When selecting a Home Inspector should you ask for a sample report?

When you are reviewing which Inspector to hire for your home inspection needs it is very valuable to ask for, and review, a sample report from the Inspector.  It is amazing what you might find!

[tab: Introduction]

I don’t deny it that I do review other Home Inspectors’ WEB sites on a regular basis just to see what marketing techniques they are attempting to use.  Many Home Inspectors will put a sample report on their site for potential clients to download and read.  I also help consumers around the country when they have questions regarding their home inspection experience when they have issues with it.  As a result I do have the opportunity to see many styles of writing, methods of reporting, etc.

This weekend though I was just amazed at what showed up in my email.  I was sent an actual, and very current, Texas home inspection report that literally surprised even me!  I don’t surprise easy anymore so when it happens it happens BIG TIME!  When I reviewed this report I had a very hard time understanding how this type of extreme sub-standard report could even be allowed to occur.  I immediately noted the following issues.

  • The reporting form was heavily and illegally modified from the basic form/format we are required to provide by law/rule to consumers.
  • The report was handwritten which in itself is not necessarily disallowed.  However I could not read the poor handwriting and very few, extremely cryptic comments that were written on it and not even printed.
  • Annotations were made on the report and then heavily scribbled over to delete them.
  • This was obviously a standard form where common items were anticipated and thus added to the form.  When these items were not present they were scribbled through to demonstrated they were not applicable.
  • There were hand drawn pictures by someone who obviously has no artistic ability.
  • There were marks and scribblings on the report that appeared to be errant and have no purpose.
  • The form was a series of check-boxes for common problems found and gace the impression that is all this Inspector was looking for.
  • The entire report was 7 pages long.  Three of those pages were headers, disclaimers, etc., which left 4 whole pages for actual reporting of deficiencies.  Longer reports are not necessarily better reports.  However I have never seen even the basic required form compressed into that small of a space on even an inspection for a home in good shape!

I can go on and on about this report but can sum it up easily.  This client was served a piece of trash work and literally ripped off!  The sad part is they paid a hefty dollar price for this as well.  I would fully expect that the client never even knew they were going to receive such a piece of trash until the Home Inspector collected their check and handed them the piece of garbage he called a report!

So what can you do to protect yourself and help prevent this?  All you have to do is ask for a sample report while you are looking for a Home Inspector to inspect your home.  What should you look for on the sample report?  Read on to see how easy it is to prevent problems for yourself.

[tab: What to look for on sample reports]

You can learn quite a bit about the Home Inspector when you obtain, and review, a sample report from them.  In the process you are also going to see the final report product they will provide.  That alone is well worth asking for a sample report.

Is the report using the required/legal form and format?

The Texas Real Estate Commission dictates the report format that Inspectors are to use for purchaser or seller inspections of 1 – 4 family dwellings.  The basic report format can be found HERE.  The rules that Inspectors must follow to make entries on, and allowable modifications to, the form can be found HERE.  The file on this page is titled “TREC rules in PDF format” (or HTML format).  In this set of rules you would need to go to Sections 535.222 and 535.223.  It is worth reading but I will provide highlights here.

  • The Inspector must use one of the two currently allowed forms.  Those are the REI 7A-1 or REI 7-2 (most current) forms.
  • The form must have the identical text, minimum text size, text spacing and placement as on the required form.  There are few exceptions to this.
  • The Inspector can not modify the original cover page to include their logos, other information, etc.  Instead the Inspector is allowed to add a cover page above the TREC cover page.
  • The Inspector can add headers and footers to each page of the report.  The footer must contain the language from the original form which is the form number and date.
  • The Inspector must provide the “Report Identification” line either in the header or footer.  But it must be there.
  • In section “VI. Optional Systems” the Inspector can delete any non-applicable items but must re-letter any that remain.
  • The Inspector must re-number all report pages, exclusive of their own header page) if they exceed the current number of pages.
  • If the Inspector adds additional pages to the report, i.e. a “Summary” page then the contents of that page must follow the order of the original form.

There are other allowable items but these are typically the ones most violated by Inspectors.  You might wonder why you should even care about these things?  The reason is simply if an Inspector can not follow basic rules required of them it does have to make you wonder if they even know what the rules are?  Do they even keep current with rule changes that can easily affect you and the quality of your report?  Surprisingly there are still many Inspectors who never keep current with the rules!

Is the report neat and orderly?

As you’re reading through the report pay attention to the physical layout of the entries under each section.  Look for logical/proper formatting, sentence structure, grammar, spelling, etc.  Can you actually follow the report and understand what is being presented?  A properly and well constructed report is a sign of a logical, organized, and detailed mindset.  It is also a good indication of what you can expect during the actual inspection.  An illogical and disorganized mindset will miss issues on site and you might well not find out about these until after you take possession of the home.

Is the report complete and explanatory?

A complete and explanatory report leaves few questions in your mind.  A good report will have enough detail, and potentially WEB references, to help you understand the issues found.  A report that requires you to keep calling the Inspector for explanations of “What did you mean” will cost you time and most likely money.  A thorough inspection report will add length to the report.  Some things to watch out for in the sample report are:

  • Does the Inspector use a lot of $100 words without even explaining them?  There really are not a lot of building terms that are self explanatory, and unfortunately we must use them as there are no common words or terms to substitute for these.  To help the client understand the Inspector should either provide additional explanations, graphics, or useful WEB references.
  • Are the basic form, and required entries, filled in?
  • Is the report nothing more than a thousand checkboxes for common issues found, with no additional explanations or write-ups for issues not covered by the thousand checkboxes?  We call these “Checkbox Inspectors” who most likely carry a copy of the report form on site with them and just check off the applicable items and rarely look for anything else wrong in the home.  Many times you will find these “Checkbox Inspectors” also advertising “On Site Report Generation” where they hand you a fully completed report at the home immediately after the inspection.  After all why not do on site reporting if you’re not looking for much anyhow?

Is it a real sample report for a home inspected or a fabricated report?

This is a tough one to spot sometimes but it is important none the less.  What you need is an actual inspection report that an Inspector has written.  I’ve read plenty of sample reports that were obviously fabricated just to hand out to clients and impress them.  Yet when the client receives their report it is drastically different from the sample they were given.

One of the telltale signs of a fabricated report has to deal with the State mandated client confidentiality requirements.  Inspectors are required to maintain a clients strict confidentiality and as such any actual sample report you receive should display this.  For example any picture in a report that can possibly identify the home or client should be missing.  What I like to do to maintain the integrity of the sample is to replace the picture with an empty square stating something like “your photo placed here” or some other indicator the photo has been removed for privacy reasons.  Fabricated reports tend to have all of the pictures in them as if this was an actual inspection.

Another way to tell a fabricated report is to look at the pictures themselves if pictures are included.  In one report the cover page displayed a single story home picture but an inside picture of the home showed a staircase to a second floor.  Another sample report I read showed a frontal view of a part of the homes brick veneer which showed a wood fence surrounding that side of the home.  Yet in another picture from the rear of the home that fence had magically disappeared.

Sometimes reading through reports I find really outlandish entries.  In one report the home was reported to be less than a few years old.  Looking at the pictures and other information provided it would certainly seem it was a young home as it displayed newer style floorplans, appliances, or other references to items not expected in an older home, even one that had been renovated.  Yet in the electrical section they wrote up a Federal Pacific Electric (FPE) panel that was almost 30 years old.  The FPE entry was the Inspectors attempt at displaying they were not afraid to write up issues.

Is the report full of CYA entries?

All Inspectors will provide entries in their reports to help you understand the limitations of certain aspects of the inspection.  However some Inspectors take the CYA comments way overboard and fill your report with useless garbage.  I’ve read some reports where 50% was nothing more than CYA comments.

One of my favorites in this category is the Inspector that repeats the whole Standards of Practice (SOP) in their reports.  These Inspectors actually take the wording from the SOP verbatim and place it in the report.  These statements are usually preceded with “Specific limitations for….”, or “The Inspector is not require to …”.   It adds a tremendous amount of verbiage and reading to sort through and find where the actual problems are listed.

There are more reasons to ask for actual sample inspection reports but you get the picture.

[tab: Conclusion]

As you can see there is a lot to be gained from asking for, and reviewing, an Inspectors sample report.  Another word of advice is to hold onto the sample reports and file them with your actual inspection report.  Hopefully you never need those sample reports again.  If not that means most likely your inspection and report was provided as promised.

Good luck on your home purchase and remember only you can protect yourself from being ripped off!!

[tab: Links and References]

Texas home inspection report form.

TREC rules governing Home Inspectors

PS Inspection & Property Services LLC is a full service home inspection and light commercial inspection company servicing the entire Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex.  We strive to for the satisfaction of our customers in everything we do.  Our services offerings include:

Buyer home inspections
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Investor Inspections
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Whole Inspections Or Inspections Customized To Your Needs

If you have an inspection need we can customize an inspection for it.  Please visit our main site at PS Inspection & Property Service LLC.

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