Home Inspectors in Houston (and all over Texas) should be aware that a new property inspection report is in place. Here is a summary of some significant changes that the consumer should know. This post is meant as a companion piece to my previous posts that were written in the “Understanding Your Report” Category.
As of February 1, 2009, we home inspectors have been using a new property inspection report. This new form reflects changes in a home inspector’s standard operating procedure as defined by the state of Texas, but it is also meant to clarify what a home inspection entails (what you can expect from your home inspector). This past week found me reviewing my original posts on the topic of “Understanding Your Report” to see how I should update it. Most changes to our operating procedures are refinements that are important to my profession, but they do not significantly change what I had previously wrote. Instead of changing the headings of those pages, I thought it would be better to summarize factors that the end user of a home inspection report should know.
The first major change to the property inspection report is the opening paragraph. The old form had a readable opening, but it took some careful reading to understand fully. In the new report, we have a longer introduction written in fairly clear terms. Much of this is dealing with what I had written before in a clear fashion, so I want to hit upon the changes in this section. The most significant change is in how items are reported. We use to state that an item was “in need of repair” (this was indicated by checking the “R” box); however, consumers were confused by the fact that we checked this box when an item did not need to be repaired. Sometimes a home inspector may have been indicating that there is a feature that we consider to be important, like a GFCI outlet in the kitchen, but the outlets in the kitchen worked. Now inspectors are looking for AFCI breakers for the bedrooms. This is a nice safety feature, but it should be up to the consumer of the report to decide to have these installed. That is the main point. By stating “in need of repair”, there was an impression that an item had to be fixed, but this was never the case, and the new introduction makes that statement clear. A buyer cannot force a seller to make a repair. They never could. This should have been part of the negotiation. The new indicator is “D”, which means that an item is deficient. We have to understand that a home may have been built well for its time period of construction, but we are finding new ways to improve the construction of our homes; a home inspection report informs you of those changes.
The next significant change is the list of items inspected. Actually, there are no new parts of the home being inspected, but where a home inspector’s findings are listed has been refined. Under “Structural Systems”, we now have the heading “Stairways”. These were placed under “Walls” in the old report, but the awkwardness of listing issues there has been cleared up by giving it a separate section. Along these lines, you will find some clarifications in the “Appliances” section. “Other Built-in Appliances” and “Whole House Vacuums” have been moved to the optional systems part of the report. These sections were rarely used in the old report. In the “Appliance” section, you will also see that bathroom vents are now handled under “Mechanical Exhaust Vents and Bathroom Heaters”. Bathroom heaters were typically examined by home inspectors, but there was no clear space to write our observations down, so this change helps us find that information in a consistent location. The “Optional Systems” section has the two additions mentioned, and they only other change is the name of some sections to be more all inclusive of what is being examined. That means we now look at “Gas Supply Systems”, “Private Water Wells”, and “Private Sewage Disposal (Septic) Systems”.
The biggest change to our inspection process comes in the “Plumbing” section. Home inspectors had a loose way of inspecting this system when compared to the new requirements. We have to report on static water pressure, which should be between 40 to 80 psi. This is the acceptable range for everything in your home to work well. Before, we just looked at functionality and signs of pressure issues. This defines that we have to check exact pressure. We also need to look if there are ways to reduce the pressure when it is too high. I reported on the location of the meter and main shut off valve in my reports when I saw how some buyers were not sure where these could be. This is now a standard practice for all inspectors. Lack of shut off valves for individual fixtures is a good step for the home buyer. Tub valves frequently cannot be accessed. This is good to know for future repairs. If there is a pressure reducing device in place, we need to look for an expansion tank for the water heater to ensure its proper operation.
As stated, home inspectors will be refining how they look at aspects of your home, but the basis is the same. I believe that these changes will be a good for the industry, because I see them as making it better for the consumer of these reports.