Since the inception of our business in 2010, it has become clear that the average consumer, and to a lesser degree some real estate professionals, lacks a thorough understanding of what a home inspection is and what it isn’t. This is in no way an indictment of either as the lack of understanding is quite understandable and the solution is evident. We, as an industry, must do a better job of setting the expectations for the consumer and real estate professionals alike.
The Texas Real Estate Commission (TREC) has already done the work of setting these expectations through use of the Preamble (pages 1 & 2) of the Inspection Report which spells out the purpose, limitations, and inspector/client responsibilities. It is our duty to be the messenger and share this information in an easy to understand manner. In this blog post, we are going to discuss the 6th paragraph of the Preamble which defines the expectations of the inspection process and reads as follows:
THIS PROPERTY INSPECTION IS NOT A TECHNICALLY EXHAUSTIVE INSPECTION OF THE STRUCTURE, SYSTEMS OR COMPONENTS. This inspection may not reveal all deficiencies. A real estate inspection helps to reduce some of the risk involved in purchasing a home, but it cannot eliminate these risks, nor can the inspection anticipate future events or changes in performance due to changes in use or occupancy. If it is recommended that you obtain as much information as is available about this property, including seller’s disclosures, previous inspection reports, engineering reports, building/remodeling permits, and reports performed for and by relocation companies, municipal inspection departments, lenders, insurers, and appraisers. You should also attempt to determine whether repairs, renovation, remodeling, additions, or other such activities have taken place at this property. It is not the inspector’s responsibility to confirm that information obtained from these sources is complete or accurate or that this inspection is consistent with the opinions expressed in previous or future reports.
The opening sentence of this paragraph states: This Property Inspection is not a technically exhaustive inspection of the structure, systems or components. First, what does this not mean? It doesn’t mean that you are getting an inferior inspection because it is cursory in scope or not technically exhaustive. The cursory element is the truest part of what a home inspection is. I think developing what the cursory element “is” will be helpful in seeing and understanding this.
So, what is it? What does it mean? Really, it means this: when a home inspector is performing an inspection on the subject property they are offering the client a broad and sweeping stroke as to the condition of the major systems and components of the property: the structural systems, the electrical systems, the HVAC systems, the plumbing systems, the appliances, and in some instances, the optional systems. This “broad overview” may come with some unforeseen detail, but even with this detail, the home inspection has not been redefined: it is still not technically exhaustive and it is still cursory.
Thus, the home inspector, providing a “home inspection” which is not intended to be “technically exhaustive” and is intended to be “cursory” isn’t providing an inferior home inspection: they are simply doing their job, which is to provide a broad overview of the home’s condition. Remember, “a home inspection is a risk reduction tool designed to reflect, as accurately as possible, the visible condition of the home and represents a broad and sweeping stroke as to the condition of the major systems and components of the property at the time of the inspection.” The client hires a home inspector for this purpose. If they are wanting a more in depth examination of the home they would need to hire a structural engineer, a roofing contractor, a licensed electrician, a licensed HVAC contractor, a licensed plumber, a qualified appliance technician, and possibly others for the optional systems—all different professionals, all different professions, and at a substantially higher cost.
A home inspection is a risk reduction tool designed to reflect the visible condition of the property at the time of the inspection. Property conditions can change in only a day or two, so a home inspection is not meant to guarantee the condition of a home in the future. It’s not uncommon for conditions to change between the time of the inspection and the closing date.
A large part of the real estate professional’s role as well as that of the home inspector is to help manage the expectations of the client. This is especially true when a client has never dealt with the home inspection process before. Explaining the limitations of a home inspection will help develop realistic expectations concerning the inspection report, and what lies beyond the scope of the inspection. Creating realistic expectations in a client’s mind helps prevent misunderstandings and promotes smooth real estate transactions.