Is a home inspection good enough? Enter the Building Inspection Engineer

by Dan Krell © 2012
DanKrell.com

The need for a home inspectionIt wasn’t too long ago when home buyers wouldn’t even consider writing in a home inspection contingency in a contract for fear of losing the home of their dreams. Presently, of course, you can expect to find some type of home inspection in a most home purchase contracts. Some home buyers are even going a step further and employing Building Inspection Engineers for pre-purchase inspections.

With a little help from real estate agents, home buyers place high expectations on the home inspection. After all, the home buyer is making a big investment in their new home; they want to ensure the home’s condition is acceptable. To standardize expectations placed on home inspectors, the American Society of Home Inspectors (ashi.org) developed a standard of practice. According to ASHI, the home inspector will inspect the condition of visible and “readily accessible” home systems according to the standards of practice. The systems observed typically include: the HVAC system (heating/cooling depending on outside temperature); interior plumbing and electrical systems; the roof, attic and visible insulation; walls, ceilings, floors, windows and doors; the foundation, basement and structural components.

Even Maryland’s home inspector licensing law has a thing or two to say about what to expect from your home inspector. According to the standards of practice that are described in COMAR Title 9 Subtitle 36 Chapter 7, home inspectors are required to visually inspect the structural system and components, including the home’s foundation and framing. If the home inspector suspects that deterioration exists, they are required to probe the structural component, unless probing will damage the finished surface.

However, (usually at the time of the home inspection) the home inspector will briefly explain that they are limited. They will explain that the inspection is not “technically exhaustive,” and “may not identify concealed conditions or latent defects” (home inspection limitations are described in “Limitations and Exclusions” COMAR 09.36.07.03). So, maybe home inspectors are not the super heroes we make them to be.

Enter the Building Inspection Engineer. The Building Inspection Engineer may take the home inspection to the next level. The National Academy of Building Inspection Engineers (nabie.org) was established in 1989 to establish the highest standards in the home inspection, investigation and consultation industry. Along with verifying the qualifications of engineers and architects providing these services, the NABIE has developed the Building Inspection Engineer standards of practice.

According to NABIE, their members “have demonstrated competence involving inspection of buildings and building systems;” which can include site conditions and structure, as well as mechanical, electrical, plumbing and other major systems. The building inspection engineer’s perspective of the inspection is from a “demonstrated engineering judgment.”

The need for a home inspectionThe standards of practice set forth by the NABIE explain that the purpose of the inspection is identified and specified for each client, as the purpose can vary from a general inspection to investigating specific problems; the level of inspection and limitations are mutually agreed upon by the Building Inspection Engineer and the client. Typical inspections are defined by four levels: A) a visual inspection of systems and components; B) a functional inspection of systems and components; C) a specialized inspection that goes beyond level B and may require invasive techniques, material removal, or destructive testing; D) a specialized inspection with consideration to repair or improvement.

Regardless of the type of inspection you choose, make certain your inspector is licensed.

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This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. This article was originally published in the Montgomery County Sentinel the week of April 9, 2012. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © 2012 Dan Krell.

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