How BAD Is It?

Determining the significance of a problem has always been challenging for home inspectors. For most inspectors, this can even become an insurmountable and unnerving task. The concern is if we misrepresent our findings either our liability will go through the roof or ours clients might not buy a home they really want. Neither of these is good. The quality of an inspector is directly proportionate to their ability to confidently tell a customer precisely how serious or how insignificant a problem is. Home inspectors can no longer get away with merely identifying the existence of a property defect; they must also state its severity and impact. So how does one acquire this wisdom and sureness?

The answer is quite simple; a home inspector must fully understand the primary purpose(s) of each component they are analyzing. The scope of each problem is based upon whether the component is performing its intended function or not. Let me give you 3 examples:

  1. A grounded outlet in a bath is safe; by adding a GFCI receptacle it would be safer. So the lack of a GFCI to a home inspector would be rather insignificant. Why…because the outlet is performing its intended purpose and is safe to use.
  2. The cedar siding on a home is properly installed and watertight; however, the paint is peeling. Because cedar is naturally decay resistant, the peeled paint is normal maintenance and low in significance to the inspector. The siding is performing is intended purpose which is to make the exterior walls water impervious.
  3. You’re inspecting a home with a front porch which has a severely sloped floor and the walls are pulling away from the main building. Very significant problem; why…because the existing foundation is not performing its intended function. A primary function of a foundation is to protect against earth movement and that clearly is not occurring.

So how BAD is it? Ask yourself, am I trying to tell my client the component…

  • Has potential for failure where a minor improvement is recommended (example #1)
  • Is in process of failure needing a repair (example #2)
  • Has failed requiring complete replacement (example #3)

The ability to communicate these findings in balance and with conviction will define you as either an average or a super inspector. So whether you are new to the real estate business or a seasoned agent is your current inspector capable of properly communicating to tell your clients?

Really, how bad is it?

Doug Hastings
MN Home Inspector, Minneapolis & St. Paul
ASHI Certified Inspector, ACI
Kaplan University, Home Inspection Lead Instructor

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