues that will have the most impact for a home buyer. For example, the condition of the roof, heating and cooling systems, electrical system, plumbing, etc.
We recently performed an inspection on an older home that had obviously been neglected in recent years. Despite spending far more time on the property than many inspectors would have, we’re still certain that there were additional defects that would have been discovered with more time at the property. At the same time, we’re confident that we identified the most significant issues with the home and our client was happy with the detailed report (plus hundreds of photos and videos).
One strategy that we utilize is refusing to overbook. Some inspectors will try to schedule multiple inspections each day. While the desire to stay busy and earn enough to pay the bills each month is understandable, our approach is to go slower and enjoy the luxury of time so that our client receives the best possible home inspection.
Home inspections are, by design, visual inspections. Home inspectors evaluate the readily accessible parts of the home and inspect what can be inspected without disassembling the home. During a roof inspection, for example, an inspector will evaluate the visible condition of the roof covering (shingles, tiles, etc.) on the outside as well as the rafters and roof sheathing from the attic on the interior if possible. We cannot, however, remove the roof covering to inspect the fasteners, underlayment, and roof sheathing.
We have an auto mechanic friend who is highly skilled, very well trained, and meticulous. He once told me that he dislikes performing pre-purchase inspections on vehicles because there is only just so much that he can look at during the inspection. It’s not possible, for example, to disassemble the engine or transmission to inspect every part for evidence of wear or damage during a pre-purchase inspection.
No matter how thorough and careful my friend is with a pre-purchase vehicle inspection he knows that there are things he cannot see and evaluate. Despite these limitations, his inspection is still a valuable service because he is able to evaluate many complex components and to identify a number of potential problems that a car buyer might not notice before purchasing the vehicle.
Home inspectors are faced with a similar challenge. We cannot disassemble the home to inspect every hidden detail. We are, however, able to utilize our training and experience to identify a host of potential problems.
The visual nature of a home inspection is in some ways an inherent limitation, but that doesn’t mean that home inspectors are not able to perform a thorough inspection. It is still possible to perform a very thorough inspection by knowing what to inspect, what to look for during that inspection, and by utilizing advanced tools and technology to supplement what is visible with the naked eye.
Another challenge that home inspectors face is that some problems are not apparent all of the time. A problem may be intermittent, or it may only be evident under certain conditions. Since a home inspection is a snapshot or “point in time” evaluation of a home, it is possible that some problems may not be evident during the inspection.
During a recent home inspection, we noticed while evaluating the roof that one gutter was completely full and leaking from the end. Since it had rained earlier that morning, it was obvious that the gutter downspout was clogged and needed to be cleaned. This problem might have been difficult to identify had it not rained recently.
On the other hand, some problems with water are discoverable even if the weather has been dry. Moisture damage may still be evident to a trained eye. Additionally, the use of tools like thermal imaging cameras and moisture meters may allow an inspector to identify a problem area even when it is not actively leaking.
Some problems may not be readily apparent during a home inspection, but a knowledgable and conscientious inspector will still be able to identify at least some problems that may not be obvious.
Unfortunately, a home inspection can never reveal every possible problem with a home due to limitations of time, the visual nature of the inspection, and the intermittent nature of some defects. A home inspection is still exceptional value for the money, however, as many defects can be identified during the inspection. This knowledge of the overall condition of the home is invaluable to you as a home buyer (or homeowner) because it allows you to make informed decisions about a significant and complex investment.
In many cases, the defects found during a home inspection would cost many times the price of a home inspection to have repaired when discovered at a later date. Additionally, many defects (like leaks or moisture intrusion) may be much less expensive to repair if discovered early before further damage has occurred.
Thank you for considering Frontier Inspections, LLC for your inspection needs. Our goal is to provide you with incredible value from your home inspection. In addition to a detailed and easy-to-read inspection report with plenty of photos and even videos, we will take the time to answer any questions you may have about the report.
You can schedule your home inspection by phone at 307-670-3706 or email at email@example.com.