Let’s say you are buying a house and you’re ready to have it inspected. You go with your Realtor’s recommendation for a home inspector, give him/her the necessary information about the house and set up your inspection. The inspector tells you to check your email for the preinspection agreement, which will need to be signed before the inspection can be done.
When you open the preinspection agreement, you find that is really long — more than five or six pages. Then, after the inspection, your inspector delivers a report that is 75 to 100 pages long. You notice that both the preinspection agreement and the report are full of disclaimers, such as, “In an occupied home with furnishings,” “Depending on usage, “Except under extreme conditions,” and “The inspector may not be able to guarantee discovery.” If this is the case, you may be the recipient of an overly disclaimed home inspection report.
Because home inspectors may be held responsible for damage or problems that are visibly present at the time of inspection but not included in the inspection report, some inspectors include an overabundance of disclaimers in their preinspection agreements and reports. While it is important that home buyers know the limitations of a home inspection, an overly disclaimed inspection report is needlessly long and tedious.
So, what do those disclaimers really mean?
- In an occupied home with furnishings: The inspector likely had limited visibility of certain areas due to furniture, clutter, moving boxes, etc.
- Depending on usage: The inspector is covering the bases by saying that using the component too much (or too little) could affect its life span.
- Due to the weather: The inspector should note the weather at the beginning of the report, as rain and snow may impede his/her ability to inspect components like a roof or grading.
- Except under extreme conditions: This is unclear, as “extreme” is often a matter of opinion.
- The inspector may not be able to guarantee discovery: Again, this is usually stated in the preinspection agreement and maybe at the beginning of the report. It doesn’t need to appear more often than that.
How to Spot a Good Inspection Report
Each section of your home inspection report should state the facts about the property’s condition at the time of inspection. Any disclaimers, within reason, and limitations should be listed in the “scope of work” section of the preinspection agreement. There’s no need for an inspector to add a disclaimer to every statement or note in the report.
A competent inspector will clearly outline any limitations and exclusions specific to the inspection. For example, “The roof was not accessible for inspection due to snow,” or “The attic was not inspected due to home owner’s personal possessions blocking the access.” In situations such as these, the inspector should document the disclaimer statement with a photograph.
The main reason you’re having an inspection is to find out any problems with the house, right? So, in the inspection report, your inspector should state any problems, include a photograph of each problem, explain why something is or could be a concern, and describe the corrective course of action. Your inspector may also point out outstanding or superior features of the property. If the inspector sticks to this process, then there is really no need to include an excess of disclaimers, and certainly not in every statement throughout the report.
Your inspection report should be written in simple laymen’s terms, with comments that are clear and concise. You (and your real estate agent) are less likely to read an entire report that is overwritten. Regardless of the report’s length, do make sure to read the entire report, and if there’s terminology or anything you don’t understand, don’t be afraid to call your inspector and ask for clarification.
By Randy Yates, Training Consultant Administrator, NPI/GPI Corporate