Many home inspectors are not experts at every home system but should be trained to recognize problems that need a higher qualified inspector. Home inspections are not extremely technical, they won’t tear down your air conditioning unit to inspect all the parts, but they will inspect the filters and temperature of the unit, as well as it’s manufacturing year to determine how long before the unit needs to be serviced or replaced.
When the inspection industry was young, most home inspection reports were just a simple checklist. Refrigerator works (YES/NO), one or two-page report. Checklist reports lack content, descriptions are quite often abbreviations that are hard to read and may only consist of a couple of words like “broken molding”. Some checklists were up to 4 or 5 pages, about the size of a modern inspection legal agreement.
Checklists leave a lot to the imagination, and can cause interpretations to get mixed up between buyers, agents, sellers, attorneys, contractors, etc. In the inspection industry the descriptive phrases used to describe the conditions found in the home inspection are called “narratives”. A narrative report is a lot more accurate than a checklist, because it completely describes the condition of the problem in detail, not abbreviations. Most checklist reports have been banned in many jurisdictions because they lacked detailed information on the home that often results in legal issues.
From a liability perspective, narrative reports are considered much safer than a checklist report because they state the conditions of the home systems in a much clearer communication.
In the past, when computers were too difficult to use and expensive to buy, home inspections reports were handwritten. But as the computer age has come on, home inspection software has hit the market.
Using a home inspection program on the computer, a home inspector can choose from a plethora of organized boilerplate narratives that they can add or edit depending on the local conditions. Using modern narrative software a home inspector can create a detailed report in a short amount of time.
Narratives generally consists of three parts:
1) Description of the condition of the issue found in the home.
2) A paragraph describing how series this issue is, what may happen in the near future with this issue.
3) A recommendation for solution or further evaluation, how should the homeowner proceed.
Inspection Report Content
Most home inspection reports begin with an info section that gives the general information on the home like the square footage of the home and the year it was built. It usually includes the client name as well.
Many home inspection reports will also include a summary of the major issues in the home so that the reader doesn’t miss the important stuff. These will be the concerns that are safety conditions or will be costly to correct. Some inspectors use color codes on their home inspection report narratives, but some also feel it is better not to because they think it may increase their liability.
Home inspection software most times will give the inspector the option of including photos in the main body of the home inspection report, near the narrative that describes them, or pictures may be at the end of the report.
A table of contents is generally provided.
The main body of the home inspection report may be separated into sections based on the type of home system or they may be separated by an area. It often depends on the preference of the home inspector.