Seattle Home Inspector's Blog


Long IS better!


I have blogged about this in the past, but it apparently deserves repeating.

Why do agents, when they are calling for repairs, “short hand” what the inspector has written?

Here is a fairly typical, request for servicing of a furnace on a flipped home:

Furnaces this age should be serviced annually.  I recommend servicing of this furnace prior to the next heating season.  Servicing should include cleaning of the interior of the furnace compartment, inspecting the furnace venting system over its entire run to the cap above the roof, and evaluation for carbon monoxide, in conjunction with all other normal servicing aspects performed by the qualified heating contractor.  Conditions not noted at the time of inspection should be anticipated, especially with older units.

The condensate visible at the vent connectors and in the heating unit compartment is indicative of issues with the combustion and venting of the furnace----including inadequate combustion/dilution air.  I recommend further evaluation/correction by licensed heating contractor in conjunction with overall servicing of the unit.

Because the ductwork has been impacted by dust related to apparent use of the system during construction, I recommend professional cleaning of the ductwork by  a qualified party.  Bring to the attention of the builder.  Drywall dust inside the blower compartment of the furnace is consistent with this opinion.

The heating system duct work could benefit from invasive cleaning.  I recommend that the ductwork be cleaned by a qualified duct cleaning company.  Cleaning at this level should include removal of all distribution grilles and high pressure air cleaning with the system under negative pressure.  Great care must be taken in choosing a duct cleaning company that will do everything possible to limit the amount of debris from duct cleaning finding its way into the living environment.

The electronic air cleaner was turned off/abandoned at the time of inspection and is VERY dirty.  I recommend professional cleaning of the unit.  No determination was made as to why the unit was turned off----I recommend asking seller or verify proper operation with licensed heating contractor at the time of servicing.  This unit should not be operated until proper cleaning as been performed.  Typically cleaning instructions can be found on line.  More information about these air cleaners can be found at the link below:

Electronic Air Cleaner Information,

List of the "minimum" inspection items to be expected of furnace servicing:

   1. Inspect heat exchanger.

   2. Inspect and operate heating controls, calibrate and program thermostat.

   3. Check ignitor & clean pilot orifice, adjust flame.

   4. Check and adjust main burners for proper combustion

   5. Inspect and operate furnace safety devices.

   6. Check draft and vent or motor assembly.

   7. Inspect drive-sheaves, pulleys, and belts.  Adjust tension.

   8. Lubricate all motors and shaft bearings.

   9. Change and/or clean filters.

   10. Check and adjust air-flow, and temperature differential

   11. Check unit smoke detector, clean filter--if applicable

   12. Inspect piping and valves for gas leaks.

   13. Verify proper operation/function of the whole house ventilation damper and system.

   14. This list is meant to be suggestive as opposed to definitive as every appliance has different requirements and protocols.


I know, ITS LONG

Almost ANYONE would want to “shorthand” it.  However, if all of the information above does not convey to the people that are going to do the work, will the necessary work get done?  Will it get done even if it is conveyed fully?  (The second question is rhetorical and a whole other question.)

Here is the gist of how the above recommendation was “shorthanded.”

“Ductwork is to be cleaned, furnace serviced and filters cleaned.”

What do you think the chances are of this getting the job done?  In my experience—pretty much zero chance.

Now here is the kicker.  When I am called back to re-inspect to see if work was done as asked for, am I going to be looking for repairs consistent with what I asked for, or what the agent asked for?

Is there really a question here?

So when the receipt for the work is on the kitchen countertop, and the seller points to the vacuum cleaner wand-mark in the ductwork and the less clogged furnace pre-filter as proof of meeting the buyer’s request for repairs, what will the buyer have to argue that the work was not done “as requested?”













Sure the inspection report recommendation is long, but which request has a ghost of a chance of getting things done as requested, in a professional manner, and is less open to “interpretation?”

Which recommendation is more likely to get all the parties where they want to go--on time! 

Long can be better.


Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

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Comment balloon 20 commentsCharles Buell • August 19 2014 10:44AM


Regular maintenance is much cheaper and healthier in the long run. I have to confess that I haven't maintained or cleaned the air ducts since we moved into our house. It is way overdue and I am sure it will be much healthier.


Posted by Les & Sarah Oswald, Broker, Realtor and Investor (Realty One Group) almost 6 years ago

Just give me the "Cliff's Notes" version.  No, don't!  Write it out long, like Charles Buell does.  Then the needed repair will be properly completed.   

Posted by Fred Griffin Tallahassee Real Estate, Licensed Florida Real Estate Broker (Fred Griffin Real Estate) almost 6 years ago

Hi Charles - I'm a big fan of your blog but I think you might be too quick to judge the realtor-side of the transaction.  Inspectors are hired to inspect and report, and a Realtor's job is to take that information and begin negotiations between the buyer and seller.  I'm not going to give you inspection advice, and I don't think you should be giving out transactional advice. (I say that with a big heart.)

Posted by Francine Viola, REALTOR®, In Tune with your Real Estate Needs (Coldwell Banker Evergreen Olympic Realty, Olympia WA) almost 6 years ago

Sarah, most people do not realize the amount of maintenance involved with electronic air cleaners---they are a real pain in the butt to clean as often as necessary.

Fred, it ain't easy that is for sure.

Francine, I indeed hear you, and I don't want to get involved with what the agent has to do at all.  But in a sense if the agent "rewrites" what I have written they are assuming the role of inspector and all liability shifts to them.  I am sure they don't intend this, but I am off the hook almost entirely.  It may be unintended consequences but.....

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 6 years ago


You old novelist you ;)

As a home inspector this has happened to me, on one occasion (this has happened more than once) I had been called by an electrical contractor who was trying to correct a condition that I reported. In this case the electrical contractor knew me and called to clear up what information he received and ensure it was accurate, which it was not. There was some key pieces of information that the electrician was missing to complete the repair correctly and in a timely manner. This would of cost the seller more money (time and materials) if he did not call me.

I think it is wise for all involved to report the conditions/recommendations as the inspector reports it. Then the reporting issues are firmly in the inspectors lap.

Posted by Donald Hester, NCW Home Inspections, LLC (NCW Home Inspections, LLC) almost 6 years ago

Hi Charles - You make a great point and I'm reminded of a fairly expensive lesson I learned early in my career when I provided a less than complete description in an inspection notice. Better wordy and safe than out $800.

Posted by Dick Greenberg, Northern Colorado Residential Real Estate (New Paradigm Partners LLC) almost 6 years ago

The cheapest thing to replace in a furnace is the air filter, and they make the system operate more efficiently and cleaner

Posted by Ed Silva, Central CT Real Estate Broker Serving all equally (RE/MAX Professionals, CT 203-206-0754 ) almost 6 years ago

I have always been bothered by the workers running the system while doing drywall or painting. It seems like an obvious no-no Charles.

Posted by Tom Arstingstall, General Contractor, Dry Rot, Water Damage Sacramento, El Dorado County - (916) 765-5366, General Contractor, Dry Rot and Water Damage (Dry Rot and Water Damage Mobile - 916-765-5366) almost 6 years ago

Hey there ,

that is so true! definitly longer is much better...

great post!


have a great day to you!

Posted by Christopher Lotte, Central Ohio Realtor, 614-390-9243 (Red 1 Realty) almost 6 years ago

I'm seeing so many filters that look like plaster has been applied. Especially the electronic filters. Do you find this also Charles?

Posted by Paul S. Henderson, REALTOR®, CRS, South Puget Sound Washington Agent/Broker! (Fathom Realty Washington LLC) almost 6 years ago

This kind of "repair" is so common! 

But, hey, you did say "invasive" cleaning!  And they invaded everything with the vacuum hose. 

So what's up with your disagreement?

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 6 years ago

And while I say this is very common, and it is, the whole thing can be chalked up to pretty funny as people think that what they did actually satisfies as proper or professional...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 6 years ago

We have gotten to where we attach the 'recommendation' page and reference it from our repair addendum.

Posted by Than Maynard, Broker - Licensed to List & Sell - 405-990-8862 (Coldwell Banker Heart of Oklahoma) almost 6 years ago

Don, exactly

Dick, I am a little perplexed why any agent would want to change the recommendation.  Well, except in the case of where the inspector's wording is unintelligible :)

Ed, yes---and the electronic ones need to be cleaned more often than most people realize

Tom, and voids warranties in some cases

Christopher, too much is never enough as they say :)

Paul, yes I see filters of all kinds caked like plaster when the equipment has been used during construction projects.  I think many people have the idea that electronic filters clean themselves electronically :)

Jay x2, there just ain't no figuring it out---and the receipt was on the counter and everything

Than, sounds like a great idea.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 6 years ago

Can't agree Charles.

Our home inspection addendum specifically requires identifying "defects".

Calling for further inspections of the parts of the furnace is not identifying a defect.  The home inspector is inspecting.  He then needs to identify defects.

The parties agree to an inspection and the inspection REPORT is sent to the buyer, identifying by page and # in the report of the defects the buyer wants repaired.

The identified repairs are negotiated.

When an agent recites or describes a repair request, there's room for error.

Best we simply cite to the defect identified by the inspector.

Posted by Lenn Harley, Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland (Lenn Harley,, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate) almost 6 years ago

Lenn, I am confused, isn't that what I said?

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 6 years ago

Extremely detailed and informative. And I would never write a recommendation in that manner.

It is not for me as the inspector to tell the service person how to perform their job. Yes I realize that many of them do not, as you and I well know. And therein lies the problem. First, I am not in charge of supervising how and who does the repairs. Yes it irritates me to no end when crap work is done, but I can not control that. And lets stop and think about a seller having the repairs performed. Do you honestly expect the seller to take great effort and pay top dollar to have a quality job performed by a quality company? I'm not being cynical, I'm being a realist. In my opinion, the seller should not be making any repairs. The defects should be negotiated as money off the price of the house. The buyer should be in charge of making the repairs. In that way they have control and none of the stuff (we hope) you describe occurs. Or at least there is less chance of it happening. And then if we and our clients choose, we can be involved in the repair process. 

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) almost 6 years ago

Yes, Jim---I write for the buyer.  The information give them guidance as to what to expect and a framwork to understand requested repairs.  I agree that the seller should be taken out of the equation when it comes to repairs.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 6 years ago

AMen to that!  Your recommendations are spot fact, my reminder for all our servicings are coming up too!

Posted by Kristin Johnston - REALTOR®, Giving Back With Each Home Sold! (RE/MAX Realty Center ) almost 6 years ago

Thanks Kristin, I think I need to follow my own advice as well

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 6 years ago