A Visual Inspection

By
Home Inspector with Frank Schulte-Ladbeck Professional Real Estate Inspections

Every year since I have been an inspector, I hear that the state is planning to implement changes to the inspection report, and to the standards of operation for an inspector. Part of the hope is to bring order to the existing documents, so they will follow each other. Some clarifications will be made as too what is happening in the report, but one big change is the opening paragraph of the report.

I received my copy of the proposed changes, so I could add my comments. I am already scribbling away various notes on these pages to make my recommendations, but I like what I see. I do want one section to be more visibly highlighted: the meaning of the headings for the check boxes. They are suggesting that “in need of repair” be changed to “deficiencies” , which is great, but I want it to be explained. It will be interesting to see a final document.

The main point to that bit of required writing which begins our reports has always been to make the client realize that an inspection is only describing what is found on that day of the inspection, and what can be easily seen. In fact, this terminology has been used in one form or another by all states that have codes overseeing inspectors. No matter how many test meters, probes, or gadgetry that an inspector uses, the bulk of our findings come from visually inspecting the home. This is also where a problem can lie with our investigation. The items that we cannot see.

A house in my neighborhood has partially burned down. The fire was obviously a bad, but much of the structure looks in tact. I cannot gain access to the house, so I would not be able to determine the true extent to the damage. They are rebuilding, but they are not tearing everything down to start from scratch. Once everything is painted over, can an inspector see that a fire may have left some damage? Maybe. If there are visual cues, he could report on them. However, there can be areas of concern which have been covered. There was a home completely destroyed by fire, causing the foundation to crack. When rebuilding the home, a skim coat was smoothed over the foundation, and the new structure was built on top of it. After the new house is up, there could be signs to the situation with the foundation, but it could all appear fine. Eventually the crack will return due to the weight of the house, and problems can ensue. I think that I am making a good argument for phase inspections with this case.

Most residences do not go under phase inspections, and the homeowners may sell the property without informing anyone of the fire. This is why reminding the inspector's clients as to why a visual inspection is what they are getting. A good inspector will do all that he can to discover what happened to the home, but in the end, there just might be an item that we cannot see.

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