I have been seen a recurring problem over the years and that deals with how fast some Home Inspectors are performing their home inspections. There is nothing wrong with being organized and methodical to help reduce the amount of time it takes to perform a home inspection. But are these fast Home Inspectors really organized and methodical, or are you just not getting a thorough home inspection?
Over the years I have helped many people who have been ripped off and/or harmed by their Home Inspector. When I help these people I ask many preliminary questions before I read their inspection report. With regards to this Blog post one of the most important questions I ask is “How long did the home inspector spend on site performing the inspection, and how long did they take to brief you of their findings?”. I have yet to encounter a single case that I have helped where the Home Inspector took any reasonable amount of time on site to perform the inspection properly and brief the client properly!
These next two images (1 & 2) are a typical example of one Home Inspector’s deficient work. This buyer originally called me to perform the home inspection. They then decided to have another Home Inspector perform the inspection because he was so much cheaper. After the inspection, and closing on the home, they called me back asking for my help because they felt something was wrong and their cheap Home Inspector was not answering their calls or questions when they could contact him. This was only one of the many issues with this Home Inspector’s bad job!
Image 1 is an excerpt from the actual home inspection report for the Fireplace/Chimney section of the report. Take note of the Inspector’s Comment where he states “Electric/Not for use with firewood”. This particular home is all electric and no natural gas service at all. After seeing the photograph of the home’s roof (Image 2 which has been cropped for privacy) it was immediately apparent that something was wrong. Although hard to see in this picture the arrow is pointing to a flue pipe that was installed for use with the full wood burning fireplace that was installed inside. But that wasn’t the only problem with this negligent call! I asked the buyer for the fireplace insert manufacturer data tag information which the buyer readily found and read off to me. After checking the manufacturer’s installation information it was found that this particular firebox was not approved for use in that particular installation. As installed it was a significant fire safety hazard!
The list of errors this Home Inspector made goes on and on. There was a septic system that was never even looked at, large barns on this rural property that were not looked at that had significant safety hazards in them, there was no indication that the crawl area had even been looked at by the Home Inspector as if he did he would easily have found significant problems there as well. And again this was not even all of the missed items and problems that went unreported.
So how did all of these errors and omissions occur? Well the buyer was suppose to meet the Home Inspector at the beginning of the inspection and go through the whole process with him. Because of unavoidable delays the buyer was almost, but not quite, an hour late arriving at the home. The Home Inspector was already gone and did not even bother to wait for the client! Since the Home Inspector had to set an appointment to access the property the buyer knew he had been there for no more than an hour on a property that could easily have taken over three hours just to inspect and that does not even include the client briefing time.
As it stands this Home Inspector, like so many others, did not bother to take the proper time to perform the inspection. Had they performed the inspection properly then obvious errors such as the one above would not happen! So what are the problem causes with this type of Home Inspector? Read on for more.
[tab: The Problem Causes ]
Without a doubt the biggest problem with these “Fly By” (extremely fast and poor quality) type Home Inspectors is what you are paying them. This particular Home Inspector is one of those that charges so low a rate he draws in many unsuspecting consumers. He is one of those that basically charges the same price for any house he inspects. In addition he promises many “Free” services that really are nothing more than hype and a way to attract people. I know, I know you want the best bang for your buck in anything you buy but with a home inspection, like any other service provider, you’re paying not only for their abilities and expertise, you’re also paying for their time to properly perform the inspection and write a detailed and comprehensive report.
Time is important to any service provider and to think that you can obtain free time from a service provider is an invitation to trouble. Let’s use an analogy of this to help better illustrate the concept of what time costs. Let’s say you’re selling your current home so you can move to that bigger home that you always wanted. You hire a painter to come in and paint your current home to make it more presentable for buyers. The painter did an outstanding job and you sold your home quickly. Before you move into your new home you decide to have a painter come in and paint the entire home as well. Since you liked the painter from before you called him but when he provided his estimate you were shocked! You might have expected him to paint your new home for the same price as the old home, after all it’s not that much bigger is it? Well it is and that will take more time to paint, and maybe you have conditions in your new home that the old one does not have that will take more time to handle. The only way that painter can paint the new home for the same labor price is to provide less quality in workmanship by reducing his time to paint. The quality won’t be as good, the care won’t be as good, nothing will be as good. Time is money to any service provider and if you’re not willing to pay them for quality work you will receive less than quality results.
Another large problem with these “Fly By” Home Inspectors is the consumers’ not knowing what they are contracting for. Texas regulates Home Inspectors and have a set of rules how they will operate and what they will inspect. These can be found at The Texas Real Estate Commission WEB site by clicking “HERE”. You should read these rules and procedures to become familiar with how minimal they really are! In these rules, and using the fireplace example above, a Home Inspector is not required to go to a manufacturer’s WEB site to review any installation requirements for anything in your home. They are not even required to read a manufacturer’s manual if it is sitting right in front of the equipment or item! In other words if the Home Inspector does not see something they can tell is a defect they are not required to research to see if anything not readily apparent is a defect (in this case the model of fireplace not being allowed installation in this home).
Also in the example above the septic system, barns, and grading other than immediately around the home are optional items to inspect and the Home Inspector is not required to inspect them unless you contract with them to do so. There is a rule that states if the Home Inspector knows there is something on the property that they do not inspect then they are suppose to tell you that at the first contact (typically before you sign their contract or agree to use their services). The actual wording from the rules for this is:
“If the inspector routinely departs from inspection of a part, system, or component, the earliest practical opportunity for the notice required by this subsection is the first contact with the prospect and the inspector has reason to believe that the property being inspected has the part, system, or component the inspector routinely does not inspect.”
Home Inspectors routinely get around this rule very easily! They do this by not asking you questions about the home and property to understand what it has and if there is something they do not inspect. In the case above the property is a country home, on a large tract of land, in a rural area. The Home Inspector lives not far from this area and should have been aware of these conditions. Even if the Home Inspector does not live near the property they can easily find these things out. Instead the Home Inspector did not ask the buyer, did not do any basic research on the home, and the buyer was not aware of this rule and did not advise the Home Inspector these items/conditions were there. Once the Home Inspector arrives on site and finds these items the buyer has already contracted with him and is on a short option period and now stuck with that Home Inspector. Obviously the Home Inspector does not inspect those items and the buyer suffers.
Another major problem with these “Fly By” Home Inspectors is that they are catering more to the Real Estate Agent’s desires than performing and protecting you! It is a simple fact that the longer a Home Inspector is on site inspecting the home, and doing it properly, the more likely they are to find those problems in the home and gather sufficient documentation to provide you to make a good decision whether to buy or not. But the more problems that are found in that home then the more chance is that you will either return to the seller with a large request for repairs or concessions, or you might decide to back out of the purchase altogether. Either of those conditions cause Real Estate Agents grief. The good Real Estate Agents know that it might be additional grief but you have been properly served by that Home Inspector and want you to know everything of a problem nature in that house. However it is a fact that the vast majority of inspection job referrals come from Real Estate Agents! These “Fly By” Home Inspectors want to keep getting those Agent referrals and will do anything, including taking advantage of you, to ensure their steady flow of inspection referrals from the Agents.
There are other situations and conditions that also help the “Fly By” Home inspector shave their time off and provide you a bad home inspection. We could write volumes about them but for now how do you avoid the “Fly By” Home Inspector? Read on for more.
[tab: How To Avoid The Fly By Inspector]
So by now you are probably wondering how long does it take to perform a proper home inspection? It is an excellent question to ask Home Inspectors as you are interviewing them. Some Home Inspectors will give you some time period such as “1 hour for every 1000 square feet of the home space”, or other such definitive answer. But the only real answer is “I don’t know until I get there and perform the inspection!”. I have performed inspections on large homes that have had few problems and then performed inspections on much smaller homes that took much more time than the larger home because there were so many problems. So the first two tips to avoid these Fly By Home Inspectors is:
Ask how long they think the inspection will take? Caution: many Home Inspectors are performing two, three, and even more inspections a day. By providing you a definitive time they are only trying to set your expectations so they can get out of your house and go to their next inspection. Be wary about the Home Inspector performing more than one full inspection a day regardless of the house size. If the Home Inspector is performing more than two inspections a day RUN DON’T WALK AWAY FROM THAT HOME INSPECTOR. You will not get a good inspection from them.
Ask the Home Inspector if they need assistance in ensuring they have all the time needed to perform a proper home inspection. You are the buyer and what this entire deal is about! If I request additional time over what I am allowed to schedule through the scheduling service then I might or might not be allowed that time. This just happened not a week or so ago when I even emailed the client’s agent and the selling Agent that I would require more than 4 hours to inspect that almost 5000 Square Foot home. Both Agents refused to allow more than 4 hours to inspect. I advised the client who would not go to his Agent and demand the time. As a result I turned down the job knowing a proper inspection could not be done in 4 hours! As the buyer these Agents will listen to you and your demands for such a simple thing.
You need to read the TREC rules for Home Inspectors and be familiar with them. You don’t need to memorize them or be an expert in them. Just know what you are getting ready to contract for. In a nutshell Home Inspectors are already only required to inspect the physical home itself and the ground (for grading and drainage) immediately around the home. There are items and conditions inside of a home they are not required to inspect! The inspector is even not required to inspect fences, detached structures, etc. So the second tip to avoid these Fly By Home Inspectors is:
Become familiar with the rules and requirements for Home Inspectors. Also on the TREC WEB page I osted is a copy of the reuired property inspection report form. It has a separate section for optional items which will list some of the potential optional items. Make a list of any optional items you have in the home as well as any special items or conditions in the home. When you interview Home Inspectors ask if they inspect these items? Also ask if there are any items or conditions that they will not inspect but are required to? We actually have Home Inspectors here that will not climb on roofs or walk through attics as they are required to. Ask if they do these things?
The next tip deals with you and your approach to the purchase of the home. Buying a home is one of, if not the, largest purchase you will ever make! You need to take charge of the process and make sure that you are receiving what you contracted for. That means not only from Home Inspectors but also from Real Estate Agents, Mortgage Professionals, etc., etc. To make sure you do obtain what you contracted for means that you must be vigilante. Part of that vigilance deals with the issue of trust. I just had this conversation with a client a very short while ago and told the client to prevent from being taken advantage of you CAN NOT give 100% trust to anyone other than your spouse! You should always reserve 10% of any trust to make sure you do the right thing and your due diligence to make sure you are not taken advantage of. The minute you give someone 100% trust you are subject to be taken advantage of. As a business person I do not expect any of my clients to give 100% trust to me. That may sound weird but remember I am also a consumer subject to be taken advantage of and if I take that position how can I expect my clients to? So the last tip is:
Do not give anyone 100% trust as you will expose yourself to be taken advantage of! Any reasonable business person already realizes that a good consumer will not give all of their trust away. All we can do is properly perform our jobs and hope we have served the client well! Our reward, besides the fee, is performing a stellar job and being referred by you to other potential home buyers.
There are many other items to watch out for the Fly By Home Inspector but these will take you far in avoiding this type. Good luck on buying your home and remember only you can make sure you are getting everything you contracted for!
[tab: Links and References]
PS Inspection & Property Services LLC is a full service home inspection and light commercial inspection company servicing the entire Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex. We strive to for the satisfaction of our customers in everything we do. Our services offerings include:
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