Tips on Reading a Home Inspection Report
The appraiser is not a home inspector nor does he/she do a complete home inspection. An inspection is a third-party evaluation of the accessible structure and mechanical systems of a house, from the roof to the foundation. The standard home inspector's report will include an extensive evaluation of the condition of the home's heating system, central air conditioning system (temperature permitting), interior plumbing and electrical systems; the roof, attic, and visible insulation; walls, ceilings, floors, windows and doors; the foundation, basement, and visible structure.
At Rhodes Appraisal Service, we urge all homebuyers to employ a licensed professional home inspector to perform a thorough inspection of the prospective home prior to finalizing a purchase. A home inspection should be done for all homes to be purchased regardless of age, even new construction. We recommend the hiring of a home inspector to monitor the various stages of the construction process to insure that your new home is constructed not only to local building code but also with good quality control practices to insure against hidden problems that may arise after you move into the house.
Which home inspector to hire is the homebuyer's decision entirely. Homebuyers should be cautious when hiring a home inspector recommended by anyone with a vested interest in the sale of the house (i.e.- seller, Realtors or lender). When interviewing a prospective home inspector, ask for and check out references - especially other homebuyers who have recently utilized their services. We recommend that you use home inspectors accredited by a national home inspection association such as American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI).
Ask the inspector what type of report format he or she provides. If possible, have the home inspector provide you with a sample report completed on a similar type property in the area. There are many styles of reports used by property inspectors, including the checklist, computer generated templates using inspection programs, and the narrative style.
Some reports are delivered on site and some may take as long as 4 - 6 days for delivery. Some reports use mostly "boilerplate" information for all inspections and therefore may have a lot of verbage that has nothing to do with the specific home that you are about to purchase. All reporting systems have pros and cons.
The most important issue with an inspection report is the descriptions and level of detail given for each building component. A report that indicates the condition as "Good", "Fair" or "Poor" without a detailed explanation and recommendation, is vague and can be easily misinterpreted. An example of a vague condition would be:
Kitchen Sink: Condition - Good, Fair, or Poor.
None of these descriptions gives the homeowner an idea what is wrong. Does the sink have a cosmetic problem? Does the home have a plumbing problem? A good report should supply you with descriptive information on the condition of the site and home. An example of a descriptive condition is:
Kitchen sink: Condition - Minor wear, heavy wear, damaged, rust stains, or chips in enamel finish. Recommend sealing sink at counter top.
As you can see, this narrative description includes a recommendation for repair. Narrative reports without recommendations for repairing deficient items may be difficult to comprehend, should your knowledge of construction be limited.
Rhodes Appraisal Service strongly recommends that you accompany the home inspector through the entire inspection. The approximately two (2) hour time investment will help you to thoroughly understand the condition of the home and the details of the report. Extreme caution should be exercised in allowing someone with a vested interest in the closing of the sale to take your place at the inspection. If you are there, you get to ask the questions that are critical at this stage of the home buying decision. You can see firsthand the nature of any problems and get a better understanding of the severity of these issues. Additionally, home inspectors will usually share maintenance tips for you to undertake in the future in order to keep your home in good condition.
At the end of the inspection your inspector should provide at least a preliminary summary of the inspection results. Use this opportunity to ask questions regarding terms or conditions that you may not be familiar with. A good inspector should be able to explain the answers to your questions. If for some reason a question cannot be answered at the time of the inspection, the inspector should research the question and obtain the answer for you. For instance, if the inspector's report states that the concrete foundation has common cracks, be sure to ask, "Why are they common?" The answer you should receive will explain that common cracks are usually due to normal concrete curing and or shrinkage. The inspector should be able to give examples of unacceptable cracks in the foundation and the probable cause for those. The inspector's knowledge and experience will become clearer to you during these question and answer sessions.
Take the time to become familiar with your report. Should the report have a legend, key, symbols or icons, read and understand them thoroughly. The more information provided about the site and home, the easier to understand the overall condition.
Read the report completely and understand the condition of the home you are about to purchase. After all, it is most likely one of the largest investments you will ever make.