Purchasing a home is one of the biggest money investments many of us make in our lives, so having a proper home inspection completed is wise. However, many buyers are not aware of what to expect during the home inspection process and how to proceed with the findings.


Why Inspect?

Regardless if you are a buyer, seller or home owner who rents or lives in the home, you will benefit by having a properly done home inspection. In general:

1. When buying – a properly done home inspection will help reduce the risk of purchasing a home and give you leverage in negotiating the sales price with the seller;

2. When selling – a properly done home inspection allows you to disclose more thoroughly the physical condition of the home and;

3. When owner-occupying or renting your investment property – a properly done home inspection allows you the peace of mind knowing that your home is safe and gives you the information you need to keep your home in good working order.


What is the scope of the inspection and "Standards of Practice"?

Depending on who’s standards you follow, just be sure the inspection is being done according to standards you have been given a copy of. The most common and reputable standards have been produced by a few nationwide home inspection organizations, one being the “American Society of Home Inspectors”. By knowing what standards the inspector is using, you will know what is being inspected and what is not being inspected under the scope of the inspectors work. In general, most inspections are visual in nature, non-invasive and are mostly limited to areas in the home that can be safely and reasonably accessed. The inspector will not move furnishings and items in the home to get to areas not accessible if the home is occupied. Good inspectors will make every attempt to look in crawl spaces and attics, so the access hatches to these areas should be clear. The intent of good home inspectors is to be as thorough as possible, while leaving the property in the same condition as when it was entered. 


Be aware there there are limitations to what an inspection can discover

Inspectors cannot completely eliminate risk in purchasing a home. There will always be some inherent risk. One cannot always discover all issues or conditions that may be important under the scope of the inspection and during a one-time visit. However, inspectors do submit a huge amount of information including deficiencies, damage and/or repair items found and educate the home buyer on items such as how the home was built, including building materials and methods used. Inspectors give an overview of the issues found and their possible consequences if not repaired. While inspectors concentrate on looking for significant issues with the major systems and components in the home, the inspection is limited in the fact that the inspection cannot be invasive in nature or overly technically exhaustive. Specialists may be called in after the inspection to open up components, get more technically exhaustive or diagnostic and give estimates on repairs. Hence, the value of the inspection is that the inspector can help reduce your risk during the real estate transaction process with the information they provide; however, not eliminate it.


Be Weary of Same day (on-site) reports

During the inspection an inspector is in the information gathering mode. The inspector is going through the home systematically and trying to be as thorough as possible. For many inspectors, it may not be wise to be trying to evaluate more complicated issues at the same time. Often, after the inspection is complete and the inspection notes and pictures are being evaluated during the report writing, many problems make sense and can be reported on more accurately. The immediate recognizing of these problems in the field during the inspection may not actually occur in many instances. So be forewarned that rushing a report or producing a report on site may not be of good service to a client who is depending on a thorough, accurate evaluation of any major problems discovered during the inspection.


It's really good for the client to be present at the inspection.

Being present during the inspection is an opportunity for the client to ask questions and see what the inspector does. Many inspectors may like to be allowed to complete the inspection first before talking in great detail to the client about the property, then after the inspection is completed, spend time with the client to summarize their findings and walk them through the property to answer questions. Any time before the end of the inspection, discussion regarding the home may be speculative instead of objective, since the home inspector has not had a chance to complete the inspection. All clients deserve a thorough consultation and walk through of the property at the end of the inspection so they can ask questions and be more clear on items when reading the inspection report.


Know how to differentiate between what an inspector says (the generalist) and what a contractor or repair technician says (the specialist).

Contractors most often don’t know what the scope of the inspection is and may make comments regarding what they think is a lack of information on the inspectors report since the contractor is performing and evaluating on a more specialized and technically exhaustive investigation. Remember that contractors and technicians are looking at one system or one issue only and can evaluate one specific condition in more detail wheras an inspector is looking at the whole property and has to be more generalized in their evaluation of many systems and components. Otherwise, the inspector would be exceeding the scope of the inspection, be at the property much longer, and charge a much higher fee. Inspectors are normally not able to perform these tasks under the scope of their work so they will refer out items that need further more technically exhaustive evaluation to specialists (e.g. contractors, repair technicians, etc.). The intent of the home inspection is to be as thorough as possible by following reputable inspection standards, and to have ultimate respect for the property.


The inspector needs to be objective and inform the client as objectively and clearly as possible the condition of the property.

Simply put, the inspectors job is to inform you on just the facts based on what is visible and observed at the time of the inspection, and to give valid recommendations to the client on how to proceed with any issues found (e.g. what type of professional or contractors to contact for further investigation and/or repair). The inspector should not be subjective and tell clients whether they would purchase the property, how they would rate the property on a number scale, or if the home passes or fails. These types of comments are of no help to the client and can lead to misunderstandings and disputes.


Don't hesitate to follow up with questions regarding any items on the inspection report.

Post-inspection communications can often clear up grey areas or issues that otherwise seem serious or intimidating to a client and allow the transaction to proceed. Inspectors should be easily reachable after the inspection is completed for clients who have questions or concerns.


Be knowledgeable when hiring an inspector and shop on value, not on inspection fee alone.

Know the credentials and experience of the inspector and if they are insured. Also, what type of inspection and report the inspector will submit. Inquire on what inspection standards are being followed. Ask for a copy of the inspection standards that explain the scope of the inspection. Also, ask for a sample report so you can see the format of the report and know what systems and components are being inspected and reported on. Too many people hire based on the inspection fee alone trying to save a few dollars, but this makes little sense when you are purchasing a home worth hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars. The risk for losses due to unexpected repairs not discovered and reported on during the inspection process can be much greater with a poorly done home inspection. Also, the leveraging capacity you gain in negotiating the sales price of the property with the seller when you are knowledgeable about the condition of the property will surely save you more money than trying to save a few dollars on the home inspection fee when hiring a possibly under-qualified inspector.


Be aware that there is no licensing required by the State of Hawaii for home inspectors at this time.

Consequently, almost anybody with little or no training can call themselves a home inspector. So it is especially critical to do your research and know who you are hiring in order to avoid hiring an under-qualified home inspector who may fail to give you all the essential information you need in your real estate purchasing decisions.


Building code is not reported on under the scope of a private home inspection.

Often there is a misunderstanding by consumers thinking the home inspection covers building code. Building code is not covered under the scope of a private home inspection unless otherwise noted by the inspector. Public building code inspections are done by the City & Country Building Department during original construction or when renovations or additions are done requiring building permits. Specific code questions pertaining to a home most often have to be deferred to the building department since this is their area of jurisdiction. Building code is often not easy to interpret due to various stipulations in the code. Also, the code is broad and covers many topics which are subject to revisions every few years. It is the city building departments responsibility to keep up with all this information and relay it accurately to the general public. It is most often extremely difficult for anyone outside of the city building department to comment accurately on the broad range of building code topics, and they may risk significant liability by misquoting building code stipulations. If there are specific questions regarding building code, it is recommended that the city building department be consulted.


Providing Quality, Comprehensive Property Inspections on O’ahu: Honolulu (including Waikiki, Manoa, Hawaii Kai, Waialae, Kalihi), Kapolei, Mililani, Ewa Beach, Kailua, & all surrounding areas of O’ahu.

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