The Difference Between Home Inspectors and Building Inspectors

A building inspector in an unfinished attic.

When you’re buying or selling a home, there are many regulations that need to be upheld in order to finalize the transaction. When you're working towards that closing date, it can be overwhelming, stressful, and confusing. One confusing aspect or common misconception in the world of real estate is that building inspectors and home inspectors are one and the same. In reality, this is far from the truth. There are some pretty large differences between the two. Luckily, we are here to explain what makes one different from the other. Keep reading to learn about the key differences.

Home Inspectors

A home inspector wearing a yellow hardhat.

First, let’s delve into what purpose home inspectors serve and why you would use one. The first fact that should be noted is that home inspectors are not affiliated with a government agency. They serve the purpose of evaluating the condition of a house for a home buyer, as this is part of the due diligence associated with purchasing a property. In rare instances, these individuals will inspect a home that is under construction, but in most cases they serve to inspect homes that already exist or where construction has been completed.

Home inspectors always do a visual inspection of all visible and accessible areas of the home. They get more in depth by testing the electrical and plumbing systems of a home as well as doors and windows, and finally major appliances to ensure that everything is in working order.

Home inspectors also aim to uncover any deep-rooted problems with the property. They will be on the lookout for any foundation or structural issues and will evaluate the condition of the home’s roof. Once the inspection is completed, a report that serves as an overview of the condition of the home is compiled, including any issues or defects found and also recording any necessary maintenance that should be conducted.

When you’re hiring a home inspector as a buyer or seller, you should ask a few questions to ensure that you are getting the best of the best. You will want someone with expertise and experience. First, research how long they have been inspecting homes. Next, consider their certifications, qualifications, and training, as well as what they may have done prior to becoming an inspector. For example, it’s always a good sign when they have previous experience in construction or something along those lines. Overall, you’re looking for someone with a strong background that is keeping up on their education surrounding the conditions of homes and all of the items to know around that topic.

Building Inspectors

A female building inspector with a hard hat and a clipboard.

Now, let’s discuss what a building inspector does and highlight the differences between them and those who are primarily for homes. The largest difference between the two is that unlike home inspectors, building inspectors are employed by a government agency, most typically a city or county building department. Under their realm of responsibility comes inspecting both commercial and residential buildings. This is another anomaly to mention, as home inspectors strictly evaluate residential homes.

Building inspectors serve to ensure that the real estate they are evaluating is in compliance with local codes and ordinances. Primarily, they are inspecting items related to potential safety issues like smoke alarms, the installation of gas appliances, the strength of structural members, and emergency exits. Unlike home inspectors, these individuals are not concerned with whether or not the building is in “good” condition, or in other words, whether the appliances are working and the quality of workmanship is high. Instead, the job of a building inspector is to examine the "insides” of a building, or what will be covered up once construction is done. They are there to ensure the skeleton of the structure is safe and up to building codes.

Most frequently, these inspections are done in conjunction with a building receiving its permit, which involves a series of progress inspections and ends with one last inspection and the “close-out” of a permit. These inspections are usually done upon the purchase of a building or before a renovation.

One last thing to note is that building inspectors are involved in code enforcement duties for buildings that are already in existence, sometimes resulting in surprise visits and inspections.