There are a lot of great home inspectors and a lot of great real estate agents in our area, so this article is not intended to generalize everyone in a negative light. As in any profession you have people that go beyond what is expected of them, people that truly care for others, and people who are not motivated by money or statistics.
I was contacted by a professional recently who was purchasing a second home to fix up over the years in plans of retiring in the home. She was provided a list of 40 home inspectors in our area and she started researching these inspectors online. As she was researching she came across my website, and said she was thrilled that she had found me (I worked on her home as a remodeling contractor at least 10 years earlier).
She was surprised that I was not included on the list of 40 and scheduled the inspection with me. After 10 minutes or so she texted me and said that she found my name on the list, but that it was the only one scribbled out, out of the 40 inspection companies in the area. I on the other hand was not surprised, in the almost five years that I have been in business, I have seen the number of real estate agents that refer me drop lower and lower, to the point that now approximately 85% of my business comes either from previous client referrals or my Google reviews and website.
You typically have two kinds of home inspectors:
- The home inspector that strictly follows the Standards of Practice and will not exceed them for any reason (the Standards of Practice are the MINIMUM requirements of what should be reported on during a home inspection). Typically the reports they produce are 15-25 pages, contain a few photos, and use broad and vague generalizations of deficiencies found in the home.
- Then you have the home inspector that will exceed the Standards of Practice (if he has extensive knowledge on the subject he is exceeding on). This type of inspector typically will produce a detailed report over 40 pages long, use descriptive comments and photos relating to found deficiencies, alert you to items nearing or at the end of their useful service life, provide recommendations for repair, and be available to you for any questions in the future.
I definitely fall into the category of the #2 type inspector and can only speak as to the real estate agents I have personally worked with, but I can tell you without a doubt that the majority of the agents I have worked with prefer the #1 type inspector. I say this as I have worked with hundreds and hundreds of agents, and I would estimate that less than 10% of them refer me to their future clients, after working with me the first time.
Now it would be understandable if I was incompetent, unprofessional, unethical or any other negative adjective you could add here, but that’s clearly not the case. Where these agents didn’t use me again, their client was leaving me a 5-star review on Google, very pleased with the service I provided for them. As of writing this I’m currently the highest reviewed single inspector home inspection company in the State of Tennessee according to Google.
Why would a real estate agent want to refer a type 1 inspector? This is simple, they’re worried that a more thorough inspector will “kill” the real estate transaction. This simply isn’t possible, defects are defects, and it’s our job as a home inspector to make you aware of the defects in the home. All homes have defects, and guess what, they can all be repaired. What “kills” a real estate transaction is when expectations were not met. When a client is interested in purchasing a home built in 1960, the expectation should be set that the electrical system of the home isn’t going to be up to today’s code and will not be as safe as today’s systems, that plumbing systems may be in need of replacement or major repairs, and that other age related defects may be present. There’s not a perfect home out there, but in the sub $150k market of older homes the client should be prepared for these possibilities if upgrades have not been conducted.
I’ve also inspected for clients under contract on a home built in the 50’s, and they want to make sure no asbestos or lead based paint is present at the home. It once again comes down to setting expectations, if a client is looking for a home with no asbestos or lead based paint, they need to be looking at homes constructed in the 80’s or after at a minimum.
Thorough inspectors are typically labeled as “deal killers” or “alarmists” by real estate agents. The “alarmist” one really gets me. Let’s take roof shingles that are at the end of their life, in my report I’m going to state that: “The shingles showed indications of being at the end of their useful service life due to delamination, heavy granule loss, and multiple missing/damaged shingles. I recommend obtaining replacement quotes from qualified roofing contractors prior to the end of your inspection contingency period”. I just can’t imagine any other way of stating that, and that’s the same process used to describe all defects in the home.
Our job as Home Inspectors is to inspect the visible items and components of the home and to report on any systems or components so inspected that do not function as intended, or adversely affect the habitability of the dwelling. Then we must state whether the condition reported requires repair, subsequent observation, or warrants further investigation by a specialist.
I love working with like minded real estate agents who are appreciative of the defects I find with homes and can then negotiate with the sellers on price or repairs. Or if the buyers determine that the defects were more than they wanted to take on, the agent is happy to show them more homes that will be more fitting and meet their expectations.
In saying all of this I have lost business and income by being the style of inspector that I am, I have never once considered changing my processes or thoroughness to gain more referrals. It’s very difficult to survive in this industry without real estate agent referrals, but I gave my business over to God years ago, he is the provider, and he is whom I work to please. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.” (Colossians 3:23)
My advice to any future homebuyer is to do your research when it comes to picking your home inspector, I don’t want to say to not go with your real estate agent’s referrals, because some agents refer quality inspectors, but definitely do your homework. Google home inspectors in your area; go to their website, read their sample reports, read reviews on them, do whatever it takes so that you are comfortable. A home is a very large purchase, know as much as you can about it before you buy it.
Lastly, this is not only my view, but the view of many professionals across the country. Below I have included some great articles from professionals who do a much better job of explaining this than I have, luckily I’m a home inspector and not a journalist or essay writer 😉