When purchasing a property, be it a home or commercial,  there comes that window of time where “you need to get a home inspection”.   What exactly is a home inspection?  Also, what qualifies someone to do home inspections?  What services should you request in a home inspection?  If you are not in the real estate business, this may not be second nature to you…

So this information will be helpful to understand what is to be expected, and what to look for when you want to find an inspector.

Qualifications

First off, if you are looking at property in New Jersey, home inspectors must be licensed.  The process for licensing of NJ home inspectors requires potential inspectors to complete academic training, field training, or experience equivalent, and the passing of an approved test.  For more information on NJ Home Inspectors laws and regulations, please refer to the NJ Division of Consumer Affairs – Home Inspection Advisory Committee at http://www.njconsumeraffairs.gov/hiac/hi_rules.htm, under HIAC Statutes and HIAC Regulations.  Once licensed, inspectors must maintain licensing, report on continuing education requirements, abide by the standards of practice, and adhere to a code of ethics.  Professional associations discussed below, contribute greatly to these meeting these requirements, and a majority of home inspectors belong to these non-profit professional associations.  They also provide a great deal of information for consumers as well, especially to understand the process and goals of a home inspection.  Please feel free to explore these organizations to learn more.

A majority of home inspectors belong to these professional trade organizations, both non-profit professional association for home inspectors, such as:

  • American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), website: http://www.ashi.org/
  • The International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI), website: http://www.nachi.org/

What Is A Home Inspection

In a nutshell, it is defined as an objective visual examination of the physical structure and systems of a house, from the roof to the foundation. The ASHI site has a page for consumers with a wide range of FAQs on inspections at: http://www.ashi.org/customers/faq.asp#1
It is also important to be aware of what may not be part of a home inspection, or at least, not a requirement per the standards of practice.  I, as most inspectors, must really make a safety judgment call when faced with these situations.  Generally speaking, as inspectors, we want to do everything possible to gather the most accurate information about a home for your peace of mind, but we cannot put you-our client, sellers or ourselves in danger.
These are a paraphrasing of items to consider:
If something is turned off, disconnected, disabled, or otherwise shut down, there is usually a good reason.  An inspector may not attempt to turn on or connect such components as it potentially could be unsafe, a hazard, or cause damage.  One simple example is the testing of an air conditioning unit in the winter.  Attempting to turn on an air conditioning unit when the temperature is below 65 degrees can damage the unit.
For safety reasons, Inspectors are NOT required to enter:

  1. Any area that will, in the opinion of the inspector, likely be dangerous to the inspector or other persons or damage the property or its systems or components.
  2. Under-floor crawl spaces or attics that are not readily accessible.

I have come across situations where I really wanted to see what was going on with the roof structure from the attic, but the only way in was a 12″ X 12″ hatch with no steps in a closet that we could not get a ladder in. This often happens with crawl spaces as well.