I often hear consumer advocates advise homebuyers to look for a home inspector on their own and not rely solely on the short list of inspectors on their real estate agents list. While this advice may appear to be helpful, it does not go far enough to protect you the homebuyer from the conflict of interest that so often exists in the relationship between agents and inspectors. It is a fact that most home inspectors rely heavily on agents for referrals. Far too often that dependence is so strong that the inspector can’t have a viable business without these referrals.
If you simply start searching around for an inspector who is not on your agents list, the odds are that you will find an inspector who wants to be on your agents list. This can mean that the inspector you hire on your own, will see the inspection of the home you are buying as an audition, a chance to show your agent and possibly even the listing agent that he can be “fair to the house.” That he is not an “alarmist” and that he will not be a “deal killer.” When you are looking for a home inspector who will work only for you, a member of the Independent Home Inspectors of North America is your best defense. IHINA members publicly commit to the highest ethical standards by not soliciting business from agents.
Insight Home Inspection, LLC
AC&E Home Inspection
We are the largest Inspection Company on Long Island with well over 100,000 inspections performed! F/T Licensed Engineers and Inspectors-we work 7 days a week, you will have a full report and checklist sent within 24 hours. We encourage you to be on site to ask questions and we will point out things along the way. We are the only company on LI that has a $15,000 Thermal Imaging Camera. Termite inspection is included. Call to find out about free Home Guarantee. Fully bonded and insured, we are members of ASHI, NAHI,NACHI and senior members of SPREI. We work for you and you only. Referred by your family, friends and lawyers- a company built on honesty and professionalism.
I would be proud to be listed on the “Independent Inspectors” website, and I certainly qualify. For the first three years I was in business, I dropped my flyers off at Real Estate offices hoping to build my sales through referrals. Once I realized what was expected for the referral, I stopped. I no longer want referrals from Real Estate Agents. I refuse to compromise my inspection report. I thought I was fighting this battle alone.
All of my colleagues say the right things, but many have proved, by their actions, where their allegiances lie. Then I received your e-mail. Thank you, I was getting pretty lonely. I am blacklisted in a number of local Real Estate offices, and many agents will discourage their clients from using me. Surprisingly though they recommend me to family and close friends. I have become somewhat cynical of our entire industry as I hear more successful inspectors refer to the number of agents in their “barn”, and in the next breath talk about their loyalty to the ‘house’.
As far as I can tell, the problem is rampant. It has progressed to the point here, that selling agents have acquired the services of my competitors, who are willing to put in writing that, ‘the crumbling foundation on this fourteen year old house is not a concern, it just needs parging’ or that ‘there is no horizontal cracking on this concrete block foundation wall’ and so on. This is both scary and sad. To me it indicates that we are way down that slippery slope. I think the Massachusetts decision has the potential to save the home inspection profession. Please count me in.
ASHI # 107152 OAHI # 103 WETT # 4176
I started doing home inspections part time in 1988. Business rapidly escalated to full time in 1990 basically through word of mouth. I had always felt that their may be a conflict between what I do as an inspector and realtors, so I made a decision not to market to realtors. I firmly believe that home inspectors should be working for the client that has hired them and not trying to solicit additional inspections from a realtor involved in the process. This decision has worked for me personally and professionally. I am able to work with the honesty, integrity and detail that I would expect some one to do for me, given the same position. We are fortunate to have this organization and look forward to being a member.
Peter H. Schaming
Excelsior Home Inspection Co. Inc.
I discovered very early by accompanying other inspectors than the consumer was not receiving very much information. The information provided was vague and hard to understand. The main focus seemed to be the protection of the inspector/Realtor relationship. This seemed to be acceptable by the consumer because they didn’t know any better. I believe the consumer should be informed of the condition of the home in detail down to the smallest items. I look at myself as a reporter. I report all the conditions to the consumer which allows them to make a well informed educated decision about their home purchase. I prefer to schedule only one inspection per day to allow me to dedicate all my resources to that individual. My focus is to protect the consumer, not a real estate agent’s commission.”
David L Lord
St Augustine, Florida
March 14, 2000
“I appreciate being linked to your website. It is encouraging to know that there are other home inspectors that believe that we should not be soliciting referral business from real estate agents. I appreciate those agents that seek my services and request that I give them business cards. They are familiar with my thorough reports and my reputation as a “deal killer.” It is by their actions that I believe they strive to fully serve and protect their client’s interests.
I am still angered when I have learned that my clients have been mislead and convinced by agents and other parties that I was blowing a reported defect out of proportion. In most cases my clients have had to later perform expensive major repairs and learned only too late that I had been trying to protect them. Due to the current real estate system, it is the home inspector that stands between the buyer and a potential problem. I feel that I am under a constant attack since I am known for my thorough home inspection reports. I have becomed certified by the Council of American Building Officials (CABO), The Exterior Design Institute (EIFS, synthetic stucco inspections) and becoming licensed in the State of South Carolina (I perform inspections in the lower western part of the state). I continue to serve as an ASHI candidate and am preparing for the National Home Inspectors Exam.
I look forward to the day when we will be represented by a national organization that encourages (or prohibits) its members to refrain from seeking realtor referrals.”
Registered CABO Inspector, #2723
Certified, Exterior Design Institute, #GA-16
Licensed Home Inspector, South Carolina, #418
All American Home Inspections, Inc.
Dear Mr. Robitaille,
The first couple of months that I was in business I walked into many a Realtor office and gave presentations about my service. It didn’t take long for me to realize this was not the way I wanted to generate business. I wrote to you for advice and have followed much of your marketing ideas. My business has picked up, about 60% of it is now from client referrals, while most of the rest is from mortgage companies. I would like to share a portion of a letter I received today that makes me believe that “independent” is the way to be:
Dear Mr. Larson, “We were very reassured throughout the inspection process that “WE” were the clients, not the other parties involved with the sale of the house. This was a great relief and reassurance. We would be happy to recommend your services to anyone.
I appreciate all that you have done and attempt to do for the home inspection business.
Jon L. Larson
Precision Property Inspection Service
Thanks for this opportunity to voice my opinion. Framingham Associates Incorporated has existed since 1977 for the purpose of providing service to our client, the home buyer. During the early years our inspections were called engineering inspections, then structural inspections, and now Home Inspections.
By nature, a new inspector solicits referrals from real estate sales people, the very people that need to “close the deal” to get paid. To obtain referrals, the new inspector must consider the sales person the primary client and as such must satisfy the sales person’s need to get paid. This is accomplished by reinforcing the buying decision, not by inspecting for defects. The relationship that often results is very similar to a used car salesperson recommending a mechanic for the purpose of inspecting a used car for a purchaser, an obvious problem in the eyes of most people. The attempt by sales people to control the Home Inspection process has become more open. This control extends to other professionals such as attorneys, appraisers, lenders, etc..
The results of your legislative efforts are a huge step in the right direction. The home buyer must be allowed to freely select all professionals involved in the purchase process.”
Delmar, New York
“I am writing to you concerning the article you wrote in the June 1995 issue of the ASHI Reporter. For the first time I saw a point of view much like mine, that was from an ASHI member. I have always been reluctant networking and marketing to Realtors and I agree with you 110%. I am proud of the inspection which I provide and perform for my clients. I believe every home inspection should be performed for the client and the client only. I report ALL defects and deficencies and allow my clients to determine whether or not those items are considered major or minor.”
John E Ferrero
I have been in the home inspection business since 1986. I have been “blackballed” at many real estate offices because I do a “thorough” inspection. I have actually had a real estate agent tell me, “I need a soft inspection on this property.” In the mind of the real estate industry, “thoroughness” and “competency” translates to “deal killer.” I’ve also had a broker call me and tell me his agents expect me to give a “balanced” inspection. You can read between the lines as to what an agent means when he says “balanced.” Word spreads quickly throughout the real estate office as to what home inspectors to avoid referring.
I strongly agree with your independent views. It seems as though a few Inspectors, say three or four, are on the same recirculated list and everyone else gets shut out. There is one inspection company here who places an agents name in a barrell for every referal. Then has a drawing for a free trip to Hawaii. I don’t think that this is quite ethical.
“Dear Mr. Robitaille, I was very pleased to encounter your site and to know that others believe that inspectors must be independent from agents and that buyers should be wary of referrals of inspectors from real estate agents. At the moment, I’m trying to get the New Brunswick government TO PROHIBIT REFERRALS TO INSPECTORS BY RE AGENTS ie: to change the REAL ESTATE AGENTS ACT. This ACT DOES NOTHING TO PROTECT THE CONSUMER. My web site is also a pro consumer site and I touch on many of the issues that you do.”
Chuk Mac Donald
When I decided to join IHINA it was the scariest thing I did. I too worked real estate offices and agents. Plenty of referrals, all the work I could handle. The reason I joined? Some of these agents started asking me to hide information in the report or not disclose it at all. Some would call and give me grief about the inspection findings and said they would not refer me anymore. Some even had the nerve to ask for Christmas gifts. When putting brochures in offices I would go back in only to find them in the trash. Breaking away from the real estate people hurt me for the first 6 months or so. Oh, I did get work, but not like before, but what a great feeling to say to the agent “I don’t need you or a referral from you”.
Now! I’m right back to where I was last year. All the work I can handle myself. This month is the first time I had to turn down inspections. Had a client call me Wednesday to book an inspection. The reason? He said his agent booked the home inspection with someone else and he thought, what a jerk, she’s on both sides of the sale! He found my web site and called. Scheduled with me and canceled the other inspector. This is happening more and more. The two things I did to improve my business was developing a web site and joining and promoting IHINA. I still have some agents refer me. Why? Because they are the true professionals and know I am also. They know what’s important to the buyer and themselves.
Keep up the good work promoting IHINA.
Absolute Home Inspections
The Demise of the Home Inspection Industry?
Ironic is probably too slight a word for the situation I see developing in our profession. Tragic would be nearer the point – tragic that our fellow inspectors are surrendering the high ideals of home inspection in favor of the quick buck. I see much evidence for this opinion and I would like to examine it here. The risk we as home inspectors run, is that our clients, the home buying public (not real estate agents as many inspectors and real estate agents seem to think) are beginning to get the idea that the inspection will be of little use to them. Once the public perceives that an inspection report is only a rubber-stamp for the benefit of the agent, we are sunk.
In 1996, we here in North Carolina had the opportunity to re-draw the home inspection map. That was when our licensing law became effective. Rather than subsume ourselves under the agent’s aegis, we at least managed to be put under the insurance agency here. What happened after that? We snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. For example, a mandatory real estate agent was appointed to the North Carolina Home Inspector Licensing Board [NCHILB] (apparently as a condition of even passing the law – do they ever have a lobby!) In fact, that real estate agent is now the Chairman of the Board. I wonder what response we would get if we demanded that an inspector be inducted to the Real Estate State Licensing Board?
In the view of many inspectors locally, however, the real plague of the industry currently is quick (40 min), cheap (2000 sq ft/$200 or less) inspections, only made ‘feasible’ by a constant supply of inspections from real estate agents and a first-line defense of inspectors if the client does complain. Agents must love short inspections. Only the most glaring defects are found (and sometimes not even then), the agent has no lengthy wait at the house, and the inspector opens him/her-self to any claim. Agents constantly tell me “I always recommend my customers have an inspection.” Sure – it gets the weight off their shoulders, but does that mean that they want a thorough inspection? If “quick” inspectors are merely playing the numbers game, good luck to them, however, they are denigrating an industry that many of us have worked hard to grow and make honest.
We are told by our Licensing Board that it is there to protect the public. Presumably this only extends to hitting inspectors for infringement of the Rules and Codes of Practice but not to educating the public about the basic rules of inspections e.g that agents have the industry sewn-up. Our Board dare not offend the agents, such is their presumed power. I would welcome all such boards to wage open warfare on realtor boards, to bring home to the public just how they are being misled. Do I expect the NCHILB to do this? Never! It is easier for it to control inspectors rather than real estate agents.
What can we inspectors do? Well, local inspector associations will never achieve anything because they are scared of agents’ reactions, and such associations are often run by inspectors who rely upon real estate agents for business. We should support organizations like IHINA – and advertise bluntly, that we are the only independent inspectors and proclaim the benefits of using us.
The English Inspector