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Fri, Dec. 06

What should, should not, be in home inspection report

I have been asked several times recently (and over the years) to inspect a home in some city I’m not familiar with, such as Tombstone or Tuba City, or Cowlik or Chloride (all real Arizona cities). I always tell them it would be much better ​to find an inspector in that area. 

We have “inspect a house” classes in Arizona with inspectors from all over the state inspecting a home. We always find that they call some things in Phoenix that are common in Prescott, and vice versa. 

One quick example comes to mind:  Gas-only fireplace manufacturers all recommend at least 10 feet between a fireplace wall exhaust vent and any opening window (because of carbon monoxide). Prescott does not enforce this, and I always recommend installing a carbon monoxide alarm in the room(s) with a window near the fireplace exhaust vent.  What if I made that comment not knowing that Flagstaff enforces the manufacturers requirements (I don’t know if Flagstaff does, but that’s my point)? My client would be forced to replace a fireplace at great cost, and it might not even be possible.

And there are things I don’t see up here but are required in other areas: exterior combustion air for a gas water heater in a garage, a 120 volt outlet near a gaspack on a roof, concrete filled pipes in front of water heaters.

And then there’s knowing the geographic and localities. I know which subdivisions up here have had expansive soil, flooding etc. And I know some subdivisions require fences around the air conditioner compressors, even though the fence will adversely affect the air conditioner operation. I would not know any of this if I inspected a home in Nothing or Happy Jack. In fact, I told a friend in Phoenix once that the water was in his lower level because he didn’t have gutters and downspouts on the home. He told me that condo complex did not allow gutters. This was unbelievable to me, but I did not see gutters on any of the other building. In a different subdivision I asked about the hay bales in a lot at the end of the street. I was told that’s to stop the tubes. “Tubes?” I asked. Apparently every time it rained this street flooded. I mean really flooded. To the point that all the neighborhood kids had large innertubes in their garage, ready to whitewater down the street. Without the wall of hay the kids might end up in the next school district.

So I admit I stay in my “comfort zone.” But I have seen reports on a Prescott home from an out-of-town inspector that listed “defects” that are common in our area, making the inspector look foolish. One called out overhead power lines on a tree in Ponderosa Park. I guess he failed to notice there are no telephone poles in Ponderosa Park, all the overhead wires are secured to trees.

If I start inspecting in Organ Pipe or Monkey’s Eyebrow (real names) then I may be the foolish one.

I was scolded by a client recently for saying nice things about the house in my written report. In particular in their report I made a comment about the professional looking installation of a brand new high efficiency heating/cooling system.

Apparently they wanted to use the inspection report to “lowball” the seller. I did not feel bad, because that is not what a home inspection is for. A home inspection should be a fair, unbiased inspection of the home. If there are nice things in the home, I should report on them just as much as I should report on major defects or short-term major expenses.

If someone just spent $15,000 to $20,000 putting in a new high efficiency heating/cooling system, and it’s installed and operating correctly, why shouldn’t I mention it?

I always let clients know if the furnace or air conditioner is nearing the end if it’s useful life, so why shouldn’t I let them know there is an expensive replacement cost that they won’t have to worry about for 20 years?

I have never said “the purple paint contrasts nicely with the yellow tile and curtains,” or “the green carpet in the family room will allow you to practice your putting on rainy days,” or “the clouds and sky painted on the ceiling give the home a bright, airy feeling” (I have found all those things).

But I will acknowledge important and/or expensive improvements to a home to help my clients make an informed buying decision.

Randy West owns Professional Building Consultants in Prescott. He is state-certified and has performed more than 7,000 home inspections in the Prescott area. West serves on the Home Inspector Rules and Standards Committee for the Arizona Board of Technical Registration. Contact him at or visit

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