Home inspector takes forever to write report

Q: I recently attended the home inspection for the house I'm buying. The inspector gave a passing grade of B, with a short verbal review of his findings, and said the full report would take four weeks to prepare because his schedule was so far behind. This means the sale will be completed before I see the completed report, and then it will be too late to negotiate with the seller. It seems I should have been informed of this delay before I hired the inspector. Are report backlogs typical among home inspectors?

A: No home inspector who conducts business in a reasonable and professional manner would take more than a few days to produce a full inspection report. The very idea that an inspector would delay four weeks is inexcusable from the standpoint of common standards and the time demands of real estate purchase contracts. Many inspectors, in fact, produce completed reports on-site, at the time of the inspection, while others take a day or two, at most, to prepare a final draft. In the home inspection business, time is of the essence. Qualified inspectors know this and conduct business accordingly.

You also mentioned a letter grade of "B," which is highly irregular, to say the least. The purpose of a home inspection is not to grade a house but to disclose specific defects and deficiencies that warrant correction. A house can be well constructed and in excellent condition but still have safety problems or other repair issues.

This raises questions as to the qualifications of your inspector and the thoroughness of the inspection. Was it performed in accordance with the standards of practice of the industry? Is the inspector a member of a recognized professional association? My advice is to get some answers to these questions and to demand a full inspection report before you close escrow.

Q: A friend recently purchased a home and discovered after the sale that the electrical wiring is entirely aluminum. Shouldn't the home inspector and the agent have disclosed this condition?

A: Real estate agents are not likely to know when homes contain aluminum wiring, because discoveries of that kind exceed the scope of their professional expertise. However, the home inspector's failure to disclose aluminum wire, if it was apparent in the service panel, is gross professional negligence. Disclosure of aluminum wire is standard practice for competent home inspectors, and the standard recommendation is a full review of the wiring by a licensed electrician.

Aluminum wire was installed in many homes built from the late 1960s through the early '70s. Connections in these systems tend to loosen, causing overheating and, in some cases, fire. Therefore, all of the wire ends in the panel and at outlets, lights and other fixtures should be evaluated and upgraded with approved hardware. Your friend should consult a licensed electrician and should notify the seller, agents and home inspector of the undisclosed problem.

• To write to Barry Stone, visit him on the web at, or write AMG, 1776 Jami Lee Court, Suite 218, San Luis Obispo, CA 94301.

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