In part one of this series, we highlighted some of the ugly truth about the home inspection industry. Factors like limited work scope, minimal education and training requirements, and pitfalls when dealing with home inspectors. In the second part, we will uncover some gaps in the expectations of the customer and the industry standard. We will also see how fear of liability creates a double-edged sword situation in the inspection space. We have a lot to unravel, so let us dive into some of the customer expectation gaps.
Bridging the Gap: Customer Expectations VS. Home Inspection Standards
A significant challenge in home inspection industry is the gap between industry standards and customer expectations. Professional organizations and regulations establish home inspection standards, defining what certified home inspectors must evaluate and their limitations. The standards offer a basic assessment of a property’s condition, with a focus on its structure and mechanical elements.
However, customers often come to the table with much broader expectations. Some expect inspectors to find every issue, no matter how small or concealed, and to provide cost estimates for repairs. The gap between standards and customer expectations can cause potential problems and disappointment. Clear communication and education on what a home inspection can and cannot offer are essential. Home buyers should realistically understand what the inspection involves, its process, and limitations for a smoother, more satisfying experience.
In a survey I read years ago, 97% of home buyers or sellers expected inspection reports to include evidence of rodents, asbestos, mold, radon, and lead-based paint. No state or association mandates standards requiring the home inspection checklist to report on pests or environmental hazards. Many professional home inspectors may avoid reporting on pests or environmental hazards because of liability concerns or feeling inadequately licensed or competent to address these issues. When a complaint about these issues arises, inspectors often use standards of practice as a defense, and insurance attorneys typically support them.
When Home Inspections Become a Double-Edged Sword
Home inspectors often decide what to include in the home inspection report based on a fear of liability rather than prioritizing client satisfaction. Inspection school instructors and liability insurance carriers actively introduce and reinforce the fear of liability. Home inspectors frequently refer to specialists unnecessarily, solely to sidestep potential liability for their opinions. This sometimes causes problems between buyers and sellers.
For instance, an inspector might observe minimal signs of structural movement and, because of limited experience and concerns about foundation assessment, suggest bringing in a structural engineer for further evaluation. The engineer would evaluate the foundation and say there is not a problem. The seller may be satisfied with this, and the buyer may not be satisfied. Then a battle begins over something that is directly a result of the inspectors’ actions. This is frustrating for the Realtors and may come back to bite the inspector.
An ugly truth about home inspections is that it can add stress to an already nerve-wracking process. The process can take several hours, during which you are likely to be on edge, eagerly awaiting the results. Inspections can uncover unexpected issues, leading to tense negotiations with the seller or a decision to abandon the deal. The timing of the inspection, occurring right after you have made an offer, can put you in a tricky spot. Being prepared for unexpected findings and potential delays in the purchase process is essential.
A crucial aspect of home inspections is their potential to uncover expensive repairs that you may not have accounted for when contemplating a home purchase. When one fails a home inspection, whether through a failing roof, an outdated electrical system, or a crumbling foundation, addressing these issues can lead to substantial expenses. The key is to be aware of potential issues and to work with your real estate agent to negotiate with the seller if necessary or adjust your budget accordingly.
Home inspectors are highly trained professionals, but they are fallible. Their job is to assess the property based on their expertise and experience. There may be times when they miss minor issues or inaccurately assess a situation. This underscores the importance of hiring a reliable inspector and, if needed, obtaining a second opinion for a more thorough assessment. Most claims of negligence against inspectors are baseless and are the result of improper expectations and poor communication.
DIY vs. Professional Inspection
Some buyers may consider skipping a professional inspection and opt for a DIY approach or rely solely on the seller’s disclosure. This is a risky move, as professionals have the tools, knowledge, and experience to uncover issues that are easy to miss for the untrained eye. If avoiding the home inspection cost is the aim, then relying solely on DIY or seller disclosure can lead to costly surprises down the road.
The “ugly truth” about home inspections is that they are a necessary and sometimes stressful part of the home-buying process. Poorly trained inspectors often make decisions driven by a fear of liability rather than considering customer needs. Yet, recognizing their limitations, anticipating potential problems, and collaborating with seasoned professionals can help you navigate this crucial step in your journey to homeownership.
A home inspection, despite potential surprises, safeguards your investment and ensures an informed decision about your new home. Embrace the process, and keep in mind that being aware of a home’s flaws can aid in making an informed decision and potentially save you from future headaches and expenses.
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