inspection report

Inspection Reports: What to Expect

Inspection reports have changed to accommodate increased consumer expectations, and to provide more extensive information and protection to both inspectors and their clients.

Development of Standards
Prior to the mid-1970s, inspection reports followed no standard guidelines and, for the most part, there was little or no oversight or licensure. As might be imagined, without minimum standards to follow, the quality of inspection reports varied widely, and 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 a Standards of Practice. Over time, a second, larger trade association, the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI), came into existence, and developed its own standards.
InterNACHI has grown to dominate the inspection industry and, in addition to its Residential Standards of Practice, it has developed a comprehensive Standards of Practice for the Inspection of Commercial Properties.  Today, most types of inspections from mold to fire door inspections are performed in accordance with one of InterNACHI’s Standards of Practice.
As a consumer, you should 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.
Reports should also disclaim portions of the home not inspected. Since home inspections are visual inspections, the parts of the home hidden behind floor, wall and ceiling coverings should be disclaimed.
Home inspectors are not experts in every system of the home, but are trained to recognize conditions that require a specialist inspection.
Home inspections are not technically exhaustive, so the inspector will not disassemble a furnace to examine the heat exchanger closely, for example.
Standards of Practice are designed to identify both the requirements of a home inspection and the limitations of an inspection.
Checklist and Narrative Reports
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.
Checklist reports are just that; very little is actually written. The report is a series of boxes with short descriptions after them. Descriptions are often abbreviated, and might consist of only two or three words, such as “peeling paint.” The entire checklist might only be four or five pages long. Today, some inspection legal agreements are almost that long!
Because of the lack of detailed information, checklist reports leave a lot open to interpretation, so that buyers, sellers, agents, contractors, attorneys and judges may each interpret the information differently, depending on their motives.
In the inspection business, phrases that describe conditions found during an inspection are called “narratives.”  Narrative reports use reporting language that more completely describes each condition. Descriptions are not abbreviated.
Both checklist and narrative reports are still in use today, although many jurisdictions are now beginning to ban checklist reports because the limited information they offer has resulted in legal problems.
From the standpoint of liability, narrative reports are widely considered safer, since they provide more information and state it 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, in 2002, an investor bought a 14-unit hotel in 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, the investor paid out almost $100,000 to demolish and replace the entire upper walkway. In some places, it was possible to push a pencil through support beams.
Although the inspector’s report had mentioned the problem, it hadn’t made clear the seriousness of the condition, or the possible consequences of ignoring it. Today, a six-page report would be considered short for a small house.

Development of Reporting Software

Years ago, when computers were expensive to buy and difficult to operate, inspection reports were written by hand. As computers became simpler to operate and more affordable, inspection software began to appear on the market.

Today, using this software, an inspector can chose from a large number of organized boilerplate narratives that s/he can edit or add to in order to accommodate local conditions, since inspectors in a hot, humid city like Tampa Bay, Florida, are likely to find types of problems different from those found by inspectors in a cold, dry climate, like Salt Lake City, Utah.

Using narrative software and checking boxes in categories that represent the home systems, an inspector can produce a very detailed report in a relatively short time.

For example, using a checklist report, an inspector finding a number of inoperable lights in a home would check a box in the “INTERIOR” section labeled something like “some lights inoperable,” and that would be the limit of the information passed on to the client.

Using inspection software, in the “INTERIOR” section of the program, an inspector might check a box labeled “some lights inoperable.”  This would cause the following narrative to appear in the “INTERIOR” section of the inspection report:

“Some light fixtures in the home appeared to be inoperable. The bulbs may be burned out, or a problem may exist with the fixtures, wiring or switches.
If after the bulbs are replaced, these lights still fail to respond to the switch, this condition may represent a potential fire hazard, and the Inspector recommends that an evaluation and any necessary repairs be performed by a qualified electrical contractor.”

Standard disclaimers and other information can be pre-checked to automatically appear in each report.

Narrative Content

Narratives typically consists of three parts:

  1. a description of a condition of concern;
  2. a sentence or paragraph describing how serious the condition is, and the potential ramifications, answering questions such as, “Is it now stable, or will the problem continue?” or “Will it burn down the house?” and “When?”; and
  3. a recommendation. 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.

“Typically” is a key word here. Some narratives may simply give the ampacity of the main electrical disconnect. There is no need for more than one sentence. Different inspectors would include what they think is necessary.

Report Content

Inspection reports often begin with an informational section which gives general information about the home, such as the client’s name, the square footage, and the year the home was built.

Other information often listed outside the main body of the report, either near the beginning or near the end, are disclaimers, and sometimes a copy of the inspection agreement, and sometimes a copy of the Standards of Practice.  A page showing the inspector’s professional credentials, designations, affiliations and memberships is also often included.  And it is a good idea to include InterNACHI’s Now That You’ve Had a Home Inspection book.

Inspection reports often 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 do this.

Software often gives inspectors the choice of including photographs in the main body of the report, near the narrative that describes them, or photographs may be grouped together toward the beginning or end of the report.

A table of contents is usually provided.

The main body of the report may be broken down into sections according to home systems, such as “ELECTRICAL,” “PLUMBING,” “HEATING,” etc., or it may be broken down by area of the home:  “EXTERIOR,” “INTERIOR,” “KITCHEN,” “BEDROOMS,” etc.

It often depends on how the inspector likes to work.

Sample Reports

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 on the website, and it should give you a good idea of what will be included in the report.

In conclusion, for consumers to have realistic expectations about what information will be included in the home inspection report, follow these tips:

  • read the Standards of Practice;
  • read the Contract;
  • view a sample Inspection Report; and
  • talk with the inspector.

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Termites

Termites in the home

Termites and other organisms can cause serious problems in the wooden structural components of a house, and may go undetected for a long period of time. 

New Construction
All chemical soil treatments, bait systems, and chemical wood treatment must be approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and applied in accordance with the EPA label’s instructions. In some cases, it is not feasible for a builder to arrange for soil treatment. In this regard, the International Residential Code (IRC) by the International Code Council allows a builder to utilize pressure-treated wood as a measure of termite protection. If pressure-treated wood is used, however, it must be used in all framing members up to and including the top plate of the first floor’s level wall. This includes the sub-floor and floor joists of the first floor. The use of pressure-treated wood in only the sill plate is not acceptable. In such cases, the builder must provide the lender with a letter stating that the house is protected from termites by the use of pressure-treated wood. The builder must also provide the home buyer with a one-year warranty against termites. The use of post-construction soil treatment where the chemicals are applied only around the perimeter of the foundation is NOT acceptable in new construction.
Appraiser’s Observations
Appraisers are to observe all areas of the house and other structures/areas within the legal boundaries of the property that have potential for infestation by termites and other wood-destroying organisms, including the bottoms of exterior doors and frames, wood siding in contact with the ground, and crawlspaces. Mud tunnels running from the ground up the side of the house may indicate termite infestation. Observe the eaves and gable vents and wood window sills for indication of the entrance of swarming termites, and note excessive dampness or large areas where the vegetation is dead. Evidence of active termite infestation must be noted.
Termites
Subterranean termites are the most damaging insects of wood. Their presence is hard to notice, and damage usually is found before the termites are seen. Prevent infestations because if they occur, they will almost always need professional pest-control service.
Signs of Infestation
Hire a qualified InterNACHI inspector to inspect for termites or other wood-destroying organisms. Generally, the first sign of infestation is the presence of swarming termites on the window or near indoor light. If they are found inside the house, it almost always means that they have infested. Other signs that may be found are termite wings on window sills or in cobwebs, and shelter tubes, which are tunnels constructed by the termites from soil or wood and debris. Usually, wood damage is not found at first, but when it is found, it definitely reveals a termite infestation. Anywhere wood touches soil is a possible entry into a home for termites. Examine wood which sounds dull or hollow when struck by a screwdriver or hammer. Inspect suspected areas with a sharp, pointed tool, such as an ice pick, to find termite galleries or their damage. 
Control
Control measures include reducing the potential infestation, preventing termite entry, and applying chemicals for remedial treatment.
Inspection
Inspect thoroughly to determine if there is an infestation, damage, and/or conditions that could invite a termite attack, or the need for remedial control measures. The tools and equipment needed for an inspection include a flashlight, ice pick or sharp-pointed screwdriver, ladder, and protective clothing. Always hire an InterNACHI inspector for your inspection needs, as they are trained by the highest standards in the inspection industry.
Outdoors
Check the foundation of the house, garage and other buildings for shelter tubes coming from the soil. Look closely around porches, connecting patios, sidewalks, areas near kitchens and bathrooms, and hard-to-see places. Check window and door frames, and where utility services enter the house for termite infestation or wood decay. Also, look behind shrubbery and plants near walls. Pay special attention to areas where earth and wood meet, such as fences, stair carriages and trellises. Open and check any exterior electrical meter or fuse box set into the wall, a common point of infestation.
Indoors
Carefully check all doors, window facings, baseboards, and hardwood flooring. Discoloration or stains on walls or ceilings may mean that water is leaking and can decay wood, and this can aid termite infestation. It is very important to inspect where plumbing and utility pipes enter the foundation and flooring. Also, examine the attic for shelter tubes, water leakage, and wood damage.
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 Prevention Many termite problems can be prevented. The most important thing to do is to deny termites access to food (wood), moisture and shelter. Follow these suggestions:

  • have at least a 2-inch clearance between the house and planter boxes, or soil-filled porches;
  • eliminate all wood-to-soil contact, such as trellises, fence posts, stair casings and door facings (they can be put on masonry blocks or on treated wood);
  • separate shrubbery from the house to help make it easier to inspect the foundation line;
  • use wolmanized wood (pressure-treated wood) so that rain will not rot it;
  • seal openings through the foundation;
  • remove wood scraps and stumps from around the foundation;
  • have at least 12 to 18 inches of clearance between floor beams and the soil underneath.
Chemical Treatment
Termite treatment often requires specialized equipment. Therefore, it is recommended that you always use the services of a pest control operator because he is familiar with construction principles and practices, has the necessary equipment, and knows about subterranean termites.
Exterminating Termites

If you think you have a termite infestation in your house, you need to call a structural pest control company to conduct a professional inspection. To find a company, ask friends or coworkers for recommendations, or check the Yellow Pages. If the inspection finds evidence of drywood termites, you have several options, depending on the degree of infestation. Fumigation and heating of the entire house are the only options that ensure eradication in the entire structure. If the infestation is contained in a small area, local or spot control may be effective. However, hidden infestations in other parts of the structure will not be eradicated.

Total (Whole-House) Eradication
For the heat method, pets, plants, and other items that might be damaged by high temperatures must be removed. The house is then covered with tarps, and hot air is blown into the tarp until the inside temperature reaches 140° F to 150° F, and the temperature of the structural timbers reaches 120° F. The time to complete this procedure varies greatly from one structure to another, depending on factors such as the building’s construction and the weather conditions. The procedure may not be practical for structures that cannot be heated evenly.
Local or Spot Control
Local or spot-control methods include the use of pesticides, electric current, extreme cold, localized heat, microwave energy, or any combination of these methods. Local or spot control also includes the removal and replacement of infested structural timber. These methods are intended to remove or kill termites only within the specific targeted area, leaving open the possibility of other undetected infestations within the structure. These treatments are NOT designed for whole-house eradication. Any pest control company that claims whole-house results with local or spot control methods is guilty of false advertising and should be reported.
Local or spot treatment with pesticides involves drilling and injecting pesticides into infested timbers, as well as the topical application of toxic chemicals. The electric-current method involves delivering electric energy to targeted infestations. For the extreme cold method, liquid nitrogen is pumped into wall voids adjacent to suspected infestation sites, reducing the area to -20° F. The localized heat method involves heating infested structural timbers to 120° F. The microwave method kills termites by directing microwaves into termite-infested wood.
If you see the following signs in your house, you might have termites:
• sawdust-like droppings;
• dirt or mud-like tubes or trails on the structure;
• damaged wood members (like window sills); and
• swarming winged insects within the structure, especially in the spring or fall.
Worried your home may have termites? Schedule an inspection with us to find out.
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Credit Reports

Credit Reports

If you apply for a loan to buy a house, the lender is going to decide whether you are a good or poor credit risk based on your credit report. If the report says that you have a lot of debt, or you don’t pay your bills on time, the lender may adjust your interest […]

Safe Real Estate with Covid-19

Keeping Safe in Real Estate with Covid-19 Pandemic

Many people will be surprised to hear that in light of most states (including Florida) issuing a shelter in place order to slow the spread of the Coronavirus, the real estate industry is considered essential and you may still proceed with buying or selling your home.  Why is this?  Well I think there are two important points that can be made when combined supports why real estate can and should continue to operate at least for the time being.

  • Real Estate may be the most critical industry to the economy and completely shutting it down could send the economy into a tailspin.
  • Real Estate activities are essentially low risk for spreading the virus and can even be made lower risk if proper administrative controls are followed.

While the public safety is of the upmost importance, we will get through this eventually and if real estate activities can continue in a safe manner then the government needs to ensure there is still an economy at the end of the pandemic.  This article hopefully provides some context to how certain activities are or can be made low spread risks and will also talk about how we can take proper pre-cautions to keep safe in real estate with Covid-19.

Before we do a dive into protective measures lets briefly talk about how the virus spreads to give some context to the preventative measures.  So how does the virus spread?

  • Between people who are within 6 feet of each other. Close contract with another person is the easiest way to spread the virus and should be avoided at all times.
  • The virus might also travel respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
  • While it is not as common as the first two, it may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes.

So now that we understand a little more about how the virus is spread, let go over some compensatory measures we can take to ensure we are doing everything we can to ensure real estate activities are low risk to spreading the virus.

  • Stay home if you are sick and have any of the Coronavirus systems – If you are at all sick, even it you just believe you have cold, you need to stay home and not participate in any activities until you are feeling 100% better.   Common Covid-19 symptoms are but are not limited to:
    1. Fever
    2. Cough
    3. Shortness of Breath

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, stay home.  If you see someone who has these symptoms at a showing, send them home.  Its not worth it.  You can resume your buying process when you or your client feels better.

  • Assume you and everyone else you are with has it – Per the CDC, the virus can take 2-14 days to even show symptoms of the virus. There are also other who are asymptomatic who will have the virus but not have any symptoms.  The best way to avoid getting infected or getting others infected is assume everyone has it no matter how healthy they seem.
  • Do anything virtually that can be – Listen, I would never buy a house prior to seeing it in person first and I don’t think its wise to invest in a property without seeing it at least once first, but limit visits. Have your realtor give you a virtual tour before deciding to see it in person.  Also, while it is great that you want to attend the inspection in person, inspectors are more high tech these days and can take video on sight and also video conference you to give a recap at the end.  We have also done report reviews over video conference with our clients to ensure they are properly absorbing what is in the report.  Unless its absolutely necessary for you to be somewhere stay at home. Virtual tours and inspections is a powerful tool to keep safe in real estate with Covid-19.

  • Action you can take if you need to be physically present – If you are a realtor, inspector, buyer, title company, there is a strong possibility you will need to attend something in person. Here are some protective measure you can take ensure you don’t get infect or do the same to others.
    1. Ensure only the minimum amount of necessary people are present – A good example is at closings.  A lot of the times realtor like to be present at closings to support their clients, but during the pandemic it is not appropriate.  Figure out who needs to be there and stick to who is essential.  You can always video conference the non-essential parties.
    2. Limit the time you spend out to bare minimum – For example, if you think it is of the upmost importance for you to attend the inspection, wait to the end of the inspection and come for a recap from the inspector. Inspection can be long increasing risk to exposure if people are present.  You can always stay after the inspector leaves to take a better look at things as well if access is allowed.
    3. Wear the right protective equipment when out – I think the best thing to limit exposure if you are around people are gloves and facemasks/respirators. This will prevent you from touching contaminated services or inhaling respiratory vapor if someone coughs.  If no one else is present you can lose the facemask, but I would recommend keeping the gloves on and throwing them out when you are done.
    4. Wash and Sanitize – Wash your hands for 20 seconds under hot water before and after going out. If you are gone a while, make sure you are washing frequently if you are touching anything.  If no water is available use hand sanitizer.  Bring sanitizing wipes to wipe down surfaces that are commonly touched.
    5. Avoid touching your face – Even if you chose to wear gloves, resist the urge to touch your face. If you need to scratch your nose, sanitize your hands first and then go crazy.

These are very interesting times we live in.  There is a lot of fear and uncertainty building and that is a natural response as human beings.  We need to keep pushing forward though, it will only make the problem worse if we shut down everything all together.  With that said, be diligent about your preventative measures.  There is a lot of good we can do right now, but if we don’t take the virus seriously that will all be for nothing.  I hope you found this article informative and please keep you and your family safe!

For more information on how you can keep safe in real estate with Covid-19 click here.

Click here to schedule a CDC compliant and safe home inspection.

Ensuring Your Next Move Is A Smart Move.

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