Home inspection findings by Frank Schulte-Ladbeck, Professional Real Estate Inspector TREC# 9073

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Can A Home Inspector Be Wrong? : Evaluating an Inspection Report

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I feel as though I am following a them criticizing some home inspectors of late. I have been placed in situations where I have evaluated other inspector’s work, and I found some odd things in their report. Over the weekend, I dealt with an unusual situation where a close relative is selling a house to a good friend of my wife. I was able to see the story unfold on both sides.

 

A little background: I was going to be the inspector for my wife’s friend, until she decided to purchase my relative’s house. I suggested another inspector that I know, who I felt would do a good job for them. My wife informed me that her friend was very upset with the inspector that I recommended, and that I had lied about his price and professionalism. I was dumbfounded. I could not accept that this home inspector had let them down. It turns out that they did not use the person that I had suggested. Their Realtor had set up the home inspection with a different firm, and when she found out they were mad, the Realtor told them that the inspector was the person I had suggested. (It is nice to see the Realtor taking responsibility, is it not?)

 

Based on the home inspector’s recommendation, the buyer submitted a list of repairs to my relative with a copy of the report. My relative called me to go over the list and the report. One section dealt with the water heater, which really puzzled my relative. Here is the statement from the home inspector on needed repairs:

 

 


Replace
Temperature & pressure relief (TPR) valve(s) (should be replaced
every three years).
 

o sediment trap(s) was(were) discovered on gas supply line.

Water
supply lines not insulated for first 6 feet at unit(s).

TPR drain line was not terminating to outside or not located. It should be terminating outside to

within 6” of ground and pointing down.

Improper
TPR drain material (PVC used) –unsafe.

Missing
pan drain.

 

 

Why would this cause confusion to the seller? The water heater was just installed this year, and the building inspector from the city had approved the installation. From glancing at any unit, a home inspector cannot give you an exact age. With water heaters, you can use the serial number to look up the unit’s age. There were signs that the unit was relatively new, which would have made me cautious with the first statement. Replacing the TPR valve after three years is not a bad idea, but it is not mandatory. In this case, the inspector makes a rash claim, since there was a possibility that the unit was not older than three years. As for the sediment trap or insulated pipe, those are nice to have, but they are not required. The TPR drain was just outside the door of the room where the water heater is located. He did not bother to look. For the drain material, he noted that it was reduced in size and that it was improper material. The reduction he did not mention above, but the pipe was clearly not reduced. As for the material, I did find one connector that I would assume was wrong, but the plumber claims that it was just mislabelled. We are still waiting to have the plumber come out to look at it. The missing pan drain is correct, and I had mentioned it before, but my relatives felt if the building inspector had approved it that it must be fine.

 

The home inspector’s report contained many inaccuracies along with correct evaluations and recommendations made as issues. From the first page, we began to wonder. He stated that he arrived at the home at 8:20 am. I was there at that time, so I know that he was not. The homeowner was there later, and the inspector had not arrived. His clients waited for him at a later time, and he was not there then either. Yet his report indicates that he spent three hours inspecting the house, which would be good, but he lied about it anyway. His report seems to have been created with a list of common errors that he decided that the house must have, so good ahead and mark them down.

 

Most home inspectors that I know spend a good amount of effort trying to deliver the best report possible to their clients, but inspectors like this one give us all a bad name.

 

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4 Responses to “Can A Home Inspector Be Wrong? : Evaluating an Inspection Report”

  1. Steve Says:

    It’s best not to say too much. A plumber did an inspection of a friends house when their dining room tile popped up. About 10 tiles buckled. He scared them when he told them that he suspected a crack due to a leak and perhaps foundation problems. The plumber came out and looked for a leak but couldn’t find one. To release himself from liability he wrote on his report that it was a dangerous situation and that a structural engineer was required to make an evalualtion. Now the insurance company is mandating that, and wants to drop them. It seems they may have grounds for a lawsuit aganist the plumber for putting him in this situation. It appears merely to be a poor tile job with solid perimeter cannection especially around a fireplace hearth. No allowance was made for expansion and expansion did occur. When I pulled up the tiles, something the plumber should have done, I found a nice solid surface below and loose tiles everywhere due to insufficient bonding to the concrete floor. The thinset was perhaps too dry and the floor was dusty or dirty. I was put on the phone to discuss my findings, and what I found interesting was that the first thing the plumber asked me was if I was a structural engineer. I told him no, but that I have been a builder for 30 years and worked with engineers in the past regarding problems of this nature. Then he went out on a limb and made a judgement that it was unsafe! Duh! Aren’t inspectors suppose to make observations without so many judgements? He should have followed that mindset.
    For instance in the water heater case above where the inspector wrote up the missing pan. So what if you don’t have a pan under it. Is that required? If your water heater is where you see it, in most cases you will see evidence of a leak before it becomes a flood. Or if it is locatin in a place where leakage will do no damage, what’t the big deal. That’s not to discount that you shouldn’t take precautions but is it mandatory?


  2. Thank you for commenting. You are right; we inspectors are not supposed to make judgements in most cases. As for the pan, it is a requirement, so that is why he listed it.


  3. Steve Says:

    Oh, that’s interesting. I don’t believe the pans are required here in California. I have also seen pvc pipe use for the T&P valve drain lines when visiting new homes.
    Hey, this could be a great site for inspection stories. There’s got to be some good ones out there.


  4. Well, I am always open to guest posts :) The T&P valve should be a material that can withstand the heat, so CPVC is acceptable, because PVC could melt. The drain pan was not commonly placed under water heaters for many years, but it does serve as an extra precaution against leaks. The home that I was inspecting yesterday evening had the unit in the attic, and the hose bib for flushing the system had a small leak. That could have damaged the insulation, ceiling, and over time the framing (the house was a foreclosure with property managers not visiting often). About 75% of the houses that I inspect have no drain pan. Sometimes I let the client know that there may be on issue, if the unit is in the garage on a stand. It depends upon the location then. Texas has a set of rules which requires us to mention certain items for safety reasons that most homes do not have, like the new AFCI circuit breakers.


© Frank Schulte-Ladbeck Professional Home Inspector Houston, Texas
Frank Theodor Schulte-Ladbeck
home inspector, TREC# 9073
Houston , Texas , 77063 United States
713.781.6090

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