I frequently read in bulletin board or Blog posts that a Home Inspectors job is to provide you only with the facts of what is visually seen and nothing more. Usually those same people state that the Home Inspectors job is to provide only an objective view of the home on the day of the inspection. But is an objective only inspection and report of any real value to you?
So you received the home inspection report and it has many very blunt phrases in it such as “There are one or more broken tiles on the floors around this home.”. Along with that are no explanations of where, possibly why, or if there are other related items to those broken tiles. In other words there is no real meat and potatoes to go with the vegetables! Not very helpful huh? As you read through the report you see many more of those silly and ignorant phrases and start to wonder “What did I pay that Bozo Home Inspector for? I could have done this inspection myself!”. Well you’ve just been scammed by what I call “The totally objective, checklist report writing Home Inspector”!
Of course you could have received the totally opposite home inspection report that has lots of phrases like “OMG it’s really, really broke! You need to have this further evaluated by all of the home building professions. Furthermore you need to National Guard and Reserves in to keep order while your house falls down around your head!”. Those types I like to call “The liability deferring, Chicken little the sky is falling, totally unsure of themselves, Home Inspector!”. You’ve still been scammed but boy you’ll never be the same afterward!
So what is all of that about? Before delving into this let’s go through a couple of definitions. If you’re like me every once in awhile you have a brain lapse and need to go back to the definitions of words. The two words that we will define are “Objective” and “Subjective” as they both play a role in how a Home Inspector approaches your inspection and writes your report. There are other parts of the definitions but we will only work with those parts relevant here.
- Uninfluenced by emotions or personal prejudices
- Based on observable phenomena
- Influenced by emotions or personal prejudices
- Based on emotions and personal prejudices
Right off the bat you can see just how the two extremes operate! The totally objective Home Inspector walks into your home, with a checklist in their hand, and does nothing more than make an inventory of the home’s issues they can see without taking additional measures and steps to really find the problems. This Home Inspector typically goes no farther and follows their Standards of Practice to the letter! They carry few tools as they don’t want to get deeply involved in inspecting that home. After all the more tools they use, the more they dig into a potential problem, the more time it takes to inspect that home and write the report for the inspection. When you get the report your left totally on your own to figure out what it all means? Not only did you not receive any real substance in the report but it came with all of the standard and confusing cut and paste boilerplate comments.
On the other hand the totally subjective Home Inspector walks into your home, with a checklist in their hand, and only tries to find enough things to write up so they can stop inspecting that item or system and try to justify why they are telling you to have that particular trade come in and perform a full evaluation. They do this so the trades person can find all of the other issues they were to lazy to look for and report on. When you receive the report it is left totally up to you to figure out if you should call in all of the various trades or just walk away from the home. Again not only did you not receive any real substance in the report but it came with all of the standard and confusing cut and paste boilerplate comments.
There has got to be a better Home Inspector and home inspection report out there right? Read on to see what kind of home inspection you should be paying for.
[tab: What Should You Pay For]
No matter what anyone might say the best Home Inspector, and home inspection report, comes from a mix of objectivity and subjectivity! A good Home Inspector knows how to balance both of these qualities to provide you a valuable service and report that you can use. In this world of ours nothing is truly black and white, and there are many shades of gray. A good Home Inspector must be able to discern the entire “black, gray, and white” spectrum and use them all to serve you. So how do they do that? And how do you determine they do before you hire them?
A good home inspection itself starts with the proper subjective attitude the Home Inspector approaches the home with. No two homes are the same EVER! You can take two brand new homes, built by the same builder, using the same subcontractors, using the same materials, tools, procedures, floor plan, sitting right next to each other, built at the same time, and they will be different. There are always uncontrollable conditions that can occur during a build that will cause deviations from plans and procedures which result in these differences. As a result the Home Inspector MUST approach all homes as being different and NEVER assume what is in one house will be right or wrong in the other house. That is the subjective viewpoint and attitude of inspecting, and this results in the Home Inspector finding the issues within the home. At the other end of the spectrum if the Home Inspector uses a totally objective approach then both of those homes are the same, and what they find in one will be in the other. As a result the Home Inspector gets lazy and just doesn’t look for the potential problems in the homes and just “assumes” they are not there. This results in potentially missing major issues.
When the inspection is performed the Home Inspector should use objective inspection and test methods but MUST approach them subjectively. Objective inspection and testing methods are tried and trued and offer consistency in the process. Without consistency then items are skipped and missed. However there are always shades of gray in objective inspection and test methods that can result in missing or misdiagnosing problems. The Home Inspector must NEVER assume that every inspection and test method works on every home and under every condition or situation. When the Home Inspector runs into an unusual issue or situation they must use subjective methods and procedures to find an answer, and that usually means deviating from the tried and trued inspection and test methods. I have a phrase I like to use that describes a Home Inspector that is totally objective in this aspect. I like to say that “They are incapable of thinking outside of the book”. For those Home Inspectors if it does not fit neatly into what they read in a book then they will either scream out “The sky is falling, the sky is falling!”, or they will totally ignore the problem and not report it as they just don’t understand it and don’t want to deal with trying to report it.
And now comes the report and the importance of objective and subjective writing. You are not paying a Home Inspector to merely inventory all of the visually observable issues in a home. After all with some exceptions you can do that yourself! What you are paying a Home Inspector for is to find the issues and provide more description on them when needed. Some times objectively reporting the issue is all that is required. For example a damaged window screen is a damaged window screen and there is no need to elaborate any further, other than telling you where and how many. Other times however we must use our emotions and personal prejudices to properly describe an issue and its potential future effects. For example we are required to provide you an opinion on the condition of the homes foundation. The homes foundation might have experienced some type of minor movement but there are other conditions that could signal potential further movement if they are not properly addressed. In providing our opinion if we do not use emotions and personal prejudices in the wording of that opinion then there is really only three ways to report that foundations condition and are not really descriptive.
- The foundation is performing its intended function.
- The foundation has moved, recommend evaluation by a licensed Engineer.
- The foundation has failed.
You will never see the third statement on any home inspection report as you would have seen that anyhow and never made an offer on the home. But what about the other two options? Wouldn’t you like to know why the Home Inspector chose the first one even though there are “typical signs” of foundation movement at various locations around the home? How about why they chose statement number 1 but are still advising you to have an Engineer perform a further evaluation of the foundation? The only way to help you understand that is if the Home Inspector uses subjective report writing techniques when they need to emphasize the importance of what they find or advise you to do. There are many, many other examples that could be used here, but the they all result in the same thing. You are paying a Home Inspector not only to provide you with objective reporting but also their opinions regarding what they find and that does require subjective writing as well!
So how do you find that balanced Home Inspector? Select the next tab to find out how simple it is.
[tab: How do you find it]
So how do you find that balanced Home Inspector before you hire them? It is not really hard but is something many consumers either don’t know how to or just don’t do. All you have to do is take a few basic steps.
You should ask for a sample home inspection report so you can see what you will eventually get. Make sure you specify that you want a sample of an actual inspection report and not just some made up report they did to use as a sample. People are creatures of habit and Home Inspectors are people too. A good Home Inspector is consistent in their reporting techniques and the report can tell you how they are on the inspection as well. The report can be any type of full home inspection report as these are generally items to watch out for. You must keep in mind that here in Texas Home Inspectors have a required basic report format they must follow. You can see the basic report at the TREC WEB site HERE. Here are the most obvious tips to watch for and will help you determine what kind of Home Inspector they are.
- How long (how many pages) is the report? When you are speaking with the Home Inspector ask them what their average report length is. Longer report averages are not necessarily the greatest thing, as we will see soon, but a very short average report length can easily signal a minimalist Home Inspector who is “incapable of thinking outside the book” or chooses not to to reduce their workload. The basic TREC required report form is only six pages long and that is well before even some basic information is added that we are required to report on. No home is perfect but a thorough, detail oriented Home Inspector is going to report all of the issues found regardless of how small they might seem. This can easily lead to a larger report. The cost to correct what might seem like a lot of small items can add up quickly. So keep the average length in mind when checking these other items.
- Glance over the report without really reading the contents heavily. Is the information under each TREC required section organized? Disorganized reports signal a disorganized mind that can easily miss important issues in the home.
- As you are glancing over the report are there a lot of check-boxes other than the TREC required header check-boxes? Are a lot of those check-boxes unchecked? Are a lot of those check-boxes listing defects but they are not checked? This is one of your first signs of the totally objective Home Inspector. There are a crop of report writing software packages out there that allow the Home Inspector to walk around the home with a hand held computer and just check off the items they find. The report then throws those items in the report with canned statements that can be very confusing. The problem is there are literally thousands and thousands of potential issues in different homes that can be put in reports. As the Home Inspector walks around they must scroll through their list of defects to find the right one to check IF they have loaded all of those thousands and thousands in the software. In reality that never happens and for the totally objective Home Inspector they are only loading in the most common ones or just the basic or minimal ones they are required to report on. The chances are very high if they don’t have a check-box for a defect found then it doesn’t get reported!
- Now you should start reading the report closely. Are there a lot of confusing and generic statements that do not provide locations, how many, etc.? Could you understand the write-ups? Were there any more in depth explanations of the findings or at least WEB site links where you can go for more information? Are there any or many relevant pictures in the report? If you are answering no to these then you have found the totally objective Home Inspector who does nothing more than an inventory of what you mostly already know about. I have rarely encountered a home that did not have issues requiring further explanations. Also when I encounter a home with multiples of the same issue they need to be listed so you can find them later. There are times when I encounter a home with so many issues that I will use aggregate wording and just provide one or two examples as basically so many of the same issue is found that most all of that item needs attention. But I also add my subjective opinions there to add weight to the importance of having all of those items checked/repaired.
- Are there a lot of recommendations to call out an electrician, plumber, etc., to do a full evaluation for seemingly small items without explanations as to why they are telling you to do that? That’s the trade mark of a totally subjective Home Inspector who is trying to CYA, and of the totally objective one who can’t think outside of the book.
- As you are reading through the report are there a lot of disclaimers, explanations of what an Inspector is required or not required to do (literally nothing more than reprints from their Standards of Practice), a lot of useless statements such as “I checked XXX and no problems were found” or other items appearing that the Inspector is doing nothing more than CYA throughout the report? Well you’re right as they are for the most part an unbalanced Inspector, unsure of themselves, and are trying to make sure they don’t get caught doing a bad inspection and report.
- Lastly take all of the useless information out and subtract it from the report. A lot of Inspectors like to add useless information in the report such as summary pages, their contract with you, pages and pages of disclaimers, and other CYA information. Now you get to see what the actual report length is that has all of the meat and potatoes in it!
Don’t “Price Shop” for Home Inspectors. When you do you will try to find the cheapest one which will be either the totally objective or totally subjective Home Inspector. Only the totally subjective or objective home Home Inspector can afford to work cheaply. After all you won’t get much from them for that small fee. To perform a thorough home inspection and write a detailed and useful report takes time. Not only will I not work for nothing, I also won’t provide a bad service and inferior report. I never could and I am not about to try learning how just so I can reduce my fees to compete with the crappy Home Inspector!
So good luck on your hunt for the well balanced Home Inspector. Or you can just save your time and effort and give me a call to perform that inspection!
[tab: Links and References]
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
New Home Warranty 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.