As Home Inspectors I can argue that we are all just babes in the woods.
While homes have been “inspected” to varying degrees for many years, as a profession we are really still in our infancy. This helps explain the huge range in quality of home inspections and the reports that arise from those inspections.
There is much bickering among home inspectors and various associations as to which association is the best, and inspectors will argue themselves blue in the face as to why they are better than inspector “X.” The point I would like to make is that—-unlike doctors and lawyers—-or even hair dressers—-or even massage therapists—-we generally have NO SIGNIFICANT TRAINING that supports our arguments as to what association or inspector is any better than any other.
That is not to say that there are no GREAT inspectors out there. Those that are great typically got to be great through their own efforts as opposed to formal training they could have done to get them there.
Until there is peer review of all inspectors and training that takes longer than a week or even a month, it is pretty much a stretch to call ourselves a profession.
I do think that we are becoming a profession and can still provide an invaluable service to our buyers, but 25 years from now we will be as similar as a witch doctor is to a brain surgeon—-perhaps even more distinctive. Some of the inspectors that have been involved in this profession from the beginning are being dragged kicking and screaming to the next level. No one wants to admit that this is NOT as good as it gets. What we do now as inspectors will be unrecognizable when compared to what the profession will look like in 10, 20, 30 years from now—-just as it is barely recognizable from what it was 30 years ago.
Real Estate Agents are also part of this equation because they need to keep up with the growth of our profession as well.
Thanks to the internet, consumer expectations of home inspectors increases every day. This in itself results in better inspections, with inspectors spending more time at the inspection and providing more detailed reports. The days of the one hour inspection are justifiably disappearing and the 4 to 5 hour inspection is becoming more common. In time they will likely become even longer.
Home inspectors are all a bunch of “Alpha Wolves” and it is easy for them to get all caught up in their own self-importance. This makes it especially difficult for consumers to know which inspector is actually going to give them the best information possible in the short time that inspector is at the property they are looking at.
With modern report writing software it is pretty easy to create reports that “looks” great, but may be weak on content. In other words the average consumer may not be able to tell what the inspector did not include in the report. The inspector, himself or herself, may not even know what they did not include in the report. There is currently no level playing field. While there is some “minimum standards” of information out there that inspectors rely on, it is VERY minimal in relation to what we could be providing consumers.
My recommendation to consumers is to do as much research as possible about the inspector they are considering. Google their names, their businesses and Professional Associations for more information about them. Check their websites, read their blogs, ask friends who they used, compare their sample reports—–there is no easy way—-but if the consumer does their homework they can find one that is as competent as today’s industry standards allow. Perhaps most importantly, I would advise consumers to consider the cost of the inspection last of all. Although a low cost inspection is likely to be consistent with lack of information.
There are no brain surgeons yet—-but the diapers are getting uncomfortable and we are slowly earning our big-boy (or girl) pants.
Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle
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