Contractor considers doing a home inspection
Q: One of my clients is buying a 20-unit apartment building and has asked me to do the home inspection. I have no experience as a home inspector but have been a licensed building contractor for many years. Being familiar with all phases of construction, I feel capable of performing an adequate inspection.
As this will be my very first inspection, I'm not sure what would be a fair price for this service. What would be a fair amount to charge for a job of this size?
A: Before setting a price for this inspection, consider first that you will be performing a task for which you have no specific training. The belief that construction experience is the only background needed to perform a home inspection is a common misconception that has led many contractors into costly liability nightmares.
The complexities of home inspection are commonly misunderstood by those outside the profession. The inspection process involves a combination of skills and practices different from those of a building contractor. In addition to construction knowledge, an inspector must recognize and evaluate patterns of deterioration and wear that may not be familiar to people who deal primarily with new construction.
In addition, a home inspector must be familiar with building requirements that pertain to houses of all ages, not merely the standards that apply to new construction. Older buildings are typically not required to comply with newer standards, and home inspectors need to be aware of these differences.
Above all, a home inspector must have a practiced sense of forensic observation, a skill of discovery that is not part of the construction process. The ability to identify subtle and elusive building defects is a distinct craft, honed by years of training and repetition. A home inspector is essentially an investigator. Just as the professional skills of a patrol officer are not equivalent to those of a detective, there are comparable differences between contractors and home inspectors.
To understand the broad scope of a home inspection, try to compose a complete list of the particular items you would intend to evaluate in the course of an inspection. Then consider that a professional home inspector's list would include at least 300 routine conditions, and these would only account for the most common of building defects. The actual number of significant conditions familiar to the trained eye of an experienced home inspector could easily be numbered in the thousands.
To undertake this process without prior experience would expose yourself to significant liability. Your client would base a major purchase decision on your findings. Defects not disclosed in your inspection report would likely be discovered at a later date, and you could be held financially accountable for the cost of correcting those conditions. Worse still, you could be liable for injuries resulting from undisclosed safety hazards.
Consider these red flags before assuming the complex demands of a highly specialized and unfamiliar profession. Your client would be better served by someone thoroughly versed in the unique disciplines of home inspection.
• To write to Barry Stone, visit him on the web at www.housedetective.com, or write AMG, 1776 Jami Lee Court, Suite 218, San Luis Obispo, CA 94301.
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