Deal Killers, Contract Assassins, Home Inspectors! Call them what you will, but the most important thing you can know is WHO to call. But how do we know who call, and how do we judge their expertise?
Home inspectors are quite simply the eyes and ears of the home being examined. They are the objective voice of the home. The mantra of the home inspectors should be “if the home could speak, what would it say". It is critical that the inspector can speak in a manner that makes understanding simple for the homebuyer, yet has the depth of technical language to detail repairs using terminology common to the trades.
Making that right choice of which home inspector is in many ways more difficult than choosing the home. A clear and critical approach to selecting an inspector is essential to being happy over time with the home selected.
My Friend in Construction
It seems that everyone knows someone who “works in construction", and from that relationship comes the common desire by some buyers to save the professional inspection fee by having the friend or family member perform the inspection.
At first blush, this seems like a perfect solution. The friend or family member is a known and trusted person. There is no doubt in the mind of the buyer that the loyalty and intentions of this person are above reproach. And then of course, there is the issue of saving the inspection fee.
These attributes of the friend are important. Ideally, all but the expense issue would be traits found in any professional home inspector. The difficulty arises in three principal areas; objectivity, creditability, and inspection specific knowledge.
Let's look first at the issue of inspection specific knowledge. While it may be that the friend is without peer in his particular area of construction, it is rare that he is able to view the home in it's entirely - that is, as an interaction of dozens of complex and interrelated systems. The most knowledgeable of heating and air-conditioning contractors may know near to nothing about roofing.
Even more common, however, than the lack of a broad base of knowledge, is the lack of any knowledge that is useful during a home inspection.
On more than one occasion when the “friend in construction" has been asked specifically about construction experience or knowledge, it turns out that this actual experience was something other than optimal. This “experience" usually amounts to something along the lines of loading trucks at the hardware store to earn beer money during spring break back in 74'! Even with the best of intentions, this is hardly the knowledge needed to guide a friend or family member through what is most likely the largest financial decision of their life.
The Objectivity of My Desire
By the very nature of friends and family members, they are not objective. They have great compassion for the buyer and likewise great fear that some harm, be that physical or financial, may come to that buyer. Making matters all the worse is the fear in the back of the head of the “friend in construction" that their experience is not truly enough to render the opinions being offered.
This takes the situation down the path to an even less desirable situation. We have a nervous or anxious buyer being given advice by a now nervous and anxious person who is operating well outside their area of expertise. However, they are now reluctant to concede that they are lost and scared. This is not good for anyone in the transaction - buyer, seller, or agents!
Trust and Credibility
Moving on, we come to the issue of credibility. I've observed thousands of transactions, and it seems to me that sellers are a distrusting lot. Or rather, they certainly are when it comes to the issue of imperfections in their homes.
What happens if, by some stroke of good fortune, the “friend in construction" actually performs the home inspection in a superior manner, and actually discovers all of the homes flaws in a clear and concise way? It is still probable that the seller will doubt the results are fair and objective due to the relationship between buyer and “inspector".
This inherent distrust most always results in a professional inspector being called in to confirm or deny the observations of the “friend". Who pays the bill for this additional involvement and what to do with conflicting observations only adds another layer of pain and confusion on a transaction that is already hemorrhaging to death.
Who to Hire?
Keep life simple! Always hire professional ASHI qualified Home Inspectors. You can be sure that ASHI home inspectors adhere to a strict Code of Ethics, a well-defined Standards of Practice, and have passed the most demanding membership certification requirements in the country.
And if there is a personal connection to the home inspector, be SURE to disclose that up front to all concerned. Most people will not object to the disclosure, but let the discovery be make after the fact and the trust, as well as the transaction, may be gone forever.
Wally Conway is President of Florida HomePro Inspections, and is featured regularly on HGTV's “House Detective". As a speaker, writer, instructor, and host of The Happy Home Inspector radio show every Saturday at 3 PM on WOKV 690, Wally blends the right amount of up-to-date information with just the right amount of humor, insight, motivation, and real-world application. Visit http://www.wallyconway.com and http://www.gohomepro.com for more information!