Do Not Settle for a Partial Inspection

In order to save some money, particularly on a foreclosure, some buyers as well as realtors will suggest a “partial inspection.”  Because the house looks good to them they think the inspection is only needed to identify "important issues", thereby reducing the normal fee. This is really shooting yourself in the foot and many professional home inspectors will respectfully decline such a request.  There are definite ethical and liability issues in doing a partial inspection.  Also many things can and do occur once the home is vacated.

What would be eliminated? 

Probably the deck, although unsafe decks kill and injure more people than any other part of the house and many of them are not properly built, especially if built by the previous owner. The average buyer and many Realtors have no idea what to look for.
Perhaps skipping the attic would save a few dollars.  But many issues are found in the attic, improper or no venting of gas fired appliances and bathroom fans; fireplace flues or chimneys that may actually be a fire hazard.  Rafters and joists that have been cut into for some modification or installation. Blocked ventilation, missing or wet insulation, rodent infestation.  Evidence of flashing or roof leaking.

Of course, the crawl space would save a good amount because who wants to crawl under a house, right?  But what if the house supports are compromised, maybe even rotting. There may be standing water or evidence that it does in the rainy season or from the drains of leaking bathroom or kitchen fixtures.  Wouldn’t that suggest some repairs needed to be made?  What if a cute but vicious animal has taken up residence -- defecating everywhere, they often do.

The water heater may look good yet there are dozens of issues that may exist that the average person would never think to look for.  Water heaters and furnaces can kill you and there are many reports of deaths caused by impaired units. 

The roof may look okay from the ground but are some shingles loose or missing, is there wood decay or improper flashings?

Every electrical outlet should be checked, some have reverse polarity, some have a short, some breakers are overheating or too large for the wire size they are connected to.

Realistically, when you really think about it, where is it you would want to save money?  Isn’t your safety or life worth more than a couple of hundred dollars?

Any house is essentially a dynamic system, a collection of interrelated parts which can all have an impact upon one another. A qualified professional home inspector will have an understanding of these relationships and be competent in evaluating how one system may be affecting another. This is the critical skill that truly defines a professional inspection. Consider a bath fan duct that's leaking moisture into the attic and now mold is starting to grow on the underside of the roof sheeting or the sheet rock above. Maybe the furnace is leaking carbon monoxide into the heating ducts. Perhaps using the moisture meter wasn't deemed important and the leak from the toilet or the moisture penetrating the tile shower surround will go unnoticed until rot damage occurs.

Partial inspections are illegal in some states and California requires full disclosure.  A good inspector is going to notice issues he was not asked or paid to find.  Would it be ethical to ignore them and not tell you?  Of course not!  After you move in, if you discover serious issues that were not reported would you accept the fact you were to blame or would you demand compensation from the inspector?