My Fort Wayne home inspector better get his (or her) butt on the roof.

Real Estate Broker/Owner with Christiansen Group Realty (260)704-0843


Last summer I attended a home inspection with one of my buyers.  The inspector that he chose was one that I hadn't worked with before.  

He was very nice, very knowledgable, and helped to educate the client during the inspection.  I was starting to think about referring him to future clients.

Then we went outside in the backyard to "inspect" the roof.  

He pulled out a pair of binoculars, held them up to his face, and pointed them towards the roof.

I said "Hey man. What are you doing?"

"Inspecting the roof" he said.  

I said "Really?"

"Yes" he replied.

I replied with "When I look through binoculars at the birds in my backyard, I'm not inspecting them.  I'm looking at them."

He went on to tell me that with his size (he was very overweight which I DO NOT JUDGE for one second) he can't physically get on the roof.  He considered it a safety hazard for him...  and the roof.  

We went on to discuss things about the roof that you can't tell just by looking at it.  Soft spots, popped nails, etc.  He tried to convince me that his way of "inspecting" it was just fine.  

I don't think so.  It's not in the best interest of my client to have somebody peek at the roof through binoculars.  My job (and the inspector's job) is to take care of the client.  Clearly he was not doing this here.  

Let me say this LOUD AND CLEAR.  I will never judge somebody that is overweight, left handed, one legged, or anything else like that.  I've been overweight in my life before.  I get it.  That said...

Unless it is covered in snow or raining or has a dangerously steep pitch...

My home inspector better get his butt on the roof.



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Fort Wayne Realtors Jared and Amanda Christiansen with Century 21 Bradley

Amanda Christiansen is an award winning Realtor with Christiansen Group Realty.


Jared Christiansen is a business partner and in charge of marketing and taking care of things behind the scene.


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Geoff Shellard
Your Home INSPECTED - Pitt Meadows, BC
Geoff Shellard

I noticed somewhere along the thread (and there are many posts so hot topic) someone said if you are in the business these are the risks. The whole point of a home isnpection, among finding deficiencies, is to keep our clients safe by finding issues that may hurt them and their family. Do we not deserve that same priviledge? Yes, we are generalists. Like a general practitioner, they may look in my eyes, down my throat, in my ears, etc., but they're not going to cut me's not their job and not their risk. A roofer is trained to do the full assessment with the proper safety gear with the knowledge that the roof will be repaired or replaced regardless of anything they do to it. I'm not prepared to fix a roof.

A low slope/flat roof may seem an easy climb but even that has it's issues. Granted, no inspector should climb a ladder over a certain height without fall protection training. There is still such a thing as common sense.

Agreed, damage to any part of the house by an inspector is something that should be avoided at all costs. We are in/on someone elses's house. I wouldn't even step on a roof without the expressed permission by the home owner. The buyer doesn't own the house nor do they have the authority to say what I can and cannot do. They can choose based on how I sell my services to go with me or not but at the end of the day I want to able to help my next client tomorrow with two working legs, a properly alligned back, and zero concussions.

Safety first!

Feb 08, 2013 03:28 AM #106
Larry Lawfer
YourStories Realty Group powered by Castles Unlimited® - Newton, MA
"I listen for a living." It's all about you.

This really proves why we need more than one real estate agent.  There are so many good (and bad) answers, but mostly good ways to deal with this situation.  You stated your expectation clearly and that is what we get paid to do.

Feb 08, 2013 04:39 AM #107
Dana Basiliere
Rossi & Riina Real Estate - Williston, VT
Making deals "Happen"

I would normally say get on the roof but I have an inspector acquaintance who is excellent and used to climb on the roofs to inspect. He has only one arm and he fell, breaking his back. He was out of work for 8 months and has problems still. Nobody sending him money to live on. I say the client (buyer) should ask if that is part of the inspection. If the roof is questionable he/she can find one who climbs. I would never ask an inspector to climb. That's between him and the client. As an agent I would tell them to ask; if it was important.

Feb 08, 2013 04:59 AM #108
Marilyn Holda-Fleck
Coldwell Banker Residential Broker - Westfield, NJ
Personal service for each and every Customer

It seems like there's a middle ground between standing on the lawn with binoculars and 'walking the roof' -- and that would be going up on a ladder to get up close and personal with the roof and gutters.  However, I've seen some inspectors that don't even bring along a ladder anymore!

Feb 08, 2013 05:03 AM #109
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

I think I agree with Marilyn - get close enough to see what you're looking at. And if there are obvious signs of deterioration, then get a roofing inspector or contractor in to take a better look.

Feb 08, 2013 05:36 AM #110
Jeanne Dufort
Coldwell Banker Lake Country - Madison, GA
Madison and Lake Oconee GA

My home inspectors are good, but they do not climb on roofs.  They inspect from the ground, and when accessible from the attic space.  If there are items of concern, they advise the buyer to bring in a roofer for further evaluation.

Feb 08, 2013 06:30 AM #111
Nancy Middleton
Counselor Realty, Inc. - Excelsior, MN
Nancy Middleton, Counselor Realty, Minnetonka, MN

Lots of strong opinions on this one. In Minnesota, some times we have lots of difficulty in even seeing the roof for all the snow covering it up. This is a reason where I personally often encourge clients to think ahead about which season they may want to make their move, (when they can't see the roof, the landscaping and features of the property that are covered with snow and ice) if the actual timing isn't critical.

I also check the City records for building permits and the Sellers' Transfer Disclosure Addendum and make this factual information to the Buyers to check out their wishes.

I talk ahead of time about this with the Buyers and then we talk with the general inspector and have him explain to the Buyers how he conducts the roof part of the inspection considering the time of year, the weather conditions, the slope, the age, and access to the roof, etc. Most of the inspectors I have used over the past 34 years have gone up on the roof when the conditions are good and not done so when they are not. They all have their own ladders and do the inside of the attics as well. I've never seen the binocular approach. When you explain the inspection the Buyers need to know what is involved and find out their questions and expectations up front, so there aren't any surprises for them or for you. This is why I have used the same inspector. When I know how the inspector works, there aren't surprises. If they insist on using a brother carpenter, or some friend, etc., I explain the risks.

Feb 08, 2013 06:49 AM #112
Susan Ani
Baird & Warner - Chicago, IL

I once had a buyer who picked his own inspector. Not only did the inspector climb all over the roof and spent considerable time up there, my buyer (the husband of a married couple) JOINED him on the roof. I almost had a heart attack, but he was determined to get up there and inspect every nuance of that roof with "his guy." The wife was standing with me in the driveway holding her breath.

Feb 08, 2013 07:20 AM #113
Marlis Landreth
Retired - Tucson, AZ
Retired Tucson Realtor

Wow, I just had to comment on this.  It was interesting to see the various opinions and differences by location.  I agree with many - at least get up close  by climbing a ladder.  Thanks for a good thought provoking blog.

Feb 08, 2013 07:51 AM #114
Charles Buell
Charles Buell Inspections Inc. - Seattle, WA
Seattle Home Inspector

I think some of the issue here is that there are different liability issues if the inspector works for someone else or is self employed.  OSHA regulations only apply to employees and it only makes sense that an inspector would argue for not going on the roof because that would level the playing field with those that do walk on roofs.  Others also interpret the rules and regulations to suit their needs at the expense of the consumer at times.  The idea that an asphalt roof is going to be damaged by walking on it is pretty silly given that the homeowner is likely to have the roof pressure washed prior to putting the house on the market.  The inspector should never be asked to walk on a roof---that is a very different question that asking the inspector if he walks the roof.  Most of the standards of practice allow the inspector to walk the roof if the inspector deems it safe to do so.  How complicated is that?  Another thing that has come out in the comments is whether the inspector has permission from the seller to walk on the roof.  Part of the inspection contingency in this state and most states I would expect is that the seller gives permission for the inspector to do the inspection.  In this state we are required to traverse the roof when deemed safe by the inspector to do so.  The fact that traversing the roof is "part of our job" is thus included in the permission to do the inspection.  Some states I understand have to have it specifically in writing---I feel fortunate to be living in Washington State where the consumer interest seems better served.  Bottom line:  if it is safe, walk it; if it isn't, don't walk it.

Feb 08, 2013 09:15 AM #115
Margaret Rome, Baltimore Maryland
HomeRome Realty 410-530-2400 - Pikesville, MD
Sell Your Home With Margaret Rome

Please don't ask an inspector to walk on a slate roof.

Feb 08, 2013 11:17 AM #116
Wayne Jackson
Lakeshore Realty 208-714-4109 - Hayden, ID
North Idaho Realtor, Serving Coeur dnullAlene and Hayden Lake

I suspect most people who are against binoculars have never tried them on a roof. It's amazing how much detail you can see with a good pair of binoculars.

I don't mean to be disagreeing with Charles who is talking about cold wet Seattle roofs, but in warm climates walking on the roof may harm it. When a roof is more than half way through it's life it starts getting brittle and walking on it  can drastically shorten it's life.

Feb 09, 2013 01:45 AM #117
Jared Tadique
The Cascade Team - Seattle, WA
Jared Tadique

I just witnessed an inspection a couple of weeks ago. It was freezing out and the house was two stories high. I was wondering how the inspector was going to handle that. He had a periscope! (Seriously!) It wasn't the mirror kind, he attached his camera to the top and it displayed the image to be taken at the bottom. The pics were very close up and detailed. I thought it was genius. And apparently not SOP. I haven't read all the comments here (over 100, who's got time for that, lol), but I haven't seen mention of this kind of thing in the ones I did read. No risk to the inspector or the roof, and you still have a close up look at it. Inspections are by definition "visual" so it's really a perfect solution. I'm definitely using him again

I don't think standing on the ground with binoculars cuts it. You can have the best binoculars in the world, but it doesn't help the sight lines. Binoculars don't see around corners. Can't even see half of the roof from the ground on most houses.

As a construction guy, I'd have to say anyone walking on a suspect roof is a bad idea if you're not there to fix it. It can only exacerbate or create problems. I agree with Wayne above, and I'm in Seattle. Older roofs can and will crumble. If it's a good newer roof then it's usually fine to walk unless it's hot outside. No roof should be walked on if it's hot outside. But, if it's new then you don't really need to walk on it anyway. Any inspector worth his salt should be able to spot a suspect roof in 5 seconds.

Soft spots and etc aren't really in the realm of an inspection anyway (not being a visual problem). And most roof issues can be spotted without actually being on it, either visually, or in the form of apparent leaking.



Feb 09, 2013 04:15 AM #118
Paddy Deighan JD PhD - Vail, CO
Paddy Deighan J.D. Ph.D

I agree...a hime inspector needs to get onto the roof...there are s many potential problems there and they should not be overlooked.

Feb 09, 2013 09:16 AM #119
Lloyd Binen
Certified Realty Services - Saratoga, CA
Silicon Valley Realtor since 1976; 408-373-4411

Jared, I agree.  Get your butt on the roof unless there are extenuating circumstances and a big butt isn't one.  A steeply pitched roof and, out here, ceramic tiles which easily break is another.  Old fashioned genuine ceramic tile shingles on Spanish style homes can't be matched if they're broken and present a real extenuating circumstance in my marketplace.  Luckily ceramic tile will last 2,000+ years, but the nails or fasteners that hold them in place don't.

Feb 09, 2013 02:54 PM #120
Fred Sweezer Sr.
Hud Certified 203K Consultant - Long Beach, CA
Certified Home Inspector

I am going to post on my blog as well, walking on the roof can void some roofing material manufactures warranty, as well as some roofs are not design to carry the load, roof inspection can be preformed using a ladder,  binoculars, any any observation or issues will be reported on and if the roof is more than 5 years old, it shoud be certified by a local licensed roofing company.

Feb 09, 2013 07:02 PM #121
Nina Hollander
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - Charlotte, NC
Your Charlotte/Ballantyne/Waxhaw/Fort Mill Realtor

In Charlotte inspector do NOT get on steep/high roofs. Their liability insurance does not cover them if they have an accident and they are not required to do so. Here they also get on a ladder and do a visual check with binoculars. If they see problems, they recommend that buyer get a roofing specialist to inspect further. Really hard to argue that they take physical risks for which they are not compensated if something happens.

Feb 10, 2013 09:01 PM #122
Deleted Account
Fort Myers, FL

I understand your concern and agree the roof needs to be inspected properly.  I also don't believe looking through binoculars is inspecting the roof properly.  As you stated, it is only looking at the roof.  I have learned from this blog, make sure you ask the price of the inspection and ask how they inspect the roof.  


Depending on their price, I may ask for a discount.  If they don't get on the roof, I would ask them to deduct the cost to have a roofing company inspect it.  In the meantime, I may be calling a couple of roofing companies and explain what I would need and how much they would charge me or my client.  The person doing the inspection will know up front, that I won't pay full price for the inspection, if they don't inspect the roof properly.

Feb 13, 2013 08:18 AM #123
Sondra Meyer:
Star View Real Estate - Colorado Springs, CO
See It. Experience It. Live It.

I expect the inspector to pull out a ladder, lean it up against the roof in an appropriate number of places, and each time climb up that ladder to see what he can see.    I work in areas where hail damage is a frequent problem.  The inspector doesn't have to walk around on the roof to see the damage but he needs a better view then binoculars are going to provide.  Plus, the inspectors I work with take pictures of the "problems" to include in the report.  Can't do that looking through binoculars. 

The only exceptions would be if the type of roof was clearly and obviously not in conformance to city code.   No need to waste a lot of time looking for more problems with a roof that is already a problem.      

Feb 14, 2013 11:56 AM #124
Marshall Brown
Mid America Inspection Services, LLC - Fargo, ND

A very late comment I admit but I felt it was warranted.

To the best of my knowledge none of the home inspection standards, SOP's, require actually walking a roof to perform an inspection. As a CYA measure, I suspect, most home inspection texts recommend against it. The reasons are numerous.

The OSHA rules require that to have an employee access a roof, and a number of other elevated structures, certain safety measures are required. Frankly, I have never believed a business owner is any less likely to fall than an employee (sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander). The homeowner could be liable if the inspector was injured by lack of reasonable safety accommodations. The Realtor could be liable if they applied pressure to the inspector to attempt an act beyond approved SOP's and he was subsequently injured.

You mention some obvious limitations to accessing a roof such as pitch, weather conditions and roofing materials. Other factors would have to include material age and observable conditions. Older and poorly ventilated roof coverings can become brittle and are easily damaged. As a general rule a home owner will want any damage detected after the inspection corrected by the home inspector even when called for by the SOP. Most notorious under this heading and GFCI's that won't reset and faucets that will not stop leaking after turning on, both of which I'm sure you have encountered, but also include broken/damage roof shingles.

Remembering that a home inspection is not exhaustive and is most often based on a reasonable numbers of samples, an inspection from the ground, using binoculars or telephoto lenses, or from the eaves off a ladder should meet all the requirements of the SOP and provide the client with a reasonable assurance of the roof covering condition.

Jan 04, 2014 02:29 AM #125
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