This past month I have had a few calls where I was being asked to explain reports produced by other home inspectors. One report was produced by a very experienced inspector, while the others were from a newer inspectors. It was interesting to see similarities between the reports which led to confusion, which is why I was asked to explain them. These reports were attempting to provide valuable information for their clients, while leaving sellers confused. Here is where the problem areas:
Photographs: Most people respond better to visual inputs rather than written ones, and inspectors use photos in their reports to show the problem. In all of the reports, there were references to fuzzy photos, claiming that the picture demonstrated a problem, but the seller had no idea what was being shown. There were also situations were a Picture A was shown and then a picture B was placed next to it to show a result. In one case, an exterior shot of Wall X was pictured, then there was an interior shot of Wall Z on the opposite side of the building. The problem on Wall X had nothing to do with Wall Z, but the explanation indicated that it did.
Phrasing: in the situation above with the Walls X and Z, there was a link though. The problem shown in picture A can cause an issue like the one shown in picture B. These reports were quite long, but I noticed that imprecise explanations were to be found throughout them. Basically, what the inspector was saying was correct, just not quite in the way he was saying it though. Along these lines is the idea of clarity. Inspectors should walk a roof, unless hazardous conditions exist. In one report, the inspector states he simply walked around the home without binoculars. He then makes pronouncements about the roof, but he adds that he is not sure, since the roof was inaccessible. I have walked the roof in question, so I knew that it was accessible. The terminology he used hinted that there was an issue with the roof (since it was inaccessible), not the fact that he chose to avoid walking the roof.
Stating the unknown: with the roof problem above, the inspector states that there may be a problem, but he is unsure. He then quotes an estimate to have the possible problem repaired. This leads to the idea that there really is a problem in many minds. In fact, I saw in all of these reports comments on possible causes, and then possible repairs. Home inspectors should not be repair men, and we are not there long enough to make a determination on every possible cause of each problem. In one case, the inspector stated since there was a problem with the unit, that he felt an entirely new unit was needed based upon its size. I did my own quick calculation, and relied on my own knowledge of how units should be sized from my talks with A/C technicians, to find that the unit was sized perfectly. The unit was relatively new, and I found that it had been installed by a reputable firm, so I think it was the sized properly. This made the sellers question everything that inspector wrote.
Quoting prices of repairs: this seems to be a growing trend, but I find it to mislead our clients. On the reports which had quotes, I found that the seller could have many of the repairs completed at about ten percent of the price stated. Buyers use these estimates claiming that they want these costs to be reduced from the asking price, while sellers see that the repairs can be made for far less. This places sellers and buyers at an impasse, which the Realtors have to resolve.
Home inspectors also seem to want to cover themselves too much in their reports, which is leading to the issues mentioned above. We are there to find the concerns as well as to help our clients understand their home. By writing simply, and doing the job we were meant to do, we can best serve our clients.