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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.

Money:
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.

Letter to W5 Canadian TV

April 9, 2000

Robert Hurst

Executive Producer “W5” (CTV)

P.O. Box 3000

Agincourt, Ontario

 

Dear Mr. Hurst,

You, Wei Chen and your W5 team are to be congratulated for the recent article on home inspections entitled “Inspecting the Inspectors.” I am sure the program opened a lot of eyes and that the feature has helped many Buyers make better decisions. Keep up the excellent work.

The segment was very good but it just touched the tip of a formidable iceberg. Naturally, there is only so much you can squeeze into a segment to stay focused. I would like to bring some information to light with the hope that you might continue to expose Real Estate issues.

1. How is it that poorly trained or poorly qualified “Home Inspectors” not only survive but are the norm, and are in fact, increasing in number?

Poorly qualified “Home Inspectors flourish because they are being systematically promoted.It is unlikely that they are being promoted by dissatisfied Home Buyers, except for those fortunate enough to have purchased a trouble-free property or who have not yet had trouble.

2. Who are those actively promoting poorly qualified “Home Inspectors?”

The Real Estate Industry (Agents and Brokers) is the number one promoter/facilitator of poorly qualified “Home Inspectors.”Franchise Companies heavily promote their members, regardless of qualifications, education or construction background so long as the Inspector takes their courses and passes their exams. To limit their liability they are careful to say, “Each franchise is independently owned and operated.”

3. Why would Agents and Brokers promote poorly qualified “Home Inspectors” over diligent well qualified “Home Inspectors?”

Agents and Brokers earn their livelihood via commissions paid on completed sales. These commissions ultimately come from the Seller. There is no better way for Agents to ensure that sales are not jeopardized or for Brokers to eliminate competent “Home Inspectors” (whose job is to protect Buyers) than to feed unsuspecting, trusting Buyers a choice of poor Inspectors. Should the Buyer later encounter a problem with the property, the Agent can simply say, “You chose the Inspector” or because the referrals are normally verbal, simply deny ever having given the Inspector’s name.

4. How do Agents promote poorly qualified “Home Inspectors?”

Agents control the majority of referrals to “Home Inspectors” and thus the Buyer’s right and ability to obtain a competent well qualified “Home Inspection” service. Agents are the point of first contact for the majority of Buyers, especially “first-time Home Buyers.” Agents are inventive and resourceful and are salespeople. There are lots of ways for them to control the Buyer. Typical are the following:

A. They can say, “We’re not supposed to refer Inspectors. Here are three names…you decide…”

B. They offer a bunch of brochures or cards from their select Inspector group or ask the Buyer to pick up brochures at the reception or lobby area of their office. The brochures and cards of the Inspection Firms that the Realtor wishes to promote are typically in full view while those of less sympathetic Inspectors quite often will be delegated to some obscure location or mysteriously disappear.

C. They tell the Buyer to look up names in the Yellow Pages and then add, “A lot of my clients have used “so ans so” and have been satisfied.” I hear “so and so” is very good, Don’t use that guy because he’s too picky…”

D. The worse ones simply say, “I’ll look after the Inspection for you.. I know just the Inspector to call… don’t worry he’ll do a good job…” or something to that affect.

E. Some Agents will pretend to call the well qualified Inspector but say they were unable to reach him or her or say he or she is unavailable.

5. How are Home Buyers so easily controlled?

Home Buyers do not understand that Real Estate Agents have a major CONFLICT OF INTEREST and should not be used as a source of referrals to Home Inspectors. Buyers typically fail to realize that the Agent’s allegiance does not change the fact that Agents are paid ultimately by the Seller.

Regardless if the agent says he or she is working for the Buyer, for the Seller or for Both*, the agent still has a major vested interest in the transaction. This means their commission will only be paid if the deal goes through and will be reduced if the Inspection results in a lowering of the sale price or sale commission amount.

(* It is absurd that Dual Agents are even allowed. In Law you would not expect a lawyer to represent both parties in a civil action. A Dual Agent cannot represent both parties equally, especially when the commission is paid for by the Vendor.)

6. Why don’t we hear more about the Conflict of Interest issue or about the the Inspection Industry being controlled by the Real Estate Industry?

As a rule, the media do not run articles or ads revealing the Conflict of Interest or the Realtor control of Inspectors because a very substantial portion of their revenue comes from Real Estate Companies. In short, the media have a Conflict of Interest of their own.

The media has a vested interest in not upsetting the apple cart. Real Estate advertisements of Open Houses, house for sale, real estate agents and service account for a sizabl e portion of media income. In short, the media industry is willing to keep quiet about these two issues in return for advertisement revenue. The primary medium is newspaper but real estate ads also occur on TV, real estate channels, web sites, and radio.

As it stands, the media appear to have taken a Caveat Emptor position of “Let the Buyer Beware” instead of “Buyer Be Aware” and have put their financial interests ahead of their readers and the General Public. They seem to be promoting the Seller’s interest at the sake of the Buyer’s interest.

7.Is there presently any way to make Real Estate Industry accountable to Buyers?

To make the Real Estate Industry truly and equally accountable to Buyers, Sellers and the General Public, all members of Discipline Committees, Arbitration Panels or any body dealing with complaints concerning the conduct of Agents should be independent of the Industry and free of conflict of Interest. The findings of such committees, panels or similar bodies should also be made public information.

The Real Estate Industry is self-governing within the confines of provincial regulations and Real Estate Board bylaws governing its members. The problem lies in transparency and accountability, especially as it relates to complaints against members.

Your segment “Inspecting the Inspectors” reminds me of what I have been trying to make public for a number of years and of my Web Site http://www.status.nb.ca Take a peek. If I can be of any service whatsoever, please contact me.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Chuk Mac Donald C.E.T.

President,

Status Inspection & Design ®

638 Glengarry Place,

Fredericton, NB E3B 5Z9tus Inspection & Design ® 638 Glengarry Place, Fredericton, NB E3B 5Z9

New Home Inspection Letter

Hi, I was on your website page today New Home Inspections Are They Needed? and agree that new homes do need independent inspections, during construction. People simply MUST be made aware that they can’t rely on “the law,” city inspectors, or a builder’s concern for his reputation.

Like most buyers, we had no idea how bad things were until we became the owners of a severely defective new home. We bought it in 2000, as a spec house, from a builder we DID research. It’s missing roofing felt, and at least some of the reinforcement in our foundation. Our builder faked city inspection documents with regards to the code-required material. There were other problems too, but these were the major ones. The builder’s shortcuts—money WE paid, that went into HIS pocket—are costing us many thousands now in engineering fees, legal costs, etc; repairs are high enough that “salvageability” of the house is in question. Amazingly, I know of other homes in our state that are as bad or worse, and due to confidentiality of consumer complaints here, it’s very hard for buyers doing their research to find anything, or find it in time.

Our state is just one of many that has almost no regulation of the construction industry, and it is going to be equally hard to get quality work done on repairs. Most home buyers don’t realize that less than half the states even license contractors. Builders thumb their nose at building codes, lobby at the capitol to halt citizen’s efforts to install regulation, and try to scare people into thinking they will never be able to afford a home if builders are forced to do things right. People here think piering a foundation is a normal thing that everybody does. Builders cite the clay soil as the fault of it all, but refuse to build the right foundation for the soils. The excuses builders come up with are laughable, or would be if it wasn’t such a serious matter. I have even received threats for voicing my opinion on this.

As a result of the outrage I felt over our case, and the many people I realized were in the same boat, I became a volunteer for the non profit organization that provided information to fight our case more effectively, and “moral support” to help us stick with it. I’m now trying to help other home buyers avoid this, (and if it’s too late for that, help them to fight it). When anyone says they don’t think a new home needs an inspection, you can guess what I tell them.

 

Thank you,

Cindy Schnackel

Oklahoma Chapter, Homeowners Against Deficient Dwellings

HADD is a national non profit organization

Member, Oklahomans for Quality in Residential Construction (OQRC)

Comments from Home Inspectors

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.

Bill Loden

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.

Dennis,

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.

Mike Lancop

Ontario, Canada

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.

 

“Dennis,

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

HomeTech

St Augustine, Florida

 

March 14, 2000

Dennis Robitaille:

“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.”

Travis Grubbs

Statesboro, Georgia

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.

Best Wishes,

Jon L. Larson

Precision Property Inspection Service

Ephrain, Utah.

 

“Dennis,

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.”

Tom Corrigan

Framingham Associates

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

Home-spec Inc.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

 

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.

Allen Eastis

 

Dennis,

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.

Al Martin

 

“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.”

Sincerely,

Chuk Mac Donald

Status Inspection

 

Dennis,

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.

Best regards

Frank Turak

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.

Keith Peddie

The English Inspector

Comments from Clients of Independent Home Inspectors

(Adrien Tanguay, ACT Home Inspections Inc. Marcellus, NY)

“We did the basic home inspection and he went through the entire house. He checked everything from electric, plumbing, doors, railings, the roof and siding of both our house and the separate barn. He checked the heat to make sure that was running properly, all of the appliances in the house, all of the sinks, washer and dryer etc. He was very thorough. My wife and I used ACT Home Inspections twice now. Our first house fell through due to taxes not being reported to us the correct amount and now the second time for the house we are purchasing. The owner Adrien was very considerate and patient with us as we had a lot of questions and really did not understand certain things he was going over at first. He made us feel very comfortable in our new house. I had used other home inspectors in the past and always felt confused and lost, it was a different story with Adrien. I will use him for any type of inspection or housing question that I may have in the future. You can not go wrong with ACT Home Inspections if you want a thorough and accurate report on your new home!” Chris P., Cortland, NY

(Bruce Hunter, Hunter & Associates Inspections Inc. Vancouver, BC)

I guess we did not realize how political and antagonistic the realtor vs. property inspector was going to be. It was a real eye opener and something of an object lesson in complicity as to the depths that realtors are prepared to plumb to ensure that the outcome is positive for themselves—never mind in most cases, the unsuspecting homebuyer. Fortunately we managed to hurdle some of the barriers by having a frank and open discussion without the involvement of the realtors, i.e. theirs or ours. Ed, we are grateful for your inspection on the other property. Thank you for referring Bruce to us in your absence. His report was thorough, well presented, unbiased and contained additional supplementary information that will be of benefit to us in the future.

Joe & Jill Q., Coquitlam

Two years ago I made the mistake of hiring a home inspector recommend by my realtor. He was the only home inspector listed on the realtors web site and that should alerted me to too much of a cozy relationship. Not being familiar with inspectors’ reporting methods I did not realize until later that many of the defects of the house were smoothed over. Then the mold was found. When I attempted to hire another inspection company to review the inspector’s report I quickly learned that there are virtually no inspectors who want to come to the aid of a consumer with this kind of problem. I now know that many home inspectors get referrals from realtors and know that if they offend that industry they will not get any more inspections referred to them. Most home inspectors don’t want the added pressure from their peers or associations who may not accept that one of their own should be investigated by someone outside their association.

Bert Anderson

(Sean Wiens, SENWI House Inspections, North Vancouver, BC)

“Thank you very much for everything. You have done an excellent job. We are truly appreciative of your effort and due-diligence.

Cheers,

Daniel

Sean Wiens is professional in his approach to his work and very knowledgeable about the building industry. His detailed inspection and report made a very difficult decision much easier for us. He also goes above and beyond to make sure he covers everything he can during the inspection. In the home he inspected for us, after carefully going over the rest of the house, he cheerfully and thoroughly examined a cramped attic crawl space, undeterred by the hot day or the tiny hatch he had to climb through to get in there. I would highly recommend Sean’s services to anyone in need of a comprehensive home inspection.

SD

(Bruce Thompson, Thompson Property Inspection, LLC, Tyler – Dallas, TX)

Thank you Thompson Property Inspections for letting your light shine in the darkness. This was our first house inspection and I cannot tell you how thankful we are to Bruce and everyone else involved in this co. We are from CA. and this inspection saved us from making a purchase that we would have deeply regretted should it had went through. The service offered us very professional, thoroughly done inspections. We were treated with top-notch service, high ethical standards…..and very friendly service aside from everything else and Bruce claims he is not superman!

Thanks,

Gerardo and Virginia

I couldn’t attend the inspection but Bruce’s report was so clear and detailed that I didn’t have any question left by the time I was done reading it. Bruce’s extensive knowledge made me confident about my home purchase.

Sincerely,

Bertrand

(Hugh Poole , A.C.E. of Space Home Inspections, Vancouver, BC)

Dear Hugh,

I’m just writing to express my heart felt appreciation for your good work. Finding a house in this market was not easy, it seemed like people were taking the opportunity to put a lot of junk up for sale and early on in the game we realized that the selling agent, and ours, only made their commission when the deal went through, so why would it be in their interest to recommend someone who would give us the unvarnished truth? Having your expert opinion working for us took so much of the worry and guess work out of it. With your help we were able to bypass the heart and bankbook breakers, and then recognize the diamond in the rough that we were looking for. Again, many thanks,

Dr. Stanley deVlaming,

St. Pauls Hospital, Vancouver

Potential Homebuyers,

I have been aware of the service provided by real estate agents whereby they recommend or refer potential property purchasers to home inspectors, presumably at arms length. I reviewed the documentation used by these home inspectors and was not comfortable with the simplicity of the inspection commentary or its checklist approach. The single largest purchase one makes in life requires a more serious approach and professional expertise in not only the built environment, but skill in phrasing the commentary in understandable terms in an inspection report that assists a buyer, rather than confusing them.

We began our house search this spring and found what we thought was an ideal home. I looked for a home inspector that was NOT referred by real estate personnel. I was looking for truly independent professionals, who derived their clients because of satisfied clients, not satisfied agents. The web pointed out IHINA as a potential source. It was clear that, although the costs were almost double to inspectors referred by real estate agents, I was willing to pay knowing it was small insurance relative to the purchase price and I would be engaging a professional who would be working on my behalf. There is no question in my mind that engaging an independent home inspector is a process whereby you receive accredited, professional service for what I think is a fair price. I would not hesitate to recommend any member of IHINA.

Ihor Pona

Professor of design, Kwantlen University College

(Dennis Robitaille, Able Home Inspection Newbury, MA and Laconia, NH)

Dennis,

” The last time I bought property was 10 years ago. I used an inspector recommended by the real estate agent, that won’t happen again! Thank you for your thorough, knowledgeable, and professional inspection. Kate and I especially liked the way you weren’t rushed and asked us “do you have any questions before we leave this area of the house?”. We were also very impressed with your bag of high tech gadgets. We’ll recommend you very highly!!!”

Elizabeth Sullivan

I was willing to pay the little bit extra for an extremely thorough inspection, I was very pleased. It was interesting to witness the real estate agent get frantic when we chose such a thorough inspector as opposed to their “suggested” inspector.

Julie & Doug Hogue

“Dennis, thank you for assisting my wife and me with our housing inspection. Your professionalism and care for your clients was evident during the inspection and in your report. My wife and I have read through your narrative a couple of times. We are pragmatic and realistic individuals and so while we did expect there to be some issues (i.e. need to replace heat/cooling systems), we did not expect to find the excessive evidence of water damage as well as the structural problems such as the issues with the roof structure. All I can say is that I am glad that we chose you for the inspection.

I’m pretty sure that most inspectors would have missed many of the issues you brought to our attention. When spending the amount of money this purchase requires, it is imperative to have the best service providers/advisors you can find. I was wary of using any home inspector that my broker suggested. The potential principal/agent conflict of interest is just too great to ignore. I will be recommending you to my colleagues and friends as they move through their own house purchase processes.

Regards,

Scott

AC & E Home Inspection, (Long Island, NY)

…”thanks for making it so easy to ask questions (and not feel dumb asking them)”

J. Cotgreave

“The inspector was excellent, thorough, and very professional. Thank you!”

D. Carmichael

“I would definitely reconmmend / use this company again. From the time we made the phone call to set up the appointment right until the end of the inspection the company was professional and kind. Thank you!”

A. Allsop

(Chad Fabry, Structure Smart Home Inspections, Inc. Holley, NY)

Chad,

Thanks, your inspection exceeded my expectations. Your focus on customer service, attention to detail, timely turnaround of the report, and totally professional approach to the process speaks volumes of your skilled and expert commitment to the business of property inspections. I also very much appreciated you accommodating my somewhat hectic schedule and time line for this purchase. I did come to an agreement with the seller on a 3% price adjustment, largely based on the information you provided. Now the work to complete the sale lies ahead. I certainly appreciate your opinion and philosophy on conflicts of interest between the business of inspections and doing repairs or referrals for repairs. I hope to do business with you again soon and consider you in my group of business contacts /friends /advisors. If you ever need a reference (which I doubt you should) feel free to count me as one of your very satisfied customers.

Zig Kurpiewski

Hey Chad,

Thanks so much for the thorough inspection. It was extremely informative and I learned a great deal about different things to look for in the future. The sellers of the townhouse did not want to fix anything I requested so I walked away from the deal with no penalties. Again thank you for opening my eyes and educating me. I am still in the market for a home and will definitely call you when I need the inspection done!

Hope all is well with you too,

Michele

(Ted Gilmour, T.H.E Home Inspection Services Ltd., Vancouver, BC)

Dear Ted:

I am writing to say thanks for your help in the recent purchase of our new (used) home. We very much appreciated the thoroughness of your inspection and the timeliness and detail of the report. The many useful features of the report (photographs, suggested repairs, priority ranking of repairs, estimated cost of repairs etc.) were very useful both as a decision-making and negotiating tool, and as a reference once we had bought our house.

Of particular importance to us was your independence from the real estate sales community. Being free from any vested interest in the outcome of the sale negotiations, we feel that you were able to provide us with a completely impartial inspection service. In closing, I would (and already have) highly recommended you to friends and colleagues considering a home purchase. Thank you again for a job well done.

Yours sincerely,

Sheldon J.B. Duff, Ph.D.

Professor

NSERC/COFI Industrial Research Chair in Forest Products Waste Management

Hi Ted,

I just wanted to drop off a note to you regarding the property you inspected for me. I can’t begin to thank you enough for all the help and information you provided for me. You have saved me a great deal of money and you have shown me areas I need to look at and repair before I move in. The furnace alone was a life saver. (They are replacing it.) This being my first home ever, I was really in the dark about a lot of things. You not only provided the inspection, but the maintenance schedule is a real help. Thank you for the job you did and thank you for making my new home a safer place to live in. The service you provide is essential to people buying a home. It’s a good thing I listened to you and not the real estate agent. I feel the fact that you are realtor independent made a big difference! I know of cases where the buyer went with an inspector referred by a realtor with less than satisfactory results. I was given that option as well, but felt the inspector would put the realtor’s well being before mine, even though I’m paying the bill, so I decided to go with someone with affiliations to the Independent Home Inspector or Independent Home Inspectors of North America. I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and I wish you all the best in all your endeavors in 2002.

Yours,

Dani Kasburg

(John Martino, Look Smart Home Inspections, Rockaway, NJ)

John, “I researched dozens of home inspectors. I contacted LookSmart and John answered all of the questions I had concerning the services that he provides. I could not have made a better choice, he saved me thousands and helped me to re-negotiate the contract with the problems that he uncovered.”

A. Armstrong

(Robert Ross, Ross Residential Services, Deshler, OH)

I am new to the rental business and purchased my first duplex this past January. A good friend recommended Bob Ross to do the whole house inspection and I was pleasantly surprised with Bob’s service. Bob was on time and ready to work. He knew exactly what he was looking for and was very thorough with his inspection. His price was very affordable and fair and what I like most is that I can continue to call him for advice without being charged for it. Bob was very easy to get along with and made me feel very comfortable and open to ask any simple question. He took his time with me and gave me much advice throughout the inspection. After the inspection, Bob immediately followed up with a written report detailing all his findings along with suggestions and concerns about the property. I have referred to this report numerous times when making repairs and upkeep to my duplex. It is very handy and informative. Because he was working for me and not a realtor, I felt he was very honest and up front with his report. In my opinion, Bob is a “truly professional home inspector”.

Mary B., Findlay,

OH.

Lake Home Inspection —Larry Lake— Ponca City, OK)

I can honestly recommend Larry Lake of Lake Home Inspection when buying a home in the northern Oklahoma area. He was recommended to me by others and I found him to be absolutely committed to my (buyer’s) interests. When issues arose, Larry retested, recommended specialists and reinspected until the concerns were satisfied. His report was professionally produced and included text, pictures and summaries that were consise and easy to understand.

I strongly believe that an independently selected home inspector is a buyer’s only real protection and is worth the money and time to accomplish. I also suggest that the “standard” real estate inspection time period of 7 to 10 days be extended to 15-20 days to accomodate full understanding of unexpected issues and to avoid time pressures on an important purchase decision.

Richard Parker

(Buyer’s Edge Home Inspection Services, — Mike Lancop — Calgary)

To whom it may concern,

I have used Michael Lancop’s services 3 times in the past . In all three instances I have saved myself thousands of dollars. The first house I looked at I hired Mr. Lancop to do an inspection and to my surprise he discovered that the house had no water pressure. I didn’t want the expense of digging a new well, so I walked away and didn’t put an offer on that house.

I knew the second house I had Mr Lancop inspect would need to be spruced up but I wanted to make sure this would only be superficial repairs. (cosmetic). I had made my offer conditional on the home inspection. It turned out there were so many problems with the home from electrical to plumbing that it would have turned into a money pit. I was able to walk away based on the inspection.

The third house I had inspected by Mr Lancop is the one I am currently living in. There have been no surprises and because I knew what repairs were needed, I was able to deduct the cost from the price I offered. Saving at least $3000 on this house alone not to mention the money I would have spent on the other houses. The cost of having an impartial home inspection by someone not tied to trying to sell me the house was the best thing I ever did. He more than paid for the cost of the inspection.

I have and continue to recommend Mr. Lancop’s services.

A very satisfied customer,

Lise Rainville-Sommerfeld

(Accurate Inspections, Inc. — Michael Del Greco, W Paterson, NJ)

“The purchase of a new home is a very exciting and stressful time. It is very easy at this time to over look some of the important details associated with the condition of the new home being purchased. Accurate Inspections, Inc. proved to be a very important asset at this time. After a very thorough inspection of the property and a detailed report, we were given the opportunity to weigh all the pros and cons and make our decision based on the true condition. Thank you, Accurate, for supplying us with the information need to make a decision we can live with.”

William & Doris W.

River Vale, NJ

American Home Inspection, — John McKenna, Bryan, TX)

“Thank you so much for your thorough inspection! I would still like to purchase this property, but with a more realistic value placed on the home. Without your help, I would be unable to re-negotiate based upon the problems we saw. Thanks again,”

Linda Davis

Georgetown, Texas

(A-1 Inspection Services Guardian Home Inspectors

The best decision we ever made was to hire William J. Finley of A-1 Inspection Services.

We were in love with a home. We loved the home, area, layout and neighbors. We had enrolled the children in the neighborhood school established carpools and we were on our way to taking ownership. We were certainly not expecting the home inspection to produce anything but a few minor repair issues. Bill arrived on time and immediately went to work doing a thorough inspection. He quickly identified a $20,000 black mold and other issues requiring immediate attention. Bill was very polite and helped us understand the issues he identified. He quickly followed up with a written report and was available to answer questions at no charge. We will use Bill’s services whenever we purchase a home. His knowledge and thoroughness exceeded our expectations.

Bill stands very high on our list of those to whom we owe a great big thank you.

Thank you!

Ron & Jody DeLand

(Steve Czubinski, Dream Home Inspections, Inc., Buffalo, NY)

I recently had my home inspected by Dream Home Inspections. I was impressed with Steve’s professionalism and thoroughness. Far from rushing through the inspection process, Steve methodically covered every aspect of my home’s condition from roof to basement, inside and out. In the process, he identified several areas requiring attention and clearly spelled out recommended actions for resolving these. I am very happy to have asked Steve to perform an inspection of my home. I would certainly recommend him to anyone who wants to get to know the condition of the property “up close and personal” before they buy.”

R.B.

Grand Island, NY

(Andy Shaw, Halton Home Inspection Service, Ontario, Canada)

I have had Home Inspections in the past. Your inspection was the most thorough inspection we have had. You were very informative and helpful. We would be happy to refer you to our friends about your service.

Sabrina S.

Our older home was inspected by a different company. They did a lousy job and did not point out problems and potential problems. We have a small child and were concerned about her safety. We contacted Andy at Halton Home Inspection Service for another inspection. Andy was extremely thorough and professional in the inspection and helped us make important decisions. I now recommend his service to anyone buying a home.

Eva E.

(Mike Porter, Arc Home Inspection Services, Kent, WA)

Dear Mr. Porter,

I wish to thank you for the superb job you did inspecting my new home. You were very through and pointed out a number of problems areas as well as some of the home’s positive features. I appreciated how quickly you responded to my request for an inspection. You performed the inspection on the very next workday after our phone conversation.

I was also extremely impressed with your offer to do a subsequent pest inspection. You did this on your weekend and at reasonable expense to me. Once again you were very through and your advice convinced me to go ahead with the purchase of the property.

Your service was impeccable. As a first time homebuyer, I felt as if I was treated with the utmost care and concern. Again, thank you for a job well done.

Sincerely yours,

Kevin L. Seebeck

(Eric Van De Ven, Magnum Inspections, Inc., South FL)

I am writing at my own initiative to provide a testimonial on behalf of Eric Van De Ven of Magnum Inspections in Florida. I learned about Magnum Inspections through an Internet search of qualified inspectors in the West Palm Beach, FL area. I was impressed by Magnum Inspection’s website initially, as it provided helpful, straightforward information. Eric Van De Ven was also the most responsive of the firm representatives that I talked with initially, so I decided to hire him to inspect a house I was interested in purchasing — a historic home built in 1950 in downtown West Palm Beach.

Eric spent several hours on site performing the inspection and provided a very thorough, objective inspection report with extensive photo back up in a very short time frame. When asked for additional advice and opinions, Eric was forthcoming with information, and never once cut me short. He remained highly professional and objective at all times, with the wisdom and level-headedness that comes with experience.

A few weeks after I assumed our last business interaction was over, Eric called to check to see if my home purchase was progressing smoothly and if I needed any further assistance. He then gave me substantial helpful advice on how to interpret the inspection report for the home I was selling in my home state – with nothing expected in return. I offered to provide him with referrals, and a testimonial – he did not request this.

I would recommend Eric Van De Ven and Magnum Inspections, with no hesitation, to anyone seeking an experienced and highly ethical, yet reasonable inspector in South Florida.

Sincerely,

Betsy Dorn

Cary, NC

Eric

I can’t thank you enough for the outstanding job that you did with the inspection. In the end, we opted not to purchase the house, as the sellers were unwilling to make a sufficient number of repairs for us to feel comfortable proceeding with the purchase.

Consequently, we have run out of time (we have to be out of our current home prior to the 9/30 closing), and have found ourselves needing to rent rather than purchase for the time being. I do apologize for the awkward position you found yourself in with them – they were far more defensive and emotional over the inspection experience than the situation called for. (I kept wondering why they were so reluctant to move the vet – it’s only a plastic car and a little rain would not have hurt it….was there something on that wall between the house and garage that they didn’t want us to see???).

Thank you again for doing such a thorough job on our inspection. When we are ready to purchase another home, we will definitely be in touch.

Regards,

Linda Stewart

(Richard Zwierzynski, Real Estate Inspector’s Group Inc, Chicago, IL)

I needed a home inspection from a company I could trust. Having purchased several properties in the past, I was looking for an independent. I came to know Real Estate Inspectors Group through a web search, finding the company on the IHINA website. My inspector (Richard) exceeded our expectations. It’s refreshing when a business meets my expectations, let alone exceeds them as in this case. Richard under-sells his service on the phone and over-delivers at the inspection. He worked tirelessly for more than four hours reporting on every detail leaving nothing out. He used hi-tech equipment and provided a detailed report the following morning. The contract did not proceed. I will certainly ask Rich to inspect the next house I consider. I would recommend Real Estate Inspectors Group for home buyers who desire a thorough, honest and unbiased inspection.

John Chambers,

Chicago, IL

(Erol Kartal, Pro Inspect Schaumburg, IL)

Erol is very enthusiastic about his inspections and helping his clients understand the many details of their home. He explains technical details in words you can easily understand. His follow-up is also great. You will feel safe and comfortable working with him. A real professional. Two thumbs up.

M. Sato,

Arlington Heights, IL

(Bruce King, B.A. King Home Inspections, LLC, Charlotte, NC)

Hi Mr King

My husband and I just wanted to thank you so much for the wonderful inspection report on our new home in Creeks Edge. We were so pleased that we recommended you to our new neighbors, Thomas and Lydia (unfortunately I did not catch their last name). The supervisor at Creeks Edge said that we got our money’s worth and more for the job you did. He said it was the most detailed report he had seen, ever. We just wanted you to know how please we were and that if we ever need an inspection again we will be sure to call you (and so will everyone else we know!)

Thanks again,

Dave and Erica Fish

2083 Covered Bridge Court

Rock Hill, SC 29732

(Steven Abbott, Olympia Home Inspection, Olympia, WA)

Steve, thanks so much for you inspection and the report today, I really appreciate your candid suggestion and attention to details. I would definitely like to invite you to do all my future inspections and recommend you to my friends and family. For the water in crawl space, we talked to the builder today, they said they will look into the problem and try to fix it.

Thanks so much,
Kelvin

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 4 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 $175 to $300, however, these “low” fees are usually based on an inspector doing 2 or 3 inspections per day. If a thorough inspection and report takes around 5 to 6 hours, how “thorough” is the inspector who does 3 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 $100.00 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.

Money:
Let’s put home inspection fees in perspective: If you’re buying a $400,000 house and the inspection fee is $700, that’s less than .2% of the cost of the house! Most real estate agencies charge 3% to 6% to sell a home, that would be $12,000 to $24,000 for a $400,000 house! The cost of a home inspection is a bargain, even if you paid $1500 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 $600 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.

All About Mold

Q 1.I heard about toxic molds that grow in homes and other buildings. Should I be concerned about a serious health risk to me and my family?

 

A. The hazards presented by molds that may contain mycotoxins should be considered the same as other common molds which can grow in your house. There is always a little mold everywhere – in the air and on many surfaces. There are very few case reports that toxic molds (those containing certain mycotoxins) inside homes can cause unique or rare, health conditions such as pulmonary hemorrhage or memory loss. These case reports are rare, and a causal link between the presence of the toxic mold and these conditions has not been proven. A common-sense approach should be used for any mold contamination existing inside buildings and homes. The common health concerns from molds include hay-fever like allergic symptoms. Certain individuals with chronic respiratory disease (chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, asthma) may experience difficulty breathing. Individuals with immune suppression may be at increased risk for infection from molds. If you or your family members have these conditions, a qualified medical clinician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment. For the most part, one should take routine measures to prevent mold growth in the home.

 

Q 2. How common is mold, including Stachybotrys chartarum (also known by its synonyn Stachybotrys atra) in buildings?

 

A. Molds are very common in buildings and homes and will grow anywhere indoors where there is moisture. The most common indoor molds are Cladosporium, Penicillium, Aspergillus, and Alternaria. We do not have accurate information about how often Stachybotrys chartarum is found in buildings and homes. While it is less common than other mold species it is not rare.

 

Q 3. How do molds get in the indoor environment and how do they grow?

 

A. Molds naturally grow in the indoor environment. Mold spores may also enter your house through open doorways, windows, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems. Spores in the air outside also attach themselves to people and animals, making clothing, shoes, bags, and pets convenient vehicles for carrying mold indoors. When mold spores drop on places where there is excessive moisture, such as where leakage may have occurred in roofs, pipes, walls, plant pots, or where there has been flooding, they will grow. Many building materials provide suitable nutrients that encourage mold to grow. Wet cellulose materials, including paper and paper products, cardboard, ceiling tiles, wood, and wood products, are particularly conducive for the growth of some molds. Other materials such as dust, paints, wallpaper, insulation materials, drywall, carpet, fabric, and upholstery, commonly support mold growth.

 

Q 4. What is Stachybotrys chartarum (stachybotrys atra)?

 

A. Stachybotrys chartarum (also known by its synonym Stachybotrys atra) is a greenish-black mold. It can grow on material with a high cellulose and low nitrogen content, such as fiberboard, gypsum board, paper, dust, and lint. Growth occurs when there is moisture from water damage, excessive humidity, water leaks, condensation, water infiltration, or flooding. Constant moisture is required for its growth. It is not necessary, however, to determine what type of mold you may have. All molds should be treated the same with respect to potential health risks and removal.

 

Q 5. Are there any circumstances where people should vacate a home or other building because of mold?

 

A. These decisions have to be made individually. If you believe you are ill because of exposure to mold in a building, you should consult your physician to determine the appropriate action to take.

 

Q 6. Who are the people who are most at risk for health problems associated with exposure to mold?

 

A. People with allergies may be more sensitive to molds. People with immune suppression or underlying lung disease are more susceptible to fungal infections.

 

Q 7. How do you know if you have a mold problem?

 

A. Large mold infestations can usually be seen or smelled.

 

Q 8. Does Stachybotrys chartarum (Stachybotrys atra) cause acute idiopathic pulmonary hemorrhage among infants?

 

A. To date, a possible association between acute idiopathic pulmonary hemorrhage among infants and Stachybotrys chartarum (Stachybotrys atra) has not been proved. Further studies are needed to determine what causes acute idiopathic hemorrhage.

 

Q 9. What if my child has acute idiopathic pulmonary hemorrhage?

 

A. Parents should ensure that their children get proper medical treatment.

 

Q 10. What are the potential health effects of mold in buildings and homes?

 

A. Mold exposure does not always present a health problem indoors. However some people are sensitive to molds. These people may experience symptoms such as nasal stuffiness, eye irritation, or wheezing when exposed to molds. Some people may have more severe reactions to molds. Severe reactions may occur among workers exposed to large amounts of molds in occupational settings, such as farmers working around moldy hay. Severe reactions may include fever and shortness of breath. People with chronic illnesses, such as obstructive lung disease, may develop mold infections in their lungs.

 

Q 11. How do you get the molds out of buildings, including homes, schools, and places of employment?

 

A. In most cases mold can be removed by a thorough cleaning with bleach and water. If you have an extensive amount of mold and you do not think you can manage the cleanup on your own, you may want to contact a professional who has experience in cleaning mold in buildings and homes.

 

Q 12. What should people to do if they determine they have Stachybotrys chartarum (Stachybotrys atra) in their buildings or homes?

 

A. Mold growing in homes and buildings, whether it is Stachybotrys chartarum (Stachybotrys atra) or other molds, indicates that there is a problem with water or moisture. This is the first problem that needs to be addressed. Mold can be cleaned off surfaces with a weak bleach solution. Mold under carpets typically requires that the carpets be removed. Once mold starts to grow in insulation or wallboard the only way to deal with the problem is by removal and replacement. We do not believe that one needs to take any different precautions with Stachybotrys chartarum (Stachybotrys atra), than with other molds. In areas where flooding has occurred, prompt cleaning of walls and other flood-damaged items with water mixed with chlorine bleach, diluted 10 parts water to 1 part bleach, is necessary to prevent mold growth. Never mix bleach with ammonia. Moldy items should be discarded.

 

Q 13. How do you keep mold out of buildings and homes?

 

A. As part of routine building maintenance, buildings should be inspected for evidence of water damage and visible mold. The conditions causing mold (such as water leaks, condensation, infiltration, or flooding) should be corrected to prevent mold from growing.

 

Specific Recommendations: Keep humidity level in house below 50%.

 

Use air conditioner or a dehumidifier during humid months.

 

Be sure home has adequate ventilation, including exhaust fans in kitchen and bathrooms (make sure the vent directly to the exterior.)

 

Use mold inhibitors which can be added to paints.

 

Clean bathroom with mold killing products.

 

Do not carpet bathrooms.

 

Remove and replace flooded carpets.

 

Summary:Stachybotrys chartarum (Stachybotrys atra) and other molds may cause health symptoms that are nonspecific. At present there is no test that proves an association between Stachybotrys chartarum (Stachybotrys atra) and particular health symptoms. Individuals with persistent symptoms should see their physician. However, if Stachybotrys chartarum (stachybotrys atra) or other molds are found in a building, prudent practice recommends that they be removed. Use the simplest and most expedient method that properly and safely removes mold.

New homes – Is an inspection really needed?

Homebuyers of newly constructed homes may not be aware they may have an inspection clause included with their new home contract. Fact is, a new homebuyer can greatly benefit from using a professional home inspector during the construction and completion of their new home.
Picture of incomplete flue pipe
The picture to the right was taken at a new house. This is the chimney flue pipe which was left uncompleted and the top of the chimney enclosure was sealed. If this defect was not found a serious or deadly situation would likely have occurred. (Photo by Bill Loden of Insight Professional Home Inspection)
Many people ask; “Why does a newly constructed home need an inspection?” “Isn’t a newly constructed home perfect and safe?” Some people assume that the builder and contractors are overseen by state or local government officials and that the local town or city building inspector checks the house out. This is true to some degree, however, few if any municipal inspectors spend anywhere near enough time in the home to fully check it out. Further, there could be problems with the home that are not necessarily code violations, yet have serious consequences for the new home owner. Ask any private home inspector about the deficiencies and safety issues discovered in newly constructed homes.
Photo of poor plumbing work
The photo to the left shows a plumber’s “craftsmanship.” In the process of soldering the water pipe, the plumber melted a hole in the PVC drain line and fused the water pipe to it. (Photo by Bill Loden of Insight Professional Home Inspection.)If the buyer of a newly constructed home takes advantage of the inspection clause, the first line of defense is the exterior wall and roof frame inspection followed by the open wall or pre-drywall / pre-insulation inspection which would be followed by the final walk through inspection. Be aware that some builders have prevented private home inspectors from inspecting newly built houses. If you are in the process of buying a new home and the builder does not allow you to bring a private home inspector on site, this poses a couple of questions; “Why won’t the builder allow the home inspector on site?” What does the builder have to hide? At this point you should be thinking hard about proceeding with the purchase and you should also be consulting with your attorney.
Photo of cut rafter
The photo to the right shows a roof rafter cut / damaged by a carpenter so that the attic door could swing open, one of the roof stud supports was also cut off. (Photo by Travis Grubbs of All American Home Inspection, Inc.)

If a home buyer has missed the opportunity to have an inspection during the construction phase and final walk through, there may be time to come in afterwards. Most new builders offer a warranty period for the new homeowner, however, there are usually many items not covered by the warranty as well as limitations on those that are.
Even if the contractor you choose for building your house is known for quality work, the one following fact should motivate every new homebuyer to have a home inspection clause written into their contract to purchase.
FACT: The majority of construction tasks (foundation, framing, plumbing, electrical, etc.) are usually subcontracted out to the lowest bidder, with speed, not quality being an important consideration for the builder. With many separate activities going on at the same time, it’s nearly impossible for the builder / contractor to personally monitor all phases of the home construction.

The two photos below are different corners of the same GA house, a steel re-bar was used to check the foundation depth. Building Code requires that footings (in GA) be a minimum of 12″ below grade with 8″ above grade. That’s a total of 20″, this slab was 8″ thick at its thickest point. This house was inspected when NEW…(about 18 months ago.) Slab has since cracked severely across garage and at rear corner of kitchen.

Foundation OneFoundation two

 

Do you need an engineer or a home inspector?

Some people would have you believe that only an engineer is qualified to perform home inspections. In some cases consumers have been led to believe that a home inspection involves engineering analysis and therefore requires the use of a licensed Professional Engineer. Visual home inspections do not involve engineering analysis, even when performed by PE’s. In fact, engineering is an entirely different type of investigation, which entails detailed scientific measurements, tests, calculations, and / or analysis. Such a technically exhaustive analysis involves considerable time and expense, and is only appropriate when visual evidence exists to indicate a problem that warrants further specialized investigation. In most states a Professional Engineer can simply state that he/she is a PE, regardless whether the degree was obtained in mechanical, electrical, civil, sanitary, structural or any other discipline of engineering.

There Are No Engineering Degrees In Home Inspection. You should be aware that the title of “certified inspector” or “home inspection engineer” is not given out or granted by any state agency. You should also check to determine whether your state requires home inspectors to be licensed.There are home inspection training programs offered by private organizations which upon completion of a one or two week program allow the inspector to use the term “certified.” The certification means almost nothing if the individual has little or no actual home inspection experience.

What Do You Want To learn About The Home You’re Planning To Purchase? If you’re like most home buyers, you want to know the condition of the house and its components, questions like: Is the roof leaking? Is the heating system working properly? Does the plumbing function properly? Are there any electrical hazards? Are there items in the house that will need repair or replacing and when? Does the wood framing have any damage? Do the doors and windows function properly? Does the basement get wet? Etc. Answering these, and other similar questions is precisely the job of a professional home inspector during a complete visual examination of the property.

A qualified Home Inspector, through specific training and experience, understands not only how a home’s systems and components should work, but also how they interact with each other, and how they stand the test of time. A good home inspector will, however, recommend either the services of a engineer, disciplined in a particular field, or other specialist when the need for further investigation is warranted. Using a home inspector rather than an engineer for a basic home inspection would be like visiting your family doctor / physician rather than a specialist for a general checkup. You don’t visit a brain surgeon or heart specialist for a yearly physical. If the general practitioner finds something unusual or something that warrants further analysis, he / she will refer you to the appropriate specialist.