Home Inspection Questions

This page seeks to answer the Home Inspection questions I hear most often from sellers and buyers in the Tallahassee area. Please note, while some important information is repeated in multiple answers, each entry below is designed to provide new information. If you have questions not answered here about home inspections – please let us know by filling out the contact information on our webpage and we will help you out!

You can order, and pay, for every specialist to come check the major (and minor) systems in a house (plumbing, foundation, air conditioning, electrical, heating, roof, etc.), or you can hire a general home inspector to visually inspect all of those systems. If the general home inspector finds something that concerns him/her, they may recommend hiring one of those specialists for a more in-depth specialists look.  Although not required by the majority of loans, most buyers invest in at least the general home inspection.

The inspection company may ask you which inspections you would like to order and may ask for the details about the home (like whether it has a crawlspace or slab, age, repairs/permits, etc.). Some inspectors have more certifications and qualifications than others and can offer more types of inspections and reports for the consumer. It can be overwhelming when trying to decide what to order when on the phone with the inspector.  This is a great conversation to have with your experienced Realtor when you are touring the home.  They should be able to guide you on what inspections to order depending on the age, condition, permits, and location of the home, and if there are any required reports needed for your loan or homeowner’s insurance.

Inspectors will likely ask you if you want a wind mitigation report and a four-point inspection.  This is a tricky one.  These are reports that insurance companies can request and if they document things that reduce the insurance companies’ risks the insurance carriers can provide discounts.  If they document things that insurance companies perceive as increasing their risk, they will not provide you a discount, and may even charge you more for the premium.  My recommendation when ordering is to ask the inspector if you can decide later without a penalty.  The reports require certain pictures to betaken by the inspector and submitted on an approved form. If the inspector does not take the pictures when he does the rest of the inspection, he will need to return for those pictures to complete those reports.  It is likely he will charge you to return to the property and take those pictures. Most inspectors will take those pictures and discuss the possible outcomes with the buyers before charging them for writing up the report and filling out the forms, but you have to be clear when ordering those inspections.

Are Home Inspections Required?

Unless you are purchasing a home in Tallahassee with a VA loan, you are not required to have a home inspected by a professional.  For the first time home buyer, this is NOT an area to save money.  While there are only a couple of circumstances where inspections are required during the home buying process, an unbiased evaluation of the condition of the property should always be recommended by professional Realtors. What inspections are recommended depends on the buyer’s loan, buyer’s experience, location of the property, age of the property, and insurance required reports.

Even if inspections are not required, it is a great idea to get your potential home inspected before the end of your contingency period. In most circumstances, if you find something out about the home that is a deal breaker (inspections and financing most common issues) during your contingency period, you can cancel the contract and receive your deposit/binder back from the title company. In fact, we think it is such a good idea to get an inspection, we will ask you to sign a waiver and not hold us responsible if you choose to not have the house inspected. Even if the buyer is a licensed building contractor, we will ask you to sign the waiver if you choose not to have an inspection. Inspections are super important!!

What Inspections do Buyers Need to Order?  

Assuming there is no loan required inspections, the buyer ‘needs’ to order the inspections that will provide peace of mind and answers to the condition of the property and maintenance requirements for homeownership.  This means knowing what systems your potential new home has and this is a conversation to have with your Realtor before writing up an offer. Going over the sellers’ disclosures may provide specific areas of concerns for the buyers. If the contract calls for repairs, you can hire an inspector that is also a general contractor and can also provide a quote for those items (and be licensed to complete them).

There is a contract available to Florida Realtors that has language in it that requires the sellers to ensure all work has been properly permitted and if this contract is used, plan on spending a little more to hire an inspector knowledgeable about building codes and the permitting process in Leon County AND the city of Tallahassee.  Both departments have different processes and inspectors checking contractors’ work.

If the house is outside of capital circle, it likely has a septic system and may also have a well rather than being hooked up to a municipal water supply and sewer system.  In this case the buyer may want to have these systems inspected.  The septic tank needs to be pumped out prior to septic inspections.  The drain field is often the first part of the system to fail and this is an additional inspection and cost.

If the house has a wood burning stove, the buyer should also consider a chimney sweep and inspection. These costs around $300 and depending on the time of the year, it may take weeks to get on the inspector’s schedule.  There are only a couple qualified inspectors in the Tallahassee area.

Some neighborhoods in Tallahassee are hooked up to a community water supply even if the house has a septic system. Many of the homes in the Lakeshore area near the Tallahassee Mall are on city water and have septic systems on their lots. Lakewood Estates in N.W. Tallahassee has Talquin for water supply and septic tanks in yards. There are many homes in the Killearn Lakes area that area still on septic systems even though there is now hookup available for sewer. However, if these septic systems fail the homeowner will be required to pay to hook up to the sewer system.  There are circumstances where buyers can get a free pump out and inspection by calling the Department of Health.

Inspections should help you understand your risks and identify any areas of maintenance concern.  All homes, even new homes, have maintenance requirements and like people, each home lives slightly different and that impacts the wear and tear on the systems of a house. Your inspector should be able to tell you what to keep an eye on and what not to stress about.  Also, your inspector should be able to tell you if repairs/remodeling is lipstick on a pig and/or hiding a potentially expensive trap.

How Much Does an Inspection Cost?

We recommend buyers budget between $500-$1,500 for inspections depending on the home and loan requirements.  Do not skimp on the inspections – they tell you the true condition of the home.  The general home inspection costs vary depending on the inspector’s qualifications, experiences, and licenses.  Most cost between $300-500 for the general home inspection. The insurance reports (wind hit / 4point) can be ordered at the same time for a discount and cost around $100-200 each for a stand-alone report. Septic inspections require a pump out before the tank and pump can be located and inspected.  This costs around$300-$400.  The drain field is the first part of the septic system that fail, and that inspection can add $200-$300 to the septic inspections cost.  This cost can also be impacted by how far the heavy trucks need to travel.  Well and water tests costs $200-$300 each and are also dependent on how far the contractor needs to travel for the inspection. More details below on what is included in each inspection and what to expect for costs.

How Do You Order an Inspection?

We do have inspectors we use regularly (check our page here), and we recommend checking out their webpages and/or calling and having a conversation with them about their experience and recommendations. Once you know which inspections you want to order and which inspector you want to use, please let your Realtor know. Inspections need to be coordinated with the sellers’ side and the inspector’s schedule.  Most inspectors collect payment information prior to inspections and expect to be paid before they release the report.  Very few inspectors will wait until closing to be paid. Too many of them have ended up working for free under those circumstances.  If this is necessary, there is a couple inspectors we have worked with that will agree to be paid at closing.  Full disclosure, we agree with the inspector that if the buyer does not close (& pay for the inspection) we will cover the costs for the inspection for the buyer.  We do not receive anything from any inspectors for recommending them, but we have worked with them many times in the past and can trust them to tell you the truth.

Are Inspections a Waste of Time and / or Money?

There have been a couple times that I felt that the inspection was a waste of time and money, but 99% of the time I highly recommend them because they do one of two things. They either find something significant that provides knowledge about a deal breaker and/or negotiating power or they find out that the home is solid with no obvious latent issues.  There are only two inspectors in Tallahassee that I would advise against using for inspections.  One of these I have used many times in the past but have experienced too many instances of rather large items being missed and now have removed them from my list of recommend vendors.  For example, the inspector missed that the roof had been replaced with tab shingles (cheap shingles) and instead said that the roof was at the end of its life.

The other inspector is not one I have personally met, but I have heard him talking to agents who worked for me and would rather not have the pleasure of meeting him.  His reputation is that he hates agents (certainly sounded that way) and spends hours and hours and hours going over the house for a report that is 99% photos and little explanation of what is important about those photos.

Hire a professional with licenses and credentials and they will provide you with an independent evaluation of the condition of the house and the risks you are taking on as an owner of the home. Very Few inspectors are yahoos not worth their time and charges, and most take their responsibilities to you, the customer, seriously.

What Loans Require Inspections?

There are only a couple loans that require any type of inspection in Tallahassee. The VA loans need a ‘clear’ termite report. Locally, that is called a WDO report, and WDO stands for Wood Destroying Organisms. The inspector looks for all types of wood destructive critters, including beetles, bees, fungus, and termites.  If the home is on well water, the VA requires an independent water test too – more on that below.  Some FHA loans require all the appliances (if included in the contract) to be in working order.  This is not an inspection that the buyer orders.  It is something the appraiser will check when he is doing his evaluation for the appraisal.  All loans require appraisals, but not all appraisals are equal in their examination of the conditions of the houses.  Sellers – the VA appraisals are generally the strictest in their criteria.

What Are VA Loan Required Inspections?

There are three required inspections for VA loans:  WDO, water (if on well), and an appraisal.  When using the VA loan option in Tallahassee, your agent should put language in the offer contract that the seller agrees to provide a ‘clear’ or ‘clean’ WDO report. Usually in Tallahassee, the veteran-buyer is expected to order and pay for the inspection from a licensed pest control company and provide the inspection report to the seller. Sometimes local pest control companies will allow veterans to pay for this report at closing (especially if they have negotiated for the seller to pay some or all closing costs).  Again, they will ask that you pay them should the home not close for any reason.

Some sellers provide the clean WDO when putting the home on the market.  Be aware of date of the report, most lenders want it dated no more than 90-120 days from closing.  If the report is older, the buyer should be prepared to order a new report from a reputable pest control company.  Check with your lender if the seller’s clear report is acceptable.

The other inspection the buyer should be prepared to pay for prior to closing (or if the home does not close for any reason) is the water test.  The lender needs to make sure the water is safe for drinking and meets health and safety guidelines.  The water will be tested for pollution and contaminants.  This only applies to homes that are on well water for drinking purposes. While some agents will collect the water sample themselves, the federal rules require that the water be collected by an independent examiner.  There are only a couple companies in Tallahassee who travel to the house, collect the water sample, and run the required tests for VA loans.  If you are purchasing a home in Jefferson, Gadsden, Wakulla, Madison, or any other outlying county, be prepared to pay for travel expenses for the water to be collected by the examiner.

The appraisal is ordered by the bank. In the Tallahassee area, the pool of appraisers who can completed a VA appraisal is smaller than a ‘normal’ appraisal. This may require more time to order and complete when the market is in selling season.  The buyer usually never meets the appraiser and will receive the report from the lender.  The report belongs to the bank and no one will know the value unless you share it. More about VA appraisals on the appraisal page.

Who Pays for the Inspection for VA Loans?

In Tallahassee, the buyer chooses the inspector and pays for the termite and water inspections for the VA loans. The appraisal is a separate type of inspections and is ordered by the lender.  The veteran-buyer can order any additional inspections he/she wants, along with the termite inspections.  In Tallahassee, a clear termite inspection is required to close on VA loans.  The termite inspection is called a WDO inspection. That stands for Wood Destroying Organism and covers anything that attacks wood on your home.

The veteran-buyer may choose from many pest-control companies in Tallahassee to provide a WDO report. These companies are licensed by the Florida Department of Agriculture (DOA) and the WDO report is provided on a DOA approved form. Most general home inspectors are not also licensed to provide a WDO report (unless they also happen to be pest control experts too).

Sellers are required to provide necessary repairs for the WDO inspector to ‘clear’ the report.  The seller cannot provide a clear report from another inspector as proof they have completed the required repairs. Lenders want to see the dirty (where destroyed wood was found) and clean (wood pest free) WDO reports if there are any repairs required by the initial inspection.  The clean report will be rejected if it is completed by a different company than the one that initially found the wood destroying organisms.

Sellers may find out that they have been living with destroyed wood for a long time.  In my experience, we have found more than one chimney flashing fail at the roof and cause wood damage all along the wall near the chimney from the roof to the foundation.  More than one seller has called the contractor to replace just that little bit of wood rot on the door only to find out the entire wall was structurally unsound. I recently sold a house to a veteran that had extensive termite damage throughout the master bathroom (and closet) walls. Good thing we had the sellers provide the termite bond to the veteran buyer.  The damage was repaired by the termite company holding the bond and the new owners were made termite free.

Veteran buyers will also order and pay for the water testing for the private well.  If the water testing company is not physically close to the house, they will likely charge to travel to the home and back to their lab. The water is tested for health and safety. The water test results are submitted to the lender. If there are any causes for concern (high lead, bacteria, etc.) the seller will be required to address the issue before closing.  This may require the buyer ordering and paying for a second water test to ensure the water is safe to drink.

What Inspection Results Disqualify a Home for a VA Loan?

The thing I see most often in the Tallahassee area disqualify a home for a VA loan is the appraised value.  VA appraisals are covered in more depth elsewhere on our webpage, so let us go over the home inspection results that can derail a closing outside of appraisals.

The second most common thing we have seen is wood rot not being cleared on a home.  Even though the sellers often have the ‘dirty’ WDO within the first two weeks and at least two weeks to repair the damaged wood, they often miss spots. Sellers often seem to wait until the last minute to address the wood damage and two things happen.  The contractors cannot make the contract timeline and/or the inspector does not have time on his schedule to return and verify that the contractor found all the spots of damaged wood.  If there is a lot of wood rot, or it is in places not expected (door frames and spaces above hard surfaces where rain bounces up is expected) the buyer should request the inspector to provide a graph on the type and location where he found damaged wood.  We also find that giving the contractor the number of the WDO inspector and have him ask any questions he needs to ask to locate all the damaged wood.

The WDO inspector will not move items to complete his inspection. This includes vinyl siding.  The inspector may suggest removing the siding to inspect behind it – especially if he sees signs of damage on wood near, but not hidden by, the siding.  In cases like these where further investigation may create damage to the house, get the seller’s permission before continuing. The buyer is responsible for repairing any damage (other than the pest damaged wood) that is done during inspections.

While a bad water test could impact the ability of the VA loan to close, generally the issues are easily treatable. This is not an issue I have seen or heard about in our area for VA loans. Like all things, the seller should address this issue immediately, for his own safety even if the house does not close.

Sellers – I do not recommend doing the repairs yourself, even if you hold a general contractors’ license. Buyers are leery of owners completing repairs themselves, even though contractually they may be allowed to do so. You're probably not trained to recognize whether a beam or post is structural, and this is essential information when making repairs. I have worked with buyers who refused to close when the repairs were rejected. (In their defense, among other issues - the seller had repaired the vinyl siding with a different color and texture of siding.) I have seen a well-intentioned sellers replaced damaged wood under a window and end up with a sinking window letting rain inside the drywall and caused a repair nightmare that would have been much simpler and less expensive if the contractor had been called first.  Please do not wait on ordering the repairs.  Excellent contractors are often booked for weeks in advance during the summer. If there are a lot of homes being sold, it may take a day or two for the inspector to return to the property to ensure all the wood has been repaired.  The loan cannot close until the inspector’s FINAL report has been reviewed by underwriting and that can take 2-3 days.

Why do Sellers Hate VA Loan Inspections?

There is good reason for sellers being leery of accepting offers on their home requiring VA financing.  There used to be items the seller was required to pay on behalf of the veteran-buyer, which sometimes created problems when buying foreclosed properties owned by quasi-governmental entities. Fortunately, these loans are easier to close now than they were even five years ago. Never underestimate the importance of the lender and his/her reputation when buying a home with one of these loans. There is a component of scrutiny involved in appraisals that is subjective.  Sellers often feel that subjectivity has turned against them.

Even though they are easier than they used to be, they do have more scrutiny than other federally backed loans. Most sellers accept that their home needs to be in good condition for a veteran buyer, their frustration often comes from trying to complete repairs from vague reports.  It is these vague reports that create confusion between buyers and sellers on the extent of there pairs.  Sellers can feel their proceeds slipping through their fingers and it feels like they have no control of the costs of the repairs while the inspector and contractor keep disagreeing on who is at fault.

After the inspection period, it is not necessarily over for the sellers, because the appraiser has an inspection to complete as well.  The appraiser can make exceptions in the report that states that the value of the house is conditional upon certain repairs being made.  These repairs need to be complete and the appraiser will need to return to the property to verify these repairs have been complete before closing (leave at least 3 days between last inspection and closing for final paperwork to be completed and make its bureaucratic way through the process).  Local appraisers have required new roofs, railings around decks, ground concrete in the driveway, cleaned flues, and many other minor and major issues.  Sellers – it is a good idea to have a home inspection prior to listing to see if there are any code violations that you should address for health and safety reasons.

How Much do Termite Reports for VA Loans Cost in Tallahassee?

The VA loans need a ‘clear’ termite report. Locally, that is called a WDO report (Wood Destroying Organisms). The report costs around $200-350 depending on the square footage of the house. The inspector looks for all types of destructive critters, including beetles, bees, fungus, and termites. The WDO inspection is ordered from a pest control company and the report is completed on a Department of Agriculture form.  The biggest expense can be the repairs required to remove all damaged wood from the home.  Hire a professional to make sure none of the damaged wood is structurally required. If the damage is structural, hire a professional with the license necessary to make repairs.  Most repairs in the Tallahassee area are below $500.  Sometimes the inspector will charge a follow-up fee to make sure the repairs have been completed.  These are usually under$100.  Check with the inspector before ordering.  It might be more cost effective to hire the slightly more expensive guy if he does not charge the travel fee.  The worst case scenario I have seen is the WDO inspector making six trips to the house before the contractor was able to find and correctly remove and replace the damaged wood.

How Does Location Impact What Inspections I Need?

If you are considering buying a home outside of city limits, you are likely purchasing a house that has a well and septic.  Municipal governments are only able to run water and sewer lines within limited geographic area – like downtown or developed subdivisions. If you live in the Killearn Lakes area of Tallahassee, sewer has been available for a while now and if your septic system fails, you will be required to hook up to that sewer system.  That can cost thousands depending on how far the pipes must run and the time of the plumber. If you plan to purchase a home outside of the city limits, consider inspections that test the well, the well water, the septic tank, and the drain field. If you have a wood burning stove or fireplace, hire a chimney sweep to inspect the integrity of the flue.  More on those inspections below. Also, many contractors will charge by the mile for travel, so many owners in outlying counties will fix issues themselves.  This Do-It-Yourself mentality is a good reason to get a home inspected thoroughly.

What Are the Most Commonly Ordered Inspections for Buyers?

Most buyers we work with order at least the general home inspection, many also order the termite inspection (called a WDO inspection). We also recommend that buyers consider ordering a radon test.  Radon is a naturally occurring gas in the ground that can seep into homes and cause health problems – including cancer.  The test costs around $200 and issues can be easily mitigated if the test reveals levels are higher than recommended for safety.  For homeowners buying in the more rural areas, most order the septic inspected as well.  If the home has a wood burning fireplace, it is a really good idea to have the chimney swept and inspected as well.

Can Inspections be Done in the Rain?

Most inspections can be completed in the rain.  Most inspectors will not be able to get on the roof to make a close visual inspection because those shingles (and ladder) get slippery in the rain.  Many inspectors do not walk on roofs but if there are any signs of issues with potential wear or worn flashing (that shiny stuff that keeps water from going down holes in your roof caused by plumbing and other vents), you might also want to have a roofing professional check out the roof.  If there is some concern that the roof may be rejected by insurance, pay for the inspector to write the letter for your carrier letting them know approximately how many years of life is left for the roof before it needs to be replaced.

Anyone who has lived in Tallahassee during the summer has experienced those torrential downpours that have been known to wash away carelessly parked cars.  Those downpours flooded Tallahassee daily in the rainy season before city and county planners finally got a handle on that storm water.  If possible, check out how the home you are purchasing handles that water.  It will give you an idea how it would handle a ‘water’ event also known as a tropical storm.

Can Inspections be Done on the Weekends?

Most inspectors DO NOT work weekends. That being said, most of the inspectors we work with regularly will make an exception for us if there is a compelling reason.  The buyer does not need to be present to complete the inspection.  The seller is usually requested to not be present as well. In the seven years I have been helping buyers purchase homes in Tallahassee, only once have I had an inspection on the weekend.  In that case, it was in the middle of a selling season and the inspector was booked for every workday in the 15 days of the inspection period.  We called in a favor and had the inspection on a Saturday to meet the contingency period for the buyers.

Are Inspections Public Record?

No.  Inspections are not public record.  
I am friends with many inspectors on Facebook and recently one of them was complaining about a seller who had shared their report with a new buyer.  The inspection report was not compiled for that seller or the new buyer.  It was completed for a buyer that had chosen to terminate their offer based on the findings in that inspection report.  The most commonly used contract in Tallahassee requires the buyer to provide the seller with the inspections reports when terminating for inspections.  Sellers are often advised they need to share that report with future buyers as full disclosure under Florida law. I have heard many agents advise their customers that inspection reports will haunt sellers if they do not address the issues found.

If you are the buyer that receives that report and you have questions, offer to pay the inspector for his time or a reinspection for a reduced fee.  It may be worth it to hire your own inspector that you trust or the specialist to review the areas of concern noted in the original report.

Are Inspections Worth It?

It depends, don’t you hate that answer? Here is what it depends on, in my experience if the buyer is looking to use the inspection as leverage in further negotiations it works about half the time.  If the buyer is looking to make sure they understand the condition of the house they are investing in, it is worth it as long as the buyer feels confident in the inspector. It also depends on the quality of the inspector and the thoroughness of their report and their ability to answer the buyers’ concerns and questions.

There is a certain inspector I recommend when looking for things that are missed by other inspectors. He has more certifications and education than most of the other inspectors I know, combined. He recognizes code violations and provides documentation of them in his report.  He knows that I will share that report with the seller and is not afraid to explain to sellers what he found in the house.  I once had buyers I worked with hire him once to inspect a house he had often worked on for the sellers (he is also a general contractor).  I was about to wonder if there was a conflict of interest when he told me about an issue he had been pointing out to the seller for repair for years.

Is it Safe to Choose the Inspector my Agent Recommends?

Depends on the agent in Tallahassee. Most agents have a list of inspectors they recommend and have used. Some inspectors are used widely by many brokers and during the summer months, their schedules can fill up quickly. There are some agents in Tallahassee that recommend buyers only use their recommended inspectors because they feel they have some control over that inspector and what he will say.  I have even had inspectors tell me that there are agents in Tallahassee that have offered money in exchange for not putting items in an inspection report. Bad agents should be reported.

When selecting inspectors, pay attention to two things: communications and qualifications. Whomever you pick is going to be helping you decide on one of the biggest investments of your life.  Be sure you feel comfortable that they are going to give you an honest review of the house.  Can they tell you bad news in a way that makes sense? You do not want someone who is going to make you feel like panicking over every suggested repair. Second, they should have at least the minimum qualifications to be an inspector.  In Florida, inspectors are licensed by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation. Their database is searchable online, and I recommend making sure your inspector is properly licensed as claimed.

Please do not select your inspector based on pricing alone.  The least expensive is not always the best.  Generally, the price is reflective of experience and the number of certifications and qualifications an inspector has completed.  Some inspectors also hold general contractor or building licenses as well.  Most can give you an idea of costs for suggested repairs, maintenance, and improvements.  Many local inspectors will provide a discount to veterans and first responders (and sometimes single moms) if asked.

For the inspectors I recommend, I have used them all multiple times and know they will tell the truth.  For me and my team, we want buyers (and sellers) to know as much information about the home as possible when making financial decisions.  If it came to my attention an inspector missed something he should have caught, I pay close attention.  Mistakes happen, and I can understand that, but a mistake happening again and again is just negligence and off my list they go.  I have recommendations, but as always, if a buyer (or seller) has a preference, I am happy to work with any local professional.  (I have even worked with non-local professionals.  When helping a plantation owner expand his Real Estate, he flew his trusted maintenance professional from Alabama to inspect his potential investments.)

Who Reads the Home Inspection?

Unless specifically shared, the inspection report is only read by the person who has paid for the inspector’s time and expertise.  That means that the buyers’ lender will not know what is in the report unless the buyer shares it with them.  I do not recommend sharing this report with the lender.  They will have an appraisal completed that will make sure the house meets the conditions required by the loan.

The inspector should not share it with the Realtors on either side without the buyer’s permission.  If you do choose to share it with your Realtor, let them know if, how & when they can share it with the other side. If, as a home buyer, you plan to terminate the offer, or renegotiate terms, you will need to share the report with the sellers per the terms of most contracts.

There is not much of a downside to sharing it, though you may want to wait until you have had a chance to have a contractor price the most expensive parts of any surprises. Even if you have an as-is contract, surprises found in the inspection report, or repairs bigger than expected, can be a good reason to ask to renegotiate terms with the sellers.

Sellers just expect to be asked for something – even if you had a bidding war.  It looks bad when a seller goes back to market and even in a strong sellers’ market, some buyers will attempt to use this as leverage. When a home goes back on the market, buyers wonder what is wrong with the house, and sometime sit can take weeks to get another offer even IF you had a bidding war the first24 hours on the market.  Try not to get mad at the buyers for asking, even if they ask for the ridiculous.  My view is that the answer is always no if you do not ask.

Can the Buyer be Present for the Inspection?

Yes, and it is a good idea to meet the inspector and have him share what he found with you at the end of the inspection. Having him show you the problem will help you understand the problem and give you an idea of possible solutions.  Hearing it directly from the inspector will help you decide whether what he found is acceptable to you.  It is not a good idea to follow him around and pepper him with questions when he should be focused on finding potential problems.

Arrange to come at the end of the inspection or hang out with the Realtor and stay out of the inspector’s path.  This is also a good time to measure the living room and closets, decide where to put the couch, where to hang your favorite aunt’s photo, etc. This is the longest amount of uninterrupted time you will have to spend in your potential new home until you take possession of it at closing.  Take advantage of the time and daydream about your new home.

By the way, the Realtor is responsible for the property when they open the lockboxes, whether for the inspector or the buyer during a showing.  Many Realtors interpret that to mean that if there is someone else on the property, they need to be present to protect the seller’s property.

Can the Seller be Present for the Inspection?

Yes, the seller can be present for the inspection, but probably should not be.  For the same reason we ask sellers to vacate the property when having a showing, the sellers should probably give the buyer space.  This is usually the buyers’ chance to measure walls and layout furniture.  Give them that time to see themselves living in your house and they are more likely to get you to the closing table.  If sellers hover during the inspection process buyers may start to wonder what the sellers are concerned about the inspector finding and what the sellers may be trying to hide.  In Tallahassee, most contracts require that the buyer share the inspections if they terminate or negotiate repairs. If you disagree with the inspector’s findings, you will have a chance to ask him questions before you negotiate any changes in the contract terms.  It is nota bad idea to have a contractor you trust available to answer your questions as well and go over any inspection reports with you.  Please offer to pay him for his time and expertise.

Can Inspectors Complete Repairs?

Some can, depending on their licenses. Many inspectors are also builders or general contractors and they would be able to quote most repairs and remodeling. Even if the inspector does not have a building license, they are working in and around the trades and will likely have an idea of an expected budget for remodels and repairs.

HOWEVER, the inspector as a repairman will want to know who is paying for the repair, especially if the home does not close.  The seller may grant permission for the buyer to complete the repairs prior to closing, but this is not recommended.  Too many things can happen between agreement on the repairs and closing that can makes things go sideways and the buyer may end up paying for repairs on a house they never own.  If the seller is not agreeing to pay for the repairs if the home does not close, be wary.

Can a Inspector Estimate Repair Costs?

Most of them have enough experience with the construction trades that they can give you a ballpark estimate of repairs.  The general contractors will be able to writeup a proposal to complete the repairs and that can be used to help make decisions during the inspection contingency period.  I have seen buyers (and sellers) use the inspector to make repairs as well.  There is one inspector in town that has a builders’ license but will not bid the work that needs to be done that he points out on inspection reports.  He feels it is a conflict of interest.  He does not mind coming back to make sure repairs were completed properly and to code but prefers to not complete the repairs himself.

Can We get an Inspection Without the Seller’s Permission?

In the most common contract used in Tallahassee, the seller agrees in writing to provide the buyer with access to complete all inspections. Seller also agrees to have the utilities turned on during the inspections and until the day of closing.  The contract also states that the buyer is responsible for the costs of all inspections. In most cases, (when the buyer is represented by a Realtor) if the buyer is not satisfied with the inspection results, they can terminate the contract and receive their earnest money deposit back.  If the buyer is not satisfied with the inspector or the inspection itself, talk to the inspector. If that does not work, the buyer can often file a complaint against a licensee through a state approved process.

In Tallahassee, and in general, the seller grants permission for inspections when they sign the offer from the buyer.  Almost all contracts in Florida have an inspection period contingency where the buyers can decide NOT to purchase a home. There is no similar ‘cooling off’ period for sellers. Once the offer contract is signed, the seller is mostly locked down to the terms and conditions and cannot cancel the contract without a compelling and/or contractual reason. A higher offer is not enough reason.

In Florida, the courts can force a seller to sell, but they cannot force a buyer to buy.  I have only ever seen one seller successfully cancel a contract for sale once they had agreed to sell. In that case, the husband received a devastating health diagnosis that changed their relocation plans. They took that home off the market and did not sell at all and the buyer agreed not to pursue legal solutions.

Can Inspections Impact Negotiations?

Inspections can greatly impact negotiations in several ways, usually to the detriment of the seller unless they have a previous home inspection to rely upon.  If there is unlicensed work completed on the house or open permits in the system, an inspector will often note that in the report. Select your inspector carefully if you have any intention of using the report to renegotiate the terms of the offer to the sellers. Make sure your inspector (& anyone you use for quotes or additional reports) is licensed and certified as required by law.

Inspections should not be pursued with the intention of renegotiating the asking price.  When the buyer and seller sign the contract, we assume there is a ‘meeting of the minds’ and they both believe the other will act in good faith. Just as we like to believe sellers will be forthcoming in the condition of the house, we also like to believe that the buyers are not playing a game of ‘bait-and-switch’ with the sellers. Inspections should not be relied upon to renegotiate the terms of the contract.  Inspections are intended to provide the buyer with relevant information on the condition of the property they are purchasing. Most sellers will not renegotiate the terms of the contract until what is found is significant enough to scare future buyers away.

The inspection report can be overwhelming in its detail.  Most inspectors rate the severity of their findings in the first couple pages of the report (sometimes it is the last couple pages of the report – depending on the inspector). Findings should be backed up with photos and/or relevant codes.

Do Inspectors Need a License?

Yes.  In Florida, inspectors need licenses issued by either the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation or the Florida Department of Agriculture.  You can check for inspectors, builders, and other types of contractors here:  http://www.myfloridalicense.com/DBPR/ . You can check for pest inspector’s license here (and many other service providers):  https://www.fdacs.gov/Business-Services

What Should I Expect on Inspection Day?

Once you selected your inspector and paid their fee, or made arrangements for payment after, the Realtor sets up the appointment time coordinating with the inspector, the seller, sometimes the seller’s agent, and the Realtor’s calendar can be a challenge. Buyers do not need to attend the inspection.  It is a good idea to meet specialized inspectors at the property at the specified time.  Give the general home inspector 2-3 hours depending on the size of the house, then meet with him to have him show you what he found during his inspection.  Usually inspectors will send their reports via email the next business day (or two).  Some inspectors have programs that help them write their reports and will give the report buyer secured access through a website to their report. Most reports are 10 pages or so of check boxes of what was observed during the home inspection (gas or electric hot water heater, approximate age of roof, etc.).  Many inspectors will note health and safety violations in red on the report.  Please review the inspector’s report carefully before the end of the inspection contingency of your offer contract.

Do We Have to Pay for an Inspection in Order to Cancel the Contract?

No. You do have to pay for any home inspection you have ordered, regardless of whether you purchase the home or not. The most commonly used contracts for Real Estate in Tallahassee do not state that the buyer must purchase an inspection from a licensed inspector.  However, if there ARE any inspection reports, the buyer does agree to share them with the seller in that same contract’s boiler plate language.   The buyer has 10-15 days to investigate the house and surrounding neighborhood and area before they make their final determination that they want to purchase (and often live in) the home. The house may be great and in perfect condition (never happens – not even new construction) but the neighbor yells and screams at anybody that parks within 6 feet of the mailbox and buyers decide that they do not want to be next to ‘that’ neighbor.  Maybe the buyers find out that turning left on Meridian Road between 7:30am and 9am is a life-threatening endeavor.  Buyers can terminate their offer contract for any of these, or many other, inspection reasons without ever purchasing an inspection report.

Are Inspections Included in Closing Costs?

No they are usually not included in closing costs, unless prior arrangements have been made with the lender and the inspector. In Tallahassee a home inspection costs around $400 and takes 2 to 3 hours, depending on the size and age of the house. A professional (licensed) inspector has standards set by the American Society of Home Inspectors. The inspector will visually inspect the home and look for issues with deferred maintenance and anything that might impact the value of the house.  I do not recommend hanging out the entire time (of course you can if you want to), but I definitely like the buyer to come at the end and hear from the inspector himself what was found. The inspector’s job is to find problems and sometimes if the buyer only reads the report and does not hear from the inspector, written problems can seem like a much bigger deal than they are for the home.

What Does the Home Inspector Inspect and Look for?

They are looking for safety and health hazards, water damage, signs of structural decay, problems with the framing, heat damage, neglected maintenance, excessive or abnormal wear and tear, unprofessional work, hidden defects and damage, etc.  If there is a crawlspace, the inspector should be planning to go under there and take pictures.  He is looking for a vapor barrier, cracks in the foundation, signs of water, mold and fungus, etc. You want a vapor barrier to keep that area as dry as possible.  Some vapor barriers also reduce the amount of radon that seeps into the house (more on that below under radon inspection).  If there is water under in the crawl space, or even if it is just perpetually damp, that can lead to mold and mildew growing into the house and living areas, and/or it can lead to structural damage of the foundation and floors.

We often have the opposite problem with the attic – especially if there are any mechanical items up there – the temperature in the attic can be extremely high.  In Tallahassee, there are a handful of neighborhoods that have traditionally put the water heater, or air handler, in the attic. Because we have high temperatures and the summer sun can be brutal, many attics become furnaces during the day.  Many inspectors request morning inspections for this reason. I have also personally witnessed attics in Tallahassee with temperatures over 150 degrees – too hot for an inspector to explore. This is definitely not ideal working conditions for any mechanical systems up there either.

Inspectors will also walk around the outside of the home and check the siding, soffits, walkways, driveways, railings, stairs, and the electrical panel.  The electrical service panel is usually located in the garage and access to it should never be blocked.

Sellers – please make sure that the service panel is completely accessible. Do not make the inspector reach over anything or have to maneuver that panel past anything.  The insurance companies require a picture of the electric box without the cover. They also require pictures of the attic structure. While you will not need to provide a ladder, please make sure there is space for the inspector to carry his ladder from the garage door to the attic access.

What is Included in the Inspector’s Report?

The report the inspectors send is generally 5-6 pages of general descriptions and 20-30 pages of pictures of things they found of interest.  Save this report and refer to in every year or so, just to make sure those pictures do not change

Some buyers will use the inspection as leverage to lower the price of the house or demand repairs.  Sometimes that works, depending on the request and the seller’s priorities.  In most contracts written in Tallahassee, the seller is under no obligation to complete any repairs.  As a buyer – be wary of being in the position of paying for a repair on a home you have not closed on yet.  This is never a good position for a buyer to be in and would be a deal-breaker in most cases.  Sellers – if the repair impacts value or is required by the lender – this may be something that can be completed prior to closing and paid by the closing.  The question to answer here is who is on the hook for the repair if the house does not close?

Do I Need a Roof Inspection?

If the roof is missing shingles, is starting to sag, or has shingles starting to curl, or there was no permit pulled, the home inspector may recommend having a roofer estimate the remaining life for the roof.  Depending on how much asphalt has run off the shingles, the inspector can give you an estimate on how much longer you can count on that roof to protect your home.  The first things to fail on a roof is usually anything that goes through the roof, like chimneys and plumbing vents. Each of these items has flashing wrapped around them designed to keep the rain from going into the attic and compromising the structure of the roof.  The flashing can be eaten away by time, weather, and pesky animals. As a homeowner, check regularly for wear and tear on flashings and leaks inside the attic.

In Tallahassee, I see more roofs and water damage being negotiated after inspections more than most other items. That is because roofs are one of those things that insurance companies are starting to look at closer.  After decades of misses, Tallahassee was struck 4 times in 5 years by major storms and insurance companies started to pay attention.

The danger of skipping the roof inspection is the nasty surprise that can come in the form of a cancellation letter from your insurance company. Insurance companies will send inspectors out to verify the condition of the home outside of the inspection process of the buyers. Often this is done months after the house has closed and you will not necessarily know when or if there is an inspector even coming. If there is any question about the age and condition of the roof – deal with the insurance company up front.  Send them the roofer’s letter and ask them to put their requirements in writing for you – before you close on the home.  Some insurance companies require at least 5years of life on the roof and some will insure a home with 2 years of expected life remaining.  Check with your agent (or choose one from our list) to see what documentation they need (wind mitigation report and/or 4point inspection report depends on age of house and/or roof, roofer’s certification, etc.) and what they recommend.

Should I Have a Home Inspection Before I List my Home?

Yes! Sellers feel that they know their home better than anyone else and that is absolutely true.  Even sellers that are vigilant (and many are not) about maintenance may have missed a small dark corner with a potential problem. For example, many sellers do not explore their crawlspace or the corners of their attic regularly and this is often where small problems can become bigger problems because they are undetected.

It is a good idea to have a professional crawl around your home and look for any problems just like a buyer’s inspection will once they are under contract.  The seller does not have to repair or address most problems that are found, but the information will help arm the seller for the negotiation process. If the issue found impact the value of the house or the structural integrity, the seller will want to consider fixing it (whether the house sells or not). Start by getting quotes from a couple contractors and even if you chose not to fix the issue, the quotes will help defend against buyer’s low ball offers.

Many sellers feel that since the market is so hot and there is such little inventory on the market, it does not matter the condition of the house because there is some buyer desperate to live there.  In response to this, many buyers feel that there is nothing in Real Estate that money does not solve.  Sellers may not even realize that there have been neighborhood changes that impact the desirability of their home to potential buyers. For example, when homes were built in Indian Head many had a single bathroom.  Those homes are now structurally obsolescent since buyers now expect two bathrooms.  Sellers in Killearn Lakes may have a septic system that buyers do not want and that will impact what a buyer is willing to pay. This is another reason to hire a Realtor that works with both buyers and sellers regularly.

How has COVID-19 Impacted Home Inspections?

The COVID-19 virus has not impacted home inspections a whole lot.  The market took a small downturn in the spring and then came roaring back. Many inspectors have been busier with the increased volume but were already prepared to go into the crawlspace with personal protective gear so adding a mask and booties before going into a home has been no big deal.  The only really impact I have seen is that they now ask whether you prefer the inspector to wear a mask when talking to you.

Can Home Inspections Detect Mold?

Yes, you can have the home inspected for mold.  However, the average home inspector is not qualified to test for mold.  Be very wary of anyone that points at a spot and calls it ‘black’ mold.  Even ‘mold specialists’ cannot tell by looking at a spot if it is a dangerous mold. Mold grows where there is water intrusion and in Tallahassee’s wet environment, we see a lot of it.  There are a handful of excellent testing companies in the Tallahassee area that can test for and remediate mold if they find it.  The source of the water will need to be addressed before they can remediate the mold and both may be costly depending on the source and extent of damage.

The inspector will come to the home to do a visual inspection and will swab and collect a sample of anything they find.  That sample will be sent to a laboratory for testing. The test results will be analyzed, and recommendations will be made on how to address the issue(s) they found.

In my experience, once there is mold in a house, it is extremely difficult to remove. (Over a bottle of wine, I can tell the story of the little mobile home on the gulf and its battle with mold.) If you know you have had water intrusion in your house, and have had mold issues, you can have an ultraviolet light installed in your air conditioning/heating system that will increase indoor air quality.  The ultra violet light makes most organisms sterile and this keeps their populations from growing. The lights can be dangerous if handled incorrectly, so please ask your HVAC serviceman what they recommend.

Who Can do Home Inspections?

In Tallahassee, most contracts do NOT specify who qualifies as a home inspector or what qualifies as a home inspection.  Meaning that Uncle Sam, can come inspect the property from his car as he drives by and if the buyer is satisfied with that, most everyone else will be satisfied with that. It is on the buyers to perform their due diligence and have any inspections they need to feel comfortable with home ownership for this particular house.  Unless your lender tells you otherwise, if you are satisfied, they are satisfied (pending appraisal, but that is another article).

We recommend hiring a professional inspector with a current inspector’s license and a business active in the Sunbiz database (Department of State’s record of businesses in Florida). Depending on the condition of the house, they may recommend having another professional to come give their opinion of any suspected issues.  Inspections are not an area to cut costs when buying a house.

Many buyers end up living in a house that they have only visited once for a 15-minute tour with their agent. When you see multiple homes in a day, you can forget the details and what you have in your mind may be different from the actual home. Inspections are a buyer’s opportunity to really look closely at the house for any deal breakers.  Do not be embarrassed to terminate if the house just is not going to work for you. I have worked with buyers that walked away from a home because they had to turn left on a busy road without a traffic light, did not have room in the master bathroom for TWO sinks, faced the wrong direction, or the house did not have the right ‘vibe.’  Whatever the reason or reasoning, the buyer can walk away during the first week of most contracts and receive their deposit back.

How do Home Inspections Work?

The process generally follows what the buyer (of the report) wants and is comfortable with and sometimes, if the buyer of the house, there are loan requirements.  VA loans will require the seller to repair any damaged wood.

  1. The buyer chooses what inspections they want.  This is a conversation to have at the house with the Realtor when you are deciding to list or making an offer on a listed house.
  2. The buyer chooses the inspector(s) and/or companies they want to complete the inspections.  Buyer should also make payment arrangements at this time and provide the inspector with their agent’s name and number (unless inspection your own house prior to listing).
  3. Buyer’s agent sets up the schedule based on the contract, the seller’s availability, the inspector’s, and the agent’s schedule.  Let your agent know if you want them scheduled for a certain day/time.  If this is an inspection before listing, your agent would probably appreciate being there at the end to hear from the inspector him/herself.
  4. On inspection day, the agent opens the doors and makes sure everyone follows the social distancing and mask rules. Agent is there to make sure home is left in the same condition as when he/she arrived (apart from any wood damaged by wood destroying organisms during the WDO inspection).
  5. Inspections are generally emailed that day or the following day to the purchaser’s email address and once payment has been received.  Most inspectors will not send the report to the buyer’s agent without express permission of the buyer.

How Does the Home Inspection Impact Appraisal?

The home inspection process is completely separate from the appraisal process and they do not impact each other. Both are dependent upon the condition of the house, however.  I have heard of buyers calling the appraiser and telling the appraiser that the inspector says the house needs a new roof hoping the appraiser will make the value of the house conditional upon receiving a new roof.  This can backfire.  The appraiser is under no obligation settle disagreements between the seller and buyer. In this case, the appraiser wrote that the buyer told the inspector to include a new roof in the value of the house. The buyer ended up terminating that one because the seller had already said no to the new roof and the appraiser’s comment was not enough for the bank to require a new roof.

How Long are Home Inspections Good For?

Inspections are only good for a limited time.  Time has a way of creating maintenance issues for your home.  The inspector’s job is to find and document the condition of the home on the day he inspects it.  If the house is in good condition, with regular maintenance, the house will remain in good condition.  If there is an active leak or another issue that should be addressed immediately, then the condition of the house can change drastically in a matter of months. If the seller is offering up an older inspection from a year or two earlier, it might still be a good idea to have that inspector come back and see if there are any new conditions or conditions he may have missed the first time.  Or have your own inspector look at the house.  More than once, I have seen inspectors find things that previous inspections have missed – including structural roof trusses.  The inspections are for the buyer’s peace of mind and information, when in doubt – order the inspection.

What’s Included in the Home Inspections?

The general home inspection is a visual inspection of the house, inside and out.  Inspectors will not move things to inspect and if they cannot see it, they will not comment on it. The downside of the visual inspection is that things can be missed.  Once when selling a home in Leon County, the seller had started packing up and placed all the boxes along the outside wall of the garage. We were working with the buyer and had inspections and the inspector noted that he could not see the condition of the wall behind the boxes and recommended that we have it inspected by the pest inspector.  The day before closing, during the buyer’s final walk through, the drywall on the outside wall was finally uncovered and there were small holes along the baseboards for several feet.  We called the WDO guy back and he found termites in the garage behind the brick. We still closed on time after some last-minute negotiations and contractor payment ‘set-asides’ at closing.

What Does a Home Inspection Look Like?

The inspection report is generally emailed by the inspector following business day after the inspection. There report is usually several pages of a form filled out to the specifics of your house. There are often several pages of photos with notes (indicating what the photo shows). It should cover all areas of the house inside and out, the roof, the foundation, the electrical system, the plumping system, each room, the garage, patios, and decks.  The inspector will check that each system and appliance is working in the way it was intended.  They will look at the roof and make an estimate on the number of years remaining.  They will look at the manufacturing information for the hot water heater, condensing unit and air handler, and note their location and any obvious maintenance issues.  They will look for deferred maintenance and potential problems with the landscaping (trees too close to the foundation or rubbing the roof, etc.). They will test all outlets and note any ground fault interrupters that are faulty (required to stop electrocution near water).

What Happens if the Home Inspection is Bad?

If you are the seller, you will want to weigh the costs and benefits of repairs with an experienced agent before putting your home on the market. Most repairs are not going to add value to your home but may help your home sell faster and with fewer renegotiations after inspections.

If you are the buyer, you will want to weigh the risks you are taking on during your home ownership.  Once you receive the detailed findings, you will need to evaluate the reported findings and decide whether there are any deal-breakers, such as serious structural defects, or deferred maintenance needing to be addressed. You may want to handle minor fixes yourself after closing to avoid nitpicking with the seller.  If you ask for fewer, or more necessary repairs, the seller may be more likely to agree versus asking for all repairs –including cosmetic items. If you are in doubt, talk to your inspector and ask those questions that are bugging you. Talk to your Realtor about what can be asked for (most anything) and what you would be willing to accept. Even with an ‘as-is’ it is not uncommon to negotiate unforeseen repairs found on an inspection.

For sellers given the ugly inspection report – in a strong seller’s market, inspections are one of the few areas where the buyers have any leverage. If the repairs are not negotiated and the house is put back on the market, the buyers may punish the seller depending on the situation.  Often buyers will ask to see the inspection report before making an offer and will ask what, if anything, the seller has or is willing to address.  Even in a seller’s market buyers can be fussy about the condition of the house they will be spending most of their time in for the next several years.

What Happens if the Sellers do not Provide Access for the Inspections?

In most contracts used in Tallahassee, the seller agrees to provide access and utilities to inspect the house. If the seller does not do so, they are in breach of contract.  In most cases, buyers terminate the contract and receive their deposit back and find another home.  Some brave buyers will have inspections without the utilities and take their chances that turning the power on (after they own it) does not reveal any major defects. If major defects do show up that are only detectable with the utilities on, and the sale has closed, the seller may be liable for repairs and damages that were not disclosed but should have been.

Sellers please note that even if you are selling a house as-is that has been vacant for a while, you will still need to have the utilities turned on for the inspections.  If the house was not winterized prior to being closed up, be prepared to be at the house when the water is turned back on. Pipes have a way of leaking and sometimes bursting when they have been left unsupervised for long periods.  Also, refrigerators and freezers often do not work properly when they have been stored unused. In our humid environment, houses without conditioned air can begin to retain moisture in the drywall and that can lead to a mold infestation.  It is best to keep the utilities on even if the house is unoccupied.  There are ways to keep your utility bill low (like turning off the hot water heater).

When Should I Order the Home Inspections?

As soon as possible, regardless whether you are the seller or the buyer!  If you are buying, wait until you have negotiated a contract for sale prior to ordering the inspection. Most contracts used in Tallahassee have a 10 to 15 day inspection period, part of the contingency clauses in the contract, that allows the buyers to obtain the information they need to decide whether this is the home for them.  If the buyer changes their mind about the sale, they need to terminate within that contingency period in order to get their deposit back.

When do I Need to Get a Home Inspected?

Unless you are a licensed home inspector or contractor, you should have the home inspected prior to listing or prior to buying (closing on) a home.  Most home inspectors can fit buyers into their schedule within the two weeks contingency periods. There have been a handful of times that the inspector I wanted to use was not going to be available in the time period I needed.  Most of the time, inspectors will find a way to fit you into the schedule even if that means meeting on a Saturday morning.

If you are scheduling the inspector prior to listing, give yourself a month or two to address any issues that may be found in the inspector report.  Talk to your Realtor about the findings to decide which issues you will address and which ones you will leave for the buyer.  This decision should take into consideration your budget and the likeliness of potential buyers to be turned off by cosmetic choices the seller makes.  For example, most of the time it is worth it to put down new flooring even if the seller suspects it will be torn out immediately.  Remember, in many ways, listing your house is like entering it into a beauty pageant.  You want to be more desirable than your competition.

How Long Does it Take to Get the Home Inspection Report?

Most inspectors will email their report by the end of the next business day after the inspection.  In the busy season, it may take another 24 hours, but should not be any longer than that.  The longer the inspector waits to write his notes, the more likely he will be to miss some detail.  Even in the busy season, the inspector should not take more than two business days to return the report the buyer (of the report).

What is not Included in the Home Inspections?

Things behind the drywall, vinyl siding, boxes, and locked doors.  Also, any specialized systems will sometimes be given a review and tested for operation, but not looked at in any depth.  In the summer, the heat is often not tested (especially when the air conditioners are working their little hearts out in the mid July heat). Sometimes the heat in the attic is too high for safe exploring. Some inspectors do not include the appliances.  Some inspectors do not check to see if each window opens properly.  Many inspectors can not test for lead, radon, mold & indoor pollutants, termites, and asbestos. Swimming pools, chimneys, wells, septic systems are also often excluded as well, depending on the inspector.

What is Most Often Missed in Home Inspections?

Inspections are not a pass/fail test and are intended to provide a professional and unbiased review of the condition of the house.  Most inspectors are qualified and intend to do an excellent job for their customer, but they are human and make mistakes or miss things.  The things that are missed most often include:

  • Code violations – including missing permits;
  • Leaks in dark corners (attic and/or crawl space);
  • Ventilation issues (sometimes only revealed in certain conditions);
  • Inoperable windows and missing screens;
  • Problems hidden by carpet, drywall and/or siding.

What Happens if the Inspector Misses Something Big?

This is a big fear of buyers (and me) in the home buying process.  There is nothing worse than closing on your new home only to find out that there is a significant issue that is going to cost several thousand to repair.  In most cases, it is on the buyer to have the property inspected to reveal any defects and they have likely signed something to hold the inspector harmless if he missed something. The buyer may consider that the seller knew about this defect and did not disclose it but proving that in a court with a preponderance of evidence is difficult.  However, if the issue was one that the inspector should have found and the inspector has decent liability insurance the buyer (now owner) may be able to file a claim on that insurance.  However, it will be the buyer’s responsibility to prove that the conditions of the house did not change between inspection and finding the issue.  In any event, it would be difficult to recover any damages should a major defect be discovered after the buyers have closed on the home.

Choose your inspector carefully. Buyers should attend the inspection (or make sure their agent does) and make sure inspector conducts a professional inspection including:

  • Works from a checklist;
  • Checks heating and air conditioning for proper operation;
  • Checks attic and crawlspace for water intrusion and other issues;
  • Takes plenty of pictures to document the condition of the house.

Do I Need an Inspection on New Construction?

At one point, we always recommended inspections on new construction before the drywall went up, but now it depends on the builder.  If the builder offers an excellent warranty and the ability to report and have issues corrected even after move it, we feel that having an inspection is less important.  There are things you should inspect yourself on the walk throughs - including the appliances and pluming fixtures, etc.  During walk throughs, and there may be many, your agent, or the builder's agent if you go that route, will help you develop what is called a 'punch list' that will contain all the items you wanted corrected before move-in.  Some builders are not as available after they have been paid and may tell you to call the plumber (electrician, roofer, etc.) and send him the bill.  Having an agent on your side will help deal with these issues if they get this far, and will help you find quality builders that are less likely to have issues in the first place.

What is the Wind Mitigation and/or 4-Point Inspection Report?

These are reports your insurance agent is likely to ask for if the house is over 15 years old, or the roof is over 7 years old.  Most any home inspector can complete these reports for you if they take the appropriate pictures during the inspection.  Those pictures are included on the insurance company's required forms. Generally, if the pictures include modern construction techniques desired by the insurance providers you will receive a discount on your insurance premium!! The year over year addition of the discount is usually more than the costs of the inspections.

What is a WDO Report?

Stands for Wood Destroying Organism inspection. We most commonly see termites, dry rot, and wood post beetles in our area. The costs run around $200 for the inspection and report. Some lenders do require a 'clear' WDO report in order to close. These reports can be done by most pest control companies.

Why Should I Order a Radon Inspection?

This naturally occurring gas that is formed by the natural radioactive decay of uranium in the soil, rock and water. Low levels of radon can be found in all 50 states and it is highly carcinogenic. This gas is colorless, odorless, and tasteless and unless you test for it you will not know if you are being exposed to it. In Florida, 1 in 5 homes has elevated levels of radon (over 4pCi/L) and radon is responsible for 21,000 lung cancer deaths every year in the US. The test costs about $150-250 for the entire home and if the tests come back higher than 4 pCi/L the remediation is fairly easy. The radon is blown or sucked by fan or pump out from under the house and most systems cost under $3,000 to install. This is a system to keep an eye on as a homeowner.  Ignoring radon can be dangerous and potentially deadly.  For the best results seller should simulate as much of a normal day as possible.  Keep doors and windows closed.

Should I Order a Septic Inspection?

Yes.  If listing or purchasing a home with a septic system, you should have it emptied and inspected by a licensed septic inspector. Also consider paying the additional charge and having them check the drain field and let you know about how much life you have left in the system. These costs about $350 for the pump out and inspections (has to be emptied in order to be inspected) and an additional $300 for the drain field. Please be aware these trucks are very heavy and are likely to leave tracks in your yard.  They do have long hoses they can use, but even with long hoses, plan for how to get those heavy trucks into your yard without crossing any water lines or other utilities underground.

Should I Get the Water Tested for Bacteria?

If the property is on a well, it is a good idea to have the water tested prior to listing, prior to purchasing and every year while living with a well.  Often the Department of Health offers to test water for free or a small fee. If you live with a well, the Department of Health recommends having the water tested every year for your safety and peace of mind. Dangerous bacteria can be tasteless and invisible, and lead to compromised immune systems.  If the water has bacteria at levels higher than recommended, it is relatively easy and inexpensive to treat. Usually it can be treated by dumping water mixed with fresh scentless laundry bleach down the well and running the water to each faucet and letting the chlorine sit in the system for several hours (overnight).Check the Department of Health’s website for specific directions.  When in doubt, hire a professional to treat it and make sure you retest the water before using it for drinking water.  As a seller, testing the water is an inexpensive way to provide buyers with a bonus for making an offer on your home.

The CDC says that drinking contaminated water leads to thousands of illnesses every year. The most common contaminants are nitrites and microbes and in some cases, the illnesses can be fatal.

How do we Test the Well for a Well Inspection?

If the house is occupied, collecting the water at the tap may be the easiest. The Department of Health has collection containers and will test the water for a nominal fee ($20-$30).  In some circumstances, they will even travel to the house to collect the sample for an additional fee ($30-$40).  Many private water testing companies can be found with a quick Google search.  Be sure to use a company associated with a qualified and certified laboratory.

If the house has been vacant, it may be advisable to run the well and water out for a while to make sure whatever had settled in the tanks has been flushed.  If you are purchasing a home with a VA loan, that water must be collected by an independent party and tested according to those federal guidelines. For example, the last time we had a buyer with a VA loan we used Akurit labs in Tallahassee.  When collecting water near the Jefferson border out Route 90 they charged $209 for the travel and test.  When we compared their price prior to ordering they were very competitively priced and highly knowledgeable.