Updated: August 7, 2019
Over the past 40 years, due to changes in the legal and economic environments home inspection reports have changed to serve customers better, and to provide them with more detailed information and protection surrounding their property purchase. In this article we will be comparing the OLD way and the NEW way so you can see what to expect from certified home inspectors.

The WILD WEST of Home Inspections


Before 1975 inspection reports didn’t really follow a set standard and for the most part there was very little oversight or licensing. As you may imagine, without any standards to follow the quality of inspections and their inspection reports varied drastically. With some inspectors being very detailed, and others being very vague. Then in 1976 with the creation of ASHI (the American Society of Home Inspectors) home inspection guidelines that oversaw inspection report content became more prevalent in the form of Standards of Practice. This provided increased trust and protection for homeowners.Not too long after, a second larger association, the International Association of Certified Home inspectors was founded and developed its own standards that could be used all over the world, and since its founding has become the leading trade association for inspectors in North America. *RGC Inspection is a proud member of InterNACHI (Verify Here)

Inspection Reports Today

These days, most inspections from mold to home inspections are performed in accordance with one of InterNACHI’s Standards of Practice. As a homebuyer we encourage you to check and see which standards of practice your inspector follows. If they are not a member of any professional inspection organization, and their reports don’t follow a set of standards… RUN AWAY!
As a general standard, home inspection reports will describe the major home systems, their crucial components and their ability to operate. They should especially include the systems that can result in dangerous outcomes or expensive-to-correct conditions. All reports should describe defects and include recommendations to the customers.
Since home inspections are a visual inspection, the parts of the home that are hidden by elements such as the floor, walls and ceiling materials should be disclaimed.
It is important to note that home inspectors are not required to be experts in every system, but certified inspectors are trained to recognize conditions that will require a specialized inspection.Also worth noting is that Home Inspections do not go in-depth into every technical element of the of the home. This means, that your home inspector will not take apart a furnace to examine the heat exchanger in extreme detail.
The InterNACHI standards of practice clearly identify both the requirements of a home inspection and the limitations. You can read the standards of practice here: (Standards of Practice)

Checklist vs Narrative Reports

Back in the early days of the home inspection industry, the inspection reports were simple checklists, or a one to two-page “narrative report”. These checklists are just what you think they are, a few pages with little boxes on them. If you were lucky back then, you might get a short narrative report at the end. On these checklist reports very little would be written, and descriptions of the conditions of the home would often be abbreviated or only be two words like “peeling paint”. The entire report may only 4-5 Pages long.
With these checklist reports, they left out a ton of detailed information which left plenty up to interpretation. This meant that buyers, sellers, agents, contractors, attorneys and judges could potentially view the information differently depending on their own motives.
In the modern inspection industry, sentences or paragraphs that clearly identify and explain the conditions found during an inspection are called “Narratives”.
“Narrative Reports” use reporting language that more accurately describes each condition. These descriptions or “narratives” are not abbreviated so that the information is clear to understand.From the standpoint of liability, narrative reports are widely considered safer, since they provide more information and state it more clearly. Many liability issues and problems with the inspection process are due to misunderstandings about what was to be included in the report, or about what the report says.
Most problems and liability issues in the inspection industry and processes are from misunderstandings about what the report is saying. To protect you from this, detailed narrative reports are what we provide.

Development of Reporting Software

It is hard to remember the times when computers were extremely expensive, and difficult to operate, but at this time inspection reports were written by hand. Then when computers became more popular, easier to operate, and more affordable inspection software’s started to become more popular.
This inspection software now makes it easier for inspectors to create extremely detailed reports in a shorter amount of time than before.
This is better for BOTH the consumers and the inspectors.
For instance, if an inspector were to be using a checklist report, if he found a few lights that were not operating as they should, he would simply check a box in the interior section of the report that would say something along the lines of “some lights not working” and that would be all the information the client would see.
But, by using inspection software, in the “INTERIOR” section of the program, an inspector might check a box labeled “some lights inoperable.” This would cause the following narrative to appear in the “INTERIOR” section of the inspection report:
“Some light fixtures in the home appeared to be inoperable. The bulbs may be burned out, or a problem may exist with the fixtures, wiring or switches. If after the bulbs are replaced, these lights still fail to respond to the switch, this condition may represent a potential fire hazard, and the Inspector recommends that an evaluation and any necessary repairs be performed by a qualified electrical contractor.”

A Detailed Look at Narrative Content

Narrative content typically consists of three parts:

1. A Description

A description of a condition of concern; a sentence or paragraph describing how serious the condition is.

2. Potential Consequences

Potential Consequences or Ramifications that could be experienced, answering questions such as, “Is it now stable, or will the problem continue?” or “Will it burn down the house?” and “When?”

3. Recommendations

Recommendations may be for specific actions to be taken, or for further evaluation, but they should address problems in such a way that the reader of the report will understand how to proceed.
“Typically” is a key word here. Some narratives may simply give the ampacity of the main electrical disconnect. There is no need for more than one sentence.
Different inspectors would include what they think is necessary.

Report Content

While all inspection companies write their reports differently, most will begin the report with information about the home and the client. This could include the square footage of the home, the year it was built and the clients name.
Other pertinent information that is not directly related to the condition of the home such as disclaimers and/or the inspection agreement is often listed outside of the main sections of the report, either at the beginning or at the end.
A page showing the inspector’s professional credentials, designations, affiliations and memberships is also often included, depending on the company you have hired.
At the beginning of the inspection report there will typically be a summary that lists all the major findings to ensure that you don’t miss anything important. On top of this, some inspection companies like RGC Inspections will color-code narratives so that you are aware of the safety issues present or the major problems that could be expensive to fix.
At RGC Inspections, our inspection reports will always include detailed photos documenting the entire property. This is so that you can see what we saw during the inspection, instead of trying to imagine what it looks like.
Additionally, the main body of the report is often broken down into sections according to home systems, such as “ELECTRICAL,” “PLUMBING,” “HEATING,” etc., or by area of the home: “EXTERIOR,” “INTERIOR,” “KITCHEN,” “BEDROOMS,” etc. this often depends on how the company likes to present their reports, or conduct their inspections.

Sample Reports

Typically, the inspection company that you are looking to hire will have a sample report on their website so that you can have a glimpse into what you will be receiving. You can view our SAMPLE REPORT HERE.

In conclusion, the inspection business has changed drastically in the past 40 years for the better but it is also good for consumers to have realistic expectations about what information will be included in the home inspection report.

When you are ready to hire a home inspection company just remember to follow these tips:

1. Read the Standards of Practice that they follow;

2. Verify that they are certified;

3. Read the Inspection Contract Contract; 

4. View a Sample Inspection Report; 

5. and talk with the Inspector.