When ordering a home inspection, it’s important to understand what the home inspector can or can not do in a home inspection. One way you can determine this is by reading the home inspector’s Standards of Practice. In my home inspection business, we adhere to the InterNACHI Standards of Practice.
Oftentimes, in a home inspection, we find things that need to be moved to inspect areas of the home. A home inspector is not required to move things during a home inspection. However, most home inspectors will move items when it’s safe to do so and won’t damage the home. Moving items is left to the discretion of the home inspector.
Sometimes a home inspector will move things on a case by case basis provided the homeowner is present at the inspection to give permission for the items to be moved or to move the items themselves. In our home inspection business, it’s company policy not to move items without permission from the homeowner and if possible have the homeowner move the item themselves.
It’s important for a home inspector to remember that while they are providing a valuable service for their client, they are still a guest in this person’s home and should treat their property with the utmost respect. A home inspector could be held liable if they moved a homeowner’s personal belongings and damage something in the process.
Many homeowners, particularly wealthy clientele, that have valuable art pieces such as sculptures, paintings, rugs, etc. While inspectors have the best intentions, moving an item could lead to an accident that damages a homeowners personal property.
We’ve compiled an in-depth article containing a complete list of 35 Seller Tips to Pass a Home Inspection.
You can also find a complete account of what a home inspection does and does not include in What a Home Inspection Includes and 27 Things They Don’t That Might Shock You
Let’s explore a list of 15 items that a home inspector will not typically move during a home inspection.
Often times the biggest obstruction a home inspector sees is furniture. Furniture such as couches, chairs, tables, and beds are not moved during an inspection. If you’ve got an area in question that you need your home inspector to look at, you need to have your agent ask the homeowner to make this area accessible during the inspection.
Moving heavy furniture could cause damage to the flooring or damage the furniture itself. Some furniture pieces are also very heavy and could cause injury to the inspector or an attending party.
Personal Storage, Boxes or Totes
When a seller puts their house up for sale, they will often times begin packing their valuables in boxes and totes. Sometimes these items are stored in the garage or inside individual rooms. It’s important for sellers to leave a walkway around boxes and totes so the home inspector can visually inspect the walls, windows, doors, and electrical outlets.
If important areas we need to access is blocked, we will ask the homeowner to move the boxes or totes. If a homeowner is not present, with permission we will move them on a case by case basis.
Items Inside Closets
People love to store things in closets. Closets are places homeowners will store things that they use both frequently and infrequently. These items can include coats, vacuums, and other items.
The problem is many closets contain important items the home inspector needs access to such as attic hatches, water heaters, and electrical panel boxes.
Items Inside Cabinetry
This is similar to items in closets. Cabinetry can store everything from dry food goods, pots and pans, and personal hygiene items. Sometimes these personal hygiene items can be very personal. These items can obstruct the view of plumbing pipes, electrical wiring, and even panel boxes if the house is old enough.
Home inspectors should not move stoves, refrigerators, freezers, or other large appliances. Countertop appliances including countertop appliances like coffee makers, microwaves, etc. should not need to be moved unless they are blocking an electrical outlet.
We do often move countertop appliances to access electrical outlets to test for GFCI protection in the kitchen.
Wondering how home inspectors inspect appliances? We’ve written a comprehensive article on Do Home Inspectors Check Appliances.
Large Area Rugs
This mostly refers to large area rugs. However, it can also include small bathroom throw rugs. Most home inspectors will move small area rugs especially in bathrooms or at exterior doors as they could hide damage to the floor. It’s important to remember though that they are not required to do so.
Clients often like to know what is under carpeting. This is generally because they want to know if there is hardwood flooring under the carpet. This was a common occurrence and older houses where hardwood flooring was installed throughout the house but later someone installed carpeting over the hardwood.
Unfortunately, home inspectors can’t pull carpeting back just for kicks. However, if the carpeting is already loose from the floor we will pull the carpeting back to its last attachment point.
Commonly found in older homes, you’ll find drop ceiling tiles or decorative ceiling tiles. It would be virtually impossible for a home inspector to remove ceiling tiles for inspection. If drop ceiling tiles are present they may move a representative sample of tiles to attempt a visual inspection. Keep in mind they aren’t required to.
We will often only move ceiling tiles where we suspect a leak exists or has leaked in the past. This is done on a case by case basis.
Wallpaper and Wall Coverings
Wallpaper and other wall coverings are not peeled back or removed for home inspections. If material like wallpaper is peeling off the walls, your inspector may mention it as a cosmetic defect in the inspection report. However, inspectors are not required to note cosmetic defects.
If your inspector suspects an underlying issue such as a water leak around a window or a roof leak, the inspector will likely note the condition and recommend an examination by a licensed contractor. This way the homeowner is aware that destructive testing is taking place and the licensed contractor can either repair the damage or close the area in question in a professional manner.
Pictures Hanging on Walls
Many people will cover electrical panel boxes with pictures if it is located in clear view areas such as a bedroom or hallway. Even then, the inspector should ask the homeowner first for the location of the electrical panel box and permission to remove the picture for access.
Most homes will have window treatments like blinds, plantation shutters, or curtains at the windows. The extent of movement of window treatments is limited to the normal operation of the blinds, opening and closing plantation shutters, or sliding curtains on the rod. Window treatments are never removed from windows.
Vehicles & Mechanical Equipment
Vehicles, golf carts, ATVs, lawnmowers, trimmers, tools, generators, and other equipment are often stored inside a garage. These things could hinder access to some areas of the garage during a home inspection.
In the event that small equipment such as walk-behind lawnmowers, weed trimmers, etc are blocking access to mechanicals (such as a water heater) the inspector may at his discretion move the equipment if he can not contact the homeowner for permission and can do so without doing harm to the equipment or themselves.
A home inspector in our company should never move any vehicles or motorized equipment like golf carts, ATVs, riding lawn mowers, etc under any circumstances.
If something is prohibiting a line of sight inspection or access to an area like a room, door, window, attic, etc these items should be noted as a limitation in the inspection report.
House plants are a popular way of cleaning indoor air by removing carbon dioxide and producing oxygen. Some house plants can grow to be very large. Generally, house plants are not a problem themselves, however overwatering can cause water damage to hardwood flooring and along baseboards and drywall.
Home inspectors are not required to move house plants to look for damage such as this. Most will move branches aside to visually see around the plant without actually moving the plant.
It is common to find organic debris on roofs when trees overhang the roof. Home inspectors are not required to move organic debris such as straw and leaves but are required to document the presence of the material.
Moving organic debris from a roof could trigger a roof leak. This action needs to be reserved for a contractor in the event that a roof leak or roof damage is present, it can be properly repaired.
Snow accumulation on roofs is common during winter months in northern states. Snow accumulation on the roof restricts the inspector’s ability to access the roof for inspection.
Where snow is concerned, the best practice is to inspect the underside roof sheathing in the attic. This method can go a long way in determining if there is evidence of damage to the roof coverings or active roof leaks caused by snow accumulation.
There you have it. These are the top 15 things home inspectors won’t move during a home inspection. This is not an exhaustive list and I’m certain there are some outlying items. Consult your home inspector if you have questions about whether or not an item was moved during a home inspection.