We want to help you protect your home beyond the inspection, prepare for winter with the following checklist.
Many homeowners face natural disasters that force them to leave their belongings behind and evacuate their homes. Before returning home, homeowners should ensure that local officials have determined that it is safe to re-enter their neighborhood. An InterNACHI® Certified Professional Inspector®, as well as a FEMA inspector, can assist homeowners in documenting any damage that occurred to the home and property, as well as make necessary recommendations.
The following information can help when dealing with the aftermath of a natural disaster:
- Inspect the property carefully to identify post-disaster hazards (e.g., mold, chemical spills, live wires, structural damage).
- Take photos of damage to the building and its contents to any document losses.
- Clean up debris and damage.
- Keep records and receipts for each cost incurred in cleaning up or repairing your home.
Look up your address at DisasterAssistance.gov to find out whether your area is in a presidentially declared disaster area eligible for FEMA’s Individual Assistance (IA) Program.
If you’re a renter or homeowner whose primary home is in a Presidential Major Disaster Declaration Area, you may qualify for assistance and should apply for FEMA assistance, even if you’re not yet sure what kind of assistance you’ll need. You can apply for FEMA assistance at DisasterAssistance.gov or by visiting FEMA.gov.
If you have not already contacted your insurance agent to file a claim, do so as soon as possible. Failure to file a claim with your insurance company may affect your eligibility for some assistance. For a flood disaster, you’ll need to file a Proof of Loss with your insurance company within 60 days of the flood.
If your primary home was damaged, you will receive a call within 10 days of submitting your FEMA application from a FEMA home inspector to schedule an appointment to visit you. In the event of a catastrophic disaster, all timeframes may be slightly longer.
The FEMA inspector will assess disaster-caused damage to your real and personal property. There is no fee for the Inspection. Inspectors are contractors, not FEMA employees, but your inspector will have picture identification. You or someone at least 18 years of age, living in the damaged home at the time of the disaster, must be present for your scheduled appointment.
Homeowners can contact local officials to request Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) funds for qualified projects. Contact your state or local emergency management or building department to find an HMGP point of contact to gain more information about eligibility.
Local officials may share information about HMGP through:
- social media online;
- state and local government websites;
- traditional media outlets (newspapers, radio, television, billboards, etc.); and/or
- town hall meetings.
Figure 1. Disaster assessment flowchart (image courtesy of FEMA)
Figure 2. Disaster assessment flowchart descriptions (image courtesy of FEMA)
Decide on your recovery options: Will you repair, repair and mitigate, or sell the property? Consider the following information when making that decision:
- level of damage and structural condition;
- technical feasibility of repairing the structure;
- health hazards that must be remediated;
- building code requirements;
- costs of the various approaches;
- insurance and your other financial resources, including:
- flood insurance payment (or other insurance payments);
- FEMA Assistance to Individuals and Households;
- Small Business Administration (SBA) loans;
- support from non-governmental or nonprofit or voluntary organizations; and/or
- Increased Cost of Compliance (ICC) funding through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).
- Repair the structure, which means to return a structure to the pre-disaster condition.
- Repair the damage and mitigate against future damage, which means to repair and to modify the structure to reduce or eliminate the likelihood of damage in the future.
- If you decide to repair and mitigate the structure or to sell it, find out if there is a possibility of qualifying for FEMA mitigation funding.
- Contact local government officials to learn if the local government will be applying for Hazard Mitigation Assistance (HMA) funds. There are three HMA programs:
- Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP)
- Pre-Disaster Mitigation (PDM) program
- Flood Mitigation Assistance (FMA) program
- ICC funding (which may be available through your NFIP insurance policy)
- Sell the property:
- Local jurisdictions may offer to acquire your property and permanently restrict it as open space to eliminate future disaster damage.
- The structure may be relocated to a safer location.
- The structure may be demolished and you may rebuild at a safer location.
- Local jurisdictions may also receive funds from the state and FEMA to help pay for property acquisitions. The following conditions may apply:
- only occurs if the property owner is willing;
- is a fee-simple purchase of property, which transfers full ownership of the property, including the underlying title, to another party;
- requires an appraisal to determine fair market value of the property and structure;
- results in the homeowner receiving fair market value of the structure and land after deducting any duplication of benefits received from other programs; and
- results in open space that must be permanently maintained as open space.
Homeowners may start their HMGP-funded projects only after notification of approval by their state, tribal, or local government official. Any work started before FEMA review and approval is ineligible for funding, which means that FEMA will not reimburse the cost for any mitigation work already started or completed prior to FEMA approval. However, this does not include basic repair work necessary to make the residence habitable.
If a natural disaster has forced a homeowner to evacuate their home, dealing with the impact can be devastating and difficult. When returning home, homeowners should make sure to properly inspect their home by contacting an InterNACHI® Certified Professional Inspector® or FEMA Inspector to properly assess the damage and to make necessary recommendations. If your primary home is in a Presidential Major Disaster Declaration area, you may qualify for assistance and should apply for FEMA assistance. Homeowners can contact local officials to request Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) funds for qualified projects.
You will often hear that a home inspector is “experienced,” and that is certainly a good thing. I myself have years of experience in construction, but is it enough? For instance, perhaps someone has spent years cooking, but does that make them a Chef? And trust me when it comes to choosing a Property Inspector, you want a “Chef.”
In our particular area inspectors are required to maintain a contractor’s license with the Oregon Contractors Board and maintain their home inspector license, which includes one initial National Exam (applicable in only some States). So, you pass a test and get your license.
I knew I wanted to be the best inspector that I could be and provide my clients with the service that will best protect them and their investment.
Here is why being an InterNachi Certified Professional Inspector, such as myself, should matter to you –
- I’m required to stay up to date with the industry’s most rigorous Continuing Education through annual online, video and live training courses, which have been awarded more than 1,400 approvals and accreditations by governmental and other agencies.
- I adhere to a comprehensive Standards of Practice to ensure that you receive a detailed and accurate home inspection.
- I abide by a strict Code of Ethics, which puts my clients first and protects their rights as consumers.
- I use state-of-the-art inspection tools and reporting software so that my clients can make informed decisions about the homes they want to buy or sell.
So, there you have it, why hire a “cook”, when you can hire a “Chef?”
While we are strictly adhering to our Governor’s “Stay Home, Save Lives” we want you to know Marquee Home Inspections remains open and is scheduling inspections. As updates change on almost a daily basis, we continue to monitor the situation so as to maintain the safety and health of our clients and property owners. That being said we have implemented the below precautionary measures
- I have completed the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors’ (InterNACHI) COVID-19 Safety Guidelines for Home Inspectors Course and will adhere to their recommended safety guidelines and standards.
- I have always encouraged my clients to be present for all or part of the home inspection so we may walk through the report and discuss any immediate questions. In lieu of this, we are offering to conduct virtual meetings with clients and agents who may not feel comfortable attending the inspection onsite. Of course, I will continue to be available for phone calls after the inspection to address any questions that might arise.
- The necessary precautions will be taken with the inspection property by wearing shoe covers inside the home, gloves/additional PPE gear when necessary and regular hand washing.
- Your Inspection Agreement will be emailed to you with the option to provide an eSignature.
- Your payment can be made by check or credit card.
by Nick Gromicko, CMI® and Kenton Shepard
Influenced by the changes in the economic and legal environments over the past 30 years, home inspection reports have changed to accommodate increased consumer expectations, and to provide more extensive information and protection to both inspectors and their clients.
Development of Standards
Prior to the mid-1970s, inspection reports followed no standard guidelines and, for the most part, there was little or no oversight or licensure. As might be imagined, without minimum standards to follow, the quality of inspection reports varied widely, and the home inspection industry was viewed with some suspicion.
With the founding of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) in 1976, home inspection guidelines governing inspection report content became available in the form of a Standards of Practice. Over time, a second, larger trade association, the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI), came into existence, and developed its own standards.
InterNACHI has grown to dominate the inspection industry and, in addition to its Residential Standards of Practice, it has developed a comprehensive Standards of Practice for the Inspection of Commercial Properties. Today, most types of inspections from mold to fire door inspections are performed in accordance with one of InterNACHI’s Standards of Practice.
As a consumer, you should take the time to examine the Standards of Practice followed by your inspector. If he is unaffiliated with any professional inspection organization, and his reports follow no particular standards, find another inspector.
Generally speaking, reports should describe the major home systems, their crucial components, and their operability, especially the ones in which failure can result in dangerous or expensive-to-correct conditions. Defects should be adequately described, and the report should include recommendations.
Reports should also disclaim portions of the home not inspected. Since home inspections are visual inspections, the parts of the home hidden behind floor, wall and ceiling coverings should be disclaimed.
Home inspectors are not experts in every system of the home, but are trained to recognize conditions that require a specialist inspection.
Home inspections are not technically exhaustive, so the inspector will not disassemble a furnace to examine the heat exchanger closely, for example.
Standards of Practice are designed to identify both the requirements of a home inspection and the limitations of an inspection.
Checklist and Narrative Reports
In the early years of the home inspection industry, home inspection reports consisted of a simple checklist, or a one- or two-page narrative report.
Checklist reports are just that; very little is actually written. The report is a series of boxes with short descriptions after them. Descriptions are often abbreviated, and might consist of only two or three words, such as “peeling paint.” The entire checklist might only be four or five pages long. Today, some inspection legal agreements are almost that long!
Because of the lack of detailed information, checklist reports leave a lot open to interpretation, so that buyers, sellers, agents, contractors, attorneys and judges may each interpret the information differently, depending on their motives.
In the inspection business, phrases that describe conditions found during an inspection are called “narratives.” Narrative reports use reporting language that more completely describes each condition. Descriptions are not abbreviated.
Both checklist and narrative reports are still in use today, although many jurisdictions are now beginning to ban checklist reports because the limited information they offer has resulted in legal problems.
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.
For example, in 2002, an investor bought a 14-unit hotel in California. The six-page narrative report mentioned that flashing where the second-story concrete walkway met the building was improperly installed, and the condition could result in wood decay. Four years later, the investor paid out almost $100,000 to demolish and replace the entire upper walkway. In some places, it was possible to push a pencil through support beams.
Although the inspector’s report had mentioned the problem, it hadn’t made clear the seriousness of the condition, or the possible consequences of ignoring it. Today, a six-page report would be considered short for a small house.
Development of Reporting Software
Years ago, when computers were expensive to buy and difficult to operate, inspection reports were written by hand. As computers became simpler to operate and more affordable, inspection software began to appear on the market.
Today, using this software, an inspector can chose from a large number of organized boilerplate narratives that s/he can edit or add to in order to accommodate local conditions, since inspectors in a hot, humid city like Tampa Bay, Florida, are likely to find types of problems different from those found by inspectors in a cold, dry climate, like Salt Lake City, Utah.
Using narrative software and checking boxes in categories that represent the home systems, an inspector can produce a very detailed report in a relatively short time.
For example, using a checklist report, an inspector finding a number of inoperable lights in a home would check a box in the “INTERIOR” section labeled something like “some lights inoperable,” and that would be the limit of the information passed on to the client.
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.”
Standard disclaimers and other information can be pre-checked to automatically appear in each report.
Narratives typically consists of three parts:
- a description of a condition of concern;
- a sentence or paragraph describing how serious the condition is, and the potential ramifications, answering questions such as, “Is it now stable, or will the problem continue?” or “Will it burn down the house?” and “When?”; and
- a recommendation. 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.
Inspection reports often begin with an informational section which gives general information about the home, such as the client’s name, the square footage, and the year the home was built.
Other information often listed outside the main body of the report, either near the beginning or near the end, are disclaimers, and sometimes a copy of the inspection agreement, and sometimes a copy of the Standards of Practice. A page showing the inspector’s professional credentials, designations, affiliations and memberships is also often included. And it is a good idea to include InterNACHI’s Now That You’ve Had a Home Inspection book.
Inspection reports often include a summary report listing major problems to ensure that important issues are not missed by the reader. It’s important that the reader be aware of safety issues or conditions which will be expensive to correct. With this in mind, some inspectors color-code report narratives, although many feel that color-coding exposes them to increased liability and don’t do this.
Software often gives inspectors the choice of including photographs in the main body of the report, near the narrative that describes them, or photographs may be grouped together toward the beginning or end of the report.
A table of contents is usually provided.
The main body of the report may be broken down into sections according to home systems, such as “ELECTRICAL,” “PLUMBING,” “HEATING,” etc., or it may be broken down by area of the home: “EXTERIOR,” “INTERIOR,” “KITCHEN,” “BEDROOMS,” etc.
It often depends on how the inspector likes to work.
Many inspectors have websites which include sample inspection reports for prospective clients to view. Take the time to look at them. Also often included is a page explaining the scope of the inspection. The inspection contract is usually included on the website, and it should give you a good idea of what will be included in the report.
In conclusion, for consumers to have realistic expectations about what information will be included in the home inspection report, follow these tips:
- read the Standards of Practice;
- read the Contract;
- view a sample Inspection Report; and
- talk with the inspector.