Dear Barry,

I’m confused as to what home inspectors are required to inspect and what they are not required to inspect. It seems that some include decks, while others charge extra for decks. Some include pools and spas, while others exclude these completely. What exactly is the scope of a home inspection? – Pat

Dear Pat,

Home inspectors inspect conditions that are within the standards of practice of the National Association Home Inspectors, the American Society of Home Inspectors, and similar state associations. These standards are available for viewing at the official Web sites for these associations.

The scope of a home inspection is not without specific limits and boundaries. Unfortunately, some home buyers hire inspectors without realizing the nature or extent of these limits, and misunderstandings in this area can produce post-purchase encounters of the worst kind.

Basically, a home inspection is a visual inspection only, limited to those aspects of a property that are accessible at the time of the inspection. Primary considerations in a home inspection are defined aspects of the plumbing, heating, electrical, roofing, and foundations systems, and more, plus any other conditions that might be required for home inspectors by state law. To ensure that buyers and other parties understand these bounds, home inspection contracts and reports specify particular aspects of a property that are included in the inspection and those that are not. When these parameters are not clearly understood, needless conflicts sometimes arise in the aftermath of a purchase.

As to your specific concerns, spas and pools are optional items in the home inspection industry. In areas where there are many pools, inspectors typically include these as part of their service, although often for an additional charge. In most areas, decks are included in an inspection, although some inspectors will base the inspection fee on the size of the decks, just as they would charge more for a larger building.

Before hiring an inspector, be sure to ask any questions you may have regarding the full scope of the inspection to be performed. This will help to avoid disappointments after the services are rendered.

Dear Barry

I bought my house six months ago. Since then, I’ve noticed leakage and dry rot at the garage window, as well as some rot at the doorframe. Neither the seller nor the home inspector disclosed any of this. Shouldn’t someone have reported these defects? – Mike

Dear Mike,

Sellers are not always aware of defects such as garage window leaks or rot at doorframes. A truly on-the-ball home inspector may pick up on the rotted wood, but that defect should have been reported by the pest control operator. Both inspectors, on the other hand, should have noticed water stains, unless the stains were concealed at the time of the inspection.

You should contact the home inspector and the pest control inspector. Ask them to come to the property for a review of these findings. See if they are willing to take some responsibility. If not, the repairs are probably not that expensive. Hopefully, the inspectors will help you correct these conditions.

To write to Barry Stone, please visit him on the Web at www.housedetective.com.

***

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