Tuesday, November 15, 2016

A Hammer Treats Every Problem as a Nail

Who is the Best Home Inspector for You?

I performed a condo inspection that was attended by the client's Realtor (the client was not present). I asked if he had any more sales coming up (I was fishing for more referrals). He told me that he only had houses - not condos, and that he always referred an Inspector who was also a Structural Engineer to inspect houses. He went on to explain that when inspecting "he doesn't charge for being an Engineer unless he finds a structural problem. Then he'll contract the client for his engineering services."

Then he tells me "I've got a few homes right now with structural issues…"

But several homes – all with structural issues?

I’m not here to deride his Inspector / Engineer, but the Realtor’s last comment about having a few homes with structural issues – all “discovered” by this Inspector – leaves me wondering. Out of the last 150 homes I’ve inspected, maybe five have had structural issues. Some were obvious, like a concrete porch pulling away from the main house. Some less so, for instance a crack in a foundation that had been “repaired” with caulk and the crack appeared to be still enlarging. In my report, I noted the appropriate action to be taken (call a concrete contractor for the former and consult with a Structural Engineer for the latter).

Let’s compare it to a different scenario. Let's say the Inspector also was a licensed HVAC tech. That’s fine and good – most Inspectors have some sort of construction background. But wouldn’t it raise your eyebrows if a large percentage of the homes he inspected were determined to have defective furnaces and the Inspector offered (for an extra fee) to fix or replace the furnace?

Home Inspectors are Generalists. We are trained to look at your home as a system. We note problems as we see them. We know where to look for trouble spots in all the systems of your home. When we see an issue with a specialized system, our report often advises calling in a specialist. We discover and advise – and we adhere to a strict Code of Ethics so that there is no chance there could be – or appear to be – a conflict of interest between what we discover in our inspections and our ability to repair them for profit.

Having an Inspector with specialized skills can be a plus, but keep in mind the old saying: "A hammer treats every problem as a nail". Make sure that he or she is also a Certified Professional Inspector. The best skill your Inspector can have is an ability to accurately and objectively communicate to you and your Realtor the condition of the home you are about to purchase. A Certified Professional Inspector is trained to look at your home as a system and to give you an unbiased and objective analysis of your home that you and your Realtor can use to negotiate the final cost of your investment. So be very skeptical of any problems "discovered" by your Inspector that he or she offers, for a fee, to fix.

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