Find out what a home inspection really covers.
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By Dwight Barnett
Scripps Howard News Service
Q: My question concerns your recent article on home inspections. I purchased a home and had it inspected. After moving in, I found some problems that needed to be repaired that were not on the seller's disclosure form or in the inspector's report. Who is responsible for this, the seller or the home inspector?
A: There are a lot of misconceptions as to what a home inspection covers.
First, a home inspection is not a warranty or guarantee that the home or the parts of the home are in a good condition beyond the day of the inspection. A home inspection is simply a snapshot in time and cannot be used to try to predict what might happen to the home once the inspection is completed.
The inspection report also should not be misconstrued to be a code compliance inspection or an appraisal on the value of the home. I don't think it's possible for a home inspector to discover every defect during a two- to three-hour inspection. Some defects do not surface for months.
Secondly, a home inspector will use his best effort to try to discover those defects that can be found by a visual inspection of the accessible areas. But, for example, if the owner covers a water stain on a ceiling with fresh paint and does not disclose that the roof had leaked, the inspector most likely will not find the stain unless it happens to be raining on the day of the inspection.
Who is responsible? The seller, the inspector or both? The problem with the seller disclosure form or letter is that most sellers are not aware of some defects that they have. As far as they're concerned, the paint that covered the stain was a proper repair. As far as the inspector is concerned, the stain was not present at the time of the inspection.
However, if you have a major defect that was hidden by the sellers, they should be contacted to make restitution. If the defect was concealed but could be discovered by a prudent visual inspection, the inspector should be contacted.
If the defect or problem occurred after you bought the home, then welcome to the wonderful world of home ownership. Things break and need repairs. Granted, some inspectors are more knowledgeable and thorough than others. There are good inspectors and there are cheap inspectors. The question usually is, did you get what you paid for?
(Dwight Barnett is a master inspector certified by the American Society of Home Inspectors. Questions may be addressed to him at
PO Box 14091
Evansville, IN 47728
Or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org)