Houses in very bad shape

Question: When you all are inspecting houses that are in very rough shape, where do you draw the line with what’s being written up? I feel like I could spend 7-8 hours on a house that typically should take 3 hours.

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You write everything up that is defective, that’s what we’re getting paid for. If it’s taking too long you need to adjust your bid. I don’t care how long a home inspection takes me. I charge more money for a home that’s 15 years old than a new home. The reason is the older homes typically have more issues and more comments in my report, this takes more time.


Agree with Martin. I don’t quote a fee until I’ve had a conversation with the “Potential” Client regarding the home to be inspected, and when I do mention the fee, I always include the statement that my fee is based upon the ‘true’ condition of the home and how it was represented to me, and the fee is subject to correction if it was grossly misrepresented to me. “Time is money” and I’ve never had a client have issue with that. Fact is, they appreciate the honesty. IMO, if you are charging a proper fee for your inspections, you can afford the rare oddity as they all balance out in the end. The real concern comes when you overbook your appointments and can’t stay on schedule.

Do you charge ‘less’ for an inspection that only takes 2 hours instead of the anticipated 3 hours??


I look the home up before quoting a price. Even then, some you just miss on. It is all part of the business. In the end, everything averages out.

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Great point :+1:t2:

Excellent point! I charge a flat rate based on square footage and sometimes how many HVAC/water heater units are at the property can increase quote as well. Obviously there is no issue with working an hour less than anticipated or an hour or so longer than anticipated, but every once in awhile I’ll get to a house that you could literally spend 3-4 hours over what would typically be expected. This doesn’t happen often at all (maybe 1 every 2-3 months), I was just curious as to what everyone’s thoughts were. Clearly I write up everything I can “see” at the time of inspection, even when the client says they know the house is in bad shape and want me to look for major stuff. I usually respond with, “I always look at everything, regardless of what you may or may not already be aware of” Thanks for the input Jeff!

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Don’t cut corners. Material defects are material defects. You will have to make judgement calls on more de minimis issues that fall into the normal wear and tear items, but those will not sink a ship anyway.

Your narrative can save you some time if you can lump common defects together.

Such as: The floor structure had visible moisture staining, damage or deterioration under bathrooms.
Siding had widespread damage/deterioration on all four sides.
Roof had multiple deficiencies or concerns such as lack of general care and maintenance, missing shingles, nail pops and thermal cracking.

You get the idea.


Agreed! I currently do lump some common defects that are found throughout the home and that does help. Like I said, just wanted some feedback from you guys. I appreciate it!

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Don’t you think that is a question for your Client?

A good portion of that discussion you should be having with the “potential” client, (PRIOR to accepting the job), is discussing and setting the “Scope” of the inspection.
Remember, an item that is a concern to one client, may not be a concern to another, and something in your eyes that is a non-issue or “minor” concern, could be a ‘Deal Killer’ to your client!!

until something goes wrong…which is why it’s best to document everything in the report, in my opinion.

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Thus the objective of having a good discussion with the potential client, so they are fully aware of what you will and will not be reporting on! During this discussion, I straight out ask them what their concerns/fears/worries are so I can attempt to address them appropriately. This is also why I don’t quote my fee until the END of our conversation. All of the ‘out-of-ordinary’ items they wish inspected adds to the fee. Worried about cosmetic/wallpaper/paint? No problem. Higher fee!


Do what I do, just soak them for what you can.
Then you will be happy.


Broad strokes.

If it’s an older house in poor shape, I’m going to do a quick walk-through of the house. If there are no GFCIs anywhere, then I have comments for that, and I skip testing for GFCIs in each required location. If I notice every room has 2 prong outlets, I can skip testing each outlet, and make one comment about all outlets in the house.

If the roof is shot I don’t need 10 comments on every last little defect of the roof, I just need 1 comment to recommend replacement.

Realy bad houses in some way are quicker because I can group numerous defects into single comments.

It’s the houses that look ok at first glance but have 101 things wrong under the looks that take a long time.


I just group individual items into an overall comment, like all the flooring is in very poor condition and I recommend you budget appropriately. Significant drywall damage was visible throughout the home I recommend securing bids from multiple contractors prior closing. If your client attended the inspection get their input on what their expectations and ultimate goal is for this purchase.

I inspected a 12 unit apartment for a client that was in horrible condition. I would have bet money he would not purchase the building after reading my report. To me it wasn’t worth the gas to burn it down. I talked to the buyer later and he said as bad as it looks it’s still $100,000 dollars cheaper then the cost to build a apartment unit that size. He planned to gut the building and make all the repairs and was happy to get it.


LOL…Well…many times I would just like to say…“this crawlspace is wacked, you need professional help” and leave it at that…but then they would just call and ask why. So might as well tell them why it’s wacked out…it’s just good business.

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“Numerous problems and defects were noted throughout the (fill in system). Further evaluation of all aspects of this system by a qualified (fill in contractor) is recommended. The following pictures/descriptions are examples of the conditions found (this is not intended to be a complete list):”

Bullets points followed by 10-12 pictures.

I picked this up from an E/O carrier class years ago and use it frequently, when needed. Some houses are such a disaster that there is no way to document every single deficiency in a given system. And, trying puts you at risk because you’ll inevitably forget something. E/O carriers love this since it gets us out of any liability within that disaster of a system.

I find I use this most often with electrical, crawl spaces and building envelope.

Over the years one of the biggest improvements I’ve made is the speed at which I can write up disaster houses. The onsite time can actually be quite quick when I’m just looking for a dozen good pictures/examples of a given system. I also have a lot of pre-written comments so it’s just a matter of pasting them into the report.