For most of us, the purchase of a home will be one of the largest financial investments we ever make. When considering what home to buy, it’s important to keep many different factors in mind — the lifestyle you want to live, the proximity to schools and businesses, the location of the neighborhood, the size and style of the property, and so on. One of the most important things to factor in is the home’s condition, habitability, and safety. That’s where a professional home inspection comes in. 

A professional home inspection is one of the best protections out there against buying a home needing repairs that you might be unable to afford. In a home inspection, a properly trained inspector will review your entire house as a system, looking with an unbiased idea at how one component of a house might affect another. The inspection will consist of a visual examination of the property and its systems, with the inspector determining the components that are not performing properly, and also identifying items that are beyond their useful lifespan, elements that might be unsafe, and areas where repairs may be needed or where there may have been problems in the past. 

The inspector’s findings will be provided to you in the form of an extensive written report. As with many elements of the real estate process, it’s easy to get intimidated by the prospect of going through an inspector’s lengthy report. Fortunately, we’re here to make it easy! Let’s break down a few key things to know about reading a home inspection report: 

What Goes Into a Home Inspector’s Report?

A home inspection is a non-invasive, non-technically exhaustive visual examination of the readily accessible systems and components of a home. During an inspection, the inspector looks for structural and mechanical concerns and potential safety hazards, and will try to determine the age of major systems including but not limited to, the roofing, heating and air conditioning systems, and water heaters. 

During a standard home inspection, an inspector will generally observe more than 200 items throughout the home. An inspector typically spends between two to three hours evaluating the property, and may recommend further evaluation from a specialist if they discover any problems. Generally speaking, we encourage you to be present throughout the home inspection; this way, you can learn and ask questions from your home inspector while they work, and have some important context that will make their final report easier to understand. 

Shortly after the conclusion of your inspection — typically by the end of the same business day — your inspector will send you your report. While reports themselves will vary from inspection company to inspection company, this document will include the inspector’s findings and detail the condition of the major systems and elements of the home at the time of the inspection. The report is organized with:

  • An overview of data about the building (approximate age, type, appearance, etc.)
  • A summary report of deficiencies found (including items not operating, potential safety hazards, and so on)
  • An extensive room-by-room inspection checklist (including the inspector’s remarks and comments)
  • Digital pictures to support the inspector’s findings and recommendations

At Windy City Home Inspection, we will also provide a digital home maintenance binder and supplementary materials at the same time that we furnish your report. We want to make sure you learn something about your new home; our goal is to not only inspect, but to educate as well.

Tips for Reading a Home Inspection Report

We know it can be intimidating to read through any hefty digital document! Here are a few tips to keep in mind for getting as much value as possible from your inspection report: 

Know your definitions.

Throughout an inspector’s report, you’ll typically find a few major categories that get checked off. It’s important to go in with a sense of what they mean: 

  • “Satisfactory” or “Adequate” indicates the component is functionally consistent with its original purpose, though it may show signs of normal wear and tear and deterioration.
  • “Marginal” indicates the component will probably require repair or replacement any time within five years.
  • “Poor” indicates the component will need repair or replacement now or in the very near future.
  • “Major Concern” indicates that system or component that is considered significantly deficient or is unsafe.
  • “Safety Hazard” denotes a condition that is unsafe and in need of prompt attention. 

Look out for the inspector’s remarks and comments.

Carefully review the summary section of the report to get a sense of the items that the inspector has identified as high priority. As you go through the checklist, in addition to noting the markings above, be sure to read the inspector’s comments, if any, for useful context and perspective. Comments might include evidence supporting their findings, recommendations for next steps, or even general information that might be useful to know (such as the location of outlets). 

Remember that home inspections have limitations.

Any professional inspection firm will have an agreement for you to read and sign. This agreement will spell out the company’s capabilities and their limitations. For instance, an inspector will not perform any testing that requires them to dismantle a system; an inspector can evaluate only what can be visually observed at the time of the inspection, meaning that they are also unable to test the main water-shut-off or turn off the gas lines to a home. It is the goal of the inspection to put a home buyer in a better position to make a buying decision, however an inspector cannot eliminate all risk. Not all improvements will be identified during an inspection. Unexpected repairs may still occur. 

Don’t hesitate to ask questions and talk things through.

it’s important to keep up a dialogue with your home inspector — before, during, and after your inspection. Here at Windy City, we often say that we don’t sell inspections, we sell education. Our goal is to leave you with more knowledge about your investment than you entered with, so that you can feel empowered to move forward with confidence and peace of mind. Do not hesitate to ask any questions you have about the report; your inspector is an invaluable resource with experience, depth of knowledge, and training to make an unbiased and informed report of the condition of a property and interpret what their findings reveal about the condition of the property.

“Where Can I See a Sample Report?”

We’ve got you covered! To get a detailed look at what one of our inspection reports might look like, click here to visit our Sample Reports” page. There, you’ll find example reports for different types of properties, including a sample condo report and a sample detached single-family home report.

Have Any More Questions About Your Chicago Home Inspection?

With Windy City Home Inspection, buyers and sellers can expect a thorough, diligent inspection that never cuts corners. When searching for the right home inspector, it’s important to find someone you can trust — and that’s why we are here for you. The inspectors at Windy City Home Inspection, Inc. are licensed by the State of Illinois, certified, and insured. Each home inspection is backed by our Warranty and Protection Plan. Furthermore, we pride ourselves on our superior customer service. If you ever have questions, even years after your home inspection, we will be here to answer them, even if it means returning to your home.

At Windy City Home Inspection, Inc., we perform inspections to the highest standards — yours. Backed by a consulting team with more than 60 years of experience, Windy City Home Inspection is committed to excellence. Have a question? Let us help.