Understanding Your Home Inspection Report

You’ve saved up for a long time, worked hard on your credit, been pre-approved for a mortgage, and spent days – maybe weeks – shopping for the perfect home.  You’ve finally found the “One” and have a home inspection done.  The inspection report comes back and it identifies some issues with the house.  Don’t panic!  Leave the Xanax in the medicine cabinet and let’s examine what the report might mean to you.

No house will be in perfect condition – not even new construction.  So, don’t shy away when an inspection identifies issues.

The inspection is a vitally important part of the home buying process, especially if you’re a first-time buyer.  You need to know about the house you’re are buying:

  • Is it structurally sound?
  • Is the electrical system safe?
  • Is the roof in good shape?

This list goes on, and it all sounds reasonable enough.

It may have been explained to you that the purpose of the home inspection is to investigate conditions that may affect your decision to buy that particular house.  Safety and health concerns are one important consideration; no one wants to unwittingly move their family into an unsafe house and have to spend a lot of money to remedy problems.  However, much too often, the inspection report becomes a tool used to pursue perfection.  Even a newly constructed house can have problems, and the older a house is, usually the more things will be found during the inspection.

So, what is most important to look at?  Faulty electrical system, a leaky roof, and compromised foundations are good examples.  Other items that figure prominently include water-tight windows, plumbing that doesn’t leak, missing or inoperable smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and (in California) water heaters that are not fitted with proper seismic straps.

However, things the inspector calls out in the report will not be limited only to “material defects.”  The inspector’s job is to thoroughly inspect the whole house, its systems and components, for deficiencies, however small.  So, what often happens is that buyers will make a request for repairs that reads like “War and Peace.”  We always tell those who ask: “If a buyer needs the seller to address the truly important fixes, they need to understand what those things are, and not get bogged down with demanding that everything in the report gets corrected.”

Will the missing drain stop in the guest bathroom going to cause you to cancel your purchase contract?  Probably not.  On the other hand, the leak under the sink and the fuzzy stuff growing under there that may be mold, is probably something worth asking seller to remedy.  The sprinkler hitting the living room window can be adjusted after you move in; however, the carbon monoxide leak from the furnace should be fixed before you move your family in.

So, the inspection report will tell you what’s really important, right?  Not necessarily.

Sometimes, reading the inspection report will make you feel like the “One” you fell in love with is a pile of rubble about to fall apart.  That would be a very wrong assumption.  Because inspectors, like everyone else these days, have to be concerned and very aware of liability.  For this reason, the written report will tend to err on the side of caution.


On site during the home inspection:

Inspector: “This outlet has an open ground.”
Question: “What’s an open ground?”
Inspector: “The outlet has been wired incorrectly, without a ground wire attached, so the outlet is not properly grounded.  I’ll note it in the report.”

Written report on the same item:

“Electrical receptacles at various locations show evidence of improper and/or faulty wiring.  Recommend a properly licensed, experienced electrical contractor evaluate and make recommendations for repair.”

Now, fixing the problem identified in the above example is actually very simple, fast and inexpensive.  But would everyone know that when they read the report?  What it all boils down to is that after you carefully read your report, don’t hesitate to contact the inspector to ask questions.  Make sure you fully understand your report and what everything means to you.

Downloading the “Safe Home” book from the Shacks & Shanties website will help you understand why some things are called out in your report, and help you make a more informed decision about your repair requests to the seller.  You will also find a link to the “Safe Home” book in the “Attachments” section of your Shacks & Shanties Inspection Services Report.

Additionally, if you’ve had your home inspection completed by Shacks & Shanties Inspection Services, you will receive a free copy of “Now That You’ve Had a Home Inspection” book.  This book will go over the systems and components of your house, and explain necessary maintenance and care.

Lastly, you can download a copy of the “Home Life Expectancy Chart” from the Shacks & Shanties website.  This is a comprehensive list of the life expectancy of many systems and components in houses.

Due diligence and common sense can coexist!

As a buyer, you should thoroughly investigate the condition of the house you want to buy.  In fact—it’s your obligation.  But, you owe it to yourself and the seller to remember that all houses will have issues. Focus on what’s important, take the small stuff off the table.  Remember, talk to your inspector so you can fully understand your report, and take advantage of the information and resources you’ll find on the Shacks & Shanties Inspections Services website.

Best Wishes,

Michael Colombo, CMI, CPI
Principal Inspector

A Buyer’s Inspection Story, or a Bad Dream?

A buyer recently had an inspection on a newer house. The inspector noticed a dime-sized spot on the carpet outside of the shower stall door. The inspector said, during the inspection, “Somebody drips a little when they get out of the shower.” The report, however, told a different story about that dime-sized spot on the rug: “We recommend a full evaluation and remediation as needed of this area as well as the entire dwelling by a qualified, licensed mold specialist.” The entire dwelling has mold? Because someone didn’t use the plush towel? OMG!

A bad dream, of course; however, things we don’t understand can be worrisome. If the actual observations, or call-outs, in your report don’t scare you back to your rental, the boilerplate language might. So, it’s important to understand your report.