How thorough should an inspection be?

The inspection business can be political at times. Ok lets be honest, it is usually political to some degree. Perhaps political is the wrong word.  Lets say controversial.  Often times a home inspector will discover issues in a home that are hidden and unknown to the sellers. Depending upon the situation these hidden issues can sometimes cause a sale to fall through.  At this point some home inspectors including myself can feel the whirlwind of fury from the unsuspecting homeowner. The sale is on the rocks and the inspector is the reason or so they believe. In my experience I have to say sometimes (rarely but sometimes) they are right.

This is where the politics of discernment come into play. A good inspector inspects the home for defects and does not try to hide the facts. How the facts are presented however is critical and where professionalism must come into play. Here is an example. I inspect a basement and discover moisture is present in the NW corner . There are no obvious issues inside the home but the wall is definitely wet and may have some mold or deterioration and possibly even some rot.  My report can be written in three ways and depending on how I do this will separate me from my competitors. One approach is alarming to the customer, “The walls in the basement are wet and could be mouldy or worse”.  The second approach and the one I prefer would go something like this, “I detected some moisture in the NW corner of the den as shown in the picture. I am unable to see into the wall to determine the extent of the damage if any but would recommend that you do the following.  Re-slope the outside of the home in this area so water does not pool up against the foundation. Futhermore I would extend the downspout out away from the home at least 8’ to prevent future moisture problems. It is my opinion that the moisture is directly related to the slope and roof drainage issues outside and if they are corrected I would guess the wall would dry up.” The third approach would go like this, There was no visible evidence of moisture in the basement walls on the day of the inspection. “ This third inspection is what I would call a soft inspection where the facts are true but the whole story is not given.

As a home buyer I think option two would be best to know. Obviously it takes the inspector longer to write all this down and it also is a bit risky to guess but I believe that the buyer is willing to pay me a fair compensation for a well informed inspection and report that will be useful to them. This means they want to know what I think. Most inspection trainers today teach that we need to keep our opinions to ourselves and stick to the observable facts. A surface or observable inspection is usually preferred by sellers  for the reasons I mentioned above. As a result an opinionated inspector such as myself can sometimes get black listed for scaring away buyers. This is where the politics enters the picture. As an inspector I believe in integrity and honesty. I strive to inform my clients but not scare them. Sometimes the buyers are not familiar with the” ins and outs” of home maintenance and unless I assure them that the issues with the home are common and minor in nature they will not buy the home.  I believe it is my job to put the problems in perspective as to the age of the home and the seriousness of the issue.  Sometimes it becomes a bit of a juggling act to try to keep everyone happy. Sometimes it is impossible to keep everyone happy. In any case a good inspector will inform and work tirelessly for their client regardless of the outcome. I usually get referrals as a good inspector from such clients, which is my utmost goal.

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