Can’t crawl into a tight space or climb to the top of a high roof? No problem. Inspector-controlled gadgets can do the work, taking pictures and video to check for leaks, damage and more. Other high-tech devices make the home-inspection process more efficient for inspectors and their clients. But is the extra cost worth it?

Starting with computer tablets

“Everyone’s using laptops or tablets,” said Jay Rizzo, co-owner and principal, Tiger Home Inspection, Braintree, Mass., a regional home inspection company started in 1990.

Jay Rizzo

Emailed reports from these devices are easy to read (eliminating handwriting issues), and can include pictures, videos and important attachments, including the Standards of Practice, Rizzo said.

Sewer line inspections

Chad Hett, vice president and co-founder of Elite Group Property Inspection Service, Inc., Diamond Bar, Calif., said his company was one of the first in the industry to incorporate sewer line inspection services. It involves putting a scope down into the drain lines that go from the house to the street, to inspect drains for what might be damage due to tree roots, or cracked or burst pipes.

“The home warranty doesn’t cover the sewer line,” Hett said. “Most homeowners, when they’re purchasing a home, they don’t know that sewer lines are not covered or inspected. Usually, when the inspector gets there, we’ll flush the toilets and run the water and everything will run fine. Well, it may be a few weeks later, a month later or even after the homeowner moves in that these events occur because of tree roots or any type of damage.”

While sewer line inspections aren’t typically included in standard home inspections and cost about an extra $250, having the optional service adds value for clients because it can prevent costly plumbing nightmares, ranging from about $2,000 to $20,000, Hett said.

Drones

Chad Hett

Inspectors who can’t inspect roofs because of the height or roof type have to recommend further review by a licensed roofing contractor. To remedy the situation, Elite Group is among the home inspection companies to use roof drones, which do the dangerous work for them. Inspectors set the GPS and these drones, equipped with cameras, hover on the roof, taking clear photos or video, according to Hett.

The added cost for the service, Hett said, is about $150.

The newest inspection gadget on the block

Hett said his company recently starting using remote control drones, equipped with lights and cameras, which go into crawl spaces and other areas inspectors can’t access.

“The ‘crawl bot’ … has a camera on it that has a full 360 rotation, so it can see from left to right, up and down. It can see different parts of the house where leaks might occur. It goes through mud. It’ll go over 2 inches of water. It’ll even crawl over a 6-inch pipe if needed, to get to the other side,” he said.

The remote control drone detects anything that a home inspector would typically see but can’t access.

“If our inspectors can’t get to it because of where it is, we have to recommend further review and disclose in our inspection reports that it wasn’t inspected. Buyers have to literally hire somebody else that can access it and has the tools to do that,” Hett said. “With these technologies, it’s helping our inspectors stop doing that. A lot of inspectors are going to be floored when they see this.”

What the eyes might miss

Elite Group uses infrared guns to scan houses to detect moisture that might be invisible to the human eye.

“These tools will also allow us to pinpoint areas throughout a home that have overheating or malfunctioning electrical components, which pose a potential danger to your household,” Hett said.

Gearing up to different degrees

There’s no argument that the new technology makes an inspector’s job easier. However, some in the industry suggests taking caution when employing these devices because using them may be viewed as violating ASHI’s standards of practice, which calls for inspectors to “inspect readily accessible, visually observable, installed systems and components.” Relying on anything other than their own two eyes may be taking on additional liability.

Rizzo said Tiger Home Inspection isn’t too focused on all the gadgetry, including sewer cameras and thermal imaging, because he doesn’t think there’s a demand for the extra services. But he is planning to add drones to use on a case-by-case basis for inaccessible roofs.

Instead, Tiger’s inspectors still rely on doing visual nondestructive home inspections, based on experience.

“[Our] inspectors are still going in with a flashlight, probe, various other hand tools, a laptop and knowledge,” Rizzo said. “With all this new technology, you can’t substitute a good knowledge base, with training and experience.”