The home inspection has become a standard part of the home buying process. Even in very competitive buyer situations, you can still work in an inspection without hurting the chances at getting the home of your dreams. And although you should never forgo the inspection, you should know that the home inspection offers an opinion. However, home inspectors are not always accurate or relevant, they make mistakes too.
Nick Gromicko and Kenton Shepard, of the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors, shared their thoughts on the limitations of the home inspection (The Limitations of a Home Inspection; nachi.org). First, home inspectors are “generalists.” They may not necessarily be an expert in all aspects of home building and/or systems. However, they are trained to spot potential problems and may recommend you consult with an expert.
They pointed out that home inspections are limited to what the inspector can see. Anything that is not accessible to the inspector cannot be seen and inspected. This includes anything behind walls, under floor coverings, or blocked by furniture or other items.
Gromicko and Shepard stated:
“Safety can be a matter of perception. Some conditions, such as exposed electrical wiring, are obviously unsafe. Other conditions, such as the presence of mold, aren’t as clear-cut.”
They further stated:
“Every home has mold and mold colonies can grow very quickly, given the right conditions. Mold can be a safety concern, but it often isn’t. The dangers represented by mold are a controversial subject.”
They conceded that “other potential safety issues that fall into the same category.” Hazardous materials and environmental issues require specialists, and most often require samples for lab analysis.
Daniel Goldstein wrote that some home inspectors go too far (10 things a home inspector won’t tell you; marketwatch.com; February 23, 2016). Some inspectors dwell too much on “superficial” items such as chipped paint and surface mold. And they often provide long lists of items that may or may not be a problem without putting them into context. He stated:
“So what constitutes going too far? A less helpful inspector might dwell on things like surface mold, chipped paint or other superficial problems, or present buyers with a long litany of issues, with no context about their relative importance and no estimate of the cost of fixing them.”
Understand your home inspection has limitations, so moderate your expectations. A good strategy is to have a conversation with your inspector about what you could expect. Every home is different for many reasons, but often present similar issues. Your inspector should be able to explain what you might expect due to the home’s age and level of maintenance. Some inspectors may also be able to point out future potential issues based on the inspection.
Additionally, when it comes to hazardous materials, environmental issues, and other controversial subjects, you must go beyond the hysteria and educate yourself. Getting the facts about such topics, which many home owners encounter, can help you understand the risks and how to reduce or eliminate them. If issues are identified in the inspection, get an expert’s opinion. An expert can provide further information, advice and context.
Choose an experienced home inspector with references. Check to ensure their license is active. Home inspectors in Maryland are licensed by the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (dllr.state.md.us/license/reahi). The stated requirements to become a licensed home inspector include the completion of an approved 72-hour home inspector training course and pass the National Home Inspector Examination. Although Maryland home inspectors are licensed, look for an inspector with additional credentials. Many inspectors are also certified by professional organizations such as the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (NACHI.org) or the American Society of Home Inspectors (homeinspector.org).
Copyright© Dan Krell
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