Minor vs Major Deficiencies

I want to start a discussion on identifying “minor vs major” defects. As I read through the forums there seems to be a wide range of what one inspector calls a minor defect and another that would call it major. Another inspector might not call it either and report it as they see fit.
When you identity a “minor defect”, what process of elimination are you using to determine it is a minor and not a major, if a different inspector would find it to be a “major defect”?

Happy inspecting!

What might be minor to one of my mechanically inclined clients might be major to another one of my clients. Therefore I do not label anything as minor or major. That is for the client to categorize after reading the entire report.

I do place items in a summary that is for their convenience after reading the entire report. The categories I use in my summary are:
Safety, Structural, Mechanical & Maintenance.
I try to stress that no category is is more important than the other.


Wow, never thought of it like that. That’s a great way to categorize deficiencies. What you (the inspector) sees as minor or major, the client might see different. Leave the ranking of a deficiency up the the client. :+1:t2::+1:t2:

Yes sir, we report the defects and let the client decide the importance. Of course , it is important to describe what may happen if something is not repaired/replaced, etc.

This is why it is paramount to discuss the SCOPE of the inspection with each and every potential Client at the time of booking to set expectations. You may need to add to your inspection (and fee) for additional (ancillary) “testing” that they may want to be done. (Anything outside of the SOP is ‘Ancillary’ as far as I am concerned).

Curious… where do you place your “Summary” within your Report, and how do you ensure they read the Report “first”??

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End of report per our TREC rules. Even with words stating the summary is for their convenience only & they need to read the full report to get the entire scope of the condition of the home, I cannot 100% ensure that they don’t skip over the entire report & just read the summary.

Full disclosure
Lots of folks have enjoyed the summary, so it is near the beginning of my sample report for the purpose of getting seen by someone just browsing.


Jacob, I report on all the defects I find. I generally report either as Material or defective. Defects that I deem as material defects are noted or highlighted in the report and the summary. The material defects either adversely affect the value of the property or be a safety risk to others.

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This is great. I wouldn’t have thought to list deficiencies as you guys have put. Thanks for the discussion.

This is what I use.

When an item or system is said to be in “good” condition, this means it is in above average
condition in relation to other items of a similar age, type, or style of construction.

When an item or system is said to be in “satisfactory” condition, this means that it is in
average condition. The item or system should give generally satisfactory service within the
limits of its age excluding any defects or potential problems noted during the inspection or in
the report.

When an item or system is said to be in “fair” condition, this means it is in average to below
average condition in relation to other items or systems of a similar age, type, or style of
construction, excluding any defects or problems noted during the inspection or in the report.

When an item or system is said to be in “poor” condition, this means it is below average in
relation to other items of a similar age, type, or style of construction and may need repairs or
other attention immediately or in the near future as recommended in the report.

I’ve had client walk because I found rodent droppings in the attic and others that purchased after finding significant structural damage.

Each potential buyer has their own idea of “major/minor” and it’s not my place to convince them otherwise.

Our job is to report the defect/deficiency accurately and allow the client to determine whether they feel it’s major or minor.


Having worked as an inspector for an Architect for 20 years our legal council always said it is either right or wrong, no degrees of wrongness. I do characterize some defects as “substantial” only in that the defect impacts other areas and causes other damage. Use common sense carefully

Hi Jacob,

I wear a number of hats in my Business.

I am an Inspector - as is the topic of conversation here - WHAT AM I LOOKING AT?
I am an Insurance Assessor / Adjuster, which covers Damages and Loss, thus I need to determine WHY?
I am an Insurance Inspector / Surveyor, which relates to PREVENTION.

From my point of view, and I somewhat agree with Daniel, as my whole outlook is one of “Right or Wrong”.
It may be right, but have an element of unsuitability or “not fit for purpose” such as a domestic appliance or equipment being utilised for Industrial purposes. It is right, but it certainly will not last under constant use or cycles …
The other aspect of my Assessments could, for instance be where a wall has fallen down during a wind or rain storm. It was built and “worked”, but in terms of Building Codes, it was not not correct. Thus the Claim could well be rejected entirely, or if circumstances and intensity of the storm warrants it, for the Client to be settled on what existed, not on Code. I would have commented had I inspected this or carried out a prior survey.
As you see, I can get into deep water by not exercising my right to not quote Codes etc. in my reports - Per the InterNACHI disclaimer - and and vica versa.
I take hundreds of photos in all my Inspections / Surveys, and make references in my text to the problems found - sometimes referring to Health Standards / Hazards - and state clearly that the Summary at the end is not comprehensive, but the entire report must be read and comments noted. I also state that any or additional photos are available on request.

I am wordy (as you have already noted… :grin:), and could probably do 4 - 5 times more reports than I do - all on MS Word - but I never have comebacks or feel that I have left anything out.

Hope this gives an idea of how each instance may change your comments or structure.

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Typically I would say Major is one that requires a contractor to correct and Minor is one that can be easily corrected by a DIYer or the potential buyer.

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My perspective on this is informed by my past experience as a Realtor. The general public is seeking guidance in the real estate transaction with the ultimate question being “Should I buy this house?” Sometimes I get asked that question directly, with variants such as “Would you by this house?”.

Naturally, I tell my clients it’s not for me to say, and tell them that’s a “Realtor question”. Still, they look to the Inspector as the only person in the transaction with no skin in the game, so I feel compelled to help them put things in perspective.

Buyers often want to know what are the “Safety Issues”, so I provide that category. I reserve “Major Issue” for things like a trashed out roof, failing foundation, etc.

“Possible Issue” is probably my most used category. These are things that are significant, but can be addressed without breaking the bank. Below those are “Moderate”, “Minor”, and “Cosmetic”.

Minor and Cosmetic are typically things that are of no real significance, but I include so that the buyer will not see it, think I missed it, and get stressed out over it.

I get very good on-line ratings from my clients for my thoroughness and willingness to answer their questions, and I get referred a lot by Realtors because they know that I am thorough, but will also the time and effort necessary to help the buyer put things in perspective.

Ultimately, I think the best approach is to find out what your clients are seeking to learn from the inspection and do your best to provide answers and perspective.


It’s a delicate balance. Safety is always 1st. See my website for rule #2

There are only defects, and all of them should be reported. What is “minor” and what is “major” is to be determined by the person who is paying for the report.

I recall a tour that I gave to a client about fourteen or fifteen years ago following the end of my inspection. I showed him several serious issues (major issues, if you will) that he cared very little about and, as we entered the garage, I casually mentioned a moderate amount of rodent feces (less than a dozen) I spotted in one of the corners. He screamed like a woman and ran into the street with a handkerchief over his face … shouting about hantavirus that kills people if you breathe mouse crap or some similar mumbo jumbo. While the feces did not kill us, it certainly killed the deal. I haven’t done a home inspection for a real estate transaction since 2012 and can recall very few of them today, but I can remember that one like it happened this afternoon.


Great points everyone has. Thanks a lot!

Just another reason not to invite the client along. I always hate to see grown men turn into little girls at the sight of pest poop.

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Some material defects just sit there and beg to be called out as Major, Jacob. I inspected a 56-year-old house last week that had undergone $60,000 in rehab (including basement finish) according to the owner. Problem is: he didn’t replace the crumbling and buckling driveway and carport slab. A closer look from the rooftop revealed that the roof framing over the 2-car carport had settled and partially collapsed. All that was supporting the outer bands of the hip roof over the carport was two 4 x 4 posts. And one of them was bowing not-so-gracefully. This defect was a threat not only to the future tenants, but also to the punchout crew on the site that day. Structural engineer’s assessment needed ASAP. And WDO’s a possible contributing factor as well.

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Good question. I like to use the following terms that are located in InterNACHI’s glossary:

material defect
major defect
minor defect
cosmetic defect

Hope that helps to contribute to the discussion of identifying “minor vs major” defects.