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Home Inspection Report Writing - The Good, The Bad, Sometimes Ugly

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The Good

A Good Home Inspection Report, is custom, well written and detailed. It has clear descriptions of significant defects, including digital photos.

The Bad Home Inspection Report

The Bad

A Bad Home Inspection Report is not detailed, does not give clear descriptions of conditions or defects of the home.

Ugly home inspection dificult to read

The Ugly

The Ugly Home Inspection Report is bad and ugly, difficult or impossible to read. My 15 yr. old son could do a better job.

Template Reports – Lacking in Details and Clarity

These are primarily populated with canned phrases that can be circled, checked, underlined or cut and pasted. What it lacks in details it makes up for in speed and delegating responsibility. Note the quote at the bottom of the page from the contract reminding you that  “you are expected to follow up with specialists for greater detail.” These reports do a pretty good job of covering the inspectors butt for the lack of information. With as much detail as given in this report, the home buyer would have been ahead to hire all the specialists to do the inspection.

Template Home Inspection Summary Page

A Template Home Inspection Summary Page

This is an actual report “Perspective Summary” the inspectors summary view or opinion of the home. This summary opinion of the inspector is to help you determine whether or not to buy the home. In this report under the structure section the average house icon is checked, and “Complex” and “Repairs Recommended” are underlined.

To me as a home inspector, complex structural recommended repairs sound significant yet an average score is given and no comment. Maybe those complex structural repair recommendations are average for the neighborhood, its not clear. Nothing is written under major points of concern to further clarify. The condition of the house is summed up with 4 half smiling and 4 straight lipped house faces, compared to its peers.

This report template is filled out during the inspection on a phone or tablet device. It is designed to be quick and easy for the inspector complete with minimum writing. The major shortcoming however is to the buyer because most inspectors who use these are more interested in speed than giving detailed information.

That’s also why realtors tend to refer inspectors who use these; their thinking is, the less details means less focus on defects and the less likely the buyer will back out of the deal. This is a win-win for the inspector and realtor. But where is the buyer left in this unholy alliance?


Comparing Inspection Reports

Good home inspection report writing is important for a lot of reasons. Unless you see a sample home inspection report, you really have no idea what a inspectors report will look like. Some common descriptions given for home inspection reports such as “custom” “computer generated” “narrative” and “checklist” these only give you a clue as to the type of report not the quality or structure content.

Home inspectors should provide a written or typed report after the inspection is completed, typically delivered on site or within 24 hours. The majority of State laws and professional associations require a written report be delivered to the client as part of the home inspection. This makes sense, in most cases the written report is the only documented record of the inspection. Most people can’t remember all of the details a home inspector talks about during the inspection.

The Good Home Inspection Report

In my experience the number one criteria for a good home inspection report is good writing.  The customized reports containing photos in the report with detailed descriptions of defects that leave little if any room for misunderstanding are the best. below are some components that make a good home inspection report.

  1. A good home inspection report has detailed, pertinent information particular to your home; in contrast to a template or check list report that is simply filled out with check and circles and a few sparse comments.
  2. The  major defects or most significant concerns about the property are summarized into a list or addendum so they can easily be prioritized. From that list, selected clearly understood concerns can be submitted to the Seller for negotiating repairs, or concessions such as lowering the price of the home.
  3. The report should be typed. Hand written comments on checklist or template report are quick and easy for the inspector, but not best for people trying to read them. When speed is an inspectors main concern the report suffers greatly.
  4. The wording should be clearly understood by clients, technical issues should be broken down into layman terms.
  5. The report should include digital photos, which are very helpful to effectively communicate the exact issues of concern. Photos also validate defects that are out of site such as on a roof or in an attic or crawlspace.
  6. A good inspection report includes maintenance recommendations that will be helpful for proper maintenance of the home.
  7. A Good home inspector will also include safety improvement recommendations in the report. Older homes are not required to meet the new new safety codes, but there are usually areas where safety can be improved.

The “BAD” or Not So Good Home Inspection Reports

Below are some examples of Not-So-Good home inspection reports. These template and checklist reports are the type you would expect to get on site right after the inspection. All of these are designed to be filled out quickly during an inspection which usually means you get a minimum amount of information. They are great for the inspector’s convenience and speed but not much detailed information for the buyer. The over simplification of descriptions with symbols, codes and one or two word catch all phrases can be difficult for anyone to understand.  Sloppy handwriting can also be an issue, either difficult to make out or illegible.

Computer generated home inspection report, difficult to understand

An example of computer generated report, designed to be filled out quickly but difficult to figure out what it means. Beware of the unhappy house?


Computer generated but diffficult to understand inspection report.

Example of the Structure section of a home inspection report. Or is it hieroglyphics? I’m not sure.

The above computer generated report page is difficult for me to decipher and I’ve got over 30 years construction experience and have inspected thousands of homes. This is a bad inspection report, not clear, not detailed enough and certainly not easy to understand. Good luck to the average home buyer. There is a key for 11 symbols at the bottom of the page that is supposed to help, I count more than 60 different symbols at top half of page.

This appears to be an example of a report that says as little as possible but implies as much as you could imagine, maybe, I’m not sure. I believe the red print is what was highlighted by the inspector as applicable to this inspection. He wrote or highlighted in red, “POTENTIALLY DESTRUCTIVE DAMAGING CONDITIONS/DEFECTIVE PRODUCTS ? EXIST: __________  and then left the space blank. At least the home owner knows or has been warned that there is something in the house that is potentially destructive or damaging or defective; just not sure what it is other than there is a good chance it has something to do with the structure.


The “UGLY” Home Inspection Reports
At least this inspector took some time to jot a few things down, the only problem is that is his finished report. I don’t know about you but I can’t read half the writing with all the fragmented sentences and abbreviations. I also jot notes down but then go back to the office and type the report, add photos and spell check words I don’t know how to spell. For goodness sake this is the 21st century.
The “CHECKLIST” or “QUICKIE” Home Inspection Reports
The checklist report is still very popular because it can be done very quickly and delivered on site after the inspection is complete. Inspectors charge the same amount for this type of inspection as for a custom narrative like I do that take 3 or 4 or 5 times as long to perform. Please don’t waste your money on a checklist inspector. Very little information and greatly lacking detail. Any home inspector delivering this type of report is not concerned about thoroughness or attention to detail. Why would you want that type of home inspection? Realtors often refer checklist inspectors, be careful.