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Home Inspection Frequently Asked Questions
You have found the home of your dreams and your offer has been accepted by the seller. How do you make sure your dream is not a nightmare? Having a thorough home inspection is a critical step in the home buying process.
What is a home inspection?
A home inspection is a visual inspection of readily accessible areas of the home. It is meant to give the buyer an overview of the age, condition & adequacy of the major structural & mechanical components that make up the home. (Including structural systems, roofing heating, cooling, plumbing, & electrical systems, as well as the interior & exterior of the home.) Some firms also include a termite inspection as part of the home inspection. This can save a home buyer from paying an exterminator a separate fee for the termite inspection.
Who should I hire to perform a home inspection?
Only a Professional Engineer (PE), Licensed Home Inspector or Registered Architect (RA) may perform a home inspection for a fee on a 1 to 4 family home. Make sure you check the license number of anyone you hire to inspect your home. Additional information on the Home Inspection Licensing Law can be found at the NYS Dept. of State web site at:
Is there a difference between and inspection done by a Professional Engineer (PE) or a licensed home inspector?
Yes, even with a home inspector's license there is still a difference between a Professional Engineer and a Licensed Home Inspector. By law in practically all states, Licensed Professional Engineers & Registered Architects are the only ones who can legally render an opinion as to the structural integrity of an existing building. The NYS Home Inspection Law limits home inspectors to "observing existing conditions" in the home. They may not evaluate the adequacy of the structural & mechanical systems that make up a home. For this reason it is recommended that home buyers hire a Professional Engineer or Registered Architect who specializes in home inspections to perform their inspection.
What exactly is a Professional Engineer (PE)?
The P.E. (Professional Engineer) designation is issued and regulated by the NYS government. NYS assures that practicing individuals are properly educated, trained and experienced to serve the public. Additonal information on Professional Engineers can be found at the NYS Education Dept. Website at:
To obtain a NYS license to practice professional engineering, an individual, at a minimum, must satisfy all of the following requirements:
Four years of college level engineering education.
Four years of professional engineering experience.
Successful completion of a sixteen hour technically exhausting board examination, administered by NYS.
When should I have a home inspection?
We recommend that you check with your attorney, but in NYC a home inspection usually is performed once the offer to purchase has been accepted by the seller, but before contract signing. Frequently, issues arise during a home inspection that need to be addressed in the contract. Having your home inspection before contract signing is highly recommended.
Should I attend the inspection?
Absolutely! A home buyer should always attend the home inspection, by following the engineer you can ask questions and get a first hand look at things you might not have thought were important. It provides you with the ability to ask questions of the engineer while you are looking at the home. Never use a firm that will not let you attend the inspection or ask questions during the inspection.
What questions should I ask when interviewing home inspectors?
Some basic questions you should ask any firm you are considering are:
What are their credentials & who will be performing your inspection? Only a Professional Engineer (PE), Licensed Home Inspector, or Registered Architect (RA) may perform a home inspection. Make sure you ask for their license number. Remember only a licensed Professional Engineer (PE) or Registered Architect (RA) can perform a structural evaluation. Licensed home inspectors cannot comment on the structural condition of a home.
How long has the firm been in business & how many inspections have they performed? Is it a full-time business or something they do on the side?
Does the firm carry "Errors & Omissions Insurance" This can protect you in case of a lawsuit against the inspector. Do not confuse "Errors & Omissions Insurance with "General Liability Insurance". Many firms do not carry Errors & Omissions Insurance only "General Liability", which will not protect you in case of any negligent acts.
What does the inspection include? Is a termite inspection included?
What type of report will I receive & when will I receive it? Is it a detailed narrative report or check list style report? Do I get the report on-site or do I have to wait several days?
What does the inspection cost? This is the last question you should be asking.
Where can I get referrals for finding a good inspection firm?
Two good sources for referrals are either friends or relatives who have used an inspection firm, or the real estate attorney that is representing you. Many times your attorney has developed a relationship with competent people in the area. It is not recommended that you accept referrals from any individuals having anything to do with the sale of the home you are buying, with the exception of buyer's brokers which have a fiduciary responsibility to their buyers.
What should a home inspection cost?
Like any other professional services, prices vary among firms, based on their experience and credentials. In the NYC area, the price for a home inspection can range from $700.00 to several thousand dollars. The fees vary depending on the size of the home or apartment, number of apartments and or purchase price. Many firms that are new in the business or who do not have the experience of an established firm may charge a reduced fee to drum up business. Make sure you compare the experience & credentials of any firms you are considering before you compare their prices. Home inspection firms usually charge less than Professional Engineers, because a home inspection firm cannot evaluate structural conditions under NYS Law.
What if the report reveals problems?
Almost every home will have some problems. If your Engineer finds problems in a building, it does not necessarily mean you should not buy it. You should evaluate the condition of the home or building so that you will know in advance what type of repairs to anticipate. We also recommend that you never ask a seller to make repairs. Would you take your car to a mechanic that was going out of business in a couple of weeks? The only thing you should negotiate is lower purchase price because of the problems discovered by your Engineer. If your budget is tight, or if you do not wish to become involved in future repair work, you may decide that this is not the property for you. The choice is yours.
If the report is favorable, did I really need the inspection?
Definitely! Now you can complete your purchase with peace of mind about the condition of the property and its equipment and systems. You may have learned a few things about your property from the inspection report and will want to keep that information for your future reference. Above all, you can rest assured that you are making a well-informed purchase decision and that you will be able to enjoy or occupy your new home.