What is a home inspection and Why Should You Always Have One When Buying a Home?

What is a home inspection and why should you always have one when buying a home? A home inspection is performed by a qualified inspector hired by buyers to inspect a home prior to purchase and provide a detailed report regarding all components.

Buying a home for the first time or the 10th time has one common factor: It may be one of the most important transactions that you make in your lifetime. So what is a home inspection? It is a thorough evaluation of the home by a certified home inspector. This encompasses a non-invasive evaluation of the major components, but not limited to the major components of a home, such as the structure, roof, plumbing, electrical, appliances, heating and air conditioning systems, the exterior, and the basement. It may also include out buildings, the garage, and inspections for termite/wood destroying insects and radon.

A certified home inspector would be hired to inspect the home and components to find if there are any material defects, items that need repair, services needed (heater evaluation, chimney inspection, etc.), and an evaluation of many of the components of the home and their life expectancy. The safety aspect of the components is also evaluated and recommendations are made by the home inspector. What a home inspection is not is an insurance policy or guarantee for the home. It is not intended to predict the future life expectancy of the home’s components, nor is it a report for cosmetic repair.

The home inspector visually inspects the home, writes a report and a defect summary accompanied by pictures of the defect. This is true for a home inspection and a termite report. In respect to radon inspections, a testing device is typically left at the home in a closed environment for a period of 48 hours. The results are evaluated against the standard that the EPA has set — an action level of 4 pCi/L. Anything at this level or above should be remediated. Inspections may also include water, if there is a well or septic. Usually these two inspections are performed by separate inspectors. A pool/hot tub inspection may also be requested by the buyers.

The buyer’s agent or attorney will review the inspector’s report(s) with the buyers and a request to repair items that are deemed defective are then negotiated within specified timeframes negotiated within the agreement of sale. The buyer may accept the property as is, request repairs, or in some cases, ask for a credit. The buyer may also elect to terminate the agreement based on the report. Credits are handled in methods that comply with the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA), which protects consumers from abusive practices and higher settlement charges.

Every buyer should have inspections on the property that they are purchasing, even if it is new construction. For example, if a buyer is involved in a foreclosure, the property is usually “as is.” In this situation I would highly recommend the home be inspected to ensure that the buyer is protected from purchasing an extremely defective home or on the other hand, give them peace of mind that they are fully aware of repairs or remediation that may be necessary after the purchase. In the example of new construction, I would recommend at a minimum that the home be inspected just prior to drywall installation to evaluate the structure, electrical, plumbing, and ventilation prior to drywall. The objective here would be to determine if defects are present or perhaps installation of such items was improperly installed. In any instance, always consider having a home inspection prior to making a purchase!

Image Source: Flickr/Chris Potter/StockMonkeys.com


Associate Broker/Realtor® for Coldwell Banker Hearthside Realtors in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, Frank Dolski is a husband, father of four sons and a new granddaughter. Aside from Real Estate, Frank is an avid Philadelphia and Penn State sports fan! Aside from Real Estate, Frank belongs to many organizations including the Central Bucks Chamber of Commerce, Our Lady of Guadalupe Pastoral Council and the Knights of Columbus Council #15590 as well as the Big Brothers/Sisters organization. He has worked for Coldwell Banker for 10 years receiving the International Coldwell Banker President’s Elite Award in 2014 and other years, ranking #1 in the state of PA in 2012 for all Coldwell Banker Affiliates. A graduate of Widener University, Frank holds a Bachelor’s degree and MBA in Business Administration. In his spare time, Frank enjoys family time, photography, music, concerts and traveling. A seventeen year resident of Doylestown, PA located in Buckingham township, Frank also enjoys writing articles and Blogs for numerous Philadelphia region newspapers as well as a variety of Blogging sites.

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  1. Michael Branconi
    November 25, 2015

    I personally used Frank’s home inspector to inspect my house prior to closing. The inspection is absolutely necessary prior to closing to know what you have to do in order to make your home operate at peak performance but also be safe for your family. My inspector knew a lot about all aspects of a home and gave me great insight to what was wrong thus providing me with a detailed report to take tothe sellers. The last thing you want is to get into your new home and be blindsided by thousands of dollars in repairs. If the seller insists on no home inspection and an as is sale don’t walk away, run!

  2. Chris
    November 29, 2015

    Excellent information and advice, Frank!

  3. Rob Lunny
    November 29, 2015

    Frank speaks to the main point of having a home inspection, larger defects that could have a financial impact on a buyer. Finding the little things is nice but Home Inspections are a buyers last chance to make sure everything is functioning as intended. I retired from Home Inspections after 20 years and today’s reports are much more in-depth. At the end of the day its the big ticket items that need to be focused on, not so much the loose doorknobs or dirty carpets.

  4. Frank Dolski
    November 30, 2015

    Thanks for your input Rob! You are spot on. Defects are defects and too many times I see some buyers ask for cosmetic repairs and in a hand full of cases, lose the deal after spending a lot of money. The big ticket items as you mentioned are critical. A good home inspector will have a report with structural, electrical, plumbing, roof, etc. with pictures and detail. Inspection items are negotiable between buyers and sellers and many times it depends on the discount that the buyers may or may not receive. Every deal is different. Thanks for your professional input!

  5. Frank Dolski
    November 30, 2015

    Thanks for your input Mike! It doesn’t matter if it is new construction or resale, buyers should always get a home inspection. It is a large investment and the last thing that any buyer wants to find out is that they have a serious problem. Or, it can give them a sense of what they are buying is in great shape. Thanks for your input Mike!

  6. Kellie Mitchell
    November 30, 2015

    Great information Frank. Important homes are inspected but the information needs to presented in a non-alarming manner to the buyers.

  7. Andrew
    December 2, 2015

    Great article! Also, I would highly recommend following the home inspector around during the inspection and ask questions throughout. It’s a great opportunity to learn the ins and outs of the place from an expert, and we felt much more comfortable with the house as a result.

    The home inspector Frank provided was highly knowledgable and found things I didn’t even have on my radar. It is a huge purchase and of the utmost importance that it’s done right, and you really need to make sure your inspector is working for you as part of your team.

  8. Paul Gerlach
    December 4, 2015

    Good article, Frank. I recall you advising me to get inspections on any system of the house that was expensive, custom or complicated. It was good advice!

  9. Bill Squitieri
    December 7, 2015

    Great article Frank! Also important for buyers to understand is that in the state of Pennsylvania there is a law in place, Act 114, section 75 that requires a qualified home inspector to carry active errors and omissions insurance. This helps to protect the home buyer against gross negligence during the home inspection process. Making sure your home inspector is compliant with this law will help smooth out the inspection portion of the transaction.

    • Frank Dolski
      March 7, 2016

      Good point Bill. Buyers should carefully select a home inspector who is clearly certified and insurance is a must!

  10. Kevin Graf
    May 26, 2016

    May I also add some tips for identifying a good home inspector:
    1) He/she must be willing to go into the attic to evaluate the area
    2) He/she must be willing to go on the roof to visually inspect the roof (to identify issues with shingles, flashing, and the underlying structure

    I would recommend being present when the inspection is being done. I personally know of inspectors who are willing to cut corners to appease an agent/seller or just to save some time.

    My 2 cents…


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