By Kenton Shepard, CMI
InterNACHI Director of Green Building
NACHI.TV course developer
In the early years of the Home Inspection Industry, Home Inspection Reports consisted
of a simple checklist or a one or two-page narrative report. In the inspection
business, descriptive phrases are called "narratives".
Prior to the mid 1970's, inspection reports followed no standard guidelines and
for the most part there was little or no oversight or licensure. As might be imagined,
the home inspection industry was viewed with some suspicion.
With the founding of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) in 1976,
home inspection guidelines governing inspection report content became available
in the form of Standards of Practice. Over time, other professional organizations
such as the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI)
came into existence and each developed their own standards, although today the
various standards are all very similar.
Both checklist and narrative reports are still in use today. From the point of
liability, narrative reports are widely considered safer, since they generally
provide more information and/or state information more clearly. Many liability
issues and problems with the inspection process are due to misunderstandings about
what was to be included in the report or about what the report says.
For example: A friend of mine bought a 14-unit hotel in Stinson Beach, California.
The six-page narrative report mentioned that flashing where the second-story
concrete walkway met the building was improperly installed and the condition could
result in wood decay. Four years later, my friend and his wife forked out almost
$100,000 to demolish and replace the entire upper walkway. In places, it was possible
to push a pencil through support beams. The inspector's report hadn't made clear
the seriousness of the condition.
Take the time to examine the Standards of Practice followed by your inspector.
If he is unaffiliated with any professional inspection organization and his reports
follow no particular standards, find another inspector.
Generally speaking, reports should describe the major home systems, their crucial
components and their operability, especially the ones in which failure can result
in dangerous or expensive-to-correct conditions. Defects should be adequately
described and the report should include recommendations.
Recommendations may be for specific actions to be taken or for further evaluation,
but they should address problems in such a way that the reader of the report will
understand how to proceed.
Inspection reports should include a summary report listing major problems to
ensure that important issues are not missed by the reader. It's important that
the reader be aware of safety issues or conditions which will be expensive to
correct. With this in mind, some inspectors color code report narratives, although
many feel that color coding exposes them to increased liability and don't.
Modern home inspection reports are typically computer-generated, with an inspector
choosing from a pre-written set of narratives so sometimes they read a little
oddly. There will always be conditions which can't be foreseen and for which there
will be no boilerplate narratives available. Different inspectors have differing
abilities when it comes to describing what they see.
Many inspectors have websites which include sample Inspection Reports for prospective
clients to view. Take the time to look at them. Also often included is a page
explaining the scope of the inspection. The inspection contract is usually included
and it should give you a good idea of what will be included in the report.
In conclusion, to have realistic expectations about what information will be
included in your home inspection report...
- Read the Standards of Practice
- Read the Scope of the inspection
- Read the contract
- View a sample Inspection Report