Choosing a Home Inspector. Should I hire a “Deal Killer”? You betcha. But make sure they are a Deal Killer for the right reasons.
Would you buy a car from Fast Eddy, a shady used car dealer around the corner, and also use his mechanic to check it out? If not, why would you use the home inspector that the realtor suggests?
I personally feel that there should be a firewall between agent and inspector. Here is a simple truth you should keep in mind when choosing your home inspector: The Home Inspection profession is controlled by the real estate industry. The vast majority of home inspectors get their inspections directly from realtors. In fact, often, the client/buyer doesn’t even talk to the inspector that will be inspecting their house until the time of the inspection. The agent’s job, listing or selling, is to sell the house. That’s the only way they get paid. What incentive does the agent have to provide/suggest, the best home inspector? In fact, isn’t the agent’s incentive just the opposite? Wouldn’t it be easier for the agent to suggest a bad inspector, so they can get the house sold and move on to the next one?
The two most important Items when choosing an inspector to inspect the major investment you are contemplating are Experience and Independence.
Experience is critical, but if your inspector is not Independent, from agents and their referrals, you will likely not get the benefit of the inspector’s experience. The inspector will have to make a choice between providing you with potentially valuable information that exceeds the “standards” and losing the agents referrals.
Deal Killer? YES, I am, and I’m PROUD of IT. You pay me to give you information that could potentially kill the deal. If you are purchasing a house, do you want a “deal killer” or an inspector that gets most of their business from the agent?
Barry Stone, a known home inspector/consultant/talk show host puts it this way:
“One of the most controversial of all home inspection topics, stirring the ire of veteran inspectors and drawing defensive reactions from real estate professionals everywhere. The very idea that agents are the primary source of home inspector referrals is a clear and obvious conflict of interest. Yet most home buyers never seem to give this a thought. They simply hire the agent’s favorite home inspector, without asking if this is the best inspector available.”
What possible advantage is there for an agent to suggest the most qualified inspector?
”It’s not unlike purchasing a used car from Fast Eddy, a shady car dealer, and also using his mechanic to check it out. Only, houses are a little more of an investment.
I don’t really believe I have ever “killed” a deal. But, I have seen a lot of houses commit suicide during my home inspections.
Keep reading and I’ll tell you why. Additionally, keep this fact in mind. I don’t market, advertise, schmooze, belong to realtor associations, or suck up to agents. You will not find any of my cards/brochures in their offices. Why? Because I am a completely / 100% independent home inspector.
There are basically three reasons that would cause a home inspector to be branded a “Deal Killer”. Once you have that designation, word spreads through the agency like wildfire.
- The first is an inspector that overreacts to their findings, an alarmist, making a big deal out of a minor item and scaring the client/buyer. I’ve heard agents say that this is to justify their fee. Even if I found nothing wrong, my fee would be more than justified simply by the education on your house, I provide you during the inspection, in your report and by being available after you move in.
- The second reason is an inspector that does not make sure the client keeps things in perspective. I do agree that Perspective is critical. Not being able to explain the relevance of a problem in reference to the whole picture is indeed a sign of inexperience.
I don’t tend to fit either of these categories. I am actually very good at not overacting and keeping things in perspective. Having built, remodeled, renovated and inspected and even moved houses for nearly 5 decades I know that everything can be fixed, repaired or replaced. And I often give suggestions for improvements. I’m also very good at making sure the client understands the relevance/perspective, of what I find. All houses have problems and they need to be viewed in conjunction with the strong points. So they don’t call me a deal killer for these reasons.
The third is an inspector that provides more information than the agent thinks is necessary. THIS ONE IS ME.
The vast majority of home inspectors have a “go along –get along” relationship with realtors. Or perhaps, better stated as “to get along – you must go along”. They do indeed market / advertise, heavily, to real estate agents/agencies and they get most or all of their work from agents. And I completely understand this. After all, that is where the buyers are. But in order to keep the agents happy and to continue getting their referrals, all too often, compromises are made in amount and quality of information they provide. So even though they are supposed to be working exclusively for you, they are to some degree working for the person who is most likely to give them future business, the agent. This is especially true for multi-inspector firms, franchises, and newer inspectors.
When choosing a home inspector, you have several levels of choice: You can hire a new inspector with significantly less experience, and likely totally dependent on the agents’ referrals. But probably less expensive. Note: New is a relative term. I would say less than 10 years. However, that’s easy for me to say because, at 68 years, I am clearly not new.
- You can go with a multi-inspector firm or franchise. (Possibly even more dependent on the agent’s referrals because they have several inspectors they need to keep busy.) You’ll schedule with the secretary/order taker and get the inspector who is available for your time slot. You probably will not know who it is until they show up at the house. But hey, it’s like toilet paper, there may be minor differences, but they all do basically the same thing. Please don’t do this. Talk to the inspector that is going to do your inspection. Additionally, don’t have your realtor call, you call. Who inspects such a large investment as a house you are purchasing, is important.
- Or you can hire an old SOB with gray hair and years of experience. Someone who gives you his honest, no sugar added opinion, bad or good. The guy who gives you more information than you need and can do so because of his the credentials, certifications, experience, and because he doesn’t give a **** what the agent does or doesn’t want you to know.
The choice of the Home Inspector potentially could be the most important decision you make during the purchase of a home or building. I urge you to take a few minutes to investigate the inspector that will be inspecting your purchase. Relying only on the recommendation of your realtor is not always a good idea.
The 7 things you need to find out before you chose a home inspector.
You are here because you need a home or building inspection and you’re ready to pay someone for this information. As you do your search, keep this in mind. The single most important aspect of any home/building inspection is the knowledge and experience of the home inspector that you chose and their ability to communicate that information to you. I have two daughters in their 30’s and after almost 5 decades of experience, if they needed home inspections, and I couldn’t do them, here is what I would tell them to look for in a home inspector. Below, in order of importance, are the 7 things you need to find out about your inspector.
- What is your inspector’s experience, background, certifications? What associations does he/she belong to?
I say again: The single most important aspect of any home/building inspection is the knowledge and experience of the home inspector that you chose and their ability to communicate that information to you. You are about to pay someone for information on something equivalent to the cost of a major medical operation. Would you want the doctor with experience or the one just out of med school? And, isn’t more experience better?
About checking out Home Inspector Associations and “Certifications”:
Some associations only require you to pay your dues to become a “Certified Home Inspector”. Others require that you have minimum training or experience. ASHI (The American Society of Home Inspectors) is by far the most difficult association for a Home Inspector to become a full member of. It is indeed the gold standard in home inspector certification. See the ASHI page of this website for a full explanation of why membership in ASHI is the best you can get. Full membership shows an additional level of commitment to the profession.
Certifications: Don’t really mean much anymore unless you investigate what was required to obtain that certification. Today, you can become a certified anything with a 4-hour course. I’ll be more than happy to explain why my Certifications are the real thing. Example: There is a big difference between the 4-hour Infrared certification and the Level II Infrared Thermographer which required 2 full weeks of intensive study about the science behind Infrared and in my case, building science.
- Is your Inspector Independent? Be sure your inspector is working for you!!! And not the agent. You should be getting an advocate with only your interests in mind The very idea that agents are the primary source of home inspector referrals is a clear and obvious conflict of interest. Yet most home buyers never seem to give this a thought. They simply hire the agent’s favorite inspector, without asking if this is the best one available. Do Not blindly assume that the agent is providing you with a list of thorough, qualified home inspectors. Do some homework!! Realtors have absolutely no incentive to offer, provide, suggest, or recommend a through, qualified, experienced home inspector. In fact, their incentive is just the opposite.
- Talk to the inspector that will be doing your inspection. Not the secretary, not the order taker, not the answering service, not the spouse. And don’t order a home inspection on the internet. Take some time to interview them over the phone. Ask questions! How many inspections have they done, how many a day, how long is an inspection, what’s the process. Who do you feel comfortable with? They may be the most technically astute inspector in the world but if you can’t communicate with them move on.
- Find out about the inspection report. When all is said and done, the home inspection report is what it’s all about. There are many different types of reports. Some are very minimal, some are confusing, and some provide information about systems that your house may not even have. Others particularly franchise or multi-inspector company reports are so lawyered up that when they call something a defect by the time you are done reading about it, you’re glad you have it.
- Inspectors availability for questions/guidance after the inspection. Once I do an inspection for you I am your lifetime house/building expert. Any question you have, just call me. I have saved my clients’ countless thousands of dollars.
- Pick the one with the “Deal Killer” Reputation. See comments at the beginning of this section.
- Price. Notice that this is last on the list. Not that it isn’t important, especially if you are using every penny you have to purchase the “house of your dreams”. But the Home Inspection is one place you don’t want to take a shortcut. Experience, Training, certifications, and continuing education don’t come cheap and therefore, my expertise isn’t going to be cheap either. If you were hiring a doctor to cure you of a serious disease would you hire the cheapest one or the one with the most experience and best credentials? There are vast differences between inspectors, inspectors experience, inspector’s accreditation, inspector’s methods, and inspection reports.
It frustrates me when the first question asked by a potential client is “How Much does it cost”. It’s like going to a dealership that sells Rolls Royce and Yugos, and asking “how much is a car? It tells me how little they know about the importance of hiring the right Home Inspector and how much the inspector does for them. You’re not buying a roll of paper towels or toilet paper. You’re buying information, and the quality and quantity of that information are what’s important. When hiring a home inspector, you should be getting an advocate with only your interests in mind to give you their expert opinion on the home’s condition. With that in mind, making sure that you’re hiring an inspector with plenty of experience, knowledge, and training means not shopping for one by price alone. Experience, Training, certifications, and continuing education don’t come cheap to the inspectors and therefore, their expertise isn’t going to be cheap either. If you were hiring a doctor to cure you of a serious disease would you hire the cheapest one or the one with the most experience and best credentials
When it comes to home inspections – as with most things – you get what you pay for. Saving a few dollars could turn the “house of your dreams” into a nightmare.