Would you believe that in the 1970s, there was no standard form or required content for home inspection reports? There was little regulation or oversight of the home inspection industry, and as a result, many home buyers regarded home inspection companies with skepticism. After the American Society of Home Inspectors was founded in 1976, all of that began to change. The organization quickly moved to establish baselines for consumer expectations, which are outlined in their “Standards of Practice.” In time, as the professional field expanded, the American Society of Home Inspectors was eventually joined by the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI), which created its own standards. InterNACHI has created not only standards for residential home inspections and home inspection reports, but also a similar set of standards for inspections of commercial properties.
These standards are still in use today, and they can help homeowners and those looking to buy a home understand what they can expect from their home inspection report, provided it has been ordered through a member of either organization.
What a Home Inspection Report Includes
A home inspection report should include written details about the inspection process for the major systems of the home being inspected. These should be clearly separated, with specific notes with regard to each system. From the home’s heating and cooling system (along with any associated pipes or ductwork) to the plumbing and electrical systems and even the structure of the home itself (the foundation, roof, and other load-bearing elements), the home inspector should have notes on all of them, even if it is merely that they are in passable or good condition.
Using the heating system as an example, the report should indicate that the heating system was inspected. There should be notes about all of the major components of the system. In the case of a forced-air heated house, this would include the furnace itself, as well as the ducts, registers, and thermostat. If there are any issues or defects, these should be clearly noted, along with suggestions on how to correct them. If any area of the property or home is not inspected, such as a locked room in the basement, the report should make this clear as well.
Generally, the inspection report will include a checklist, outlining what is in good condition, non-working condition, and what is not present or unable to be inspected. From there, there will be notes in areas where the inspector notes issues of possible concern, as well as details that may not fit neatly into any of the inspection checklist sections. These notes will generally be brief, but should help to pinpoint the extent of the inspector’s concern about a potential issue.
What a Home Inspection Report Doesn’t Include
Generally, if there are issues with a property, the home inspector will not include repair estimates in the final report unless they are requested and the individual inspector has the expertise to provide a rough estimate. Instead, they will include a recommendation for further inspection, likely by another inspector who specializes in the area where there is reason for concern.
Using the example of the heating system above, the home inspector may realize, from simple visual issues, that there appears to be a problem with the furnace. They are unlikely to attempt to diagnose the issue with more specificity than what can be noted on a topical visual inspection. At that point, it would behoove the owner or potential owner to ask for an inspection from someone with a professional history that includes working with furnaces and HVAC systems to get a better idea of what issues exist and how expensive it will be to address them.
Don’t expect your home inspection report to give you all the answers, however, it should contain both an explanation of any issues found and at least a cursory suggestion as to how to remedy the situation. Generally, anything on a report that an inspector considered important enough to note is worth taking seriously.
Final Thoughts on Home Inspection Reports
Whether you’re looking at an inspection to check a property for specific issues, such as fire exits in a commercial building or the presence of toxic mold in a residential property, there is a good chance that any reputable inspectors will be members of InterNACHI or a similar organization. Ideally, they will work for a company like Pittman Engineering & Inspection Services, which has a strong, positive local reputation. If they are not, that could be your first sign of a real potential issue in terms of quality and content of the inspection and the home inspection report. Inspections can be the only way to discover serious, possibly incredibly expensive issues with a property before investing in it. Make a point of hiring the best inspector you can, reading the home inspection report thoroughly, and weighing any issues with the property carefully before making an offer.