View Full Version : my first inspection

tom p
04-30-2007, 06:21 PM
I am just getting started in the Home Inspection field and I have a procedural question to pose for discussion.

When you walk into an inspection, do you guys use a check list to guide your inspection? I did my first inspection for a friend buying a condo and I used a check list. It was the inspection checklist/report for my home when I bought 10 years ago. I walked though the different categories, made my comments and notes and generated a report from this "worksheet".

That evening I replayed the inspection in my head. I felt like I was jumping around. The inspection process did not feel very fluid to me and I am not sure if that was merely the result of inexperience i.e. being my first inspection or if that was the result of working off of the check list. Probably was a little of both.

Can anyone provide any guidance for a "green" inspector? Do you just walk into the inspection with a blank sheet and start inspecting or do you work off of a checklist? Initially I was in favor of the check list approach, at least until i get a few inspections under my belt and develop a regular rythym. Any thoughts?

Brian E Kelly
04-30-2007, 06:32 PM
I just went to a check list that I worked up and put into the flow of the inspection. Re- I start outside so that is first then roof then basement ect. That is the way i don't miss anything. I use to just go in with a blank pad and start writing, and I seemed that I missed writing certain things down like model and serial # of equipment, just to name a few. I am just a newbie myself with only 25 inspections under my belt but you have to work out a system that works for you. i practiced on family and friends house after I did my own house. Amazing how many things I found wrong with my house after I did this. Good luck and welcome to the HI business.

Bruce Breedlove
04-30-2007, 06:36 PM

Welcome to the board. This is a great place to learn.

I use a checklist to gather my data at the inspection and use that to generate my narrative-style report later.

The first thing you should do is establish a routine and follow it religiously. I like to start outside. I stand across the street and look at the big picture (e.g., sagging roof line, leaning walls, posts, retaining walls, etc.). Then I make a couple passes around the exterior of the house inspecting the site and exterior. (I prefer to go clockwise around the house.) Next I hit the roof.

Then I move inside and start the dishwasher. Next I inspect the major systems (electrical panel, furnace, water heater, etc.). Then I go to the upper level and inspect room-by-room (again going in a clockwise direction around the house and in a clockwise direction in each room). Then I move down a level and inspect room-by-room. By working from the top-down plumbing leaks will be more evident.

The last places I inspect are the dirtiest - attic and crawlspace. After running plenty of water at all the sinks, toilets, showers, tubs, etc. plumbing leaks should be evident in the crawlspace.

If you pick a routine that makes your inspection flow logically you shouldn't feel like you are hopping around all over the place. That said, Realtors and buyers are notorious for asking you to "come look at this" or "can you check this out?"

Rick Hurst
04-30-2007, 06:41 PM
Congrats on getting that first HI done. Save a copy of it and look at 2 years from now and feel the horror like we all have.

That feeling of not feeling fluid will last some time.

Take your time, and do your job.

Personally, I don't use a check list.

When I arrive, I inspect the outside of the structure looking for any defects such as movement, decay, improper grading, windows, doors, exterior spigots, decks, porches, gas meter location, sewer line and water meter clean outs, WDI's, ....

The roof I do last just right before the sprinkler system.

When I move indoors, I start right in the kitchen and check it out.

After that I move to the closest to the front door and I start checking from room to room in a counter-clockwise manner. I take my notes, and I separate them out. Therefore all notes say for windows throughout the home go on the same page, just as all electrical, doors......

When I'm done on the exterior I should finish up back at the front door and covered all accessible areas. From there I inspect the garage, service equipment, WH, and the attic space.

Then the roof and lastly the sprinkler.

Grab the check, talk to the buyer awhile, and off to the next adventure.

Jim Luttrall
04-30-2007, 06:46 PM
Bruce, you method sound remarkably similar to mine.
I just bear left on all rooms, doors and eventually cover all the rooms on each level.
I think the key is just to have a system and stick to it. I always find I miss things when things interrupt the flow whether it is realtors, leaks, dogs or weather. I do alter when I do the roof and attic according to the season and what time of day I'm at the house. Early in the morning in the summer, the roof and attic are toward the beginning of the inspection while later in the day and they are the last. Crawl space and lawn sprinklers are always last since I get dirty and wet.

tom p
04-30-2007, 07:00 PM
The common theme I seem to be picking up is that is is all about practice and developing a regular routine. I guess practice will eventually make perfect. Rick, I can just imagine the horrors looking back at this first report two years down the road. At least it was for a friend. This unit was an apartment conversion to a condo and she was apparently satisified as was the village. She closed on the condo soon thereafter.

One item I did note was in the electrical panel. They had 14 guage wire on a 30amp breaker powering the outlet for the window a/c. I noted it in the report my friend brought it to the attention of the seller. I havent been back yet to see if this was corrected but the unit passed the village inspection.

Bruce Breedlove
04-30-2007, 07:17 PM
The common theme I seem to be picking up is that is is all about practice and developing a regular routine.

You are a fast learner. :D

This unit was an apartment conversion to a condo and she was apparently satisified as was the village. . . . I havent been back yet to see if this was corrected but the unit passed the village inspection.
Having passed inspection by a building department inspector means nothing. They miss stuff all the time.

Jerry Peck
04-30-2007, 07:49 PM
Using one of the available checklist reports is, well, useless, as there is no flow to them, you are jumping from page to page and then back.

Make up a checklist of things you want to inspect outside on one page, then of things you want to inspect on the roof on another page, then for the electrical panels on another page, etc.

Use them page by page when doing your inspection for a worksheet, i.e., use the outside pages and label the items you write down or check off as front, right side, rear, left side. Use the roof page when on the roof, you can even make a rough sketch of the roof to help you remember things.
Use an inside room page and make notes based on what was in each room, i.e., master bedroom - writing down everything which was in there.

When you get back to your office, go to the inside room page (you may have several pages of inside rooms) and there in one place is everything you saw and found in the master bedroom (as an example).

Now ... how are you formatting your report? By system? Or by location?

If your report is formatted by system, now is when you start going back and forth between pages, if your report system is formated by location, you are in luck, everything is nicely order for you, but ... not for trades people as there is no continuity for each system.

I'm sure there are other reporting system which could do what mine did (I would hope so, I made my own system and the ones you pay for should be much more advanced): I collected the information by location, and my report system automatically put that information into two sections - one by system and one by location, I had the best of both systems (collecting data by location, which only makes sense, and having that data available by location AND by system).

The electrician had all the electrical stuff in one place, as did the plumber, roofer, etc., however, my client also had everything I saw in the master bedroom right there under master bedroom, no jumping around.

tom p
04-30-2007, 08:04 PM
I am in the process of developing my own check list as you suggested since I think that would also help me stick to a routine. as far as the reporting, I like what you were mentioning about your system. what system are you using?

I am still in the process of shopping around for my reporting software. I am looking at Home Inspections, Inc (http://www.homenspector.com) as well as Home Inspection Software and Reports - HomeGauge (http://www.homeguage.com). at this point home guage is a bit out of my price range for starting up so I am leaning towards the Home Inspections, Inc (http://www.homenspector.com) software. it seems pretty straight forward from what I was able to see. I have yet to actually generate a report from this site. this is what I plan to use on my next inspection

Scott Patterson
04-30-2007, 09:33 PM
Tom, what is your location. This can help others with your question. It might be that your area has state specific guidelines or standards that you need to follow. If so then that would become your blueprint for any report that you would do, including any checklist.

Phillip Stojanik
04-30-2007, 11:42 PM
Have a clue what you are in for yet Tom? :D

wayne soper
05-01-2007, 05:24 AM
Record everything during the inspection for the first few. Then you can replay the whole thing and know you missed nothing that was spoken. Sometimes the client will bring up a subject they want addressed in the report that you may forget about if it's not really a defect, but the fact that you included a recommendation the client wanted gives you points for thoroughness.
I usually just take digital photo's of anything of concern as I walk through, recording comments that photo's will not describe.
Then I type the report from memory. After that, I go through the pictures adding them to the report where needed and using others as reminders of things I may have missed on my first typing.
Third I go through the recording.
This method ensures you don't forget anything and allows the inspection to flow smoothly as clients will lose interest if it dosen't, and, if they don't pay attention you will have alot of questions about the report after the inspection. Meaning , long hours on the phone describing what could have taken minutes at the inspection.

Jerry Peck
05-01-2007, 06:56 AM

I wrote my own program, it works with Word Perfect (which is what I use), so I wrote it to do what I wanted it to be able to do - make entering the information easy, then put that information where it needs to go (in two places - by location and by system).

Check for commercially available inspection reporting software (there are many out there) and try to find one which will make inputing the data (information) easy and in a logical sequence. There is no need for a computer program to have you jumping back and forth between screens while you are inspecting one location (say the bathroom).

You should be able to enter all of your information in on e sequence, the report program should be designed such that it does what it should with that information.

Look for one which has good technical support, you will need it during the learning curve.

Phillip Stojanik
05-01-2007, 07:54 AM
I personally do not rely on my notoriouly spotty memory and tend to take copious field notes in my own particular shorthand as I walk the property at each inspection.

Those "field notes" are later transposed into the more verbose written report that is ultimately presented to the client.

Pen and paper recorded observations in the form of dispossible field notes quickly written in my own personal shorthand I have found works better for me personally than digital pictures or voice recordings.

But thats just me.

Michael Thomas
05-01-2007, 08:40 AM
I do a narrative report based on a running commentary to a digital voice recorder and pictures, based on inspection habits and a "mental checklist".

One thing that helped me a *lot* when was getting started was to *always* take certain pictures in addition to any others, and to take them at camera's highest resolution.

- A wide shot of each side of the structure
- The electrical service at exterior
-[ Wide shot(s) of entire accessible attic
- Wide shots(s) of entire accessible crawl space/basement
- Wide shots(s) of all utility areas
- Each HVAC component / WH.
- The main water and gas shut offs
- Wide shots of all electrical panels with the dead front closed, one with the panel door open (labels).
- Close-ups of the interior of each panel as required to be able to see the entire interior.
- Wide shots of each fireplace or SFBA, one head-on and one from one side. I also like to take a number inside the fire-box, especially of the junctions with other materials, and one each of the damper open and closed.

Invest in Photoshop, and learn how to use it to enhance your pictures.

With this material in hand you will be able to "visually re-inspect" many critical areas and systems as you write the report, and chances are if you have common beginners questions you will be able to illustrate many of them with pictures.

I still take take these photos as a matter of habit, and I still occasionally find myself referring to them.


Rick Cantrell
05-01-2007, 08:41 AM
I use a check list.
One page each for : kitchen, laundry room/area, each bathroom, each bedroom, other rooms, attic, crawl space (never seen a basement), electrical, plumbing, HVAC, Roof, exterior, grounds and misc. Then I photo everything in question and some things not in question. I make notes on each page as needed, I also use a voice recorder in the attic and crawl space ( easier than pen and paper). Back at the office while reviewing the notes and photos I write the report, which for me is the most time consuming.

Jack Ahern
05-01-2007, 09:00 AM
After 2000 inspections you may feel comfortable with your sequence. Here's mine. 1.Directions to building MAPQUEST with a special "worksheet". This worksheet is strictly for the basement. Model numbers /serial numbers/type of heat& venting.Electrical info. 2. Three trips around outside-- Long view/roof and gutters/downs--medium view cladding, windows, mechanical attachments--close view foundation grading,garage etc. 3. Basement 4.First floor 5. Second floor and attic. 6. Install radon vials 7. Check out fireplaces.
This will seem routine but it works for me. Lots of digital pictures not many notes. Run your pictures as a slide show in the privacy of you lonely writers garret, write report--email to client--hardcopy to client via USPS. In Mass. we are not allowed to test septic. State licenses(title 5). We can test water quantity and water quality--added to service. We can test for radon--added to service. We can inspect for Wood Boring Insects. The State would like the WBI inspectors to be insured and a full time employee of the Pest Control Company.That is a fight for another day!
The industry has changed since I started(1991) training. Pay attention to your area. Be part of the solution not the problem!

Jerry McCarthy
05-01-2007, 09:18 AM
I also took an old reporting system and remolded it beyond recognition until I had it the way I wanted. It was basically a system by system report format, not room by room, which I find tedious as hell. I will also tell you that a week hardly goes by when you’re not tweaking your report system and yes, the narrative type is far superior to the check list style in MHO. I believe somebody advised following the same path every inspection and I say this is good advice as it’s best to establish a repetitive inspection system and you’ll end up missing less. I do quite a few report reviews for the members of my association and after seeing so many I’d have to vote for 3-D as perhaps the best I’ve seen. (the system by system version)
Bottom line, get your hands on as many reports as you can and when you see something you like or an expression that looks right, steal it. In this industry we all “borrow” from each other.

The reason most old timers developed their own was because back in the dark ages of home inspecting there where none or what there was, was doo-doo. I also detest “summaries” as they get more inspectors into litigation than performing a bad inspection and be very careful with photos. I’ve see photo displays of major defects with other defects in the background that where not in the inspector’s report. Talk about bringing the rope for one’s own hanging?

Jerry Peck
05-01-2007, 11:13 AM
""The reason most old timers developed their own was because back in the dark ages of home inspecting there where none or what there was, was doo-doo."


"I also detest “summaries” as they get more inspectors into litigation than performing a bad inspection"

I have to say 'Depends on the "summary" type you chose.'

If you go through the items you wrote up and "select" what some items for the summary which you feel you want in the "summary", then I wholeheartedly agree with Jerry M., however, if your reporting system 'takes every item you wrote up' and puts them in a 'summary' (i.e., leaves the information portion where you had it and takes the defective portion to one place), then I will have to disagree with Jerry M.

But ... "it depends" ... on what you consider "a summary".

"and be very careful with photos. I’ve see photo displays of major defects with other defects in the background that where not in the inspector’s report. Talk about bringing the rope for one’s own hanging?"

Very true words there.

After all a "home inspection" is a "visual inspection" and if it can be seen in the photo, well, it certainly IS "visual" and should have been seen and reported on.

Rick Cantrell
05-01-2007, 01:41 PM
Some may disagree with me... but. Even though I said I take a lot of pictures, I don't include the photos in the report. The photos are for my reference and used to/as backup if a dispute arises (usually from the seller).
BTW Thanks Brian for the spell check

Victor DaGraca
05-01-2007, 05:37 PM
I just updated my web page to include a sample report.
go to Relocate (http://www.home2spec.com) and click on Sample Reports
I don't know if it will help... but ya never know.

ok... I am editingg because I entered my web site addy and the word relocate comes up instead....I'm calling that out as a defect.

tom p
05-01-2007, 06:44 PM
thanks to everyone for the valuable discussion. sounds as though this will be a continuous work in progress.

Jack Feldmann
05-05-2007, 12:37 PM
Welcome to the board and congrats on the first inspections.

If I arrive before everyoe else (which I try to do), I will do as much of the outside as I can before my client gets there. If not, I greet my client and go into the kitchen to set up my gear.

While I'm setting up my gear I engage my client in conversation and ask if they have ever had a home inspection before (to me very important). If not, then I briefly go over what I am going to do, and what they should expect from the report. While making light of it, I let them know that I can only inspect what I can see, and I don't have x-ray vision OR a crystal ball, AND I am human and may miss something.

I then explain how my report is set up and how they are going to access it. I ask permission to give the info to thier realtor. I also ask if they have any special concerns about the house.

I then give them my contract (if I haven't e-mailed it to them prior) and ask them to read over it and sign. While I'm doing this I'm inspecting the kitchen. I've been doing this long enough that I'm able to do the inspection and still give them a lot of attention. I tell them to feel free to follow me around, but let them know that if they don't, I will come and get them should I find something important. I then move my way around the house, similar to others.

Here is where I may differ - when I get to the garage, I then go outside and do the exterior. When I get back to the garage, I go back in and continue the interior. I will make a second pass on the exterior when I finish the interior and go to inspect the roof. I do the HVAC when I get to them

After I do the roof, I go back inside to check out the attic. Lastly, I do the crawlspace.

I also make another pass in the interior and check out the ceilings a second time. I may have run water on the second floor after I have inspected the first floor rooms. During this time I make sure all the lights are off.

I go back to the kitchen, put together my report, download it and collect payment and take off.

For people starting out, I feel that using a pre printed paper reporting system is valuable to just make sure you are inspecting all the stuff you need to. While I use a computer system now, it is not easy to be sure you have checked all the items.

I have some paper reports left over and would be happy to send you a set so you can get an idea of what I'm talking about. Just send me a private e-mail.

There are only a few basic rules that everyone should follow (such as don't inspect the crawlspace BEFORE you run water), but pretty much everything else is just how you feel comfortable, or getting into your own routine. Keep in mind that "your" routine, may change with time too. It's not etched in stone.

Good luck

Craig LaMere
05-05-2007, 01:25 PM
You can always have a statement in your contract that says something to effect of "All issues noted in the report and shown in pictures should be addressed before the close of escrow."

James Kay
05-26-2007, 07:42 AM
I was seeing if someone can give me some pointers on how i can start out in the business,i went to a training course for 4 days and have the materials that i have been studying..however i did want to start out working for a company so i can gain experience and get a little more training..would anyone know how these companies work as to hiring and what type of qualifications i would need?would you know how i can get started with something like this?I live in coconut creek florida..any type of help would be greatly appreciated..thankyou very much

Jon Randolph
05-26-2007, 11:26 AM

If you ever plan on going out on your own, make sure that you understand every angle about going with another company. This will e a good way to get experience, but they ALWAYS make you sign a non-compete clause as a condition of employment. I have heard of some of these that last for up to 2 years after you leave the company. That means that you can not market youself to anyone as a provider of the inspection services in the market area that the company covers. That could include several counties. My coverage area includes 7 counties but most of my business is in 4 counties. If I had employees, I would shoot for the non-compete clause to cover all of the 7 counties.