The Home Inspection - Knowing What to Expect

If you're buying or selling a home, it's essential to have the home inspected by a qualified home inspector. Your home inspector will examine the house from top to bottom, inside and out, and give you a report on the condition of the home to help you make wise decisions.

A home inspector worth his salt will do some preparation before inspecting the home you want him to check out. He'll check with local authorities to get answers to a few key questions.

* What are the home's zoning, setback, height, and building coverage requirements?

* Are there any grandfathered uses and conditions, liens, or applicable fire regulations?

* Is the home in a seismic zone where earthquakes could occur?

* Is the home in a hurricane or high tornado-risk region?

* Is the home in a flood plain or other flood-risk zone?

* Are there any records of hazards in the soil or water on or near the home's site?

Once at the home, your inspector will conduct a brief walk-through of the property and the home itself. He'll note the property's overall appearance and condition. If it looks like it has been well taken care of, it's far less likely to have serious problems.

Your inspector will take note of the building's style and period and try to determine when it was built. Then he'll examine the quality of the home's design and construction. How does it compare with other homes in the neighborhood? There's no substitute for good design and sound, durable construction.

What about the home's layout? Is it functional? Will the home need to be altered or remodeled to make it usable and marketable?

One of the most critical things your inspector will look at is whether there is any dampness or water damage to the home. Water damage is usually a home's biggest enemy. A dry building won't have problems with fungus or decay, termite damage or corroded and rusted equipment.

When your home inspector has finished his initial walk through, he'll begin the formal inspection process. He'll check over the home's site and its outside and inside. He'll take note of anything he believes is relevant and significant.

In the process of the home inspection, he'll investigate the condition of the structural, electrical, plumbing, and HVAC systems. (HVAC is heating, ventilation and air conditioning.) He'll note the size, capacity, and other relevant information about each system or component as needed.

Most inspections consist of observing, measuring, and testing building parts that are exposed to view. Sometimes there may be conditions that require removing some part of the building if your inspector is to observe, measure, or test aspects of construction that may be hidden. Such intrusive inspections require some demolition. The inspector shouldn't do this without the owner's permission and help from qualified mechanics or construction workers.

It might take more than one visit for your inspector to do his job well. This depends on the condition of the property and whether he can get access to what he needs to see. He may need to call in additional help from qualified experts or have further testing done. Of course, weather conditions might also make it necessary for him to come back more than once.

Once your inspector has thoroughly looked things over, he'll make a report. It will have information to help with any decisions that need to be made concerning remodeling, repairing or replacing anything in the home.

You've carefully selected the home you're buying. Make sure you're as careful when selecting your home inspector. Don't get stuck paying for repairs missed by a quick home inspection. Author David Haigh is a professional home inspector in NJ ( Click now to view a free sample report of a New Jersey home inspection (

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