There’s a lot of misconception about what a good home inspector should and should not do.
Because of this, we’ve put together a page of general rules of what an inspector should NOT do.
This is taken from the Standards of Practice of the NAHI (National Association of Home Inspectors) and ASHI (American Society of Home Inspectors), but these should not be thought of as their official policy. Consider these simply as guidelines.
A good inspector:
1. Should not try and predict how long something will last.
Inspectors are not fortune tellers and shouldn’t be trying to guess. However, certain items such as water heaters have average life expectancy. It is ok for them to comment on that, or on the warranty period of any items.
2. Should not say why something isn’t working.
Inspectors aren’t tradespeople or experts on specific components. They should only observe that something isn’t working but shouldn’t try and guess the reason why. Leave that to the actual experts.
3. Should not estimate how much it will cost to fix.
Likewise, since they don’t know why something isn’t working, they also shouldn’t make any guesstimates on how much it would cost to fix.
4. Should not offer advice on potential material to replace or fix something
Again, leave this to the pros. If the wall is rotting in a spot, don’t suggest a list of materials to repair them.
5. Should not comment on anything related to a product’s use.
They should not be stating anything that is an opinion. For instance, if their opinion is the water heater is too old to heat the water quick enough, that should be kept to themselves. Anything more just opens a can of worms and isn’t their business.
6. Should not definitively say something is a violation of code.
Unless they are actually certified in that field, a house inspector shouldn’t be commenting on code violations. Codes are constantly changing, and only an expert in that specific field would have the requisite knowledge to talk about it.
7. Should not comment on potential market value.
They should definitely not be making idle chitchat about what they think of the home’s marketability or sale price or “true” value. That could negatively impact the real estate transaction and put them in bad graces with the realtor.
8. Should not say anything related to if they think the property is a good purchase or not.
They are not real estate experts. That is what they should tell you when you ask for their opinion on this subject.
9. Should not talk about anything they couldn’t see personally.
For example if there seems to be an issue with the septic tank which is underground, they shouldn’t be commenting on it if they can’t see it with their own eyes.
10. Should not say or write down anything about if pests are actually present.
While they can rightly point out damage they can “see” (ie termite tracks), they should leave the actual written guarantee to a professional in that field.
11. Should not offer to fix or do any work.
Generally speaking, the inspector inspects and the tradesperson fixes. Mixing the two creates a conflict of interest.
12. Should not estimate the operating costs of anything.
They shouldn’t be commenting on how much it costs annually to run something such as water bill for a pool or utilities.
13. Should not do anything in the house or on the property that would be dangerous to people or the property.
Inspectors should be wary turning on anything that is turned off, or trying to force on any component that seems stuck. Safety is number one.
14. Should not attempt to operate anything that isn’t working.
Their job is not to troubleshoot or fix anything, just observe that it’s not working.
15. Should not take apart anything electrical.
They should just make a note that it’s not working.
16. Should not report on the quality of interior wall or floor finishes.
If your inspector is violating one or many of these rules, they are either not that competent or not very ethical. Either way, feel free to speak up and make your concern known.