Homebuyers want to know if a potential property is a sound investment both inside and out, so it's a fair question to ask whether or not the exterior is covered by a home inspection. The short answer is yes and no.
What a home inspector focuses on is the structural integrity of a property, not the cosmetic. For instance, surface grade, hardscaping and drainage within six feet of the inspected building or main parking structure would be included, however the integrity of a pool or a hot tub would not be as those are aesthetic structures.
As far as the actual home, an inspector should be looking at exterior portions of a representative sampling of doors and windows, to make sure there are no major leaks or cracks in the framing or under the door. Some homes shift over time and doors can lean on an angle, creating a gap where heated or cooled air can escape and ramp up electric bills.
Wall cladding, veneers, flashing, trim, eaves, soffits and fascias will also be inspected. Wall cladding is the siding or external covering of a house. This should serve as a form of weatherproofing to keep the elements away from the home. Veneers, including stone veneers, are a decorative element for a home, and are often found on upscale homes. Flashing is what keeps water from entering joints between different building materials as well as locations that are vulnerable to water penetration. Improperly installed flashing can result in wall or roof leaks. Eaves and trim will be checked for cracks and for efficiency. Soffits refer to the undersides of a construction element, such as an arch, stairs or overhanging section of a roof eave. Fascia is a band that runs horizontally under the roof edge and comprises the visible edge of the cornice. Inspecting each of these small details can reveal potential problems in a home or structure.
Outside of the home, decks, patios, balconies, stairways, columns, pathways, guardrails and handrails are all on the list of what needs to be inspected. Cracks in cement can deteriorate the concrete. As well, water damage from sprinkler systems can eat away at concrete over time and make it unstable. Patios and balconies need to be structurally sound in order to hold weight. Wood decks and balconies can experience rotting or warping that creates hazards.
As previously mentioned, landscaping, pools, hot tubs, water features such as outdoor fountains or koi ponds will not be covered in a home inspection. The philosophy is that damage to these does not affect the safety of the home. A home inspector's job is to ensure the structural integrity of the property, not the aesthetic.
Home buyers are welcome to have a landscaper evaluate the aesthetic outdoor portions of a property before they make an offer. Be sure to hire a trained and licensed home inspector, check their reviews on-line and feel free to as questions before, during and after the inspection so your expectations can be met.