I got a call from a disturbed Realtor not long ago saying he had had an inspection on a listing and thought there might be things a home inspector should never say on a report.
His call was asking if these things were appropriate and what could be done about them.
"What things?", I asked. This is a very large house and only fourteen years old.
He began reading from the report. After each point he asked me what my thoughts were.
1. "On houses this size and quality I have seen slate roofs." My answer was, "So?" And I have seen houses with metal roofs. What does that mean? Can the structure there even support slate? Probably not. I said the comment was out of line, and outside anything any home inspector association suggests a report should say.
2. "This house is so large I think it needs 9 HVAC units. There are only 7." My answer was, "How does he know that?" HVAC needs are not simple to calculate. A house this size would demand a computer calculation. In the olden days the rule of thumb used to be 1 ton of HVAC unit for every 750 square feet of house. Or something around that. This is no more. Today we have higher ceilings, bigger (and better) windows and doors, more square feet of "open" area, and so forth. The need calculation depends on such things as cubic area in square feet, linear length and size of HVAC ducts, numbers of windows, U-factors of those windows based on the sides of the houses they are placed on, number and placement of registers, and much, much more. It is a hugely difficult problem. Nobody, not even a home inspector, could possibly make that statement, but especially on a home inspection report. I said the comment was out of line, and outside anything any home inspector association suggests a report should say.
3. "The electric panel boxes are old and should be brought up to modern code." I have no idea what he means by this. The electrical is not "old," it might not have a modern twist like AFCI breakers, but there is no demand that panels be brought up to meet the latest requirements unless some changes have been made that demand it. If that was the case people would be changing the electrical in their houses every year. The National Electric Code can make as many as 1000 changes or so from year to year, and can revamp completely every three or so. Electricians could NEVER keep up with it all working daily from house to house, much less homeowners knowing what would have to be done! I said the comment was out of line, and outside anything any home inspector association suggests a report should say.
4. "The front stoop has settled and needs to be lifted up to meet County code." This is Northern Virginia! Most stoops have settled a bit! Some much worse than others to be sure, but I don't know what County code demands about that, and certainly don't know why the home inspector is telling people what to do with their houses. When I asked how much it had settled he said about 1". I said the comment was out of line, and outside anything any home inspector association suggests a report should say.
Asking me what could be done, I suggested he ask the inspector his association membership number and call them asking if this is what they require of their home inspectors. (I know they do not require this sort of thing.) I suggested he file a complaint. Tell them I said the comments were out of line, and outside anything any home inspector association suggests a report should say.
Subsequent visits by the contractually-required professionals revealed that the roof was in good shape and structurally could not support slate, the HVAC might be able to get away with only six units (!) so the seven were just fine, the electrical comment was ridiculous and the County said they had no such front stoop requirement.
My recommendation: a home inspector's job is to observe and report. Saying what kind of roof is present and its condition is really the only relevant information a home inspector report should contain. Good commentary on a report NEVER hurts. In my opinion the home inspector on this house was OUT OF LINE, and said things on the report outside anything any home inspector association suggests a report should say.
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC
Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.
Office (703) 330-6388 Cell (703) 585-7560