What's included in a home inspection report and what's not
When you hire a home inspector, make sure to obtain a copy of the pre-inspection contract so you know what’s taking place. (Photo courtesy of Angie’s List member Scott R. of Edmond, Okla.)
A home inspector will perform a visual inspection of your property from top to bottom, including all the main systems. State laws and professional associations require home inspectors to give clients two documents as a matter of business and ethics: written home inspector contracts and written inspection reports.
Obtain a copy of the pre-inspection contract before the inspection takes place. Read and understand the document before the inspector starts the investigation. Ask the inspector to clarify anything you do not understand.
The agreement should contain the scope of the inspection services the person intends to perform as well as the cost of the services. In some states, home inspection contracts must follow very specific guidelines. For example, the New York State (NYS) Department of State requires inspectors to provide pre-inspection contracts prepared in a certain size font and with specific language and provisions.
Home inspection reports: what’s included
The code of ethics requires inspectors to provide their clients written reports of the home inspection. The report needs to contain detailed information on the subject property. Some professional associations and state regulations require home inspectors to provide you with a written report after concluding the inspection.
The inspection report needs to clearly identify the components and systems of the property observed by the inspector. Many inspectors will include photos and these reports can be up to 50 pages of information. Here are the key areas you can expect to be covered in a home inspection report:
- Structural components including foundation and framing of the home.
- Exterior features including siding, soffit, porches, balconies, walkways, railings and driveways.
- Roof system including shingles, flashing and skylights.
- Electrical system including service panels, breakers and fuses.
- Plumbing systems including pipes, drains, water heating equipment and sump pumps.
- Heating system including equipment and venting.
- Cooling system including energy sources and distribution equipment.
- Interior features including walls, ceilings, floors, windows, doors, stairs and railings.
- Insulation and ventilation including those in the attic and other unfinished spaces.
- Fireplaces including chimneys and vents.
Home inspection reports: what’s not included
Home inspectors only perform a visual inspection and so they can only be liable to inspect what they can see and have access to. Inspectors should not be taking apart equipment, putting holes in your walls or digging up your yard. So, underground pipes, septic systems and components sealed inside walls are off the table from the beginning.
Even from there, there are certain aspects to your home that home inspectors are not required to inspect and some inspections that the average home inspector is not allowed to perform due to specific license requirements. Here are some of the things you will not find on your basic inspection report:
- Hot tubs and swimming pools
- Kitchen appliances and central vacuum systems
- Lawn sprinkler systems
- Fire and smoke detection and suppression systems
- Alarm/intrusion detection systems
- Television antenna or satellite dishes
- Detached structures like a garage or shed
- Well systems
- Code compliance
- Environmental hazard report like radon, asbestos or lead
- Termite and pest report
If you are concerned about what will or won’t be included in your home inspection, just ask your home inspector. While it may not be included in the basic home inspection, you can hire a qualified home inspector with the necessary skills, equipment and licenses or certifications that qualify them to perform one or more of the specialty or extra inspection services.
Editor's Note: This is an updated version of a story originally posted on March 5, 2013.