A 4 point inspection is a basic inspection report regarding 4 main areas of concern in a house.
The 4 areas are:
- Electrical system
- HVAC system
- Plumbing system
This report is a necessary requirement for purchasing and renewing homeowners insurance policies in Florida when the house is older than 30 years.
Homes that are less than 30 years old might also have to submit the report if insurers demand it.
Compared to a regular home inspection report, the four point inspection is less detailed and less comprehensive.
They are therefore also less costly than standard home inspections.
It must be noted that there no standard formats for how the report should be presented.
Certified and qualified inspectors should know what are the important information required by insurers and include them in the reports. The final findings will be endorsed by the inspectors.
Why is it required for older homes?
The focus is on older homes because they are very likely to have been built using construction techniques that have been outdated and replaced by newer and safer methods.
Moreover, building materials that have been safe to use in the past might have been identified as hazardous to human health aided by new scientific discoveries.
One good example is asbestos used in walls and ceilings. They were used excessively for building works in the past and have now been identified as a cancer causing substance that is extremely dangerous to health.
Outdated installation methods of electrical works can also pose a higher potential of fire hazard compared to modern practices.
Moreover, it is generally understood that building material deteriorate over time either naturally or with exposure to the environment.
With these in mind, insurers need to gain a clearer picture of what exactly they are insuring before underwriting any policies for coverage.
And of course… they might be able to find excuses in the report to charge a higher premium…
What are the 4 areas of concern?
As mentioned earlier, the 4 points refer to the electrical system, HVAC, plumbing and roof.
Here is an overview of what are being scrutinized in each area.
Faulty electrical setups and wiring are the biggest cause of residential fires.
While fire safety standards are enforced on electrical appliances and electrical works, accidents do happen when thing don’t work the way they are supposed to.
The main concern is whether the electrical system is working properly.
The setup also needs to be documented to identify potential hazards such as:
- Tripping breakers
- Blown fuses
- Exposed wiring
- Area that has been scorched
An item of particular concern with whether a particular house uses fuses or breakers as kill-switches for the main and secondary panels.
HVAC is an acronym for heating ventilation and air-conditioning.
Heating and cooling systems are essential to the habitability of a dwelling.
In fact, landlords have been taken to court for not repairing and maintaining heating systems. Putting the life of tenants at risks.
On top of that, whether a residence uses a boiler or furnace for heating both poses a potential fire hazard to the property.
This is why the type of heating system and the condition of it is of utmost importance to insurers.
Homeowners should realize that the installation of a proper heating and ventilation system can not just provide better peace of mind in terms of safety, but can also be more energy efficient due to better insulation properties. Resulting in utility cost savings.
Household that don’t install such systems often resort to conventional and less modern ways of heating like fireplaces, stoves, and portable heating appliances.
While these can be more economical, there are various trade-offs that the homeowner has to make.
The HVAC system is definitely an area that homeowners should consider investing in.
Water is the biggest enemy of the house.
While water damage is directly related to water seepage, other problems like pest infestations and mold are indirectly caused by water and moisture.
Granted the most common source of water problems originate from the roof (which will be discussed later), faulty plumbing systems can cause very big problems very quickly.
Leaking or bursting pipes within the walls of the house or embedded in the foundation gives water a direct entry into the interiors of a house.
One of the main focal points of inspectors is the material and condition of piping.
As mentioned earlier, the most common cause of water problems originate from poorly constructed, defective, or corroded roofing.
Because of this, every roofing project whether building a new one or replacing and old one should be done right.
Cheap material is often the main cause of problems in the short to medium term.
Most roof have a lifespan well exceeding 10 years.
Insurer would want to see roofs that have a remaining life of at least about 3 to 5 years.
While onsite photographs taken will play a prominent role in each of the 4 areas, pictures of the roof will be scrutinized more closely.
What are insurers concerned about in 4 point inspection reports?
Remember that insurers are not building authorities who go around looking at the intricate details of how a house is constructed and penalize home owners for running afoul of construction guidelines.
They are primarily concerned with the existing condition of a house in order to determine whether any aspects do not adhere to their underwriting guidelines.
The general agreement is that as long as there are no major problems with a property that inspectors would reasonably expect it to fall apart within the next 24 months, property owners would be eligible for homeowners policies.
As these reports are summaries that resemble checklists rather than comprehensive reports, insurance companies are just trying to document the cases and obtain an overview of the overall condition of the major systems in a property.
As qualifying criteria might be different from insurer to insurer, one might find that a refusal to insure from one company does not mean a refusal across the board of all insurers.
This is because another insurance provider might gladly accept a homeowner who was rejected by another.
Either that, or a policy can be underwritten. But it comes with limited coverage.
Common reason for failing a four point inspection include:
- Aged roofs
- Badly damaged roofs
- Hazardous electrical wiring
- Lack of proper ventilation and heating systems
- Water heaters that are still in use past it lifespan
Don’t forget that if the findings are detrimental to you, you can get things fixed and order a new inspection.
Some people do rinse and repeat until they pass.
Common questions about 4 point inspections
As these mini home inspections can be an obligation, it’s no surprise that a lot of questions regarding them can pop up.
How much do 4 point inspections costs?
They can be as affordable $50 and seldom above $100.
If you’ve just bought a house and had a standard home inspection done. Your inspector might even provide a 4 point report for free if you request for it.
How long will a 4 point inspection take?
It can be anywhere between 30 minutes to 2 hours.
It really depends on a lot of factors including the size of the house, the general condition, the mood of the inspector, etc.
Can you fail an inspection?
The short answer is yes.
But as previously mentioned, you can go to another insurer for quote. Or fix the problems to pass it.
Will it affect the homeowners insurance premium?
Generally speaking, it should not affect the premiums.
The report is a basis of determining whether a house is insurable.
However, knowing insurers, it wouldn’t be surprising to find them charging higher premiums for more “undesirable” houses.
Who can conduct 4 point inspections?
It must be noted that the conducting of 4 point inspections are not limited to home inspectors.
Other professionals in the industry such as architects, contractors and structural engineers can also conduct qualified inspections as long as they have the expertise to do so.
There are a few issues that inspectors will evaluate regarding all four areas.
- Are they new?
- How old are components?
- Are they generally in good shape and satisfactory working condition?
- Have repairs been made in the past?
- Were repairs professionally conducted?
- Any signs of previous damage?
If you feel that an inspector might determine facts that are wrong, be sure to speak to them or accompany them during the inspection to ensure that they have the correct information.
Finally, don’t forget to obtain at least 2 different quotes from 2 different insurers when choosing homeowners policies.
This is a very competitive industry and you might find very good packages at very competitive prices.