How to Read and Decipher Your Home Inspection Report

Lydia Schapiro
Written by Lydia Schapiro
Updated January 18, 2022
A man showing new home to a couple
Photo: SDI Productions / E+ / Getty Images

Highlights

  • A home inspection report is a document that details any issues in your home.

  • Standard components include heating system, roof, and foundation.

  • Major problems include termites, mold, and foundation issues.

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When you buy or sell a house, you’ll likely encounter a home inspection report. You’ll hire a home inspector, who will inspect your house and provide you with your report. 

Since this document can inform you on a number of different types of issues, it’s important to understand how to read the home inspection report. As a result, you’ll be able to make more informed decisions as either a buyer or seller.

What Is Included in a Home Inspection Report? 

After a home inspection, your inspector will provide you with a document that details issues and levels of severity. In essence, it’s a summary of issues requiring attention/action and the potential consequences. While each report may differ to some extent, there are some standard components in a home inspection report.

Basic Home Information

In the first few pages, you can expect your home inspection report to cover general information, including:

  • Your address and type of home

  • Who was present at the inspection

  • Information about the State’s standards for home inspection 

  • Weather conditions during inspection

  • Home’s year of construction

  • Definitions 

  • Home size

This section may also mention any limitations in the inspection, which usually refers to having a lack of (or no) access to certain areas.  

Symbol or Code Key

To make things easier for you or the buyer, your home inspector usually provides a key that explains what each element in the report signifies. The key will encompass letter codes that denote a component’s condition. 

Most home inspection report keys will include the following codes:

  • “I”: Inspected—an item that was inspected

  • “NI”: Not inspected—an item that wasn’t inspected

  • “NP”: Not present—an item that wasn’t present (usually because it wasn’t accessible)

  • “S”: Safety concern—an item that is a safety concern

  • “R”: General repair—an item requiring a repair

  • “D”: Defect—a non-functioning item that needs a repair or alteration  

Assessment on Systems and Components

An inspector will focus on the main systems in your house and their conditions, including your heating system, AC, plumbing system, and electrical system. 

In addition, the report will cover major home components such as the roof, attic, insulation, walls, ceilings, floors, windows, doors, foundation, and basement. 

Note that in some cases, your inspector may not be able to access certain areas if they’re inaccessible or if it’s unsafe. For instance, if you have an extremely damaged or steep roof, the inspector may not be able to access the area for safety reasons. 

Photos of Issues

You can expect to see pictures of damaged items, issues, or defects on your home inspection report. These photos can be helpful to the buyer when they’re reviewing the report before negotiating prices. 

In some cases, you may see a photo that has funky colors—don’t worry, this is normal! Often, inspectors will use thermal imaging to examine your house, and the photos are useful for illustrating issues that may be difficult to see, such as moisture issues, ventilation problems, or faulty electrical components. 

Summary and Problem Ratings

Your home inspection report will include a summary of the issues—which is usually located in the last few pages—and a symbol or rating that indicates a general grade on your home’s condition.

What Is Not Included in a Home Inspection Report?

A woman reading inspection report
Photo: Integrity Pictures Inc / The Image Bank / Getty Images

It’s important to note that some components or areas may not be covered in your inspection report. By being an informed buyer (or seller), you’ll understand that your work might not be done after the inspection, and in turn, you make better decisions through this process. 

Some areas that home inspection reports generally don’t cover include:

  • Pest control

  • Septic system information

  • The areas behind walls 

  • Toxic mold 

  • Air quality

If you suspect there may be issues that aren’t covered, you should contact a professional contractor who is specialized in the specific area.

Red Flags to Look For

While some issues—such as faulty light switches or broken window seals—are minor and not causes for immediate concern, there are certain red flags to look out for when reading a home inspection report. 

Excessive Mildew or Mold

In certain situations, mold and mildew in a home may be a minor issue. If mold is simply the product of neglect, oftentimes, you can clean it to solve the issue. On the flipside, sometimes mold is more serious. 

For instance, if the mold has developed due to inadequate ventilation or excessive moisture, you’ll likely have more work to do, such as getting new windows or replacing your ventilation. Since mold can cause health issues such as serious allergic reactions, it’s important to remove the mold as soon as possible. 

Foundation Issues

A poor foundation can result in structural problems such as uneven flooring, drywall cracks, and crooked doors. A home inspection report indicating an inadequate home foundation indicates that you may have an expensive repair on your hands in the future. As a buyer, it’s important to understand this since this may affect your decision, or influence you to negotiate. 

Termites

You may not even want to think about termites (the ick factor), but if you’re buying a new home, it’s important to do so. Termites are not something to ignore since they can cause serious long-term damage to your home’s structure and foundation. If you’re seeing this unfortunate issue on your home inspection report, it’s in your best interest to hire a termite remover.

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