Blanket indictment of home inspectors is unfair
Q: I'm not particularly impressed with the quality or integrity of the home inspection profession and would like to express my dissatisfaction in two particular areas:
• There appear to be a lot of know-nothings who are inspecting homes, and the certifications issued by home inspector associations do not ensure professional competence. In some states, home inspectors are not even licensed.
• The real estate agents who recommend home inspectors have no interest in quality inspections. Likewise, home inspectors know which side their bread is buttered. If they disclose too much, the deal falls through, and they don't get future referrals from these agents.
Given this unimpressive state of affairs, why should anyone consider hiring a home inspector?
A: People with compromised abilities and/or ethics can be found in every professional field, but generalized assumptions about an entire group are usually unjustified. To test how this plays out among home inspectors, let's examine the issues you've listed.
The claim that there are incompetent home inspectors in the marketplace is a point on which we can agree. This is as true as the fact that there are unqualified doctors, teachers, grocers, police, carpenters and accountants. Yet no reasonable person would contend that all members of those professions are incapable of excellence. Clearly, there is a full spectrum of qualified and unqualified individuals in all occupations, and home inspection is no exception.
Many states have licensing or regulatory standards for home inspectors, and the number of such states is gradually increasing. However, if state licensing is a valid measure of professional competence, why are so many licensees in other professions, such as building contractors, subject to so many consumer complaints? Licensing may have its advantages, but since when has government approval been a reliable guarantor of professional competence?
With or without state regulation, there are professional associations, such as the American Society of Home Inspectors and comparable state associations, that strive to elevate the general performance and ethical practices of the home inspection industry by promoting ongoing education and defining standards of practice. Obviously, no amount of good intentions can remove every worm from the apple barrel, and no established policies can inspire excellence in everyone.
Regardless of standards, the members of every profession reflect an ethical cross section of the society at large. For those who never learned proper conduct from their parents, it may be too late for ASHI or any governmental agency to rectify those deficiencies.
Related to this is the question of alleged collusion between real estate agents and home inspectors. No doubt, there are agents who do not encourage thorough home inspections, and there are home inspectors who pander to that kind of pressure. However, to paint the countless members of these professions with a broad and dirty brush is neither fair nor factual. Among agents and home inspectors, we find the best, the worst, and all intermediate strains. Home inspectors who do mediocre work attract the recommendations of one kind of agent. Highly qualified, meticulous inspectors get their referrals from the better members of the real estate profession. To assume relationships of collusion on a broad scale is a major misjudgment.
In the final analysis, we can expect from the home inspection industry what we get from any other profession: a broad spectrum of qualifications and practical standards. If you take your time and shop wisely, there are home inspectors who will provide the comprehensive consumer protection that homebuyers expect and deserve.
• 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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