There is an ongoing argument among home inspectors as to whether their Standards of Practice is a “bar not to be exceeded” or the “minimum that an inspector is required to do.”
Finding myself in the latter camp I have wrestled with different arguments to support my position. I have come up with a visual analogy.
With a Tree, we have the above ground trunk, limbs and leaves. Underground we have the root system that supports the tree. Of course these components are interdependent. We all know that a tree can’t live long without roots, and while a cut rose will do wonders for your sweetie—eventually it ends up in the compost. Of course, without a trunk, branches and leaves, the root system will also wither and die—serve no useful purpose.
I have noticed however, the tenacity of root systems to continue growing, as this poor stump to the right did—nearly healing the entire cut. It may yet sprout new branches and bloom again.
Sometimes the portion above ground will create a whole new root system as well—if nurtured effectively.
As an analogy we can visualize the Standard’s of Practice as the roots of the tree.
After the home inspector’s training has been completed, and the inspector is “qualified” to go out into the world to kick tires and tree trunks, the tree is already an established size based on the Standards of Practice agreed upon by one’s particular State Licensing board, or one’s chosen Association—such as ASHI. This amounts to the above ground portion of the tree.
Now of course, the foliage of the tree is beautiful and symmetrical—however, perhaps a little “bonsaied” by the minimal nature of the Standards of Practice as well as the minimal amount of education/information the new inspector brings to the forest.
Time goes by and the sun shines on the tree and, despite the best efforts of the arborist Home Inspector, the tree grows—producing more roots, more branches and more leaves.
This “growth” is equivalent to “new information” being added—new knowledge being gained—continuing education. To support this growth, the roots—the Standards of Practice—must also grow. Unfortunately the minimum standards don’t grow fast enough (some arborists even believe they should never be allowed to grow) to keep up with the growth of the tree—a kind of “natural bureaucracy” takes over. Others argue that new roots must be added by the inspectors themselves to compensate. This is called “growing going beyond the Standard’s of Practice.” I think the majority of inspectors have a green thumb in this respect whether they would admit it or not.
As with any tree, messing with the Primary Roots will land you in trouble, so it is important to make sure they are maintained and well cared for. Pretending that some of the primary roots are necessary and some are not is not going to be good for the tree or the home inspector.
Every tree has a great many roots that are not necessary for the tree’s support but nonetheless equally important in nourishing the tree.
Sometimes, regardless of attentive pruning and feeding, an ill wind will blow and expose hidden decay/rot. Sometimes a George-Washington-type may come along and even chop the whole thing down—for no reason whatsoever.
Such is the life of a tree—
—and a home inspector.
Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle
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