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Inspecting Appliances: What’s Hot and What’s Not

Inspecting appliances

If you’re confident in your experience, it pays to inspect appliances and make the customer happy

The Standards of Practice are where you find guidance for performing home inspections. But you won’t find much, if any, information about home appliances, whether you’re relying Standards from a national, state or local association. From a customer’s perspective, an inspection should cover all of the elements in any home. And that leaves you with a conundrum.

If appliances aren’t truly covered in the Standards, but your customers expect to learn whether the refrigerator gets cold or the oven heats up, you’ll probably err on the side of pleasing the customer. So the obvious question is, how?

What Current Standards Say

Most Standards of Practice are pretty straightforward about not inspecting appliances, or at least leaving that at the discretion of the home inspector. For example, the NAHI Standards, under section 10.3.8 state that the inspector is not required to operate freestanding or built-in appliances.

But “not required” is a lot different from “shall not.” And if your customers expect appliances to be inspected, you’ll have much better luck pleasing them if you include that in your services.

Inspecting appliances

You’ll have to draw boundaries somewhere, as not every inspector knows every appliance.

Risks of Inspecting Appliances

With every home inspection, you run the risk of being held responsible for anything that’s not in good working order, at least if you don’t report it. If the roof leaks and you didn’t detect it, chances are the customer will want to know why. But without Standards to guide you, you’re in a riskier area.

If you inspect appliances, you won’t have Standards to back up your methods if the customer has questions later. But if you don’t inspect them, you run the risk of losing customers. The answer, says NAHI, is to use a better standard of care.

Inspecting appliances

Your life experience has taught you how to operate common appliances.

How to Protect Yourself

Where the Standards stop short of describing how to inspect appliances, Claude McGavic, NAHI blog contributor, recommends that inspectors operate the appliance where feasible, and look for the following:

  • Solid placement with no rocking
  • Damaged or missing components such as knobs, handles, doors, etc.
  • Cracked cooktops
  • Obvious physical heating coil damage
  • Loose doors that don’t close properly
  • Anti-tip devices
  • Safe installation clearances
  • Gas shutoffs
  • Unsafe gas or electrical components

Your general knowledge of how to operate appliances in your own home obviously constitutes some level of expertise. And where you’re faced with any appliance that you aren’t familiar with, then you can fall back on the Standards that say you should only report on what you know.

Appliances are a gray area in home inspections. They’re generally not required, but your customer probably doesn’t know that. And even if they’re informed, it’s better to make the customer happy than to risk losing business. And that leaves you vulnerable. The best way to mitigate that is to use a general standard of care, and avoid giving an opinion on anything that you truly don’t know.

Home inspecting is rarely the same from one day to the next. Where one customer is well-informed and knows just what your job entails, most others have no real idea. You can offer more services than the Standards require, but always remember to cover your own back.

ICA School helps prepare you for the varied field of home inspecting. In as little as a few weeks, or as long as you like, you can complete our paced program. Before you know it, you’ll have a new business all your own. Still not sure? Get a free demo and see what our instructor-led video courses are really like.

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