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Home inspection specifications

By: Desiree Brougher, Esq. on in

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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

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Comments (19)

Comments

  • Jacki Hunt   May 30, 2018 at 7:15 am

    Licensing home inspectors in the same way real estate agents are licensed would cure a lot of the ambiguities and problems. Continuing education in order to renew licenses every two years would be more professional than what exists now.

    Reply to Jacki Hunt
    • Desiree Brougher, Esq.   May 30, 2018 at 9:42 am

      Thank you, Jacki. PAR supports and is currently monitoring House Bill 1001, which would require license renewals every two years and 32 hours of continuing education each cycle.

      Reply to Desiree Brougher, Esq.
    • G. Kelly Beveridge   June 7, 2018 at 12:02 pm

      Jacki, Full membership status (i.e. ACI) in ASHI mandates Continuing Education Credits. ASHI local Chapter membership also requires and provides CE credits as well along with meeting and exceeding mandated insurance requirements under the current Home Inspection Law that confirms all members being compliant to perform Home Inspections within the Commonwealth. Our ASHI Chapter has played a vital role in Harrisburg to promote the law in committee meetings. Currently it appears to have stalled.

      Reply to G. Kelly Beveridge
  • Harry R McCarty   May 30, 2018 at 7:25 am

    This should be reviewed at office meetings to enlighten agents of the home inspection law and requirements for buyers.

    Reply to Harry R McCarty
  • Anne M Matyjasik   May 30, 2018 at 7:40 am

    Excellent information Desiree for our colleagues as a reminder of how we should be discussing this important information with our clients.

    Reply to Anne M Matyjasik
  • Dave Tumpa   May 30, 2018 at 8:25 am

    Excellent read and well said. This is what typically makes or breaks most deals and too many agents today are so excited to get someone under agreement that they don’t take the time to really discuss the importance of the home inspection and all that is involved. It’s about setting clear expectations early on and before you are in the thick of it. Nice job!

    Reply to Dave Tumpa
  • Fran Santorello   May 30, 2018 at 8:54 am

    They are as much a part of a real Estate transaction as a Real Estate Salesperson ,therefore they should be licence and be under the Real Estate Commission.

    Reply to Fran Santorello
    • Desiree Brougher, Esq.   May 30, 2018 at 9:40 am

      Thank you for the feedback, Fran. PAR supports and is currently monitoring House Bill 1001, which would license home inspectors under the Bureau of Occupational and Industrial Safety under the Department of Labor and Industry.

      Reply to Desiree Brougher, Esq.
  • Andrew Wetzel   May 30, 2018 at 12:15 pm

    The inspection process is better than in the past (the current “contingency” is the best we have had when it is followed!) but it will never be perfect. Real Estate sales involve human beings making a costly and emotional decision. Many buyers (and some agents) will never truly understand the term “material defect” and some inspectors will continue to offer unnecessary opinions some of which are wrong. Negotiating inspection “results” can be very emotional, especially if the inspections occur right after a tough negotiation and handling the report when a sale falls through is still a point of contention with some listing agents and sellers. All of which makes me wonder, respectfully, why some agents feel that they do not need to attend their buyer-clients inspections.

    Reply to Andrew Wetzel
    • Mary Lou Hagman   May 30, 2018 at 1:53 pm

      Hi Andrew just asking….why should an agent attend their buyer-client inspection?

      Reply to Mary Lou Hagman
      • Andrew Wetzel   August 2, 2018 at 12:03 pm

        Why wouldn’t/ shouldn’t a buyer’s agent attend the most stressful aspect of a typical purchase and one of the major reasons sales fall through? What are we/they being paid for? It is a fiduciary duty (reasonable care and due diligence) and an expectation of the Code of Ethics (to promote and protect our clients best interests) and, while we are certainly NOT inspectors and should be there to listen to make sure that the communication between the inspector and buyer is meaningful, being there allows us to better represent their interests while negotiating repairs. Frankly, I have been at inspections where inspectors did not “notice” something that my client and/ or I saw that concerned us and proved important and I have seen inspectors submit reports where the language/ recommendation(s) differed from what we were told and have asked a few to change their report. Either way, what does the buyer expect for what they are paying? An ancillary issue is, absent electronic access (another discussion!), how is the home accessed?

        Reply to Andrew Wetzel
  • ARTHUR F BOWEN   May 30, 2018 at 5:31 pm

    There are 3 possible times an offer is negotiated: once when initially received, once when the Reply to Inspection and CTA is presented, if any, and once at the final walk through. All these should be discussed with the seller prior to signing and accepting an offer. Leave a little room for the unexpected.

    Reply to ARTHUR F BOWEN
  • Bette Zrimsek, CRB, CRS, GRI, SRES   May 30, 2018 at 8:11 pm

    When an agent attends the inspection, the agent is the eyes and ears for his or her client. The agent is there to observe what is being said at the time of the inspection. Often, what is in the home inspection report is not what was discussed at the property.
    By being in attendance the agent can understand the scope of work that might be required at the property. This helps enable the client to make an informed decision.

    Reply to Bette Zrimsek, CRB, CRS, GRI, SRES
    • Andrew Wetzel   August 2, 2018 at 12:08 pm

      I do not think that a listing agent should attend inspections. While the contract certainly permits their doing so, I look at the inspection as a buyer’s “private time” to re-evaluate” their decision. For me, it is like an extended showing and deserves the same respect and courtesy. However, if a seller authorizes their agent to be there, that is fine BUT no listing agent should EVER attend an inspection without advising their seller-client of the potential ramifications as far as their being accountable for what the agent hears (it is the same as if the seller were in attendance). That being said, if a listing agent attends: SHUT UP! I have seen listing agents do more harm to the process than what the inspector reported.

      Reply to Andrew Wetzel
  • Property Inspection Schaumburg   August 3, 2018 at 4:48 am

    It is important to discuss the contract and guidelines before starting on any home inspection blindly.

    Reply to Property Inspection Schaumburg
  • Joseph Finazzo   September 18, 2018 at 11:37 am

    I have a question , Is the seller entitled to have a copy of the whole inspection report or just the sections that relate to the items listed on the Buyers reply to inspections?

    Thanks Joe

    Reply to Joseph Finazzo
    • Desiree Brougher   September 18, 2018 at 12:33 pm

      The PAR Agreement of Sale, Paragraph 12(A)(5), restates Section 7508 of the Home Inspection Law that the “seller has the right, upon request, to receive a free copy of any inspection Report from the party for whom it was prepared.” Neither the law nor the Agreement limit the seller’s request to only those reports pertaining to items on the buyer’s reply to inspections.

      Reply to Desiree Brougher
  • Dean Phillips   March 28, 2019 at 6:05 pm

    I had no idea that a home inspection focuses on inspecting mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and structural issues. My father is planning on selling his home soon. It may be good for him to hire a professional to inspect his house before he sells it.

    Reply to Dean Phillips
  • Daniel Massuto   April 12, 2019 at 9:17 am

    I disagree with the state allowing a licensed engineer to perform a home inspection. This would mean that a civil engineer who does nothing but design bridges can perform a home inspection and report on an electrical system or an HVAC system that he knows nothing about. This to me makes no sense at all.

    Reply to Daniel Massuto

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