What are Home Inspectors Not Allowed to Do?


|14 min read

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If you’ve reached the stage of getting a home inspection on your property. You’re in the final stretch of the home-buying process. You’ve done your research, viewed homes, made offers, and finally, you’re under contract. It’s exciting and stressful.

If you have an inspection contingency in your contract, you’re protected if any significant issues arise in the inspection process. But, of course, that means you could be back to square one. No one wants a home inspection to go poorly – not the buyer, seller, agents, or even the inspector.

What is a home inspection?

A home inspection is a comprehensive evaluation of the overall condition of a residential property. Typically, this inspection is conducted by a professional home inspector. They will thoroughly examine the interior and exterior of the home, as well as its various systems and components. In addition, home inspectors know local building codes and construction regulations.

A home inspection aims to identify any issues or potential problems with the property. These can be structural defects, faulty electrical wiring, or plumbing issues. The home inspector will also evaluate the home’s HVAC system, roof, foundation, insulation, and other key features that can affect the property’s safety, functionality, and value.

Home inspections are typically performed before a home is sold. This is so that the buyer can decide whether to proceed with the purchase. They may also choose to negotiate repairs or a lower price, or back out of the deal entirely. However, home inspections can also be helpful for homeowners who want to identify potential issues with their property. They can decide to address them before they become more serious and costly.

It’s important to note that a home inspection does not guarantee that there are no problems with a property. Inspectors can only evaluate what they can see, and hidden issues may not be immediately apparent. However, a thorough home inspection report can provide valuable information and peace of mind for buyers and homeowners alike.

>> MORE: Finding a top local real estate agent is easy with FastExpert

If you need to connect with a home inspector, connect with top real estate agents using FastExpert. Experienced agents have guided their clients through hundreds of home inspections. They can usually provide their list of vetted home inspector referrals.

What do home inspectors look at?

A home inspector will typically inspect a wide range of components and systems in a home. They are looking for small, significant material defects that could cost new home buyers money. In addition, banks sometimes require a home inspection before issuing a loan to protect their investment.

Here are some of the items that a home inspector may look at during a typical home inspection process:

  1. Structural components: The inspector will do a visual inspection of the foundation, framing, and roof structure to ensure that they are sound and free from damage or deterioration. Furthermore, they check to make sure they meet local building codes.
  2. Exterior features: The inspector will evaluate the condition of the exterior siding, windows, doors, and other features to ensure they are correctly installed and maintained.
  3. Roof and attic: The inspector will inspect the roof covering, gutters, and downspouts for signs of damage or wear, and check the attic for proper ventilation and insulation.
  4. HVAC system: Home inspectors will evaluate the heating and cooling system to ensure it is functioning properly, and may recommend repairs or maintenance if necessary.
  5. Plumbing: Property home inspectors will evaluate the visible plumbing system (including the water heater) to ensure it works properly and is free from leaks or damage.
  6. Electrical system: Certified home inspectors will examine the electrical panel and wiring to make sure they are up to local building codes, functioning correctly, and devoid of faulty wiring.
  7. Appliances: The inspector may check the condition and operation of appliances included in the property, such as the dishwasher, stove, and refrigerator.
  8. Safety features: The inspector will check for the presence and functionality of smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, and other safety features.

It’s important to note that a home inspection is not a guarantee of the property’s condition. But instead a professional evaluation of its visible and accessible components at the time of the inspection. Therefore, home inspectors cannot inspect parts of a home that they can’t easily view without causing risk to themselves, others, or the property.

What are home inspectors not allowed to do? 

To ensure a successful inspection process and to be confident in the usefulness of your home inspection report, it’s important to understand what home inspectors are and are not allowed to do. It doesn’t matter who pays for a home inspection report. The home inspector is supposed to provide an unbiased opinion, which therefore requires some restrictions and regulations. While these restrictions can sometimes be frustrating, they are in place to protect all parties in a transaction. This includes buyers, sellers, banks, and agents.

Offer any additional services outside of the home inspection.

First off, home inspectors cannot offer services outside the scope of their inspection. That means that even if a home inspector has a background in construction, they can’t provide a homebuyer or seller a service that could correct a defect in their report. The purpose behind this restriction is to protect parties against unethical behavior.

>> AGENTS ANSWER: Should I do a home inspection?

Let’s look at an example of where an unethical home inspector could take advantage of unknowing buyers. Most homebuyers and sellers don’t have a deep understanding of buildings or construction. This means they have little option but to trust a professional’s opinion when told there is an issue. An unethical home inspector could tell a property owner that a roof needs repairing and then offer their services when the roof is in perfectly good condition. In this situation, the seller could be swindled into engaging in an unnecessary service.

To ensure sellers and buyers can trust the unbiased opinion of home inspectors, inspectors are prohibited from offering additional services outside of an inspection.

Do work or renovations on a home they have done an inspection on.

Home inspectors cannot do renovations for a previous home inspection client. Even if it’s been a year or two, a home inspector is not allowed to renovate the property they have previously inspected. Home inspectors must follow a set Code of Ethics like other real estate professionals. Homebuyers and sellers should know that it is actually illegal for a home inspector to be hired on a property they’ve inspected, so don’t try to engage them.

Risk their own or others’ safety.

No home inspector should ever risk their safety or the safety of others when performing an inspection. Inspectors are not allowed to climb onto roofs, enter for-off spaces, or handle any appliances that could be dangerous. Furthermore, home inspectors should refrain from trying to navigate around safety hazards like broken stairs or damaged floors. If a homeowner tries to salvage a few bucks and asks the home inspector to take risks, they could get hurt, leading to the homeowner having a legal liability. The home inspector is well within their rights to refuse to complete a component of their inspection if they deem it unsafe.

Move large items to inspect an area of a property.

If a car or large appliance stands in the way of a home inspector viewing a part of a property, they are not allowed to move it to complete their inspection. Large items can be safety hazards and must be addressed by property owners. If a homebuyer or seller wants access to an area of their property, they need to make sure it is clear before the inspection date.

Inspectors can’t cause property damage.

Sometimes, vital parts of a property are inaccessible due to impeding walls or other features. For example, if a home inspector cannot access a crawl space without causing damage to a property, then the majority of the foundation will go uninspected. A home inspector can only inspect what they can access without causing damage.

Perform Destructive Testing

Destructive testing in a home inspection is a method of evaluating the condition of a home. This is done by intentionally damaging or destroying certain building components to test the point of failure. For example, if a wall appears damaged due to moisture, age, or mold, a home inspector cannot put pressure on it to see if it caves. They can only note their findings and leave further inspection in the hands of the property owner or another professional.

If destructive testing is permitted by a homeowner (often only the case in severely neglected properties), it should only be conducted with the property owner’s written permission. It should also be done with the assistance of a licensed and qualified professional. Home inspectors are typically not trained or authorized to conduct destructive testing independently. They may need to work with contractors or specialists to perform the necessary tasks.

Diagnose the cause of a problem. 

Sometimes there are ‘symptoms’ of a material defect that appear in a house, but the cause isn’t apparent. For example, suppose the floor in a kitchen appears to dip near the sink. In that case, it could be due to a structural problem. It may have resulted from a plumbing leak at the sink, but it could also be an entirely unrelated foundational problem or just the result of old subflooring. A home inspector should include the defect in their report. They should not provide a diagnosis unless the cause is visible and apparent.

Test items in a property that are already disclosed as not working.

Home inspectors are not allowed to test appliances or other property fixtures that are already disclosed as not working. Suppose a property owner discloses in their property disclosures that a dishwasher or air conditioning system isn’t working. In that case, the home inspector is not allowed to include these items in their report other than marking them down as not working. This is because buyers are supposed to be aware that they aren’t working based on the property disclosures and are therefore buying them ‘as is.’

Provide estimates on when upcoming repairs will be required.

It’s the nature of real estate that regular repairs and maintenance are required. A home inspector can note damage or wear and tear based on a visual inspection, but they are not allowed to estimate when any major ticket repair items will be needed. For example, a roof that is beginning to show age might be noted, but the home inspector cannot estimate when it will need to be replaced.

Offer an opinion of the value of a property.

It’s common for property buyers to want confirmation that they aren’t overpaying. However, a home inspector is not a property appraiser. Therefore, it is considered unethical for a property inspector to provide an official or unofficial opinion of value and should not indicate whether or not they think a property purchase is a good deal or not.

Give an opinion on a property’s design.

Most home inspectors are not architects or design professionals; even if they are, they should not comment on a property’s layout, style preferences, or decorating choices. They may note any safety issues that need to be addressed but should avoid rendering an opinion about the overall design of a property.

Perform specialized inspections or testing.

Some types of property inspections require a specialized inspector who can dive deeper into potential problems. For example, if a home inspector suspects a property has asbestos or lead paint, they can recommend the buyer get a specialized inspection from a licensed professional, but they are not allowed to do the inspection themself. Other common specialized inspections include a pest inspection, lead paint inspection, mold and mildew testing, and HVAC inspections. These types of inspections require specialized knowledge and are, therefore, not a service offered by all home inspectors.

Outline or review the size of a property or its boundaries.

Home inspectors are not land surveyors. That means that they cannot review or measure a property’s size, or property lines, or confirm property boundaries easements. If a buyer wants to verify property boundaries or easements, they must hire a land surveyor.

How do you hire a home inspector?

Most property buyers don’t require the regular services of a home inspector, so they don’t know how to hire one. Sometimes, if a bank requires the inspection for their loan will have a preferred list of home inspectors. However, if your bank doesn’t require an inspection and doesn’t provide referrals, you’ll need to source your own professionals.

>> AGENTS ANSWER: Should a shed be included in a home inspection?

If you’re working with an experienced real estate agent, they may have a list of tried and tested home inspectors they can recommend.

Once you have a few names, it’s important to research their services and fees before committing to a home inspection. Before you hire a home inspector, you should:

  1. Check qualifications: Once you have a list of potential inspectors, research their qualifications. Make sure you engage a licensed home inspector who is certified or registered with a professional organization. You can also check if they have any complaints filed against them with the Better Business Bureau.
  2. Verify experience: Check the inspector’s experience level. Ideally, you want someone who has been in the business for a while and has inspected properties similar to the one you are considering.
  3. Check for insurance: Verify that the inspector has liability insurance. 
  4. Ask for a sample inspection report: Home inspectors should be able to provide a sample report that will give you an idea of the level of detail they provide in their inspections.

If you aren’t working with an agent, use FaskExpert to find your area’s top real estate agents with relationships with reputable and experienced home inspectors.

Home inspectors are a vital part of a real estate transaction. They can be a valuable resource for both sellers and buyers by identifying material defects, violations of local building codes, and potential safety hazards. Even if your purchase agreement doesn’t have an inspection contingency, getting a home inspection is an excellent way for buyers to prepare for homeownership and get ahead of any maintenance items they might have otherwise overlooked.

>>DISCOVER: When Do You Get Paid After Selling Your House?

Kelsey Heath

Kelsey Heath is a real estate content specialist with an extensive background in residential, industrial, and commercial property. She has been involved in the industry for a decade as a professional and personal investor, gaining a deep understanding of the market and trends. With a passion for written communication, Kelsey loves helping people understand the sometimes-complicated concepts behind real estate and is now a sought-out guest and ghostwriter.

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