When buying a home, or selling for that matter, if financing is involved then its highly likely a home inspection is required. But what are home inspections? Who does them? And what are they for? All these questions are typical when buying a home, especially with a first-time homebuyer or someone who hasn't bought or sold real estate lately.

What is a Home Inspection?

A home inspection is an independent review, inspection, of a property's condition for that specific date and time.

Inspectors dawn their finest garb and safety gear to venture into the unknown of: roofs and attics, crawl spaces and foundations, kitchens and appliances (if they're in the home), electrical panels and circuits, plumbing fixtures and drains, and siding and driveways.

Inspections typically take a few hours, depending on the home's size, and follows with report containing inspector notes, digital pictures and recommendations. Inspections allow buyers the opportunity to understand a home's condition, what they maybe getting into, and determine if they want to proceed or not.

Who Can Perform a Home Inspection?

This is one of the most important sections as it may seem like a good idea to have a family member or friend conduct an inspection. This is from Annie T. Fitzsimmons:

Question:

"Using the Form 35 inspection contingency, must buyer hire a licensed inspector or can buyer have a friend or relative, who is a contractor, perform the inspection for buyer?  Aren''t there some exemptions to this licensing requirement?  If not, what should broker do when buyer announces that buyer intends to bring an unlicensed person to conduct the whole home inspection?"

Answer:

"Buyer can personally conduct their own inspection of the home and property.  If buyer personally conducts buyer''s inspection, then buyer is not required to have a license.

Any other person who conducts a home inspection, other than buyer personally, must have a home inspector''s license.  Buyer''s friend or relative who has a contractor''s license or who used to be an inspector or who has "done a lot of buying and selling" is prohibited, by law, from inspecting seller''s home.  There are no exceptions in the law that allow a person of this general type, to conduct the inspection for buyer.  The referenced law is RCW 18.280.010(6) and .020.

The law will allow certain other licensed professionals to participate in the home inspection process within the limitations of their professional license. (RCW 18.280.170)  For example, licensed engineers, architects, electricians, plumbers, structural pest inspectors and certified real estate appraisers can each participate within the home inspection process as limited by their own license.  An electrician may inspect the electrical panel but would be prohibited from inspecting the roof.  A plumber may be able to inspect the water and waste lines but be prohibited from determining whether a home is properly ventilated.

Simply put, there are no categorical exemptions to the requirement that any third party who conducts a home inspection must have a Washington State Home Inspector''s license.  Said differently, any person who conducts a whole home inspection, other than the buyer personally, must have a Home Inspector''s License.

In most cases, buyer cannot gain access to seller''s home for an inspection except with the assistance of either buyer''s or seller''s broker.  If buyer announces an intention to bring an unlicensed inspector through seller''s home, broker should not provide access to buyer for that unlicensed inspection. Brokers should not assist unlicensed inspectors to violate the law by providing access to those unlicensed inspectors.  Brokers should simply have a policy, across the board, refusing to allow access to "inspectors" unless the inspector satisfies the licensing law requirements discussed in this answer." Source NWMLS Bulletin.

Who Hires a Home Inspector?

Buyers and sellers of homes or some other type of structure. Not by lenders as some tend to confuse home inspectors with appraisers.

As members of the NWMLS, real estate brokers use 41D Home Inspection Disclosure Form which the real estate broker discloses the inspectors they recommend and their relationship. It was common to see real estate agents owning interest in home inspection companies and the needing for disclosure helps ensure a arms-length transaction.

The form is also used as a trusted recommendation since agents typically are working through home inspections on a regular basis. More times than not, buyers trust their agents recommendations as apposed too Googling it, though I am sure it happens. In the end, the inspector is hired by the person(s) who is(are) having the home inspection completed.

What are Home Inspections For?

As mentioned early, a home inspection is used to determine the property's condition for that particular day and time. Not a month from now, or a year from now, but that specific time. They are used to determine maladies, material defects, pest or rodent intrusions, and/or how good the home's condition actually is.

Home inspections are not for creating a seller's honey-do list or an opportunity to renegotiate the purchase price. However, some discovered items may become financing concerns and will need attention.

Can a Home Fail Inspection?

Yes. Yet be careful not to look at an home's inspection as passing or failing through a black and white lens.

A home only passes or fails inspection based on the comfort level the person has with the information found. One person's comfort level can be vastly different due to skill set, past history, and ability to do work one's self.

Sure, some homes are in terrible shape but to a general contractor, specializing in rehabbing homes, may see it as opportunity.

Are Home Inspections Required?

Sometimes. It all depends on what type financing, if any is used at all, to purchase the property. If a buyer is going using VA financing it is required by the lender but if the buyer is paying for a home cash then that buyer can choose to waive it. It is strongly recommended to have one or know if your loan requires a completed home inspection.

It is important to know what the condition of property is in prior to purchase, or get those honey-do items taken care and the property prepped for sale. Also, it is always recommended to have a home inspection prior to buying a home as not to be surprised in the future by costly repairs.