What are the ten dirty little secrets that Home Inspectors will not tell you?

Did you know that your Home Inspector has dirty little secrets they won’t tell you?  Do you want to know what they are?  Read on for the whole scoop! 

[tab: The First 5 Things]

An article on MSN Real Estate WEB site listed the ten things that Home Inspectors might not tell you, or want you to know.  It was written by a pair of Authors and apparently originally posted on the Smart Money WEB site.  Since I do not have the permission to re-post the article here I’ll instead provide you a link to it HERE so you can read it yourself.

The premise of the article was that these are ten things that an Inspector might not want you to know.  There is truth in the article but the method of writing it was a bit confusing to read as it waffled back and forth from an expose format (the dirty little secrets of Home Inspectors) to a defensive format of Home Inspectors with other professionals accurately rebutting the article.  Even the authors made comments that rebutted their own intentions and wording.  In any case the premise and points of the article are worth looking at.  Here I’ll provide my perspective to each of the ten points as I read the article.  I will summarize the article and add my comments to each point.

Point 1 – The consumer’s expectations of a home inspection are not necessarily what might be presented to them by the Home Inspector.

It is unfortunate but occasionally we do encounter consumers who might have an unrealistic view of what an inspection entails.  One of the hardest things a Home Inspector has to do is to manage the client’s expectations of what they are to receive.  Here the article seems to suggest that Home Inspectors should be pulling up carpet and digging up underground tanks and piping.  But in reality a home inspection is a non-destructive examination of the home.  Think of it this way, if you were selling your home would you really want the Home Inspector to be pulling up carpet, damaging other wall/ceiling/floor finishes to get to what is behind them, removing siding off the exterior walls or shingles off the roof and digging up the ground outside to find and examine buried components of the home?  Even if the homeowner did approve of these things could you even imagine how much time that would take and how much more that home inspection would cost you?

Point 2 – Home Inspectors do not directly access the roof to perform an up close inspection.

Unfortunately this is one I have to agree with with in many cases.  Here in Texas we have plenty of Inspectors that will not access a roof regardless of how safe it might be.  Some of those Inspectors will not even place a ladder against any first floor roof eave to view it from that point.  Instead they will only view it from the ground and many times not even with  binoculars!  Our rules provide a great deal of leeway for Inspectors to make their own determination on what is or is not safe and many Inspectors use that allowance as a cop-out not to access the roof.  After all if they don’t access the roof they can cut down on their inspection time greatly and that means more money in their pockets!  However the rules also do require any Inspector that routinely does not access the roof, or use a ladder at the roof eaves, notify you on the very first contact that they do not walk roofs.

There are valid reasons for an Inspector not to directly access a roof and they are safety related and also to prevent any further damage to the roof.  Sometimes these conditions such as rain or moisture might not occur until the day and time of the inspection.  Also a badly aged and/or badly damaged roof is not one that should be walked as that might cause additional damages.  The best thing to do is to ask the Inspector, BEFORE you sign any contracts, if they directly access and walk roofs?  There are many issues that can not be seen from the ground and eaves and if a roof can be walked it should be walked!

Point 3 – Home inspection training does not make an Inspector and only years and years of experience can make a good Home Inspector, and you should only look for Home Inspectors with years and years of experience.

This particular paragraph is only half correct.  Yes the licensing requirements are only a basic requirement for training.  Also unfortunately the Texas Real Estate Commission has not long ago lowered the license passing score from an already extremely low 75% to an even lower 70%.  This, along with past bad licensing laws and rules, has caused a large increase in the number of unqualified Home Inspectors entering the field.  Many of these Inspectors did only what was necessary to pass a test, hang their shingle, and start wreaking havoc on the home buyers and sellers.  However under the same breath we also have many long time Home Inspectors who have not bothered to maintain their skills and instead rest on their low license numbers and claims of “X” years (the “many, many” part) in the Home Inspection field.  Claims such as these in this article help fuel their businesses which do nothing more than place consumers at risk from not knowing about that money pit the Home Inspector is not reporting properly on.

Any good professional with many years under their belt of supervising and training others can tell you that even a brand new person can turn into a very knowledgeable and skilled professional in a very short time.  Having supervised and trained many individuals over my years, in highly technical fields, I’ve been pleased to experience this myself.  Being an exceptional Home Inspector is not all about the specific technical training in building and construction as that is only one part of the job.  There are many, many other attributes a person must have to be exceptional in any field.

Unfortunately for the consumer selecting a Home Inspector can be a crap shoot if you don’t approach it properly.  The best and most telling way to select a good Home Inspector is to view a sample of their actual product which is the home inspection report and compare it to others you are considering hiring.  I’m simply amazed at the poor quality of sample reports I view regularly on Home Inspector’s WEB sites and you would be too if you reviewed and compared them closely.

Point 4 – Home Inspectors referred by your Real Estate Agent are more interested in satisfying the Agent, and are more loyal to the Agent, than you.

In many cases this is a very true statement and sad to say it is at your expense.  It is no secret that the vast majority of home inspections are referred by Real Estate Agents.  Many Home Inspectors spend large amounts of money marketing to Agents and those same Inspectors depend on those referrals for their business.  It really does not take much to understand that when a Home Inspector, or any business for that matter, is spending large amounts of money and effort marketing to the referral source instead of to the consumer who is using their service then that business has a lot to lose if they do not ensure the source of their referrals is well taken care of.  In the case of Home Inspectors that means taking care of the Real Estate Agent better than you!  After all in the case of Home Inspectors they will only see your business once in the many years between you buying a house but will deal with their referral sources regularly.  On the other hand if they don’t make the Agents happy then the referrals WILL go away!

So how do you avoid these less than preferable Home Inspectors?  There are some signs that the Home Inspector might be a problem.  One easy sign is if you find them on big lists of vendors being referred to you, especially if that list is on the Agent’s WEB site.  Every business looks for ways to make money and many of these lists the Home Inspector has to pay for access to it.  Another possible indication is when you visit the Agent’s office and find the Home Inspector’s marketing materials there.  I’ve been to many Agent offices in my first years of business and with all but a few exceptions they demanded some type of compensation for placing my marketing materials there.  With the WEB lists and marketing materials in the offices many also have sliding scales where the more the Home Inspector pays the more prominent they make their advertisement and many times the harder they push the Inspector on their clients.  Another indication is on the Home Inspector’s own WEB site testimonial pages.  If you see a lot of testimonials by Agents that could be a sign as well.  Another very good indication again is to obtain a sample report and read through it.  The way Inspectors make Agents happy is to write soft reports, or useless and incomprehensible reports, that are meant to help sell the house rather than inform you.

Point 5 – Home Inspectors won’t tell you the true charge to you for an inspection and will try to up sell you on services beyond the basic requirements.

This point did not make any sense when I read it multiple times.  However you do have to be aware of what the true cost of an inspection is going to be and to do that means you must communicate well with the Home Inspector.  One of the problems we have in Texas are Home Inspectors that don’t engage you in a proper conversation to learn everything they can about your home so they can quote a price properly.  The trick these less than desirable Inspectors will use is to get as little information as they need to give you some type of cheap fee.  Then when they arrive on the home site they start disclaiming/excluding items they did not want to inspect in the first place.  For example even though you live in the country, and it is a high probability you have a septic system, they won’t even ask about it.  Or in the country you might have a large, detached building with utilities and all types of other amenities important to you they won’t ask about that either.  In Texas both of those are optional inspection items not required of the Inspector to inspect unless you contract with them for it.  These take additional time and effort to inspect and many Inspectors won’t try to up sell you on them but instead they just won’t include them (disclaim them) in the report.

So when you speak to the Inspector make sure they are aware of everything on the property that you do want inspected.  By the way did you know that even fences around yards are not required to be inspected according to the Texas rules/laws?  Even an average 125′ of wood fence can cost upwards of $2000.00 to replace if it is shot!  What I like to do is to engage the client in a conversation to find out as much as I can about the home so I know what I will need to inspect and quote on.  I’ll also look at the listing photos and other data sources to see if there is going to be an potential issues for the inspection so the client knows before they even select me and sign any contract.  You should do the same thing and learn as much as you can about the home and property features and communicate those to the Inspector.  Make sure you do tell them what all you want inspected so they know before they even quote you an inspection fee.

So how about those other 5 items, numbers 6 – 10, on that list?  The next tab will cover those.

[tab: The Next 5 Things]

Point 6 – New home construction is different than inspecting an existing home.

First we need to understand that it appears they are speaking of new homes that are completed in construction and not in an unfinished stage.  Next the remaining parts of this section just did not make sense since the problems the person described could be there but also not be detectable even in an existing home.  Actually what this section should have been titled is “New homes are inspected exactly like existing homes.”.  That would be more accurate of what an Inspector won’t tell you and is improper and true again in many cases.  The Standards of Practice used not only by licensed Texas Inspectors but also all of the Inspector associations improperly treat new homes the same as existing homes.  These standards are written from a purely “Functional” standpoint and do not include any aspects that should be looked for in new home construction.  In other words for example in the new home the tankless water heater is providing hot water at every hot water faucet, but was the water heater installed as required by the building codes and manufacturer’s installation requirements?  The last two checks are very important not only for safety reasons but also potential operational issues that might occur later if improperly installed.  So if you are having a new home inspected you need to ask if the Inspector is going to treat it just like an existing home or are they going to look for these additional important points?

Point 7 – Home Inspectors do not guarantee their work.

With the exception of the last statement that Home Inspectors should be able to estimate repair costs, and predict possible future events, I do have to agree with the general concept of this paragraph.  Home Inspector’s do not carry X-Ray vision glasses to see inside of walls and see the improperly installed plumbing that can potentially failed disastrously!  We don’t own crystal balls that allow us to see in the future to tell when something will fail!  All the Home Inspector can do is look for the signs (visible, audible, and other indications with or without specialized inspection equipment) and use our brains and experiences to help determine the “What If” conditions.  AHAH didn’t I say that a Home Inspector does not have to have years and years of experience to be a good Home Inspector?  Think you caught me on that one?  That’s not quite what I said and previously only talked about the many attributes that a person needs to be a Home Inspector.  One of those attributes is to be able to use their past experiences as a guide to home inspecting.  Those experiences are many of which one is to include being an attentive and diligent homeowner themselves.  You would be surprised how many Home Inspectors can’t even fix their own minor problems in a home and yet feel they can inspect homes and advise others on the condition of a home.  Many of these same Inspectors won’t even watch over the other professionals as they do their work so they can learn more.

WARNING! There are no true guarantees with anything in life except death and taxes.  Any other guarantee that you are given always has strings or caveats attached to it.  The caveats and strings are especially true if you are offered a guarantee from the Home Inspector!  I add this warning only because there is a new surge on by Home Inspectors offering you these “Money Back Guarantees”, the free and mostly useless short term warranties, the “Free Thingamajig Guaranteed To Identify Defective Items In The Home”, etc., etc.  These are nothing more than marketing gimmicks intended to draw you into using them for your home inspection, and in some cases to defer their liability when they make mistakes they knew better not to.  The only true guarantee any Home Inspector can give you is to treat you fairly, with respect as their client and not the Agent, and to perform the best job they possibly can.

Point 8 –  Home Inspectors don’t carry Errors & Omissions insurance to help cover themselves if they make a bad call or miss something.

This article was obviously written to cover many different localities around the country but you don’t have to worry in Texas because E&O insurance is a mandatory item for those that are licensed by The Texas Real Estate Commission (TREC).  Of course what you might not know is that many licensed Professional Engineers and Architects are performing home inspections in Texas and have no TREC license to perform them.  Why they don’t have a license is covered in another Blog post but you should know that the Engineering and Architects licensing boards and laws do not require Engineers and Architects to have any insurance at all!  Many may or may not carry insurance to cover them under their duties as a licensed Engineer or Architect but E&O insurances tend to be very specific on what they will and will not cover.  The practice of a whole home inspection is not typically deemed as a normal duty or function of licensed Engineers and Architects and their E&O insurance may well not cover any errors or omissions they make on your home inspection.

Point 9 – Home Inspectors do not inspect using the building codes.

Although there is some truth to this paragraph this example is a very poor one to use.  Yes most Home Inspectors don’t inspect using any code requirements and in fact the State of Texas has this little paragraph in the promulgated report form that Home Inspectors are required to use.  Just like many other things within the Texas rules and laws you won’t be told about this and many, many Home Inspectors will hide behind it to defer their liability.

The inspection report may address issues that are code-based or may refer to a particular code; however, this is NOT a code compliance inspection and does NOT verify compliance with manufacturer’s installation instructions.

However you the consumer does need to realize that not all changes in a home might be detectable as modifications to the original build (additions, etc.), and even when the changes are detectable there are not many ways, and many times no way, to tell when these changes were made.  Only the sellers can provide you the details of when a remodel/addition/major change/etc. was performed on the home.  If the changes were made before building permits were even issued in that area, or made before a change in the building code cycle even requiring a specific installation was implemented, then even the Home Inspector might not know it was a requirement.

Here in the Dallas, Texas and Fort Worth, Texas area we have many cities that do place their building permits online for ready access by anyone.  But not all cities do that and even some that place them online close them off for anyone except contractors or homeowners with a known permit number.  I for one do check all permits I can access but have also found that the city permit systems might even be inaccurate and missing a permit for something that was completely obvious when inspecting.  Regardless of whether the permits were online or not it is always the responsibility of the buyer to take a few minutes to make that call or visit the local Building Inspections Department to obtain any history they do have on the home.  Home Inspectors do not normally get to see the various documents the buyer does such as the Seller’s Disclosure, past inspection reports, etc., that might also help give them an idea that permits might not have been properly obtained.

Point 10 – Home Inspectors can cause more damage than they find.

I really don’t even know how this falls into anything important regarding the dirty little secrets that Home Inspectors won’t tell you?  Really I have no comment on this??

So there you have this article’s ten dirty little secrets of Home Inspectors.  The list can go on an on and on.  However on the next tab I’m going to list 5 more little secrets that you had better at least read and be aware of as these can cost you a HUGE amount of money!

[tab: The 5 Things Not Listed]

This was an interesting article to dissect but it left out many more important or just as important dirty little secrets that Home Inspectors won’t tell you.  These are only five more of those dirty little secrets and many, many more can be written about.

Point 11 – Although the Home Inspector claims to have decades of experience in home building what they really had are duties and experiences far from it!

It never ceases to amaze me just how much any service companies embellish (stretch) the truth and some times even outright lie.  This type of false/misleading advertising is rampant on Home Inspector WEB sites.  I kid you not, I read one Inspector’s WEB site that is local here and he claimed to have over 25 years experience in home construction, and yet he was only 32 years old!  No it wasn’t a typo as he not only used the number 25 but also on other areas of his WEB site he stated it again and spelled out “over twenty five years”.  Is it possible that a seven year old was building houses?  More likely he was helping Dad sort nails in a can on a job site and decided that constitutes home building experience.  How do I know he was only 32 years old?  Well Gee Whiz if you’re going to lie about something don’t leave your foot prints all over the WEB on social media sites as well as many others.  Actually I was surprised to see he was 32 as I did meet him once and he looked younger than that.

What is very sad about these cases of severe embellishment (other than the example above) and outright lies are you the consumer have very little ability, if any, to verify the bogus claims.  I have known a lot of good contractors and service people in my lifetime and all understand this same problem.  None of the good ones I have known have embellished or lied in their advertisements and any using these type claims have had easily verifiable, and valid proof of their claims.  Good contractors and service people keep portfolios, previous license information, news articles about their work, etc., etc., to help show they truly did have this experience.  So when looking at all of those experience claims, regardless of what the claim is, take them with a grain of salt and either ignore them or ask them to provide the information.  A good professional can not only “Talk The Talk” but can “Walk The Walk”!

Point 12 – Most if not all of those fancy logos and credentials on my WEB site, and all those titles and letters after my name, don’t really mean diddle!

We have become a world where the more letters you can place after your name, as well as the more logos and titles you have around your name and WEB site, seems to provide more stature and credence to who you are suppose to be.  What’s even a stronger draw is if those titles, letters, association names, logos, etc., look like something that is for real and sound important.  If you only really knew the truth about all those titles, letters, and logos you would be very angry!  It is so easy these days to open an editing program and create a fancy logo for just about anything you want or think a consumer might be wowed at!  It is also very easy to create a title or even buy a title from one of the many professional and other associations and various businesses out there that will even help promote it to the public.

The World Wide WEB is a new place these days where you go to research information and there is so much fiction you can’t tell it from fact.  Even some of the more reputable associations and/or organizations refuse to realize and prevent their own titles and logos from being improperly used.  There is a lot of this happening but one of the common misrepresentations, and a good example of deception, comes from a very large and reputable organization called the International Code Council or ICC.  This is the group that writes and distributes the various building codes used for building homes.  Anybody can join the ICC by paying a simple fee and then can make all types of claims about their membership and affiliation with the ICC.  It sounds impressive to those that are not aware that membership is open to anyone and just because you are a member does not mean you participate in ICC activities, are certified in any way by the ICC, or that you have any special affiliation with them.  Another grand title and claim I find regularly on Home Inspectors WEB sites is that they are an “ICC Certified Building Inspector”.  It sounds great, as if they are the same as the local Building Inspections Inspectors and cover everything, but it is only one of four certifications the ICC offers regarding the residential building codes with the others being Residential Electrical Inspector, Residential Plumbing Inspector, and Residential Mechanical Inspector.  All four cover the the main systems in any home with the Residential Building Inspector covering only the structural items.  If you also note on these Inspectors’ WEB sites they leave out the “Residential” part of the designation since there is both a “Residential” and “Commercial” set of certifications.

Logos, titles, claims, etc., are one of my many points of anger with these less than honest Home Inspectors since it is another one of those things you as a consumer either won’t be able to verify or many times won’t understand the insignificance of.  Much of the alphabet soup around a persons name, and the fancy titles are pure BULL HOCKEY!  So be careful and don’t fall into that trap.

Point 13 – All of those free things a Home Inspector tells you are free are either fairly worthless and if the Home Inspector paid for it really are not free as they do add it to the cost of your inspection.

In point 7 I mentioned briefly these “Free” thingamajigs and services and also stated that nothing is truly “Free” when it comes to Home Inspectors just as with other businesses.  But it sure sounds tempting when that Home Inspector offers a multitude of “Free This” and “Free That” just to draw you into their trap!  Home Inspectors are just like any other business in that they are there to make a living which means making money.  The more any business gives away for “Free” the less money they make as they typically pay for that “Free” thing or it is given to them in hopes the business providing it gets to speak with you to sell you even more at inflated prices.  Even when a Home Inspector is offering you a “Free” service it costs them money in the form of extra time to perform that “Free” service.  Hopefully you realize already that those “Free” things are either actually added into your inspection fee or the original service you are buying is reduced to make up for the cost of that supposedly “Free” thing.  Quite frankly Home Inspectors offering these “Free” things have, in my opinion, a low opinion of the value of their own services by trying to hook you with the “Free” scam!

Point 14 – When a Home Inspector says they are providing you a detailed and/or full home inspection, and they plan to do that in 3 – 4 hours, what they are really saying is they are only performing to the minimum required by the TREC Standards of Practice and have to get out of their quickly since they have booked  more inspections for the day they need to get to and will do anything to shorten their time on site so they are not late for their next inspection!

I’ve helped many consumers over the years with problem inspections, have followed behind many of these type Inspectors and seen the previous inspection report from them, and have read plenty of the sample inspection reports from these type Inspectors WEB pages.  It’s all the same recurring theme over and over again.  This type Inspector will promise you the world but then hide behind the minimum requirements and various protections offered by the TREC rules and State laws for Home Inspectors.  These type of Inspectors have a checklist inspection attitude and method which easily allows them to short cut your inspection when they run short on time.  There is no possible way that any Inspector can tell you how much time it takes to perform a true “Detailed” and/or “Full” home inspection until they get there and perform the inspection.  There are way to many things that can cost time on site when performing a true detailed and full inspection of the home.

Point 15 – When a Home Inspector offers you on site report generation what they are really telling you is that they want to be done with your inspection altogether so they can go home and have a beer and watch the game or TV show.

Here is another problem we have in this industry that consumers are just not aware of since they rarely use the services of a Home Inspector.  On site report generation does nothing more than promote minimal inspections with check box style reports that are written as a “One Size Fits All” reporting mentality.  These Inspectors will walk around the home looking only for those problems specifically loaded into their hand held or other devices that allow them to check the box and insert “canned phrases” that are typically vague and/or unintelligible.  If they even look and see something that is not in their check box reporting software it is generally ignored since that would take additional time to actually write a comment for.  I can go on and on about the problems with on site report generation but it all boils down to YOU LOSE and the Home Inspector wins by providing the minimal inspection, if even that, in a minimal amount of time.

So there you have fifteen dirty little secrets of Home Inspectors.  These really only scratch the surface of the problems in this industry.  You as the consumer of this service needs to be aware and thoroughly check out your Home Inspector to make sure you don’t get taken by these little secrets!

[tab: Links and References]

PS Inspection & Property Services LLC is a full service home inspection and light commercial inspection company servicing the entire Dallas, Texas and Fort Worth, Texas metroplex.  We strive to for the satisfaction of our customers in everything we do.  Our services offerings include:

Buyer home inspections
New Home Warranty Inspections
New Home Draw Inspections
Home Maintenance Inspections
Home Remodeling Inspections
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Whole Inspections Or Inspections Customized To Your Needs

If you have an inspection need we can customize an inspection for it.  Please visit our main site at PS Inspection & Property Service LLC.

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