New Inspector’s Perspective On Home Inspection Field

I’m a journeyman carpenter and work as a project manager/ estimator for a commercial general contractor. This limits me to generally less than 40 full inspections a year. However, nearing retirement, this is what I want now. Since becoming an inspector in 2011, I have come to develop a small but loyal referral base from past clients. I started out soliciting real estate agents and discovered quickly what was expected to get inspection client leads. Since I failed to deliver on those expectations, I’m pretty much blackballed by the agents. The latest comment from a broker to my client’s agent was, “He always says things are a problem”. This due to my finding faulty paperwork with the local health department on a second septic tank on the property for a work shop bathroom.

Other comments I “take too long” and I’m “too thorough”. I had one agent that was sending a number of client leads, but those referrals have pretty much stopped. She says I scare her buyers. When she last confronted me about this, I asked if she wanted me to not tell the buyer X, Y or Z. I don’t think that went over well.

My step son, a loan originator, helped me starting out by referring some of the agents he works with. After the third one was referred to me, he asked me to come in to discuss my inspection methods. He basically stated that I need to “go along to get along”. I politely listened, then asked if he wanted his auto mechanic to do that for his daughter’s car. That ended the conversation.

From my involvement in web forums it’s painfully obvious there are a very limited number of inspectors really interested in helping their clients, but a vast number who think this profession is an easy pass to big dollars and the quickest way to get there by prostituting themselves to the agents.

Based on what I have seen in this field for the last 5 years, I’m confident I have made the right moral decision to follow the path your organization has also chosen.

Bill Hawkins

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Bill Hawkins

Hawkeye Inspection Service, LLC

Cell 502-608-9479


Using A True Independent Home Inspector

Like most home inspectors who have been around the block, I have encountered real estate agents who have tried to either undermine, down play, minimize or argue away many of the defects or issues found during an inspection. The more issues found, the more negotiations that may be required to finalize a sale or worst the sale may fall through. Many inspectors, especially new ones, find themselves perplexed when finding serious defects, for fear future inspection client referrals from the agent may be in jeopardy. As a result many inspectors learn to approach the home inspection with “kid gloves”, using calm and non-alarming language to explain away serious issues.

As home inspectors our job is to uncover and disclose defects, safety issues and other items that could cause harm or present the client with unanticipated expenses. We should be educating our clients to the best of our ability about the property condition. We should not be minimizing issues by making statements like; “a lot of homes have this issue”, nor should we be; “blowing stuff” out of proportion. Inspectors should clearly and accurately convey to the client the actual observed property conditions. Dealing with the findings is up to the parties involved with the sale, not the inspector. If the buyer, seller and agent can’t come to agreeable terms for the sale, it’s not the fault of the inspector.

So do you want an inspector who’s more concerned about future agent referrals than one who reports, without reservation, the actual property conditions? Hiring a “real” independent home inspector is one way to insure you will receive such an inspection and report.
Dennis Robitaille
MA License #007
NH License #111
Inspecting homes in MA, NH & ME since 1983.

Truth about real estate agent-referred inspectors

(The opinions and views expressed on this page do not represent the views of all home inspectors. The views and opinions expressed here may not necessarily apply in all areas of the country. These comments are based on personal experiences, feedback from home inspection clients, conversations with home inspectors, attorneys and real estate agents and written correspondence from a MA State Representative.)
What’s Wrong With A Real Estate Agent Recommending A Particular Home Inspector To A Prospective Home Buyer? Most real estate agencies work on an average commission of 5% paid by the seller of the property. On a house selling for $350,000 there is a potential commission of $17,500. (FYI, real estate commissions are negotiable.) Sometimes a selling agent will recommend particular home inspectors to a prospective buyer, sometimes a list of three is given out. Who are these recommended inspectors? How did they “qualify” to get on the “approved” list of the agent? Is the agent recommending a thorough non-bias inspector or is the agent recommending someone who will help protect the potential $17,500 commission?
Do prospective home buyers have the right to use an inspector of their own choosing? If a real estate agent tells you that you cannot use an inspector of your choosing, or insists that you use one of their “recommended” or “approved” inspectors, you should contact your attorney. A real estate broker or sales agent who tries to get you to use an inspector of the agent’s choice is trying to control the home inspector selection process. Prospective home buyers must keep in mind that real estate agents who receive a commission from the property seller, are working in the best interest of their client, (the seller.) As the prospective home buyer, you are a customer of the agent, not a client. As the prospective home buyer, shouldn’t the home inspector you’re paying for, be working in your best interest?
What Is A “Deal Killer”? The derogatory phrase “deal killer” is often used by real estate agents to describe independent home inspectors who give buyers objective information in an inspection report, which may lead the buyer to renegotiate or to look at other properties. Many real estate agents view independent home inspectors as a challenge to their ability to generate income. They view these “deal killers” as foes and will use a number of tactics to control the inspector selection process to make sure that the prospective buyers do not retain independent home inspectors.
How Does A Real Estate Agent Control The Inspector Selection Process? There are many tactics used, some subtle and some not so subtle. The agent may discourage the potential buyer from using a certain inspector by making comments like: “That inspector is a deal killer”, or “that inspector takes too long” or “we’ve had trouble with that inspector” or “that inspector is too expensive.”
Tactics used to encourage a prospective buyer to use a particular inspector include: “We’ve had good luck with this inspector” or “this inspector has the lowest fee” or “we use this inspector all the time”. Some agents may have a list of three inspectors who have been carefully screened not to be deal killers. The list, however, will be long enough to protect the agent from any referral liability should the buyer want to blame the agent for any inspection mistakes.
A home inspector licensing law was passed in Massachusetts (became effective May, 2001.) This law, to some degree, does address the potential conflict of interest of real estate agents referring home inspectors. The new law amended Chapter 112 section 87YY of the MA Real Estate Broker and Salesperson Licensing Law. It prohibits real estate brokers and salespersons from directly recommending a specific home inspection company or home inspector. Instead, upon request, the agents must provide a complete list of licensed home inspectors prepared by the Board of Home Inspectors. (So far, MA is the only state which has this provision.) The prohibition does not apply if there is a written agreement between the buyer and real estate broker that the broker is acting exclusively for the buyer as a buyer’s broker. Potential buyers must still be aware that regardless of who the real estate agent claims to be working for, his or her commission is still coming from the successful closing of the sales transaction.
Why Don’t Home Inspectors Organize And Change The Current Control Real Estate Agents Have Over The Inspector Selection Process? You would think inspectors would welcome the opportunity to allow prospective home buyers freely choose a home inspector. Unfortunately many inspectors rely upon real estate agents to steer clients their way. This is especially true for large multi-inspector firms. In a free marketplace, companies that offer a poor product or provide a poor service eventually go out of business. In the world of home inspection, there is an artificial marketplace controlled by real estate agents. This allows “agent friendly” inspectors to stay in business, regardless of their inspection abilities.
What About Inspectors Who Claim To Be Independent, But Don’t Belong To IHINA? Many inspectors who claim to to be independent are not willing to sign the IHINA pledge. An inspector who claims to have no real estate agent affiliations doesn’t necessarily mean they do not solicit real estate agents for client leads.
“Do you want an inspector who “helps” the real estate agent earn a commission or do you want an inspector who is going to fully disclose the condition of the house?
What Can Be Done To Prevent This Potential Conflict Of Interest? Contact the Representatives and Senators of your own state or province. Send them an e-mail with a link to the: Independent Home Inspectors Of North America web site. Do not ask the real estate agent for the name of an inspector. Do not accept any short list or recommendations from the agent. If the state you’re buying in requires home inspectors to be licensed, obtain the list of licensed inspectors. Do a little research and choose your own inspector. The best source for referrals will come from people who do not have a vested interest in the sale, this includes your attorney and past clients of the inspector. Remember, it’s your money and your potential future home. Choose your home inspector wisely!

How much should a home inspection cost?

This is often the first question prospective home buyers ask a home inspector. (Asking the inspector about their qualifications, experience and how they get most of their business, should be the first questions.) In home inspection, one size does not fit all. The level of experience and talent of home inspectors varies. The size and age of homes varies. Some homes / condos can be inspected in 2 to 3 hours. Older, larger homes can take 5 or more hours. Some inspection reports might take an hour or two to complete, while others might take 4 hours or more. Some so called “informational” web sites state that home inspection fees run from $300 to $400, however, these “low” fees are usually based on an inspector doing 2 inspections per day. If a thorough inspection and report takes around 5 to 6 hours, how “thorough” is the inspector who does 2 inspections & reports in one day? Remember, home inspectors know the value of their service and charge accordingly.

Inspectors quote inspection fees using different criteria or methods. Some charge a flat rate, others charge by the square foot of living area. Some charge by square foot of area under the roof, some charge by the price of the house and others charge by the amount of time spent (which is reflective of not only size but condition.) Some consider detached garages as part of the main house and do not charge for them (but may include the square footage into the overall size calculation) while others consider detached garages as outbuildings and charge extra for them.

Some inspectors charge for all the optional items, others charge for some of them, others will not inspect for certain items such as swimming pools or septic systems. Most inspectors have a minimum charge for their services. In some parts of the country the “general rule” of $125.00 per hour applies. Some charge for mileage from their location to the inspection site. Some inspectors maintain web sites where a prospective client can submit information about the property and receive a quote by e-mail.

Let’s put home inspection fees in perspective: If you’re buying a $500,000 house and the inspection fee is $750, that’s 0.0015% of the cost of the house! Most real estate agencies charge 3% to 6% to sell a home, that would be $15,000 to $30,000 for a $500,000 house! The cost of a home inspection is a bargain, even if you paid $2000 for the inspection, and most are less than half that!

Aside from the time invested, the value of the inspection and report can be measured by its usefulness. If the inspection turns up little wrong with the house, you’ve bought some relatively inexpensive peace of mind. If the inspection finds serious problems, your $750 could end up saving you many thousands of dollars. Take a look at what some of the clients of Independent Inspectors have said about their experience.

Sun Damaged Floor Covering

Sunlight passing through a thermal pane door has caused heat damage to this floor covering.

[sun damaged floor]

Duct Tape Floor Repair

Duct tape is a very versatile product, but I don’t think I would want to step on that “floor repair”.
[improper floor repair]

Photo by Dennis Robitaille, of Able Home Inspection

Low E Glass Hazard

These photos show vinyl siding damaged from an issue that is becoming more and more of a problem as people replace their old windows with thermal pane low E type glass. Low E glass can reflect magnified sunlight, intensifying the damaging heat effects of the sun rays. The house that had the low E glass windows was around 25 feet away (to the North) from the house with the vinyl siding. The home was located in the Southern part of NH.

[heat damaged vinyl siding]
[heat damaged vinyl siding]

Photos by Dennis Robitaille, of Able Home Inspection

Duct Tape Trap

Duct tape seems to be one of those products that has an unlimited number of applications, although the water tightness of this old plumbing trap is questionable.

[duct taped plumbing trap]

Photo by Dennis Robitaille, of Able Home Inspection

New Construction Wall Opening

Home inspectors are often asked by potential home buyers whether or not a home inspection is really needed on new construction. The quality of new home construction varies greatly depending upon the price of the home and its location, but in general the quality and attention to detail has gone down over the years. Some of the issues uncovered in a home inspection are major structural defects while others such as seen in the photo below, are situations where a tradesperson tries to do something outside of their field, in this case an HVAC person decided he / she could do the finishing work where the furnace flue pipe past through the exterior wall of the house. That’s exposed 0riented strand boardwall (OSB) sheathing under the metal, without corrective action, water will get into the wall and will allow rot, mold and insect problems to develop.)

[new construction detail defect]

Photo by Dennis Robitaille of Able Home Inspection

Homemade Rain Cap

For those of you on a tight budget, it looks like a little sheet metal, electrical tape and an old rusty metal strap are all you need to make a chimney rain cap.

homemade rain cap