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Limit the Inaccessible Areas Before Your Home Inspection

Home Inspector with lookSmart Home Inspections, LLC 24GI00058700

NJ Home inspectors do have limitations on what they can view and inspect during the home inspection. However, you as buyer can help alleviate many of these problems by requesting that inaccessible areas be made accessible before the home inspection takes place.

One such problem area is the attic access. Often the attic access is in a closet and has a scuttle hatch in the closet ceiling. If the closet is full of storage and clothing is challenging for the NJ home inspector to enter the attic space. Attics are dusty and often have insulation over the access scuttle. If the home inspector were to open the scuttle with clothing and other storage present it is likely that the contents of the closet would be contaminated with insulation fibers. Buyers can let the sellers of the home understand that the home inspector will have to enter the attic space. They can have the sellers of the property remove the storage and clothing before the home inspection takes place. If all this storage and clothing is removed, then the home inspector will have proper access to the attic space and be able to inspect it thoroughly. I also recommend that New Jersey home inspectors provide a request in writing to their client to contact the agent and seller that describes their requirement for entering the attic space. If the attic access area is not free, then a ladder cannot be placed safely, and the attic space could not entered. Having safe and proper access to the attic before the home inspection allows for a complete home inspection to take place and does not hold up the process. If the home inspector cannot access the attic, then he or she will not be able to report any problems that exist and must describe the area as not accessible. If the home inspector must return to the property to inspect the attic it is likely that additional fees will be charged for the return trip. So as the buyer make sure that the attic is properly accessible before your home inspection to avoid problems later.

Before your home inspection you should make sure that the garage is accessible and not packed with storage. Often sellers of homes will put their storage or personal items in the garage blocking access to the interior walls making it impossible or very challenging for the home inspector to traverse and inspect. If the garage is packed and full of storage it will not be properly inspected on the day of the home inspection. The same is true here you should as a buyer make a request to the sellers that you want your home inspector to be able to inspect the garage and that the garage should be in a condition where it can be properly inspected. At a minimum the interior walls of the garage should be free from storage so the home inspector can inspect the interior garage walls. You also want to get an idea of the condition of the garage floor and the operation of the garage doors. It is important that storage is removed so that the garage doors can be operated and tested for safety as well as the home inspector being able to view the garage floor for any movement, cracking, or damage. It is up to you, the buyer, to have the seller make the garage properly accessible. If you visited the home and the garage was full of storage, then you should alert the seller or the seller’s representative and make sure they have the garage in a condition that it can be properly inspected. Having inaccessible areas in a home creates problems and holds up the transaction.

One of the most important areas of the home to be made accessible is a crawlspace if the home has one. A crawlspace is basically a short basement that is under the house, and it is imperative to inspect properly and thoroughly because this is where a lot of problems can be found. Sometimes the crawlspace is sealed over. Home inspectors will get to a home and the crawlspace access will be sealed shut making it impossible for the home inspector to get access to the crawlspace without causing damage to the crawlspace access door or wall finishes. You as buyer must first understand if there is a crawlspace in the home and then ask the seller to make it accessible before your home inspection. It is true that not all crawlspaces can be entered or traversed. Here in New Jersey a home inspector does not have to enter a crawlspace that he deems to be unsafe or if the access is too small. While touring the home you as the buyer should get an idea of the crawlspace accessibility and determine if it is feasible for the home inspector to enter. Any information that you can relay to your home inspector while contacting him or her on the phone is advantageous so they can prepare for crawlspace inspection. If the crawlspace is not accessible on home inspection day, then there will be serious open risks to you the buyer. If the crawlspace is not accessible, then it should be made accessible before the end of your inspection contingency and properly inspected. Crawlspaces can have a multitude of problems and performing your due diligence on the crawlspace is imperative to fully understand any problems that exist there.

The same thing holds true with basements. You must make sure that the basement can be traversed and that the interior walls can be properly inspected. Basements or crucially important for the home inspection process so if your home inspector cannot traverse or properly inspect the basement you are not getting your money’s worth from the home inspection and there can be problems that are not found during the home inspection. You must make sure that the seller of the property makes the basement properly accessible so that the home inspector can traverse it. Most of the major problems that are found in homes will be located in the basement and the crawlspace. It is crucially important to have these areas made accessible before your home inspection takes place.

You should make sure that all utilities are on before your home inspection takes place. So many times, we have arrived at home to find the power off or water off to the house. As home inspectors we cannot restore utilities in a home. If they are off at the time of the home inspection, they cannot be turned on by the home inspector. This is especially true if you are buying a winterized property or a foreclosed property. Often banks will winterize the property and thus you will not be able to turn the utilities on during the home inspection. It is up to you, the buyer, to make sure that the utilities which include electrical, plumbing, and heating are on so these systems can be inspected during the home inspection. This also goes for the home having oil in the oil tank. If the water is off to the house, then a home inspector will not be able to test any tub, fixture or sink and also test for proper drainage. So, the whole water supply and waste plumbing of the home cannot be evaluated. Also, if the electricity is off the home inspector will not be able to test any of the electrical receptacles in the home and any light fixtures in the home. This also impacts the ability of the home inspector to do a thorough home inspection because it will not have proper illumination in the house if there are no lights on. Of course, the home inspector will have the required flashlights, however it is always advantageous to have lighting on so that the home can be properly viewed. Before your home inspection date make sure that all the utilities are on to avoid disappointments on home inspection day.

If the home itself is in a very cluttered condition it will be challenging to perform a complete home inspection. Sometimes homes are very cluttered, and it is challenging to see the interior of the home, floors and walls. If you are buying a home that is in a very cluttered condition it will be challenging to perform a thorough and complete home inspection. Before you purchase a home that is in a very cluttered condition you should attempt to have the seller remove some of the obstructions so a proper and thorough home inspection can be completed.

On another note, snow and ice can impact the ability of a home inspector to perform a home inspection. If there is snow on the roof, snow on the deck, ground, walkways, and driveway the home inspector will not be able to perform his or her job effectively on the exterior. If you are aware of inclement weather before the home inspection you should bring it to the attention of the seller that she would like all walkways, driveways and decks properly shoveled, and all the snow removed so a proper inspection can take place. The roof is the system that may not inspected during a recent snowfall. You should discuss with your home inspector the options that you have in obtaining a roof inspection during recent snowfall. Your NJ home inspector may be able to return to the property and inspect the roof after the snow has melted. Sometimes this takes weeks and is beyond your inspection contingency deadline. If that is the case, you should consult with your attorney to determine if there are any modifications to the contract that are available to you so that the roof can be inspected after the snow melts. Having the roof properly and thoroughly inspected is an important part of a home inspection and it is particularly important for you the buyer of the home to understand the condition of the roof that exists.

As a buyer you should understand that the home inspector does have limitations on what he or she can view during a visual home inspection. If you are aware of these limitations such as the ability to view the attic, basement, garage, or the home interior if it is in cluttered condition. You can ask the seller or the seller’s representation to make sure that these areas are fully accessible and are able to be thoroughly inspected on home inspection day. You as the buyer can also make sure that the utilities are on and fully operating during the home inspection. These requests can be made before home inspection day so that there are no surprises, and all areas can be inspected. Also, if snowy weather is expected you should contact your home inspector to make arrangements on how the roof will get inspected. There are things for you to do as a buyer to make sure that the home inspection goes smoothly and that all areas are accessible on home inspection day.


Richard Weeks
Dallas, TX
REALTOR®, Broker
Great information, thanks for sharing.  I hope you have a great day.
Apr 11, 2024 05:44 AM
Michael Jacobs
Pasadena, CA
Pasadena And Southern California 818.516.4393

Hello John - many sorts of things can make an impression on people especially buyers in a real estate transaction.  This is especially true during a home inspection, where buyers are looking at the property in a different light than when they first viewed it.  It seems natural that this will be a critical review as well as celebrating all the wonderful amenities.  Sellers don't give them an opportunity to wonder, "what are they trying to hide?".    Make the inspection experience as positive as possible.  After all, you do want to have a successful sale, right?  

Apr 11, 2024 05:55 AM
Dorie Dillard Austin TX
Coldwell Banker Realty ~ 512.750.6899 - Austin, TX
NW Austin ~ Canyon Creek and Spicewood/Balcones

Good morning John,

What a great post to help sellers understand why it is so important to have all areas of the home accessible for the inspector to inspect! I always warn my sellers to make sure all the walls in the garage can be seen! No piling boxes in front of the sprinkler system control box so they can't operate the sprinkler system. In a single story home in our area there is usually a pull down stairs to access the attic. No leaving a car in the garage underneath it so the inspector can't access the attic!

Apr 11, 2024 07:55 AM