Conditions

This is the meat and potatoes of the report. Homebuyers want to know what’s wrong with the home. We think there are a few elements to reporting each recommendation as listed above. Let’s look at each:

  • Component – We need to tell the client what component or system has the problem.
  • Condition - We need to say what the problem is: Inoperative, loose, broken, missing, sagging, etc.
  • Location – If the problem could be anywhere (front left downspout), or there are several problems (windows), you probably need to give the location. If the whole roof is the issue, location may not be necessary.
  • Implication – The client needs to understand what will happen if they don’t do anything about the problem. Let’s look at cracks. The implication of a cracked pane of window glass is very different from a cracked furnace heat exchanger. And the implication of a foundation crack is different than either. By the way, the implication of a foundation crack can be anything from nothing, to possible leakage, to foundation failure. Some implications require a little explanation. Most people do not know what reversed polarity means.
  • Task/Action Item/Direction – Whatever you call it, we have to tell the client what to do about it. Some things are fairly straightforward, like a rusted, leaking plumbing trap. Some things may not be straightforward, like that foundation crack. Your instructions may be repair, replace, provide, improve correct, monitor or further evaluation if you are not sure of the implications, extent of the problem, etc.
  • Time – While not required by most Standards, you may want to help clients prioritize by telling them when they should do things. You might say Immediate for the plumbing trap, Within the next year for that old roof, Unpredictable for that 13-year-old air conditioner, and Discretionary for the lost seal on the double-glazed dining room window.
  • Cost - Some home inspectors include ballpark costs to improve problems. This is often market specific. The majority of home inspectors do not include costs. The Standards do not require it. We do include costs, and typically provide a range of 100%. I might say that a mid-efficiency furnace costs $2500-$5000. We also say that any cost up to $500 is described in the report as Minor. Our Life Cycles and Costs document might be helpful with ballpark costs. It’s available on www.carsondunlop.com.
  • Cause – You may have noticed I did not include the cause of the problem as something to report. That’s because I think it’s often a bad idea. Why?
    • Speculating on the cause increases your liability, since it often includes a lot of guesswork. If you are wrong, that can hurt you. It can be very tough to know the cause. Look at something as simple as an inoperative light. What is the cause?
      1. No bulb
      2. Bulb burned out
      3. Faulty ballast on fluorescent light
      4. Switch defective
      5. Fixture damaged
      6. Bad connection
      7. Wire damaged
      8. Fuse blown or breaker tripped
      9. GFI or AFCI tripped
    • The Standards do not require it.
    • If you speculate on cause for one condition, you may be expected to do it for all. We think reports should be written consistently, and we consistently do not discuss the cause of problems.
    • Most of your peers don’t do it.
    • The cause does not usually matter. Whether the roof was damaged by hail, raccoons, squirrels or people hacking away at ice dams with axes doesn’t really matter. The roof needs to be repaired or replaced. Why the pipe cracked doesn’t matter; it’s leaking! Fix it!
    • Sidebar: If the problem you see is a symptom of a condition, you need to understand the real condition. That sometimes feels like a cause. The basement gets wet every time it rains because the downspout is disconnected.

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