There are what feels like a million different things happening at once when you go under contract to buy a home. Gathering documentation for the mortgage, signing paperwork, dropping off your earnest money check, scheduling an appraisal, finding an inspector, lining up movers, worrying about getting out of your existing lease — it all happens so fast.
That’s likely one big reason why so many buyers feel overwhelmed and confused by the time the inspection rolls around — and even more bewildered when the inspector sends over their report summarizing the findings of the walkthrough.
“We see a lot of clients who get the ‘deer in the headlights’ look at some point during the inspection,” says Welmoed Sisson, a certified home inspector in Maryland.
Especially if you’re buying your first home, deciphering a home inspection report can feel like trying to learn a new language. I checked in with real estate experts to better understand some often confusing terms and components of home inspection reports. Here’s what I learned.
End of Serviceable Life/Average Lifespan
Just because a roof isn’t leaking doesn’t mean it won’t need to be replaced soon. Every appliance, item, or system in a home has a serviceable life/average lifespan, Sisson says, and inspectors may flag those that a buyer should prepare to replace in the near future.
“One of the biggest examples of this is decks,” she says. “Most clients are shocked to hear that the average lifespan for a deck is only 12 to 15 years.”
If something isn’t working or functioning as intended, on the other hand, the inspector will use the word “defective” to describe it, Sisson says.