What is included in a home inspection report?
When you hire a home inspector, make sure to obtain a copy of the pre-inspection contract so you know what’s taking place. (Photo courtesy of Angie’s List member Scott R. of Edmond, Okla.)
A home inspector will inspect your property from top to bottom, including all the main systems. State laws and professional associations require home inspectors to give clients two documents as a matter of business and ethics: written home inspector contracts and written inspection reports.
Obtain a copy of the pre-inspection contract before the inspection takes place. Read and understand the document before the inspector starts the investigation. Ask the inspector to clarify anything you do not understand.
The agreement should contain the scope of the inspection services the person intends to perform as well as the cost of the services. In some states, home inspection contracts must follow very specific guidelines. For example, the New York State (NYS) Department of State requires inspectors to provide pre-inspection contracts prepared in a certain size font and with specific language and provisions.
Written inspection reports
The code of ethics requires inspectors to provide their clients written reports of the home inspection. The report needs to contain detailed information on the subject property. Some professional associations and state regulations require home inspectors to provide you with a written report after concluding the inspection.
The inspection report needs to clearly identify the components and systems of the property observed by the inspector. Here are the five key areas covered in home inspection reports.
- Electrical System
- Plumbing System
- Heating System
- Cooling System
- Structural Components
The structural includes the property's foundation, frame or masonry structure, exterior and interior components and other parts recommended by the state or professional association. Some inspection reports may contain up to 50 pages of information.
Inspection report limitations
The only guarantee implied in the written report concerns the inspector's performance of the inspection. The inspector promises to honor the terms of the contract and standards of practice within the industry. Inspectors cannot make future guarantees regarding a certain component, the efficiency of a system or other aspects of performance.
Inspection report exclusions
Many home inspectors will exclude a variety of items from the scope of their inspection and inspection report. This includes items like hot tubs, swimming pools, kitchen appliances, central vacuum systems, lawn sprinkler systems, fire and smoke detection and suppression systems, alarm/intrusion detection systems, solar space heating and domestic hot water heating systems. Most reports will also exclude information about insects and pests that could pose serious problems for home buyers.
Sometimes, an inspector may not have access to certain components or systems because of safety concerns or specific conditions that limits access. The inspector should record this information in the inspection report delivered to you.
In addition, do not expect inspection reports to contain information on environmental conditions, such as asbestos, lead, or radon. You will need to hire professionals who specialize in these areas to receive an objective report. It is entirely up to the inspector to determine what to investigate beyond the basic systems.
Some inspectors have the necessary skills, equipment and licenses or certifications that qualify them to perform one or more of these specialty inspection services. In this case, the inspector may choose to perform the specialty service as part of the initial inspection agreement or create a separate contract.
Do not base your decision to buy a home on an outdated inspection report or one provided by the seller. It's important for you to have the latest information regarding the condition of the property. A professional home inspector provides an objective evaluation of the property and, in doing so, takes on the responsibility of protecting your interests.