Inspections are an integral part of the due diligence process in buying real estate. Home inspectors in North Carolina are licensed by the North Carolina Home Inspector Licensure Board and are subject to their requirements for education, experience and examination in order to obtain a license. All inspections performed by licensed inspectors must adhere to the Board’s Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics. That all sounds great, but what does it all mean in practical terms?
The NC Real Estate Commission has produced a brochure that real estate agents are expected to provide to their clients about home inspections. Questions and Answers on: HOME INSPECTIONS is a good starting point to better understand the home inspection process. From my experience, most home inspectors do a very good job in performing the tasks that they are required to complete, but most consumers (and many real estate agents) have a lack of understanding as to what exactly those tasks are and are not. To better understand what is (and perhaps more importantly what is not) required of home inspectors, it is a good idea to read through the North Carolina Home Inspector Licensure Board’s Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics. Particular attention should be paid to items that the inspector is not required to do and if there are items or systems that a buyer wants to have evaluated that are not a required part of the normal home inspection, then the buyer will need to make arrangements to have those items checked out either by the home inspector or by someone else.
North Carolina’s Home Inspector Licensure Board sets minimum standards for inspections, home inspectors can do more than those requirements. The contract between the home inspector and the client will spell out what services are to be provided and at what cost. While reading contracts is never much fun, it is important to know what to expect from the home inspector you have hired and should be done prior to the home inspection rather than during or after. In addition to the standard home inspection, many inspectors will offer services such as radon inspections at an extra charge. Some home inspectors have met the state requirements to inspect for wood destroying insects and now offer that service as an add on in conjunction with a pest control company.
Many of the systems commonly found in homes are not covered under the standard home inspection. If a buyer wants these items checked out, a separate inspection may need to be ordered by someone who specializes in those systems. Included in this category are well and septic systems, water treatment systems, irrigation systems, swimming pools, hot tubs, security systems, low voltage systems, entertainment systems, vacuum systems, detached buildings, as well as others.
Some of the items that are included in the standard home inspection are only inspected to a limited extent and may require further inspection by specialists if they are of particular concern or if indication of a possible problem is found during the initial home inspection. Examples of these are heating and air conditioning systems, appliances, fireplace chimneys and flues, and anything where the level of inspection may require an engineering, architectural, plumbing, electrical or other occupational license to complete. Home inspectors are also not expected to report on environmental contamination including items such as lead based paint, asbestos, underground fuel storage tanks, etc.
The home inspection process in North Carolina is designed to give buyers a reasonable idea as to the condition of the property they are buying, not to be an exhaustive, comprehensive investigation of every aspect of the property. A balance is generally struck between how much time and expense is put into inspections versus the potential problems that might be found and resolved prior to a buyer completing a purchase. The minimum standards required of a home inspection in North Carolina provide a good starting point, but it is very important that buyers understand the limitations inherent in a typical home inspection and that there may need to be further time and money spent on inspections depending on the property involved and the results of the initial home inspection.