Recommendation versus Defect

Marcel made a great comment in a post recently that I wanted to ask about separately. He said, “A house that age, (1960) you can only recommend upgrades for items that pertain to safety, they are not defects.” I have been helping a new member and saw in his first report some recommendations of things to do that fell under Marcel’s comment. They weren’t really defects, but as Marcel said, recommendations to upgrade for enhanced safety.

When my friend put those items in the report as a recommendation, I knew it wasn’t a defect. However, the client didn’t, and immediately most of those recommendations got sent to the seller as an item that needed correcting. Which then caused some back and forth between buyer and seller as to whether it was required or a nice to have and that nothing was really wrong with it as is, was it really a defect, then they both contacted the inspector and he wasn’t sure how to answer their questions, an argument ensued, etc. Definitely want to avoid that ever happening again.

So how would you write up something like that…something that isn’t a defect cause it probably met code at the time of construction…and there really isn’t anything “wrong” with it now, but that it definitely can be improved upon now. I will not give an example because most of the replies will then just focus on that one example. How would you write something like that up or identify it in your report, so it isn’t considered a defect?


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I like to say “it is recommended”.

You may also say “although at the time of construction it was not required…”.

The only time I say something is required is when it is a code violation and back it up with the code reference.

An example may be the expansion tank on the water heater has no support. I may say that “The water heater expansion tank piping is not an approved method for supporting the expansion tank. A proper thermal expansion tank holding device is required. See 2018 South Carolina plumbing code 380.10. It is recommended that repairs be performed by a licensed plumbing contractor”.

I do a ton of new construction inspections, this is something that most home inspectors may not do.

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Be very careful about noting codes. We are not code inspectors.

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Where is the Agent in all of this? That is their wheelhouse. They should know how to navigate the different items as defects or upgrades. If a Realtor can’t advise their client properly what good is the home inspection? They make the big money and I have seen many of them sell a deathtrap with nary a concern or a look back. If you have a bad Realtor a good Home Inspection will not help you.


True but if you are a licensed contractor in that particular craft shoot away.


I dont give a flying rats behind if it is code or not if it is unsafe it is going in my report…


Yep, Jim and I do the same!


Amen to that!

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I have been using the example of “cars that were manufactured in the 50’s didn’t have seat belts. Is it safe to assume that it isn’t safe or shouldn’t be noted as a saftey issue because it was manufactured like that?” That usually get no back lash to any safety defect I write up.

I write up A TON of decks. They’re nearly built wrong every single time. Are they safe? Yeah sure, but built completely wrong and that’s what makes it unsafe. So, it’s getting written up. I couldn’t care less if something “appears” safe. If it’s unsafe, it’s unsafe, no questions.

Keep in mind, just because a house is built in 1960, the installation of a water heater in 2015 for example would have be installed in accordance with the building code of 2015 not 1960. Same thing with possible additions, newer decks, updated power receptacles, etc… The language used in a report can be misunderstood if not clear. For “nice to haves” that are not true safety issues or defects maybe include a separate section in your report for things like that. (just an idea)… I do not include these myself but if I think something is not right, I call it out, and be sure to clearly state that is my own opinion. If your client is a buyer, they are not required to ask for things to be “upgraded” because you think it should be other than it being a “nice to have” item.
Like BOB said, a real agent should be able to know the difference in all of that and sort it out for the client, provided they give a crap… Great point @rkenney!!
You too @mwilles… and @jkaufman


I liked using what, Martin and Jim said, " “although at the time of construction it was not required…”.


“I don’t care if it is/was code or not, if it is unsafe it is going in my report…”


On an older home that has not been renovated in years, I would be careful in not getting caught between safe and your opinion. One could ask what you are basing your opinion on regarding safety if you are not using Code as a reference.
Ex. The second-floor railing is only 32" high, why is it unsafe, is it because you fell over one that height yourself or heard someone did?
The stair risers are 8" high and the treads are only 9" wide. Those are unsafe in your opinion. What is your opinion based on?
At one point, might be asked what you are basing your opinion on regarding what is safe or not.
The main purpose of building codes is to protect public health, safety, and general welfare as they relate to the construction and occupancy of buildings and structures.
At that point, they become a standard.

So these older homes you want to be a little careful of your opinions.
You don’t want to say something is unsafe. You might instead want to just recommend that in today’s standards a railing is 36" and you may want to upgrade because it has been found dangerous for some people.
Something down that line.
So in reality, Codes dictate to you what is safe and what is not. Not just your opinion.


To my understanding, from the teachings of InterNACHI, the main consideration to take into account while preforming a home inspection and writing a report is the safety of the occupants who may dwell in that home. If through a visual inspection a item being examined has a safety concern, notification must be made in the report. If the item being inspected is older than modern building practices but is still safe and preforming properly then a note could be made that it is not to todays best building/safety standards, or not mentioned at all. Most of the narrative video’s I have watched stated to report defects only and cosmetic flaws would fall under deferred maintenance. I believe to make a recommendation of “enhanced safety” is a slippery slope, is it safe today, was it safe at the time of the installation, is anybody going to get hurt today…this is what I would consider. eg. Electrical safety devices are always being updated such as AFCI’s. A panel installed in the 70’s would not have the ability to have AFCI’s, in our area if any electrical changes are made to an older panel (reno) it would/should have to be an upgraded to the modern safety standards by a qualified electrician. Missing GFCI’s in my opinion would be a “is anybody going to get hurt today” example and would be a safety concern to note in the report. My reasoning is a person is more likely to get hurt in a kitchen/bathroom with a non protected receptacle and water than to have a fire start due to a loose connection on a system that has operated properly for twenty years.
Great topic gets the brain a working!
Jim McArthur

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Exactly! I have made it my own that I take the opportunity that if something “CAN” be upgraded that they should consider it “IF THEY WOULD LIKE.” I tell every client on the consultation phone call that “I’m there to inform you of every thing that is deficient, whether or not you, me or an agent considers something major or minor, because you (the client) are the only one that can make that judgment.” I also tell them that “if something is wrong, it’s wrong, and I don’t care what year that deficiency was ok in because it’s 2020 not 1970.”
Lastly, I talk every one of my clients out of the “I’m not there to nit pick or beat up the home buyer and I only care about major things” mentality. I ALWAYS tell them that they should not be shy nor feel guilty for wanting to be nit picky because they’re spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a house to live in and raise a family and feel safe and they deserve to feel like that. It opens their eyes and without a doubt, every single time they feel more confident in me and their decisions whether to buy or not. That’s what separates me from my competition.

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The euphemism I have used for years to replace “code” is “current safety standards.” If you use the word code in your report the agent will try to shoot it down with the grandfathered crap. Your “current safety standards” should refer to code as Marcel pointed out and certain remodels and upgrades (water heaters, furnaces, kitchens, baths…) have to be done to the current code at time of installation.


Are you saying a home built in the 1950 that does not have GFCI Receptacles should not be noted as a defect or a recommendation? I use Home Gauge software and the only choice I have is to report is (RR) Repair Replace or (IN) Inspected- Satisfactory (NI) Not Inspected (NP) Not Present. Any of your comments would be appreciated.

Not at all. I also use Home Gauge and you can change those headings if you like. I use them as they are and simply mark as NP if there are no GFCI’s. I have created various attachments that I use to explain different components or needs. One explains the difference between AFCI and GFCI and their need. Lots of confusion over acronyms. If the Bathrooms were remodeled they should have been brought up to code in most jurisdictions. Same with Kitchens.

You’ve already gotten some great responses here but I’ll provide my 2 cents, whatever thats worth.

  1. As others have noted, don’t quote codes, as to how i determine what I decide is safe or not, I often refer to current best practices, as well as my own subjective opinion.

  2. During my time with the clients, while I’m describing my process and procedures I explain to them that nothing I bring up “has” to be done, and while I’m not a code inspector, I’m in many cases calling out current standards, as well as best practices and what I consider safe. So while I may find an open ended handrail dangerous, they may not, and in that case they may decide not to do anything.

  3. Back to the actual report narrative, as others have noted, current best practices, current acceptable standards, or even “upgrade opportunities”. For example, the house I’m currently in has all 2 prong receptacles, while this isn’t a defect, nor really a safety issue, an upgrade opportunity may be to install 3 prongs. I bring it to their attention so they’re aware that plugging in some modern devices may be difficult unless they upgrade, or add GFCI’s properly labeled.

Hope that made sense. Happy inspecting.

Hi everyone. I enjoy learning from all of you and read the forum daily. I have been inspecting for 30 years and still enjoy the learning aspect of our trade!
I have developed my own report form which is very customizable and easy to read for my clients. I have a summary page which has 4 areas.

Deferred maintenance
Notes (low ambient temperatures didn’t allow the operation of the AC)
Recommendations. I don’t use the recommendations on every report but before listing the recommendations I state: The following are items that were properly installed or constructed at the time the property was built and are not considered defects but when considering future comfort or additional resale value the following items are recommended for future upgrade: then I list the recommendations. Things like you have all mentioned like GFCI outlets and I like Robert’s use of “current safety standards” I have used “current building standards” in the past.

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Welcome back to our forum, Tim!..Enjoy! :smile: