Wednesday, April 28, 2021

What Makes a Home Inspector Good

What makes a home inspector good? That will depend a lot on who you ask. For sure the home buyer or seller will have a different point of view compared to a real-estate agent. The home buyer wants an inspector that is going to be honest about the house they are considering to purchase. The buyer wants to know if there are any serious flaws with the house, and issues with the structure, roof, basement. How is the electricity and plumbing? Are there going to be any surprises when they move in. Is the furnace going to break down in the dead of winter? Will the air conditioner work when needed most in the heat of summer?

Sometimes the home buyers expectations of the home inspection are unrealistic. Sometimes they expect to find out everything that ever was wrong with the house. Sometimes they expect to find out everything that ever was done to the house. Sometimes they expect the home inspector to see through walls. And sometimes they expect the home inspector to be a fortune teller.

Above all, the home buyer expects the home inspector to give an honest, trustworthy opinion about the present condition of the property they are about to purchase. To the buyer, that is what makes a home inspector good. Often this goes directly against the desires of the real-estate agent!

If the real-estate agents had it their way, they wouldn't want you to have the home inspected at all. A home inspection only complicates things for them. However, a condition of a home inspection is almost a standard clause now in a purchase agreement. And why is that. For two basic reasons:

  • it reduces their liability (the home inspector becomes liable in the event of a problem down the road)
  • it satisfies their requirement for full disclosure

No matter what you think, YOUR real-estate agent is always working the the seller. The agent always wants to get as much commission as possible. That means they don't want any complications from the home inspection to reduce the selling price and hence reduce their commission. Real-estate agents want the home inspector to find nothing wrong with the home so the buyer will remove all conditions immediately after the inspection is completed. Even if there are things wrong with the home, the agent will want the buyer to remove conditions immediately.

Now think about the typical relationship between the home inspector and the real-estate agent. Most home inspectors get 90% of their business by referrals from real-estate agents. The real-estate agents commission is directly related to a favorable home inspection. If the home inspector wants to continue getting referrals, he better make the home look good.

From the point of view of the real-estate agent, a good home inspector is one that works fast, does not find too much wrong with the house, down-plays anything that is wrong with the house, and generally works with the agent to make sure the house gets sold easily and quickly. To the agent, a good home inspector is someone who will work with him, not against him.

This wasn't a game I wanted to play. As a result, I don't get as much work as other home inspectors in my area, but at least with the work I do get the buyer knows I am going to give my honest opinion of the property.

I have had agents tell me not to be a deal-breaker. I have had agents tell me not to scare their clients. I have had agents ask for kick-backs if they referred me. I have had agents tell me that home inspectors need to work closer with agents to make sure the home gets SOLD! I have had agents tell me that the condition of a home inspection should be changed to remove the option to back out of the purchase unless something serious with the house is discovered. Now what qualifies as serious.

I recently inspected a home and found extensive mold in the crawlspace due to the insulation and vapor barrier being installed incorrectly. The support beams were also rotten due to the high humidity in the crawlspace. We are talking about serious coin to get this fixed. Guess what? The real-estate agent immediately started to downplay the seriousness of the problems and suggested the cost would only be a few hundred dollars to fix. The couple looking at the home didn't want the house after these problems where discovered. But you know what? The real-estate agent talked them into purchasing it anyways.

Is this agent really providing a service to his clients? Or does he just want the commission? If they bought the house knowing there were problems, then he's not liable right?

All this being said, agents will only recommend home inspectors that will make their job easier. If you are purchasing a new home, I suggest you go with the home inspector the agent doesn't want to use.

Seacliff Inspections
Windsor Home Inspector

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