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