A Home Inspection Report That Makes a Difference

The home inspection report is the deliverable product, or outcome, of the inspecting process, what the client is actually buying. This inspection report should make a meaningful difference, should make the process worthwhile. It should help the client make decisions about completing the transaction, about repairing called-out defects, about adjusting the sales price. The report should also be informative and, in the long run, serve as a guide to the property. This article explores how an inspection report builds reputations, what its format should look like, and how it should be organized.

Obtain a sample inspection report from each inspector under consideration. Comparing their reports is the best way to differentiate among them. Some inspectors issue nothing more than a glorified checklist without accompanying narrative or photographs. This fails to provide adequate perspective, to place defects within the context of a bigger picture or to show how they may interact. There are inspectors who provide a printed report on-site. They may have done a complete inspection, but their report likely reflects insufficient detail and personalization. Go with someone who, after the home inspection, takes time to think about and research issues, if necessary, before producing a comprehensive report with clear explanations, photographic evidence, supporting documentation, and references for finding more information. Don’t neglect to look at sample reports before hiring.

Take a look at the report format. See if there is a summary highlighting major concerns as well as a body with complete documentation. Each item should present a finding, an implication, and a recommendation. In other words, the item should identify a specific defect, explain what it means or what it could cause, and recommend one or more actions to fix it. By providing such a clear snapshot of the house condition at the time of inspection, this format enables the client to plan how to proceed. It also makes it easy for him to refer to the baseline assessment as conditions change and defects are corrected.

Also check out how the inspection report is organized. The clearer and more readily searchable for content it is, the more useful it will be as a long-term homeowner guide. Evaluate how easy it is to scan for kinds of defects, location, or system. Has the information been grouped into sections? Is there a legend of symbols or graphical icons used to represent level of concern? For instance, my reports show different icons to symbolize each of the following determinations: safety, major defect, repair-and-replace, repair-and-maintain, minor defect or safety, maintain, evaluate, monitor, serviceable, comment, infestation, insect damage, and conducive conditions.

By scrutinizing sample reports for style, format, and organization, you should be able to identify a home inspector who cares about customer service and providing deliverables that truly make a difference.