"The Ultimate Definition of a Home Inspection"
by Nicky DeBolt
March 25th, 2014
|Go ahead and Google "what is a home inspection?" or "definition of a home inspection." Google will supply several reputable sources; all providing their version of what defines a home inspection. Not surprisingly, these definitions originate primarily from the largest home inspection organizations. The three big dog home inspection organizations are International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI), National Association of Home Inspectors (NAHI), and American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI). Rightfully so, it is in the best interest of these leaders of the home inspection industry to lay down the framework of everything relating to home inspections, including the actual definition. Lets take a quick peek at how each organization defines a home inspection and then I'll give my two cents.|
|InterNACHI's definition of a home inspection:
"A general home inspection is a non-invasive, visual examination of the accessible areas of a residential property, performed for a fee, which is designed to identify defects within specific systems and components defined by Standards that are both observed and deemed material by the inspector." source
|ASHI's definition of a home inspection:
"A home inspection is a documented, professional opinion of a home-based on a visual evaluation and operational testing of the home's systems and components to determine their current condition." source
|NAHI's definition of a home inspection:
"Home Inspection: The process by which an inspector visually examines the readily accessible systems and components of a home and operates those systems and components utilizing the Standard of Practice as a guideline." source
Despite the competition between these three home inspections organizations, there seems to be a consensus on what constitutes a home inspection. The definitions do not vary drastically. In fact, there are three clear similarities and zero contradictions.
- "Visual examination | evaluation"
- A home inspection is primarily a visual task. "You see with your eyes, not with your hands," said everyone's parent at one point of our lives. And just as we are told not to touch something, we can't help to touch it! This visual aspect of the definition leaves room for debate amongst home inspectors. The interpretation of what is acceptable to access during a home inspection sometimes creates muddy waters. This confusion leads us to the second similarity.
- "Standard of Practice- SOP"
- Home inspection organizations work extremely hard to chlorinate the murky waters by providing a Standard of Practice. The SOP is designed to provide home inspectors with "minimum" guidelines on what should be inspected and reported in a home inspection. This minimum expectation is actually quite thorough and includes most and, in some cases, all major house systems. If a home inspector only adheres to the precise SOP of his/her organization, then clients will still receive a exceptional home inspection. Home inspectors can and often do modify the SOP to remain competitive or to fit personal philosophies. For example, as a InterNACHI Certified Colorado Home Inspector it is beyond the SOP to test all kitchen appliances, but this is a service that I have added to my Colorado home inspections. As a client, it is important to know how the home inspector has modified the SOP.
- "Operation or testing of readily accessible system(s)"
- "Readily accessible" is a descriptive term which inherently is left up for interpretation and judgement. What is considered readily accessible? Anything that poses a unsafe situation for the home inspector and the clients would be considered not readily accessible. One example of a not "readily accessible" system would be a roof that has a pitch of 12/12 (45 deg angle) or steeper. I don't know too many home inspectors that would risk walking a dangerously steep roof. Setting aside safety issues, the challenge in readily accessible systems is when judging the additional tasks necessary to access a certain house component. All home inspectors have been faced with making judgement calls about unforeseen situations. Do I move all the toys, Halloween decorations, and box of old books out of the way to access the buried furnace? Do I turn the gas on to test out the gas fire place? Do I climb on top of closet shelves to access the scuttlehole (attic access)? Do I slice and dice around an electrical panel that has been painted shut? I offer some tips about how to prepare for a home inspection to limit the amount of systems that may be skipped due to difficult and/or unsafe accessibility, but it is still a judgement call by the home inspector. There are always risked involved when attempting to inspect a system that is not readily accessible.
|DeBolt Home Inspection's definition of a home inspection:
I must have typed out about 13 different definitions and each one just resembled a paraphrased definition of what InterNACHI, ASHI, and NAHI have already articulated! I'll throw in the white flag and simply refer all readers to the above analysis for the definition of a home inspection. 8)