The Overly-Disclaimed Home Inspection Report

So, if the home inspection report you received is somewhere north of fifty pages, maybe even one hundred, then you may be the victim of the overly-disclaimed home inspection report. The report reads more like a word problem from ninth-grade algebra:

In an occupied home with furnishings . . . depending on usage . . . the weather . . .
except under extreme conditions . . . if the inspector’s back hurt . . . and the real estate agent was being difficult . . . the Inspector may not be able to guarantee discovery . . .

“Let me read that, again.”

The home inspection industry was built on, and in response to, liability—too many lawsuits. Professional home inspection associations and training centers are focused as much on limiting liability as they are on building codes and practices. The home inspection profession is ingrained with fear of liability.

Any good home inspector is going to carefully and explicitly paint the lines between what was inspected and what was not, what he can tell you and what he can’t. It begins with a pre-inspection contract and continues with a written Standards of Practice (if the inspector is a member of a major inspection association). A home inspection report written by a competent inspector is going to clearly outline limitations and exclusions specific to the inspection. For example, the roof was not accessible for inspection due to snow.” (Obviously)

But, some home inspectors can’t help but nuance every single comment with loopholes and contingencies, such as WARNING Tape“depending on conditions,” “in some cases,” and “would require a specialist to determine.” I’ve seen a half-page paragraph written about a single wall plug, and after reading it I still didn’t know if there was anything wrong with the wall plug. Missing window screens turn into lectures about insects. Comments about stairways are delineated with oratorical orange cones: “CAUTION.”

Back in the day, and a few inspectors still use this format, we had the “checkbox form” home inspection report. You received your home inspection report “on-site,” complete with bad grammar and misspellings, and that’s if you could read the inspector’s writing. The “check-box form” was nothing more than a boilerplate of disclaimers, with narrowed choices for the inspector’s comments, to help prevent him from getting into trouble by trying to explain what he couldn’t or shouldn’t.

Carefully-crafted disclaimers are a sport among some home inspectors, a competition; who holds the best disclaimer for that? Disclaimers are swapped and traded like baseball cards. It’s an art-form, a channel for their creativity.

To compound the matter, the author of the overly-disclaimed home inspection report will refuse to include in his report any kind of a summary, a few pages that simply get to the point.

Why give you a loophole to escape reading his carefully-crafted loopholes?

What the author of the overly-disclaimed home inspection report doesn’t realize is that you, homebuyer, are far less likely to read the overly-disclaimed report due to its bloated content. More than likely, you will call your real estate agent and ask him or her to explain it to you. Your real estate agent will try to read it, and then he or she will call the inspector and ask him to explain it, and he will, if he wants the continued benefits of the agent’s referrals. So, in the end, the only person reading the overly-disclaimed home inspection report is the home inspector himself. All of his silver-tongued disassociations are for not, until and unless he ends up in court, because his clients couldn’t read their inspection report in the first place.


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