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But What Does it Mean?! How to Understand Your Inspection Report

You've received your report from your highly qualified inspector. Now you need to decide: are you going to walk away from the deal? Negotiate? Keep it as is? The only problem: you don't understand the inspection report.

Don't worry. That's normal.

Most home inspectors are going to do their best to keep their reports as readable as possible, while also making them as precise as possible. This is tricky, as you might imagine. It doesn't always work, and inspectors will tend to err on the side of precision over simplicity. To make matters worse, there are a lot of things in building science that have multiple names. So, what do you do?

First, let's clear something up: Google probably is not your friend in this. Sure, you can google the terms, but you're going to find a lot of different articles telling you a lot of different things. A handyman's website might make it sound like that rotting trim under your window can be fixed with some caulk and wishful thinking (it can't, though. Please don't try that.). An engineer's website is probably going to be more confusing than your report, and you might come away with the impression that the little cracks on your foundation mean your house is about to collapse. And those helpful articles put out by content creators and salespeople? Just no. Instead of going to Google, here are my recommendations:

  1. Ask Your Inspector Your inspector is the one who went through the house and found the issues. They are the ones who know the context of the comments and the photos. Your inspector should be more than happy to walk you through the report. The best practice is to write down any questions you have, then call or email your inspector with that list in hand. Some things that might sound pretty bad on a report are actually fairly small issues, while, occasionally, something that sounds small could be a big deal. While we inspectors are limited in how we can phrase things on our reports, we can always bring further clarification if something doesn't make sense right away.

  2. Don't be Afraid to Ask Your Inspector Seriously, it is part of your inspector's job to answer your questions. I would ALWAYS prefer to spend an hour on the phone with you, or meet you for coffee to go over the report than to have you confused and worried about things in your report that I could easily clarify. I never get tired of answering the same question over and over again because I understand that each of my clients is a different individual. You should never be ashamed to ask what might feel to you like a stupid question because 1) there are no stupid questions, 2) if you have a question, I guarantee that other people have asked it, too, and 3) if you didn't have questions about your house, you probably wouldn't have hired me.

  3. Seriously. Just Ask Your Inspector. It might sound simple, but there you have it. You can ask your agent, your friends, your family, or even Google. There is certainly a place for each of those. But ultimately, asking your inspector is the best way to go. You just spent several hundred dollars on an inspection. Go ahead and get your money's worth.

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