Home Inspection Frequently Asked Questions
Are Home Inspections just for buying a house?
No; home inspections are smart to have for lots of different reasons. If you are planning to sell your home, you can get a “pre-listing” home inspection, which can tell you what your buyer’s home inspector may find and give you time to correct potential problems before placing your home on the market. Also, if you have a newly built home, getting both a pre-dryall and pre-closing home inspection before you take possession, along with another inspection prior to the builder’s one-year walkthrough, will identify issues that need to be addressed by the builder before the warranty expires. And if you’ve been in your home more than 7-10 years, our Home Checkup will help you identify maintenance issues and whether some of the systems are at the end of their serviceable lives.
What is NOT included in your home inspection?
A home inspection will identify those issues in a property that are readily visible and accessible. We cannot do any destructive testing (making holes in things), take equipment apart, or move the homeowner’s belongings. We don’t have X-ray vision, and cannot see inside walls, floors, or ceilings. Some areas of a property may not be accessible during the inspection due to inadequate or blocked access, or unsafe conditions.
For safety reasons, we do not light pilot lights, activate utility shut-off switches or valves, or do anything else that could potentially harm either the inspector, the client, or the property. A home inspection is not a warranty, guarantee, appraisal or certification. It is a “snapshot in time” of the condition of the property during the time we are on site.
Do you use an answering service?
We would love to answer every question personally, but it is unsafe to take a call from a roof, a ladder or while driving. During our inspections, we concentrate on giving our client and the property our full attention. We understand that booking an inspection is a time-sensitive issue, so we have an answering service to take calls when we are out of the office. This company serves only home inspectors; most of their employees have many years of experience in inspections or building trades so they really know their stuff. They can answer most questions quickly, provide pricing quotes, and answer scheduling questions without waiting for us to go back to our vehicles. They don’t have access to our reports, so won’t be able to answer specific or technical questions. However, they will forward your message to us and we will return your call as soon as possible.
Do you do Septic inspections?
We do not do septic inspections, as we are not trained or licensed to perform them. Septic Systems should be inspected by a licensed, qualified septic company prior to purchasing a home. This inspection involves removing the access hatch, pumping out the tank, visually inspecting the interior, and probing the leach field to assess its condition.
One reason why it is so important to get a proper septic inspection is that some municipalities are not allowing for repairs to systems that have failed if the property is now accessible by the public sewer system. This can be a costly process, and the homeowner is responsible for the cost of laying the pipes and connections to the sewer. Since this type of repair is considered a maintenance issue, it is typically not covered by homeowner’s insurance.
Some home inspectors may offer to do a “septic report” that is little more than a dye test to make sure the main line is not blocked. This is NOT an adequate test, and doesn’t give any information about the health of the tank, its physical condition, and the viability of the leach field. With septic system replacement costing between $10,000-$20,000, trying to save a few dollars by foregoing a proper septic inspection can end up costing you much more than you think!
Do you do termite inspections?
Termite (or pest) inspections have specific requirements in Maryland. Without the proper license, we are not allowed to even use the word “termite” in our reports! Pest inspections call for specialized training and a specific license.
Some home inspectors who offer termite inspections may not tell you that their report is only a statement of what is seen during their inspection. What’s more, an inspector from a large multi-inspector firm may only have training at a technician level, and will issue their report under the license of a single inspector in their company.
A reputable pest company will do the inspection, and can also issue a warranty against future problems. This warranty can be renewed with annual inspections.
Most of the best termite professionals we know are constantly investing in their education, taking classes to hone their skills. They also have to know about pesticide uses and applications, and be trained to use them properly. Since this involves potentially toxic materials, it is vital that the person recommending them has the knowledge to explain their use.
The best companies invest in their employees’ education, making sure they are qualified to give you an accurate termite report, and make the best recommendations for your property. They don’t rely on enticing clients with low-priced inspections, only to use scare tactics to sell them unneeded or ineffective treatments.
By the way, for the last 35 years we have used the same company for all our pest control needs, and are happy to pass along their information on request.
Do you do mold inspections?
There are currently no state or federal standards for mold inspectors. The only current guidelines for mold inspection and remediation have been established by the professional Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification group through their s520 Guidelines publications. There are also widely differing methods for collecting samples (air, bulk, tape, viable, and non viable), and no agreed upon standards by ASHI or the insurance industry for the benefit of the general public’s health and welfare.
Mold is everywhere; the Journal of Property Management reports that just one square inch of drywall can contain from 1 million to 10 million spores! They are microscopic, as small as 1.5 microns ( 0.0000590551 of an inch!). For comparison, the human eye cannot see particles smaller than 50-60 microns.
But don’t panic! Mold is usually only a problem if it is growing. It needs water to grow, so the best way to prevent issues is to keep the inside of your home between 40-55% relative humidity. If you get a leak or a flood, mold will start growing in as little as 24 hours, so you must act fast to dry things out.
If you can detect a damp or musty smell or have a current or past water intrusion (or indicators thereof), there could be suspected mold issues at hand. Ask us about how to identify service professionals who have the qualifications and integrity to meet your needs.
What if I want more?
We can arrange for experts to follow up on things of concern. For example, we can take water samples and have them sent out to laboratories for complete and thorough examinations. Some basic tests can be performed on-site but they should be only used as screenings. Your mortgage lender may require ‘certified’ tests from a lab for water, radon, asbestos and lead. We DO offer some of those tests. Water testing requires 24 hours advance notice as the test kits need to be prepared. Test collections can only be done Monday through Thursday because it must go overnight to a Maryland Certified lab.
Who will be doing my home inspection?
When you book your inspection with us, you can choose either Bob or Welmoed (“Mrs. Bob) as your inspector. We don’t have a “pool” of inspectors who get assigned to jobs. Both are ASHI-certified, and dedicated to providing the best possible customer experience.
Bob and Welmoed are both involved in the local and national home inspection associations; Bob serves on the ASHI national board of directors, and Welmoed is President of the local ASHI chapter. Welmoed also teaches the home inspection certification class at Frederick Community College, and is the author of 101 Things You Don’t Want In Your Home (Ninovan Books, 2018).
What do I need to do to get ready for a home inspection?
Beyond telling the scheduler where the structure is, when the home inspector should be there, and how payment is going to be made, there are a few things you can do to get ready.
All utilities and systems and appliances should be on and functioning. This includes water, electricity, gas, furnaces and air conditioning systems. All doors (exterior and garage) should be unlocked and accessible. Anything in the way of attic or crawl space access should be removed. Any manuals or service records for systems should out and available.
If you are a buyer, we strongly suggest that you be present during the home inspection, as you will be better able to relate to the comments when you see what they come from. We also recommend leaving any other family members at home; the inspection is your opportunity to learn about the property, and it would be best not to be distracted.
A home inspection can take upwards of an hour per 1,000 sq. ft. so a typical 2,500 sq. ft. home should take about 2½ hours. This will vary depending on the particular home, its age, components and whether it is occupied or empty. Also, allow an additional half hour for going over the report with the home inspector.
When will I get my report, and what will it look like?
When the home inspection is complete, the inspector will do a “debriefing” during which they will discuss their findings and answer any questions you may have. They will also go through some informational brochures that provide in-depth explanations of common conditions; this helps keep the report itself as simple as possible. You will also receive a 3-ring binder with informational brochures pertinent to the property, as well as a copy of “Basic Home Systems,” an 80-page book on how your home works and how to maintain it. Your report will be available for download within 24 hours.
If you like, you can download a sample report to see what a typical home inspection report looks like by clicking here.
What if I have questions after the home inspection?
There is a lot of information to take in from a home inspection. If you have any questions regarding the home inspection report you receive, you are always welcome to contact our office for clarification, either via email or phone call. Even if the inspection was months or years ago, we will be happy to answer your questions.
Do I need to be present for the Inspection?
You will learn a lot more if you are present for the entire inspection, but you do not need to be. You will need to review and sign our contract before the start of the inspection. It contains descriptions of what we will be doing, not doing, our liabilities and their limitations. If you cannot be present at the start of the inspection, your agent may be able to sign for you, or you can download our contract, sign it and fax it to us prior to the inspection.
We do routinely work with remote buyers who can’t be present for the inspection at all. In those cases we scan and email the entire report to the buyer along with any important pictures as well. We then arrange for a conference call to go over the report and any important pictures with the buyer.
Can’t I just use the home inspectors that the realtor recommends?
Many home inspectors market aggressively to real estate firms, in hopes of getting agents to give referrals. Sometimes, though, a home inspector who is “too picky” and jeopardizes too many of the agent’s sales might find their cards forgotten in a desk drawer!
We belong to the Independent Home Inspectors of North America (IHINA), and do not market ourselves actively to real estate firms by doing presentations, “educational seminars” or other self-promotional methods.
The majority of our business comes from the Internet, Angie’s List, and personal referrals, and as such we don’t have to worry about “messing up” a sale and jeopardizing a subsequent referral. Bob takes his time and finds everything he can, big or small, as that is what you are paying us for. We don’t need to care if the realtor thinks we are “too picky” or “too slow” and won’t refer people to us in the future.
Even so, we have realtors who do recommend us to their clients!
Will you take a realtor referral?
Should I trust the inspector my Realtor recommended?
If they are us, yes… but generally you should make sure your Realtor or agent has YOUR best interests in mind.
In all of Maryland, there are only four Independent inspection firms out of over 1,100 inspectors. These firms and inspectors have pledged not to market to Realtors or real estate agents (by buying donuts or bowls of candy, giving special discounts, sponsoring events, etc…), but rather to get business by referrals from satisfied clients. This way we don’t worry that a tough but honest report could mean losing agent referrals; we are only looking out for the client’s best interests.
Won’t using a big firm with lots of inspectors get me a better inspection?
We don’t think so. Those ads cost a lot of money, so they need to do a lot of home inspections. We would rather take our time on each and every home inspection and have smaller ads.
Do you walk every Roof?
We will walk the ones that are safe to do so. There are many roofs that should not be walked without special training or equipment, such as wood, clay tile, metal, or slate. Steeply pitched roofs are dangerous and should only be accessed with the proper Personal Protection Equipment (PPE). Roofs over two stories high also require PPE and longer ladders, and are best left to roofing contractors to access.
Even low-sloped roofs should not be walked if it is extremely hot or cold (which will damage the material), or if it is wet (which can make it slippery). If we cannot walk a roof, we will usually observe it either from the top of a ladder (so we can inspect the inside of the gutters), or with a pole-mounted camera.
Won’t you miss things by not walking every roof?
Not as much as some would say. Most roofs show tell-tale signs elsewhere when they have problems. There will be signs in the attic, under the eaves, on the soffits or trims, or maybe in a upstairs closet or on a splashblock. Our job as home inspectors is to piece together the clues to tell the story of the house.
Will you match the price from another home inspector?
No. Unfortunately there are home inspectors out there who offer very quick and cheap home inspections. A professional home inspection is no place to cut corners. We feel that the home inspections done by Bob are fairly and competitively priced, and reflect the service being provided. We take our time (averaging over an hour per 1,000 sq. ft) and provide a quality report on site in a binder along with a book on “How to Operate Your Home” for future reference. We provide “final Walk through” assistance or follow up visits at no or minimal cost and telephone consultations are always free for our clients.
Why can’t I do my own Inspection?
You certainly could, but why would you want to? We have performed many inspections for carpenters, electricians, plumbers and general contractors and all have said we have seen things that they would have missed for a variety of reasons. We know where to look, what to look for and have the tools to do the inspection. We may have been in homes in the same neighborhood, or built by the same builder, that give us some insight as to what to expect and where to look for particular issues. We come prepared to go in the crawl space and the attic and onto the roof. We are comfortable opening the electrical panel when it is live.
Do you do repairs, or can you refer me to someone who can?
Doing any work on a property that an inspector has inspected is a violation of the State’s Code of Ethics, ASHI’s Code of Ethics and a number of other good organizations. It just is too great a conflict of interest. We recommend finding qualified contractors through Angie’s List. Angie’s List only accepts contractors that have been highly recommended and insists that they maintain that high recommendation.
It is crucial to make sure that the people who are doing the work are licensed to do the work they are performing. Work may start as basic carpentry, and then involve moving outlets or pipes. They may be great carpenters, and seen the electrical work done hundreds of times, but they are not licensed to do the electrical or plumbing work. If they say, “Oh, I can do that for you…” the hair on the back of your neck should go up!
Any alteration to the structural components of a home requires not only a permit, but documentation from a structural engineer specifying the work to be performed and confirming that the structural integrity and stability of the property is maintained.
Permits are required anytime you are moving or adding electrical fixtures, switches or outlets. Moving or adding plumbing fixtures requires a permit. An electrician may not pull a permit to add a single outlet, but he is putting his license on the line. A reputable contractor will warranty their work, and they carry insurance.
Doing any work on natural gas or propane appliances requires a Master Plumber with a Gas Fitter Certificate, and, in most cases, also requires a permit. This includes installing or replacing a gas stove, furnace or water heater.
Do you have a Infra-Red Camera? Do you use it on Regular Inspections?
Yes we do have an Infrared camera, properly called a “Thermal Imager.” We use it when we suspect there may be an issue, but its use greatly exceeds the standards of practice for both the State of Maryland and ASHI. Where we do occasionally use it is to confirm, or provide further indicators, of issues that other things have pointed to or indicated.
Thermal imagers require specific environmental conditions in order to produce useful results. If the temperature inside is very close to the temperature outside, it’s unlikely that any meaningful images will be made. Also, temperature variations can also be due to air infiltration, reflected sunlight, ductwork, and more, leading to unnecessary worry. We consider it just another tool in our arsenal to be used when appropriate.
Can I bring my father/uncle/children…?
While we understand your desire to have family members come along (especially if they are in the construction business), the home inspection is intended to be your time to focus on learning about the house and its features and issues. To minimize the risk of damage to a sellers property, we strongly recommend not bringing children along, as they will likely be bored, and distract you from giving your full attention to the inspection. Also, we will not know if there are any hazards in or around the house, such as chemicals or fragile belongings, that small children always seem to be drawn to.
The inspection is also not the time to invite friends and family over to take a look at the property. It is not a showing, or an open house. We do our best to respect the seller’s property, and having a lot of extra people around could prevent us from concentrating on our primary task.
Do you offer a guarantee or warranty on your inspection?
No, it is not possible to offer a guarantee or warranty on a home inspection. A home inspection is a “snapshot in time” and while we can advise clients on the average lifespan of systems and appliances, we don’t have a crystal ball! Systems and appliances can, and do, fail spontaneously, and sometimes without warning. We can only report on what we find in the home on the day we see it.
There are inspectors who offer a “free 90-day warranty” with their inspections. These have limited value, as the 90 day period starts on the day of the inspection; by the time you get to closing, there may be only a few weeks left to the policy. These policies are heavily marketed to home inspectors, who are urged to include them in their reports as an “added value.” The inspector doesn’t pay for them either; the real goal is for the warranty company to get access to your contact information. We steer away from these third-party services; the last thing we want to do is subject our clients to a barrage of spam and junk mail by giving out their email and street address.