Definition of a Home Inspection

Go ahead and Google “what is a home inspection?” or “definition of a home inspection.” Google will supply several reputable sources; all providing their version of what defines a home inspection. Not surprisingly, these definitions originate primarily from the largest home inspection organizations. The three big dog home inspection organizations are the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI), National Association of Home Inspectors (NAHI), and American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI). Rightfully so, it is in the best interest of these leaders of the home inspection industry to lay down the framework of everything relating to home inspections, including the actual definition. Let’s take a quick peek at how each organization defines a home inspection and then I’ll give my two cents. Colorado home inspection, Definition of a home inspection
internachi, Definition of a home inspection InterNACHI’s definition of home inspection:
“A general home inspection is a non-invasive, visual examination of the accessible areas of a residential property, performed for a fee, which is designed to identify defects within specific systems and components defined by Standards that are both observed and deemed material by the inspector.” source
ASHI, Definition of a home inspection ASHI’s definition of home inspection:
“A home inspection is a documented, professional opinion of a home-based on a visual evaluation and operational testing of the home’s systems and components to determine their current condition.” source
NAHI, Definition of a home inspection NAHI’s definition of home inspection:
“Home Inspection: The process by which an inspector visually examines the readily accessible systems and components of a home and operates those systems and components utilizing the Standard of Practice as a guideline.” source

Despite the competition between these three home inspections organizations, there seems to be a consensus on what constitutes a home inspection. The definitions do not vary drastically. In fact, there are three clear similarities and zero contradictions.

“Visual examination | evaluation”
A home inspection is primarily a visual task. “You see with your eyes, not with your hands,” said everyone’s parent at one point of our lives. And just as we are told not to touch something, we can’t help to touch it! This visual aspect of the definition leaves room for debate amongst home inspectors. The interpretation of what is acceptable to access during a home inspection sometimes creates muddy waters. This confusion leads us to the second similarity.
“The standard of Practice- SOP”
Home inspection organizations work extremely hard to chlorinate the murky waters by providing a Standard of Practice. The SOP is designed to provide home inspectors with “minimum” guidelines on what should be inspected and reported in a home inspection. This minimum expectation is actually quite thorough and includes most and, in some cases, all major house systems. If a home inspector only adheres to the precise SOP of his/her organization, then clients will still receive an exceptional home inspection. Home inspectors can and often do modify the SOP to remain competitive or to fit personal philosophies. For example, as an InterNACHI Certified Houston Home Inspector, it is beyond the SOP to test all kitchen appliances, but this is a service that I have added to my Houston home inspections. As a client, it is important to know how the home inspector has modified the SOP.
“Operation or testing of the readily accessible system(s)”
Readily accessible” is a descriptive term which inherently is left up for interpretation and judgment.  What is considered readily accessible? Anything that poses an unsafe situation for the home inspector and the clients would be considered not readily accessible. One example of a not “readily accessible” system would be a roof that has a pitch of 12/12 (45 deg. angle) or steeper. I don’t know too many home inspectors that would risk walking a dangerously steep roof. Setting aside safety issues, the challenge in readily accessible systems is when judging the additional tasks necessary to access a certain house component. All home inspectors have been faced with making judgment calls about unforeseen situations. Do I move all the toys, Halloween decorations, and a box of old books out of the way to access the buried furnace? Do I turn the gas on to test out the gas fireplace? Do I climb on top of closet shelves to access the scuttle hole (attic access)? Do I slice and dice around an electrical panel that has been painted shut? I offer some tips about how to prepare for a home inspection to limit the number of systems that may be skipped due to difficult and/or unsafe accessibility, but it is still a judgment call by the home inspector. There are always risked involved when attempting to inspect a system that is not readily accessible.
  Houston Jacob Home Inspection’s definition of home inspection:
I must have typed out about 13 different definitions and each one just resembled a paraphrased definition of what InterNACHI, ASHI, and NAHI have already articulated! I’ll throw in the white flag and simply refer all readers to the above analysis for the definition of a home inspection.


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