What is a city inspection for a house?

While details can vary, a city inspection means a check performed by the local government to determine whether a property meets local codes, zoning laws, and other regulations. A city inspection, which some municipalities require and some don't, can help a seller demonstrate that the house meets local regulations before a sale. You may also need a city inspection before renovating to ensure the proposed work is allowed.

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What are the benefits of a city home inspection?

Ensuring that a home is properly permitted and complies with zoning laws is important for both parties in a real estate transaction. Depending on the jurisdiction, sellers may need a city inspection on file to sign a sale contract and transfer the home's title. Buyers benefit because they have the peace of mind of knowing that they won't receive a fine for improper or illegal work on their new home.

Local governments often need a thorough and recurring building and home inspection process so that dangerous infrastructure issues—apparent or hidden—do not get overlooked that could cost lives. City inspections enforce code compliance, public safety, and livability in your city.

What does a city inspector look for?

When performing a city house inspection, city home inspectors look for the following:

  • Violations of building codes and other regulations
  • New construction is properly permitted
  • House complies with zoning laws
  • House meets or exceeds the minimum setback distance (the distance required between house and property line)
  • Health and safety violations that could make the house dangerous to live in

What does a property inspector do?

In addition to looking at the house in person, a city inspector will look for records certifying that work performed on the house meets building codes and obtained the necessary permits.

What's the difference between a building inspector vs. a home inspector?

A building inspector performs a variety of inspections, including a city inspection, and verifies that the home complies with all local regulations and has the necessary permits. Unlike a home inspector, a building inspector is a government official and may be able to issue fines or even condemn a house deemed uninhabitable.

A home inspector is an employee of a private company with broad knowledge of building and construction. They visually check a home to identify problems that need — or will soon need — repair. They usually look at both the exterior and interior of a house, checking for things like water damage, foundation problems, and functionality of systems like plumbing, electrical, and HVAC. Buyers who want to be sure about the condition of the property they're considering often hire home inspectors. Learn more about how a home inspection works and discover what do home inspectors look for.

Both the home inspection and the city inspection benefit the buyer. What a property or building inspector covers will vary depending on the municipality. However, a home inspector is typically licensed and produces a report that can significantly impact the sale outcome.

Sellers can request building inspectors to certify that the house is legally in order. Real estate contracts often require the seller to certify that any work on the home has the proper permits, and local laws may require a city inspection before the sale. When you propose a home renovation, a city inspector may also come to your house to check on work in progress and make sure that it meets code and matches the plan they approved.

Example:If a homeowner had a new deck put in before selling their house, a home inspector might look at the deck for potential structural issues, the condition of the wood, and other factors related to the quality of the work.

The building inspector, on the other hand, would ensure the builder properly filed the deck's construction permit with the city. They would also verify that the deck doesn't infringe on neighboring properties and meets other procedural and safety considerations.

Does a city inspection impact my home appraisal?

A city inspection might impact the home's appraisal if the inspection revealed serious, costly code violations. A city inspection determines if a house is up to code, and a home inspection scrutinizes the major systems and structure conditions. An appraisal can answer the question, "how much is my home worth?" A home appraisal benefits the lender and the buyer in assessing the accurate market value of a home within the context of comparable homes in the area.

What about a home insurance inspector?

A home insurance inspector will visually inspect your home, much like a private home inspector. However, the home insurance inspector is interested in potential insurance risks. Their assessment helps your homeowners insurance company determine rates.

A homeowners insurance company might require a 4-point inspection covering the roof and structure, electrical, plumbing, and HVAC systems before approving a new policy or renewing a homeowners insurance coverage. Unlike a home inspection — requested by the homeowner or potential buyer — the insurance company carries out an inspection to deem it acceptable to provide coverage. Learn more about home insurance inspections.

What comes next?

If you’re selling your current home or looking for a new one, it may also be a good time to evaluate your home insurance policy. Progressive is here to help.

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