13 Surprising Things Home Inspectors Can’t Do

INSURANCE - HOME INSURANCE
A home inspection can provide valuable insights into the condition of a home, but there are limitations on what they can do.
Updated April 3, 2023
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woman inspector checking house at construction site

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During the home buying process, a good home inspector can be invaluable. They can help you identify potential problems that may not be immediately apparent and give you an idea of what types of repairs you may need to make.

Their insights can inform your offer on a home or give you the information you need to decide to walk away from the deal. However, they are limited as to what they can and can’t do.

So, what are home inspectors not allowed to do? They can’t pass or fail a home, determine a home’s value, or even access certain parts of the property, such as a steep roof or solar power system. Here are 13 other things they can’t do that might surprise you.

Pass or fail a home

F/Adobe inspector checking the building structure and the order in the house

When people talk about home inspections, they often say a house "passed its inspection." However, this isn't technically accurate. Home inspectors aren't allowed to pass or fail homes. Instead, their job is to provide an objective written report on the condition of the property and report any issues.

Determine the value of a property

mojo_cp/Adobe Woman calculating property valuation

A home inspection isn’t an appraisal, which means home inspectors can't tell you how much a home is worth. Their inspection is focused exclusively on the physical condition of the home, not its market value.

If you're concerned about whether you're paying too much for a property, you'll need to consult with a real estate agent or appraiser. Once you know how much you should be paying, request quotes from the best mortgage lenders to find a home loan that works for your budget.

Guarantee that no more repairs are needed

whyframeshot/Adobe hands using sawing machine

Even if a home inspection report doesn't show any major issues — such as water damage, safety hazards, or material defects — a home inspector can’t guarantee that additional repairs aren’t needed. Over time, all homes require some maintenance and repairs.

Act as a contractor

F/Adobe hand in hand between project contractors and customers

If the home inspection identifies any home construction issues that will need repairs, you may be tempted to ask them to recommend contractors or ask them to do the work themselves.

Although the home inspector may be an experienced carpenter or electrician and be familiar with local building codes, they aren’t allowed to do any repairs on a property while they are acting as the inspector.

In fact, the code of ethics of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) actually prohibits home inspectors from working on properties they inspected for at least one year after the date of inspection.

Outline property boundaries

DifferR/Adobe land plot in aerial view

You may be concerned about the property’s lot size or neighbors encroaching on the property’s boundaries. However, home inspectors are not allowed to determine property boundaries. This is the job of a land surveyor.

If you're unsure about where your property begins and ends, you'll need to hire a surveyor.

Move heavy furniture

Studio Romantic/Adobe two young workers lift up heavy sofa together

A home inspection is a limited, non-invasive examination of the condition of a home. This means that home inspectors are not allowed to move furniture or other belongings in order to gain access to areas of the home.

If there are items blocking access to something that needs to be inspected, you'll need to ask the seller to do it before the inspection can take place.

Open locked doors

New Africa/Adobe open door with key in room

If there are locked doors or cabinets in the home, the inspector won't be able to open them. The home inspector is only allowed to access areas of the home that are readily accessible.

If you have concerns about a creepy door in the basement or attic, ask the seller for a key before the inspection date.

Climb on a steep or precarious roof

steheap/Adobe roofing contractor replacing the old shingles on a townhouse roof

Home inspectors can’t put themselves in danger for the sake of the inspection. If a roof is particularly steep or looks to be in poor condition, the home inspector won’t climb onto it to inspect it.

In these cases, they will have to rely on inspecting the roof from the ground or with binoculars for a closer look.

Inspect solar power systems

LariBat/Adobe solar panels on the tiled roof of the building in the sun

Although a solar panel system can be a useful addition to a home, they require specialized installation and maintenance.

According to ASHI’s standards of practice, home inspectors can’t inspect solar, geothermal, wind, or other renewable energy systems, including specialized electrical panels. These types of inspections require special training and certification.

If you're considering buying a home with a solar power system, you'll need to hire a qualified solar energy system inspector.

Identify environmental hazards

ALEXEY/Adobe macro photograph fibers of the mineral chrysotile asbestos

Home inspectors can’t test for environmental hazards such as lead paint, radon, or asbestos. These types of tests require specially trained building inspectors with unique equipment.

If you're concerned about the presence of environmental hazards, you'll need to hire a qualified professional to test for them.

For example, if you suspect there may be lead paint in the home, you’ll need to get a trained and certified lead-based paint inspector or risk assessor.

Pro tip: If you're on the hunt for homeowners insurance, our list of the best home insurance companies is a great place to start.

Check behind insulation

Alekss/Adobe worker thermally insulating house attic with glass wool

Home inspectors can perform a visual inspection of the insulation in the home, but they’re not allowed to remove it or go behind it. In most cases, insulation is located in areas that are difficult to access, such as crawl spaces and attics, or may be secured to walls.

Unless the insulation is obviously damaged, the home inspector won’t be able to give it a thorough inspection.

Use non-operable systems or appliances

Robin J. Gentry/Adobe an outdoor air conditioning unit by a home

In order for a home inspector to properly assess the condition of systems and appliances, they need to be able to operate them. This means that if the HVAC is disconnected, the home inspector won’t be able to test it.

Similarly, if the air conditioning, heating system, or hot water heater is shut down for any reason, the home inspector is not allowed to turn it on to inspect it. If you’re concerned about any device or system, ask the seller to turn it on or reconnect it prior to the inspection.

Advise you about longevity

didecs/Adobe house boiler room interior with modern water heating system

Home inspectors can’t predict how long a home or its systems will last. They can only report on the current condition of the property.

If you’re wondering how much longer the roof will last or when you should expect to replace the furnace, you won’t get an answer from the home inspector.

FAQs

Pixel-Shot/Adobe interior of light living room with coffee table sofas and houseplants

Do home inspectors look under rugs?

Home inspectors will look under small rugs — such as area rugs or bathroom mats — to ensure the rugs aren’t covering up any damage. However, they usually won’t pull up carpeting that has been secured to the floor because that can cause damage to the carpet.

Do home inspectors look inside closets?

Home inspectors will look inside any closets that aren’t locked. However, they will only do a visual inspection. If there are heavy items within the closet, the home inspector won't move them.

Do home inspectors get on the roof?

Usually, home inspectors will get on the roof during the inspection to check the condition of shingles, gutters, and other roof components. However, they won’t if the roof is steep or otherwise precarious.

Bottom line

KomootP/Adobe engineer in safety hardhat helmet and vest check quality and inspect building

Home inspectors are a valuable resource when you're learning how to buy a home. They can identify problems and common issues with the property and give you an idea of what needs to be fixed.

However, the home inspection process can’t predict how long a home will last or tell you whether you should buy a home. If you have any specific concerns about the property, be sure to ask the inspector before the inspection takes place.

If you decide to move forward with the home purchase after the inspection and need help paying for repairs or renovations, learn about your financing options for home improvement projects.

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Author Details

Kat Tretina Kat Tretina is a personal finance expert focusing on practical financial matters, including student loans, debt repayment, side hustles, insurance, and healthcare. Drawing from her personal experience, she aims to simplify complex financial topics and provide individuals with the information they need to make informed decisions.

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