Classifying Defects

I’m curious how others of you classify certain defects that are very common. We all know that our training and real-world scenarios don’t always perfectly align and that a delicate balance has to be achieved with our reporting so we aren’t terrifying our clients but are still reporting thoroughly and objectively. I’ll provide a list of a handful of the types of defects I’m referring to, and please let me know whether you would classify each in a report as a more major (summary) type of defect or as a minor deficiency. I certainly don’t expect anyone to answer every single one, but at least a few would be helpful.

-Missing blow-off leg or expansion tank at water heater
-Double tapped breakers or neutral wires
-Above-grade downspouts that are extended, but not quite far enough
-An open-sided stairway when a handrail is still present against a wall
-Peeled exterior paint on treated lumber that doesn’t yet show signs of rot
-Nails in a ledger board, rather than lags or carriage bolts
-Buckled shingle tabs
-No cap on a chimney, or tar as flashing in lieu of step and counter flashing
-Ungrounded three-prongs or reversed polarity
-A wood-burning fireplace hearth extension that is older and only 10-12” deep
-A hairline horizontal crack in the center of a foundation wall when the wall is still plumb
-No ventilation in a centrally located 1/2 bath
-No check valve on a sump pump discharge pipe
-Minor surface corrosion on metal supply or waste piping when no active leaking is observed

Thanks in advance!

I would definitely put double taps in the summary page due to a safety issue. As for the shingles does it look like the whole roof needs replacement cause that will cost over $1000. If so then summary page.

How big is crack in foundation wall? A picture would help.

I’m not referring to specific defects at specific properties. I realize many of these depend on severity, but that’s why I tried to be as detailed as possible within the short list.

These are things I know most of us see all the time, and I’m just curious how others write them up.

Dear Steven. I have developed a classification system for defects. I agree -you dont want to terrify your client with defects which are not “show stoppers”- but they need to be aware of them.So I have used a combination of 2 parameters. “Severity” and “Urgency”.

  1. Severity - denotes how “bad” is the defects. An S1 defect would mean high risk of failure, death or very high financial/ litigative risk if the defect is not addressed - for example a deck which is at risk of failure under normal conditions. An S2 defect would mean a lower risk of failure but a high financial/ litigative risk. An S3 defect would mean a defect which is a low risk but which require attention. An S4 defect would be an asthetic defect e.g paint peeling on a facia.
  2. Urgency - denotes the “rapidness” required to correct the defect. U1 - Immediate, U2 within 1-2 months, U3 before a seasonal change eg rainy season and U4 as part of a maintenance program e.g painting project.
    For example, the deck defect would be a S1U1 classification. While the paint peeling on the facia would be S4U3 or 4.
    I also brought in an additional parameter (i) - which stands for Information - whereby the services of a certified structural engineer would be needed. E.g severe cracks, heaving floors etc. So for example, I found a wide (15mm+) crack in a 1.8 m high boundary wall. I would call it as S1U1 (i)
    I use this classification in the executive summary - the client then is fully aware of the defects in a prioritized format and is able to “sift” out the non critical but pertinent issues.
    Hope this helps you. Regards Martin (Cape Town South Africa)
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Unless you are required to by your State laws I would not try classifying any issue as “Major”, “Minor” or any other classification. That is a path to trouble. One example you do not have there are broken seals on double pane windows. Not all instances of broken seals may display during your inspection. If you find one in a house with 30 windows and classify it as minor then you could be headed for a seriously angry client when the other 29 do display themselves.

Secondly if “facts” scare a client there really is nothing you can do about that. You should report all issues in a factual manor and let the chips fall where they may.

Lastly in Texas the licensing agency (The Texas Real Estate Commission, TREC) has already ruled that if a summary is completed it must include all items found in the body of the promulgated report form and with substantially similar wording. As a result a summary here in Texas is a duplicate of the report body and not really a summary at all. The only real value of a summary here is to provide a short version of the findings sans all the liability limiting language some Inspectors choose to use. Of course that is not a bad thing since I have seen some reports that were less than one page of issues and 20 pages of BS liability limiting language.

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Totally agree with that said and he should heed that advice.

Probably some of the best advice that you will ever get!

I third that advice form Manny. :smile:

Blow off leg missing and double tap breakers are a defect in my reports.
Downspouts not long enough can be listed as an improvement unless there is a moisture issue in the basement in that area.
Stairway, handrail is only required on one side. I suggest moving in the furniture first, then installing the hand rail if it’s missing.
Peeling paint, if no rotting or damage yet is an improvement to preserve the life of the wood.
Nails instead of bolts or lag screws are a defect. Also missing joist hangers. Hate to have a deck come detached!
Any flashing not metal should be monitored and note that tar, caulk will break down and crack. It’s a defect if it allows moisture through.
Open ground in 3 prong receptacles… the NEC recommends replacing with GFIC receptacles
Pass on fireplace inspections… I suggest a chimney sweep since I don’t inspect the flue
Don’t need ventilation in a half bath if no shower. Window works if needed ventilation… candle works for taco nights…lol
Cast iron waste water pipes can show corrosion, I list as monitor over time, list dry at the time of inspection after running water through it a while… they last 100 yrs…easy to replace with PVC when needed if leaking…
That’s my 2 cents worth…hope it helps
Good luck out there!

Thanks to all. Scott, I report pretty much identically to what you described. Many advised not classifying defects unless it’s a state requirement, which is certainly a good and safe option. PA law requires that we list anything deemed “material,” which they define as a defect that can immediately threaten safety, structural integrity or lead to a substantial repair cost.

Of course, then there’s the reality of what others in your general area do and what realtors are used to. Those factors obviously aren’t important enough to justify reporting a certain way, but they are important to a point in terms of affecting business, perception, etc. We’re #1 in our area and get consistently great feedback on our reporting; but I was curious to see how others handle certain defects we come across often. Thanks again to everyone for the responses.

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