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The National Association of Home Inspectors (NAHI) cautions home buyers NOT to misunderstand the purpose of a professional inspection report. The inspector’s role is NOT to identify a complete repair list for the home, nor is it the sellers obligation to repair any problems discovered by the home inspector.

Potential home buyers often incorrectly view an inspection report as a mandatory repair list for the seller. The fact is sellers are not required to produce a flawless house. They have no such obligation by law or contract.

With a home inspection, most home repairs are subject to negotiation between the parties of a sale. Typically, buyers will request that various conditions be repaired before the close of escrow, and sellers will usually acquiesce to some of these demands. But with most building defects, sellers make repairs as a matter of choice, not obligation; to foster good will or facilitate consummation of the sale. Sellers maintain the legal right to refuse repair demands, except where requirements are set forth by state law, local ordinance, or the real estate purchase contract. Legal obligations include earthquake straps for water heaters and smoke detectors in specified locations. Contracts usually stipulate that fixtures be in working condition at the close of escrow, that windows not be broken, and that there be no existing leaks in the roof or plumbing.

Before you make any demands of the seller, try to evaluate the inspection report with an eye toward problems of greatest significance. Look for conditions that compromise health and safety or involve active leakage. Most sellers will address problems affecting sensitive areas such as the roof, fireplace, gas burning fixtures, or electrical wiring. The purpose of a home inspection is not to corner the seller with a repair list. The primary objective is to know what you are buying before you buy it. All homes have defects; it’s not possible to acquire one that is perfect. What you want is a working knowledge of significant defects before you close escrow.

An inspection consists of a thorough visual examination of a home’s structural components including the foundation, super structure, and roofing systems, where accessible. The heating and cooling equipment is activated along with operating plumbing fixtures, testing accessible electrical outlets and fixtures, and operating a reprehensive sampling of doors and windows.

Make sure you hire a qualified, professional inspector. Since 1978, the National Association of Home Inspectors (NAHI), a non-profit corporation has been providing education, training, and support services to the real estate inspection industry and to the public. NAHI requires its members to successfully pass a written test of property systems and complete 30 hours of education each year.