As anyone that has followed my blog for any length of time knows, photography is my primary note taking tool during an inspection. I VERY rarely write anything down during an inspection. I have developed a list of ways to photograph things that could perhaps be easy to write down–but why bother when it takes so much less time to snap a picture. If I have something that is only evident by “movement” I will shoot a couple of seconds of video of the issue–like a poorly secured gas line swinging back and forth.
Not only do I use it as a means of documenting what I am seeing, but it essentially enables me to repeat the inspection while I am working on the report back in the comfort of my office with KEXP on in the background (available by internet connection pretty much everywhere).
Some inspectors would have you believe that they catch everything the first go-around on an inspection. Most experienced inspectors know otherwise–however painful it may be to admit it. Every inspector knows that when they walk around the house one direction they find things. They know when they walk around the home in the other direction they find things they missed the first time. In time, most inspectors develop ways to check themselves–to help themselves not miss things–or as little as possible. Through this process most inspectors hopefully don’t miss anything major.
Photography is one of my primary tools to keep track of myself.
There have been countless times where, during the writing of the report, I have found things in pictures that I not only missed at the time of inspection but also would have had no way of seeing at the time of inspection. For example I will run my arm up a tunnel where the neighbor’s cat has made a path under the porch and shoot a few “blind” pictures of the space under the porch—to be looked at later on the computer screen. This gives me better information in how to language what I am going to say about the lack of access under that porch. One time I found a large pile of materials known to contain asbestos. One time I got a picture of the cat. Out of sight–out of mind I guess.
It is pretty rare for me to take less than 350 pictures on an inspection. Sometimes as many at 600 on larger homes. I have had commercial inspections with over a thousand pictures. I have gotten to the point where I can see a relationship between how many pictures I have taken and how much “hell-to-pay” I am going to have doing the report. 300 pictures on a 1000 sq ft rental property is a much nastier report than 300 pictures on a 3000 sq ft new construction home.
The other day I did an inspection where I was specifically taking a picture of the main water shut-off and the water meter.
When I got home and was looking at the picture I could see where a “T” had been installed in the line previous to the water meter. I had no chance to trace the line–because I did not see the issue until I saw it on my computer–I don’t know what purpose the line was serving.
I seriously doubt that most jurisdictions would approve of tapping into the main water line prior to the meter.
Regardless, this is an issue that is worth bringing to the attention of the buyer for further evaluation. I wish that I had noticed it at the time of inspection–but I didn’t. So having a second chance to catch the issue with the photographs was better than missing it all together.
By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle
If you enjoyed this post, and would like to get notices of new posts to my blog, please subscribe via email in the little box to the right. I promise NO spamming of your email 🙂