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What does a Property Inspector do?

By Josie Myers
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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A property inspector is generally hired during the home buying process. The inspector's job is to provide information about the building being purchased. This information helps the buyer decide if the home or building is worth purchasing or if there are major defects that could effect the purchase decision negatively.

When a property inspector looks over a property, he checks everything that is visible. They are generally not held responsible for any internal issues like faulty wiring or plumbing hidden by walls. Each property inspector will have a disclosure listing their responsibilities and what errors or omissions they can or can not be held accountable for at a later date.

The general list of items that a property inspector will check include: heating, plumbing, foundation, roof, electric, appliances, air conditioning, doors widows, decks and patios. Some will also check any outdoor structures and swimming pools, but not all will. It is important to be sure beforehand if that they will cover any buildings that the potential home owner wishes to know more about.

There are other potentially dangerous conditions that a property inspector will look for as well. A radon test kit will usually be left in the basement of the building to check what the levels are. If desired, they can check for lead paint and most will keep their eyes peeled for asbestos while in an older home.

It is key to know of past damage in the building and if the condition that caused the damage can happen again. A property inspector will look for past water leaks, fire damage and evidence of termites and determine if the conditions are active or dead. For example, a home may have had termites at one point in history, evident by small holes usually in the basement structures. The inspector will advise if it is an active infestation or one that is long gone based on the age of the holes.

The property inspector will prepare a report at the conclusion of the inspection. Usually it will follow in the days after the inspection and will contain the information they pointed out to the accompanying home buyer during the inspection itself. This report will give a list of repairs needed and code violations as well as cost estimates for repairs. Some inspectors will also include pictures and local information that they believe may come in handy for the potential home buyer.

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Discussion Comments

By Clairdelune — On May 31, 2011

These posts have lots of good comments and questions. It can get complicated when buying a used house. What lurks behind the walls is a big issue.

My daughter and son-in-law bought a ten-year old house about two years ago. About a year later, there was a leak that went from the upstairs bathroom down to the basement. It was inspected when they bought it and nothing showed up.

With a house that is only ten-years old, you suspect shoddy work in the original construction.

My advice - always get a property inspection when looking for a house to buy. The inspector might not be able to catch every problem, but a good one will find most of them.

By everetra — On May 31, 2011

@letshearit - I don’t recommend the do-it-yourself approach for home inspections. A building inspector can do a professional job and home inspection costs are usually quite low when compared against the overall costs of buying the house. Fees usually range from $300 to $500, a small price to pay for peace of mind, and of course as you mentioned, the legal clauses in the real estate contract.

By MrMoody — On May 31, 2011

@popcorn - Property inspectors can in fact look at some of those things you mentioned. At one house we were planning to buy for example the inspector discovered some leaks in the upstairs bathroom. Upon further inquiry, we discovered also that the homeowner had whitewashed the first floor ceiling right below that bathroom area, because the leaks had seeped through and made yellow stains on the ceiling.

We asked if she would be willing to fix the leak and apparently she was not in a big hurry to do so, so we didn’t proceed any further. Leaks are sometimes a small thing, and the property inspector can even offer to fix them himself if it’s not a big deal, but I take it as a sign that if a homeowner won’t touch up something small, then there may be other problems that I’m not aware of—so I don’t go any further.

By popcorn — On May 31, 2011

If property inspectors are not responsible for checking things like internal plumbing and wiring, whom could you get to look at these things?

With older homes some of the problems are often found behind the walls, and replacing all the pipes or wiring could be very expensive. I have seen some home inspection shows where there were nasty surprises hidden behind walls.

Is there a way to make sure you don't buy a lemon when you are considering older homes?

I am quite worried about purchasing an older home and then having water leaking everywhere or there being a fire in a month.

By letshearit — On May 31, 2011

If you are planning on seeing a house and are in the process of touring it on your own, you can perform a simple property inspection yourself. There are lots of online lists that give you ideas of what to look for, especially things that would be red flags.

While you still have to hire a professional property inspection for legal reasons, a personal inspection is a great way to make sure you are not wasting money by paying a home inspector to come into a house with big issues. These lists include things like how to spot foundation cracks to looking for hidden water damage.

By SauteePan — On May 31, 2011

@Latte31 - That is sad, but I think that sometimes people fall in love with a home and forget that the home is an investment and they have to consider if it is worth buying.

Most people put a home inspection clause on their purchasing contract to safeguard them from problems like this. I know that bank owned properties are sold as is because the banks will not make repairs on the properties. In these cases you could always give a lower offer to reflect the cost of the repairs or simply look at another home.

I don’t know if this was the case, but I know if you are serious about buying a home you have to have a certified property inspector take a look at your home for your own piece of mind. I also think that when you hire a housing inspector you will learn a lot about what certain parts of the home should look like because the inspector will point out the damaged areas as well as the areas that are up to code.

By latte31 — On May 31, 2011

I just wanted to say that it is really important to have a property inspection because the home could have hidden damages that might be too costly to make buying the home worth it. I was watching a real estate program in which a couple bought a home without a home inspection and as a result they had to pay for all of the repairs themselves rather than having the sellers pay.

It turned out that the house had mold as well as a faulty furnace and some structural problems. It was really sad because for about $300 which is what the average house inspection costs, they could have saved themselves this headache and found a home that was better suited for them.

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