According to anecdotal evidence I’ve collected, the inspection period is one of the most anxiety-inducing times of a residential sale.
There are so many factors involved, from timelines to multiple outside parties, and don’t forget that once the inspection is finished negotiations can start all over again. A home inspection can make or break a transaction, so it is important to know the elements of an inspection and who is qualified to do one.
- A “home inspection” requires an examination of more than one system or component.
As defined in the Home Inspection Law, a home inspection is a non-invasive visual examination of two or more of the following components of a residential dwelling: mechanical, electrical, plumbing and structural. The term excludes an investigation of specific issues or components, specifically excluded are separate inspections for “wood destroying insects, underground tanks and wells, septic systems, swimming pools and spas, alarm systems, air and water quality, tennis courts and playground equipment, pollutants, toxic chemicals and environmental hazards.” So, an inspection of a home’s plumbing, electrical and alarm system by the same inspector is a home inspection; an inspection of only the septic system is not a home inspection.
- The Agreement of Sale doesn’t permit just anyone to conduct a home inspection.
By electing the home inspection as a contingency of the agreement in paragraph 12(C), the buyer is agreeing to have the inspection “performed by a full member in good standing of a national home inspection association in accordance with the ethical standards and code of conduct or practice of that association” or by a properly-licensed engineer, architect or an individual who is supervised by a home inspector. The language informing the parties of these requirements is actually taken from the Home Inspection Law itself and is not a list of arbitrary requirements put into the contract by PAR. The law puts these standards in place when a sale is contingent upon a home inspection. It’s great that the buyers’ cousin is handy with power tools and can save them a few bucks, but unless that cousin meets the minimum qualifications of the law, it’s not a valid home inspection under the terms of the contingency.
- Not just any old association will do.
The Home Inspection Law also sets out minimum requirements for the national home inspection association to which one must belong to be called a home inspector. At a minimum, the association must be operated as a nonprofit and not as a franchise, have members in more than 10 states, require full members to have participated in more than 100 home inspections and pass an exam and require members to comply with a code of conduct and attend continuing education classes as a condition of membership. If your home inspector is not a member of such an organization, he or she is not the home inspector required under the terms of the contingency. While PAR does not validate associations, consumers may ask for a ‘written representation’ of membership, using either a Pennsylvania Home Inspector Compliance Statement (PAR Form HIC) or something from the inspector.