What The Client Should Expect From A Home Inspection

Home Inspector with King of the House Home Inspection, Inc. Home Inspector Lic #207

The longer I am in this field of home inspection, the more apparent it becomes to me that most buyers, or sellers contracting for a pre-listing inspection, have no clue as to what it is that a home inspector is looking for or what that inspector will be reporting on.

Home inspections and standards of practice vary from association to association and from state to state. My description of the process is general but it should be helpful for those who are unfamiliar with the field of home inspection. In this synopsis, I am not attempting to list every system or component that might, possibly, be viewed during the course of a home inspection but this should provide a good overview of the process.

A home inspection is a non-technically exhaustive, primarily visual, inspection of a home and it's systems and components.

An inspector will not be spending much time looking at minor cosmetic details, or checking phones, cable, outdoor garden lighting or built-in vacuum or speaker systems. Those items will almost certainly be excluded.

Some people think the inspector will be overwrought about housekeeping and cosmetic details -- interior paint, whether or not the pictures on the wall are straight. I have seen the seller tidy up like crazy and then the deal hit a snag because of a totally unexpected, and serious, structural or electrical issue.

The inspection flow:

The site and the exterior, including the foundation, siding or other cladding, exterior doors, decks, stairways and rails, driveways and grading of the lot will be inspected. An inspector should report defects, such as slope or grade that routes runoff water against the home, foundation cracks or damage, rot or problematic conditions of cladding, unsafe decks and stairs, defective doors.

King of the House photo, siding inspection

While the routine may vary, from inspector to inspector, the roof might be the next stop. On the roof the inspector will get a second look at some of the components he or she probably got a cursory view of from down below -- gutters and downspouts, chimneys, plumbing stacks, vents and roofing materials. It is not always possible to traverse every roof. But, when it is possible to do so safely and without damage to the roof, the inspector should go up on the roof. There are defects that can only be seen from up above. If the inspector cannot go on the roof, it will be viewed, as best as can be, from the eaves or from the ground.

Photo, Charles Buell Inspections, Seattle home inspector

The inspector will inspect attached garages (not usually detached garages unless additional fees apply), verifying that there is a firewall that protects the home and making sure that any powered vehicle doors have proper safety features such as sensor eyes and auto-reverse. 

Often the furnace and water heater will be located in an attached garage so they may be inspected when the inspector is in the garage. The inspector will, with some limitations, check the safety and function of water heaters and furnaces/heating devices. He or she should make sure that garage appliances are protected so they cannot be hit by a forward moving automobile. This protection is often provided by a bollard. The inspector should measure the water temperature and report temperatures that are unsafe -- such as a temperature over 120 degrees F, which is conducive to scalding burns.

photo, king of the house home inspection bellingham

Often the attached garage will be the site of the attic hatch. A home inspector should try to find the various attic hatches. If it can be done safely and without risking damage to the property or insulation, the attic should be traversed.

The attic can hide many secrets that should be exposed. There might be leaks from the roof above, exhaust fans could be blowing moist air into the attic. There could be ventilation issues, old or unsafe wiring, or even rodent activity in the attic. The inspector should note whether or not the attic is insulated.

Somewhere, in this general sequence of events, the inspector will inspect the electric system. Standard procedures include looking at the service entrance and removing the cover from the electric panel and viewing the wiring inside of it.

Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector

The inspector should report visual defects in the panel, report if there is a grounding electrode in place and report the placement and function of GFCI receptacles -- the kind of receptacle that gives extra protection in wet environments. In newer homes, there should be AFCI breakers that protect against electrical fires at bedroom receptacles and lights. The inspector should check most receptacles and many light switches, ceiling fans, etc.  It is not always possible to check every switch or receptacle, but an inspector should get to many of them. 

About now, we are ready to move inside the home. Inside the house, the inspector -- along with looking at floors, walls, ceilings, doors, windows and stairs -- should check the plumbing, including under sinks and at tubs and showers. A primary emphasis is on drains, traps and whether or not there are signs of leaks.

Charles Buell seattle home inspector

Toilets will be flushed and checked to make sure that they are tight to the floor and that they are not leaking -- often leaks are visible as a result of stains on or under flooring.  Regarding plumbing, when the inspector was outside, he or she should have checked the water pressure at a hose bibb to make sure it was in the normal range of 40 to 80 PSI. 

Many inspectors will operate and inspect the dishwasher, the refrigerator, the range, the microwave and some will even operate laundry appliances. Certainly, an inspector will try to view connections and operate gas fireplaces or look inside wood stoves and fireplaces. If the wood burning devices look to be full of soot or creosote, then an inspector will call for service or further evaluation by a qualified chimney sweep. Since we are talking fire safety, the inspector will, when inside the home, verify the presence of smoke detectors.

Last, but not least, the inspector will inspect the sub-structure of the home. This can be merely a slab, which often leaves little for an inspector to view. Or it might be a basement or a crawl space that has ample access.

If it is a finished basement, there might be little to report on. However, at an unfinished basement or crawl space, the inspector will be looking at the structure -- posts or columns, beams and joists and many other components -- plumbing pipes, heat ducts, under floor insulation. Especially in a crawl space, the inspector will be alert to signs of damage from wood destroying organisms or rodent activity.  Often, in a sub-structure area, the inspector will locate a main water shutoff valve for the home. For sure, when it can be found, the inspector should report the location of the main water shutoff valve and, also, the location of the main gas or fuel shutoffs.

Again, the methods of inspection vary from inspector to inspector and this article is not intended to describe how every inspector does the job. When the inspection is complete, the inspector should, in a reasonable time-frame, provide the client with a concise and accurate written report that has photos and describes the conditions that were found at the home at the time of the inspection.


Thanks for stopping by,

Steven L. Smith


Posted by

Steven L. Smith

If you enjoy nostalgia and music of yesteryear, click on Elvis' gold record to visit This Day In History. To explore The Stories Behind The Music blog posts click on the electric guitar. 








Re-Blogged 19 times:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. Marian Pierre-Louis 12/10/2009 12:38 PM
  2. Liz Moras Migic 12/10/2009 02:28 PM
  3. Brian Burke 12/10/2009 03:39 PM
  4. Carol Lee 12/10/2009 04:47 PM
  5. the Chris & Lisa Grus Team 12/10/2009 05:58 PM
  6. Trisha P Realty Group 12/10/2009 09:18 PM
  7. Leesa Finley 12/10/2009 10:20 PM
  8. D B 12/10/2009 11:32 PM
  9. Lori Cain 12/11/2009 12:15 AM
  10. Joyce Thomas 12/11/2009 01:23 AM
  11. Robert Hammerstein 12/11/2009 01:44 AM
  12. Nancy Conner 12/11/2009 04:58 AM
  13. Ben Schern 12/11/2009 05:02 AM
  14. Jay & Jewell Kaiser 12/11/2009 07:08 AM
  15. Steve Goodyke 12/12/2009 07:35 AM
  16. Charles Stallions 12/12/2009 12:03 PM
  17. Jeanean Gendron 12/13/2009 12:50 AM
  18. KARIN SMITH 12/13/2009 11:54 PM
  19. Jon Sigler 01/17/2010 01:31 PM
  20. Pam Simpson 02/13/2010 08:30 AM
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Diane Williams
Pell City, AL

I don't feel like I have a deal until the Home Inspection is done.  This is such good information for buyers and sellers. Thank you.

Dec 11, 2009 12:37 AM #23
Joe Pryor
The Virtual Real Estate Team - Oklahoma City, OK
REALTOR® - Oklahoma Investment Properties

I always want a buyer or seller to get a fair inspection. I know many Realtors curse inspectors as deal killers, but sometimes the deal really needs to be killed. My opinion about a good inspection is that it keeps everyone out of court.

Dec 11, 2009 12:59 AM #24
Patricia Aulson
Realtor - Portsmouth NH Homes-Hampton NH Homes

I like this blog....I think I'll reblog it.

Thank you.

Patricia/Seacoast NH

Dec 11, 2009 01:01 AM #25
Robert Hammerstein
Keller Williams Valley Realty - Hillsdale, NJ
Bergen County NJ Real Estate

Steven - An excellent overview of the home inspection process... I will re-blog this as I find it very well done and informative for any of my readers who are in the process of buying currently... thanks and a well deserved shiny gold star!

Dec 11, 2009 01:44 AM #26
Tony Grego, 317-663-4173 #1 Trade Association for Alternative Inv
REISA - 317-663-4173 - Indianapolis, IN

Thanks for your post. It is a great third party reference that you can share with the buyer and the seller on what to expect

Have a great day


Dec 11, 2009 01:52 AM #27
Kate Kate
San Diego, CA

I've always thought those who attempt their own inspection (of the house that is) will look for problems familiar to their last home and miss potential issues on the next purchase.

Such as why is there an emaciated squirrel in the attic or a rodent with big paws in the crawl space.

Dec 11, 2009 02:00 AM #28
Nancy Conner
Olympia, WA
Olympia/Thurston County WA

What great information for buyers & sellers both!  Thanks - am reblogging...

Dec 11, 2009 04:57 AM #29
Steven L. Smith
King of the House Home Inspection, Inc. - Bellingham, WA
Bellingham WA Home Inspector

Thanks for all of the re-blogs. And thanks to Marcy Eastham for suggesting to me that she had a need for such a blog. Obviously she deserves a gold star. And then we have old Charlie Bee, who allowed me to use some of his photos, although they tend to be the back of his head.

As to Kate, obviously you are just being snippy by implying that my certifried assistant should not be in the attic or the crawl space.

Dec 11, 2009 07:15 AM #30
David Helm
Helm Home Inspections - Bellingham, WA
Bellingham, Wa. Licensed Home Insp

I have traps in my attic and basement just for certifried assistants.

Dec 11, 2009 09:12 AM #31
Jeff Colby
OmniQuest Media Labs - Obeo Distributor - Omaha, NE

Very informative. Thank you for taking the time too blog.

Dec 11, 2009 05:36 PM #32
Kate Kate
San Diego, CA

I have offered The Certifried a small grave beneath the birdbath fountain yet he fails to respond.

Dec 11, 2009 09:39 PM #33
Patricia Kennedy
RLAH Real Estate - Washington, DC
Home in the Capital

Steven, I want the gingerbread house!  Don't care if the basement leaks or the roof is being eaten by the local wildlife!  But seriously, this is a wonderful summary of what a home inspector does, and it's one that I'll be a lot of us will be sharing with our clients.  Really good post.

Dec 12, 2009 01:09 AM #34
Steven L. Smith
King of the House Home Inspection, Inc. - Bellingham, WA
Bellingham WA Home Inspector




No thanks!

Dec 12, 2009 01:12 AM #35
Charles Stallions
Charles Stallions Real Estate Services - Pensacola, FL
800-309-3414 - Pensacola, Pace or Gulf Breeze, Fl.

I e-mailed this to several of our buyers to point out the need for home inspections and hopefully they will respond in kind.

Dec 12, 2009 12:06 PM #36
Pam Richerson
Maxwell AFB, AL


This was a very informative post.  Thanks for sharing!


Dec 12, 2009 08:35 PM #37
Kate Kate
San Diego, CA

Only the facts sir. Nutsy makes it soooo easy!

Dec 13, 2009 03:11 AM #38
Baker Home Inspection and Commercial Properties Inspections
Baker Residential and Commercial Properties Inspections - Springfield, VT
Home and Commercial Properties Inspections Vermont

Howdy there Steven

Mighty fine overview of what a client shout expct, when they have a home inspected.

Baker Home Commercial Properties Inspections and Consulting Blog Signature

Dec 14, 2009 03:42 AM #39
Mike Ciavattieri
BONSAI Inspection Company - Weymouth, MA
Home Inspection Massachusetts

Nice job. This is where a good Standards of Practice and a sound Inspection Agreement really prove their value.

Dec 14, 2009 06:20 AM #40
Robert L. Brown
www.mrbrownsellsgr.com - Grand Rapids, MI
Grand Rapids Real Estate Bellabay Realty, West Mic

Good post here. Kind of like a step by step. Thanks for posting.

Dec 20, 2009 06:01 AM #41
Michael S. Taaffe

It is so true most newwer agents and first time home buyers or seller really do have a misunderstanding as to what the inspection will involve. Some even fail to realise that if I can not get to it it can not be inspected ,like in an attic space that is blocked with stored items. Thanks for giving them an idea of the standards that a true professional Inspector must abide by . Let it also be known that each Inspector also has his or her own method and style so inspections can vary from inspector to inspector. Thanks for the great post!


Jan 12, 2010 01:23 PM #42
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Steven L. Smith

Bellingham WA Home Inspector
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