How to Read a Home Inspection Report

How to Read a Home Inspection Report

A physical inspection report is a compilation of findings reported by an individual who systematically investigates designated components of a property.  The home inspection report will help a home buyer discern whether the property is more or less “worth” purchasing. The inspection report will highlight the issues in which an inspector, who is typically only a generalist, will discover. The inspector will use tools such as moisture meters, infrared cameras, electric testers and even building code knowledge to determine what issues are present and then proceed to categorize them according to their level of importance, determined by the home inspector.

For the Home Buyer

The inspection report is typically commissioned by the home buyer and exclusively for the home buyer and is sometimes required by lenders or banks for the loan. These institutions can also request these inspection reports as well, but it’s not typical.

Types of Reports

There are checklist reports, narrative reports and there is a combination of the two.

Checklist Home inspection Reports

The checklist report is a type of report where the inspector uses a system of “good, fair and poor” to best describe the condition of the property inspected.

Pros

  1. For the inspector, this report is ideal because it allow the inspector to spend less time at the property as well as a limited amount of time writing a physical report after which.
  2. For the home buyer, these reports and inspection fees are usually less because the time spent at the house reflects this in the money you spent for the inspection.

Cons

  1. For the inspector the inspection report is a huge liability. The report is chock full of disclosures and SOP’s (Standards of Practice) which in turn reduce his responsibilities to inspect thoroughly.
  2. For the home buyer, this report type is amazingly terrible. It is not thorough and lacks substance, opinion and direction. Everything you supposidly just paid for.

Home Inspection Report preparation

Preparing a detailed report filled with information and digital images will generally take an experienced and knowledgeable professional almost as long as it took him to conduct the actual inspection. This is solely dependent upon the condition of the property, of course. Much goes into the production of an informational home inspection report and whether the comments used are “boilerplate” or custom to your house. There can be research for code compliance, a review of the images taken as well as correspondence with other speciaility contractors for opinion.

Photographs

Every home inspection report should contain images. Images help the buyer support their position when requesting repairs to be performed as well as illustrate the current condition of a item or system at the time of the inspection. A typical inspection report will have many images, however, most inspectors choose to only add the ones of significance (safety or health related).

Report content

Narrative reports

The narrative report is a report in which the inspector will use a paragraph or two to describe the issue. He will generally describe the location, the issue at hand, the potential cause of the issue if known, and the course of action to remedy the issue. The inspector may choose to add supporting evidence to the report such as local code, or other standards which may be applicable. The inspector will generally use a templatized report software program which houses many thousands of comments already pre-written (boilerplate). The inspect may choose a comment and modify it to fit your situation. Home inspectors, believe it or not, will see similar issues consistently throughout all housing. This type of comment is also referred to as boilerplate. Boilerplate comments can also be a comment that lacks substance but rather than speak of the issues, the inspector will only describe an issue briefly and then refer the buyer to a specialist.

Checklist

Check list reports do not offer much in the way of inspector commentary. There may be a line or two for such commentary, however, the comments are usually very brief.

Disclosure & SOPs

Disclosures and Standards of Practice (SOP) are limitations set by an association in order to reduce the inspectors liabilities.

Disclosure example:

All structures are dependent on the soil beneath them for support, but soils are not uniform. Some that might appear to be firm and solid can liquefy and become unstable during seismic activity. There are soils that can expand to twice their volume with the influx of water and move structures with relative ease, raising and lowering them and fracturing slabs and other hard surfaces. In fact, expansive soils have accounted for more structural damage than most natural disasters. Regardless, foundations are not uniform…

SOP example

Electrical:

A. Items to be inspected:

Service equipment
Electrical panels
Circuit wiring
Switches, receptacles, outlets, and lighting fixtures

B. The inspector is not required to:

Operate circuit breakers or circuit interrupters
Remove cover plates
Inspect de-icing systems or components
Inspect private or emergency electrical supply systems or components

The Summary

The report summary is a short list compiled of the most significant of all issues discovered. The summary will usually only speak of costly repairs, safety or other health related issues. Most real estate agents and many home buyers will only focus their attention on this section of the report (It is never suggested to rely on just the summary items to recap the condition of a property).

Length of report

The overall length of the report is determined by the amount of work the inspector puts into the written document. A narrative report can be a few as 15 pages and as many as ? I’ve seen 150 page reports.  The checklist reports are historically short in length and can be as few as 5 pages but as many as 40-50.