Home Inspection Report Basics and What You Need to Know

Most folks have suffered through the “Ten Things Your Home Inspector Should Blah, Blah, Blah” in the popular rags and on HGTV.  Forget that stuff.

The State of Illinois  Administrative Code TITLE 68, CHAPTER VIII,  PART 1410,  SECTION 1410.200 lays out the Standards of Practice for all Licensed Home Inspectors operating in our State.  Here’s the link to the document. You can see that the document sees it’s minimal.

There are lots of inspectors, who mistakenly believe if they exceed the State of Illinois Standard of Practice, they can be held liable for everything under the sun.

They believe in strict adherence to the minimum.  This is taught by a lot of the home inspector schools.  I don’t know why because it’s not true, and it guarantees you are not getting a competent inspection.

When you’re buying a house and frantically trying to make decisions that will affect your finances and satisfaction in life for (very probably) the rest of your days,  you need to know the guy performing your home inspection isn’t one of the minimalists, and that they’d go as far as is possible during their inspection to determine what you’re buying and explain it to you in language that is impossible to misunderstand.

Nearly all home inspection reports are incomprehensible.

Why is that?  It’s because most home inspectors can’t write a sentence to save their life, and nearly everyone relies on prepackaged home inspection report software to do the writing for them.  The inspector presses buttons on an iPad or electronic device, and the software punches in standardized language describing the condition and what it supposedly means. Since these software programs are generic and marketed all over North America, those comments are often stupid because lots of houses aren’t the same in Chicago as they are elsewhere.  You want language tailored to your specific house.

What You Want in a Home Inspection Report?

You want a document listing the important stuff first.  Yes, obviously, but it’s amazing how many home inspection reports insist on walking you through pages of narrative and checkboxes without telling you what you need to know.  You want tailored, focused comments.  Ideally, your report will read like a summary.

You want pictures, lots of them, and explanations telling you what it is you’re looking at and what it means. Big red arrows pointing at the important stuff in the picture is good.

You want a document that will help you immediately understand the situation.

You want all the Description and Inventory stuff (brand and age of water heater,  type of electrical service, etc.) in a simple list format so if someone asks, you can find it.  You don’t want this stuff meandered through the body of the report as it only serves to dull senses and confuse comprehension.

Your prospective home inspector should have samples of their reports on their website.

Read their sample reports.  The best reports often look the simplest and have the least amount of extraneous trivia.  Bigger is not better.

The State requires the report to tell you what to do about the concern, but that can be interpreted as “have a competent tradesman/contractor look at it and tell you what it’s going to cost to fix”.

Simply stated, you want a report that describes the house you’re trying to acquire, with information arranged in an easily understood format, and in language that is impossible to misunderstand.  If you can’t read it and understand it easily,  what good is it?

There are many additional considerations and formats to consider, but I’m going to leave that up to you folks that want to ask questions.  I’d love it if we could begin a conversation about HI reports, so please don’t be shy…..ask me questions.  That’s why we’re here.



I'm a home inspector and carpenter in Chicago and this site is built from things I’ve learned from 30 years inspecting houses in this town.

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