I often hear the argument that if a component in the home is “serviceable” inspectors should not have anything to say about it—negatively at least. It is as if a label of “serviceable” covers the item with a comfortable blanket of protection, and we don’t need to mention the fact that it is 20 years past its life expectancy.
Let’s discuss the word “serviceable” for a moment. It is one of those words that have very little meaning in the context of a description about a component of a home.
It sounds too much like something waiting for a grease gun, an HVAC technician, or a cow waiting for artificial insemination.
I know what it is “intended” to mean, and I think there are much better ways to say it that actually does justice to the component being described.
For example, is it more accurate to say that the faucet is serviceable or that water came out? You might want to then qualify the description with the amount that actually flowed or that the amount would not “typically” be sufficient or any other “qualifier” that fits what is actually going on.
As inspectors, I think we have to be careful about trying to find one word that covers all kinds of scenarios.
I am sure we have all seen those reports that read like a recipe:
Doors & Windows—–serviceable
These are typically the kinds of language that is common with reports that are produced on site or that are the reports of inspectors doing 2 and 3 inspections a day.
So lets look at what is “expected” of a faucet?
#1. For water to come out, (pretty basic, but really isn’t that about it?)
Then there is the long list of things that would modify that “basic” expectation. Nothing else really needs to be said about the faucet unless there is something about the “coming out” that departs from the basic expectation, like:
1. Not enough water
2. No water
3. Not hot enough
4. Too hot
5. Sprays all over the place
6. Runs rusty
7. Runs blue
So, we might say something like, “Water flowed, and sprayed all over the countertop making the room blue. I recommend repairs by qualified repair person to prevent spraying of water all over the bathroom.” It takes more words, but accurately describes what is going on. To say that the faucet is serviceable actually tells the listener that the thing is either “ready to be serviced” or that it is “able” or “in a position” to be serviced.
I think some inspectors are lazy and/or scared to death of words. Some of the “canned” language of the commercially available report software dictate this approach as well. Either way, it is the consumer that ends up with useless, unintelligible reports, which are passed off as “information.”
Remember though, it is the nature of language in general to not always convey “exactly” the same thing to every person no matter how vigilant we are. However, if we just tell the story—-as opposed to attempt to write in “shorthand”—-the risk of miscommunication or no communication goes way down. Especially if we stay away from “useless” words all together.
Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector
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