You’ve finally found your dream home and are getting ready to close in a couple of weeks. You’ve done your research on homeowners insurance, called the insurance company and received a preliminary quote. But before they’re willing to issue the policy, they’re requiring you to submit a 4-point inspection.
A 4-point inspection is used to evaluate the four major home systems: the roof, electrical, plumbing and HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning).
Let’s talk about when you need a 4-point inspection, how much they cost, what to expect and what you should do to prepare.
When Do You Need a 4-Point Inspection?
A 4-point inspection isn’t always required with a home purchase. Insurance companies sometimes require a 4-point inspection when buying an older home. They might also request a 4-point inspection from existing policyholders before the annual renewal of their homeowners insurance policy.
What’s Included in a 4-Point Inspection?
The major components of a 4-point inspection are the roof, plumbing, electrical and HVAC systems. Unlike a full home inspection, which is a comprehensive analysis of the home’s overall condition, a 4-point inspection focuses solely on the home’s main systems.
The roof of a home is one of the most crucial components of the 4-point inspection since roofs protect the home from snow, rain, sleet, debris and other threats – not to mention they’re often more expensive than the aforementioned home systems.
A roof inspection will document the type of roofing material used, the age of the roof and any damage to the roof itself, such as missing or damaged tiles, shingles, fascia, soffits, pipe boots and flashing.
An aging or damaged roof that’s prone to leaks can cause a home to fail a 4-point inspection. If your roof isn’t too old, was installed correctly and remains water-tight, you should be in good shape to pass the roofing inspection.
Electrical inspectors check to see that the electrical systems are up to building code and are size-appropriate for the home and use. They ensure all circuits are properly grounded and all wires are insulated and free from fraying and other damage.
Electrical fires are one of the most common and costly insurance risks, which means inspectors are also on the lookout for anything that might pose a safety risk. Certain types of electrical systems or setups may result in failing a 4-point inspection, including:
- Knob-and-tube wiring
- Aluminum wiring
- Cloth wiring
- Double-tapped breakers (two wires connected to a single circuit breaker that’s only designed for a single wire)
- Fuses and fuse boxes
- Electrical panels made by manufacturers like Federal Pacific Electric (FPE), Challenger, Sylvania and Zinsco
During the plumbing portion of a 4-point inspection, the inspector will take a thorough look at your home’s pipes, plumbing fixtures and water heater, checking for any signs of leaking.
The inspector will also examine the age of your pipes and check what material they’re made of. Certain pipe materials, such as polybutylene or galvanized steel, can cause your plumbing system to fail to meet the insurer’s standards. Older plumbing systems or damaged pipes can increase the risk of leaking, which may also result in failing a plumbing inspection.
The inspector will examine all components of the home’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, ensuring they’re fully functioning and appropriately sized to heat and cool the house.
There are several ways to heat and cool a home. But for a 4-point inspection, most insurers will not accept fireplaces, oil furnaces, portable heaters or air conditioning window units.
HVAC inspections will also consider the age of the home’s HVAC systems. In most cases, they’ll recommend replacement if any of the units are over 20 years old. If the HVAC systems are permanent, installed correctly, appropriately sized for the home and under 20 years old, there’s a good chance they’ll be approved by the insurance company.
Some insurance companies have their own 4-point inspection forms, but most companies will accept a 4-point inspection report from any licensed inspector.
Is a 4-Point Inspection Required?
A 4-point inspection isn’t always a requirement. It’s up to the insurance company to decide whether or not it’s needed. 4-point inspections are often needed for properties that are over 30 years old. Insurance companies are also more likely to require 4-point inspections on properties in coastal areas, such as Florida, Texas and the Carolinas, where hurricanes and flooding are common.
Many people wonder why insurance companies don’t just use the home’s full inspection report. Since they’re only concerned with the roof, HVAC, plumbing and electrical systems, some insurance companies don’t want to bother sifting through the full inspection report.
Other times, there may not be a recent inspection report, like when the 4-point inspection is for a renewal of insurance coverage or if the home buyer purchased the property with cash and never conducted a full inspection.
How Much Does a 4-Point Home Inspection Cost?
The cost of a 4-point inspection can vary from state to state, but in general, you can expect pricing on a 4-point inspection to run between $125 – $175.
How Should You Prepare for a 4-Point Inspection?
Preparing your home for a 4-point inspection is like preparing for a home showing. You’ll want to address any signs of damage and have them professionally repaired.
While you can never guarantee the outcome of a 4-point inspection, there are certain things you can do to help maximize your odds of getting approved by your insurance provider.
Before a 4-point inspection, consider utilizing some of the following tips:
- Get an electrician to fix any exposed, frayed wiring or an overloaded fuse box.
- Pinpoint any signs of leaks, deterioration or water-damaged ceilings or walls.
- Replace any rotting or damaged wood.
- Replace worn or damaged plumbing fixtures or washing machine hoses.
- Ensure you have an adequate heating and air conditioning system. Note that oil furnaces, fireplaces and portable heating and air conditioning units will not pass the HVAC inspection.
- Check the attic for signs of moisture or sunlight coming through.
- Have a roofing professional replace any broken or missing shingles.
- Make sure there are fire alarms throughout the home and locks on doors.
These are just a few tips you can use before a 4-point inspection. For a more comprehensive guide to prepping for an inspection, check out this home inspection checklist and costs.
An Abbreviated Inspection
A 4-point inspection is an insurer’s way of minimizing their risk before agreeing to provide coverage on a property. Unlike a full home inspection, 4-point inspections are only concerned with the condition of the home’s major systems. 4-point inspections aren’t always required when buying a home, but if you’re purchasing an older home – particularly in an area prone to hurricanes or extreme weather – don’t be surprised if your insurer asks for a 4-point inspection.