The “buying a home” process can be both exciting and overwhelming, for homeowners and real estate agents. Home buyers have likely spent hours scouring listings, attending open houses, and envisioning their future in these potential new spaces. Agents work hard to avoid potential problems and have a satisfactory closing.
However, one critical step in the home-buying process, that often doesn’t get the attention it deserves, is the home inspection process. In this four-part series, we’re going to delve into the “ugly” truth about home inspections. We shed light on their importance, limitations, inadequacies, and what you can expect.
A qualified, professional home inspector typically conducts home inspections, meticulously assessing the visible components of a home. The average home inspection checklist includes things such as its structure, electrical systems, HVAC Systems, plumbing systems, and appliances. Not all inspectors include the inspection of optional systems such as irrigation systems, swimming pools, septic systems, and private water wells.
Many inspectors often overlook the numerous issues hidden from plain sight. This includes problems behind walls, concealed by furniture and personal items, or insulation, like water damage. These issues can be challenging, or impossible, to detect during a standard inspection. To prevent your potential dream home from turning into a nightmare, you must comprehend the scope and limitations of the home inspection and take appropriate action(s) accordingly.
Read Also: A Guide to Home Inspections: What to Expect
The Limited Scope of Work
The minimum standards set forth by states that regulate professional home inspections and as set forth by industry associations, including The International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNachi) and The American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), do not provide adequate value to the consumer in my opinion.
These standards require an inspector to look at the house and note in the home inspection report any obvious defects that might indicate a major problem and then refer the client to a specialist. Moreover, these set minimum standards mandate the inspector to actively operate equipment and appliances in normal modes, determining their functionality.
For instance, an inspector will turn on the central air conditioning system from the thermostat and check if cold air is coming from the vents and check for an adequate differential between the return air and the supply air temperature. If cold air is blowing and differentials are adequate, the inspector would report “the system appeared to be working as intended at the time of the inspection.” During this cursory examination, inspectors often overlook significant defects, and because of the inspection’s limitations, holding them accountable for undetected issues is unlikely.
By reading the complete home inspection standards of practice established by states and associations, consumers might infer that an inspector who strictly adheres to the minimum standards, without going beyond the requirements, may not obtain an accurate picture of the property and assumes limited responsibility. Most state regulations and association standards allow the inspector to go above the minimum standards and provide a higher-level inspection. Inspectors who go above the minimum standards typically experience more success than those who adhere strictly to minimum standards.
Cracks in the Foundation
One could argue that the training mandated by the standards of practice falls short in adequately preparing a licensed individual to competently conduct basic home inspections. Much of the home inspection education is aimed at helping inspectors pass either state or association exams.
These exams focus on factual knowledge related to building codes and a fundamental understanding of building system components. Many inspectors will stay away from explanations of implications and recommendations and simply refer the client to hire a professional in the field. This is typically as a result of fear of liability. This often leaves the client confused and with more work after the inspections.
The Difference is Crystal Clear?
The home inspection industry, like many others, is not immune to variations in standards and practices. Reputable, highly skilled inspectors offer thorough evaluations, but instances of low standards of practice can pose challenges for both homebuyers and the industry. Some of the challenges plaguing the industry are:
One of the most significant issues in the home inspection industry is the lack of consistent standards and regulations. Different regions, states, and countries may have varying requirements and expectations for home inspectors. This inconsistency can lead to disparities in the quality and thoroughness of inspections.
Minimal Training and Licensing Requirements
In some areas, the barrier to entry for becoming a home inspector is relatively low. This means that individuals with limited training or experience can start offering inspection services. Low licensing or certification requirements can lead to a broad range of skills and expertise in the industry, often skewed toward the lower end.
The oversight and regulation of home inspectors can be inadequate in certain areas. This can allow for unscrupulous or underqualified individuals to operate without much accountability, potentially putting homebuyers and agents at risk.
Minimal Continuing Education
The field of home inspection is continually evolving, with new technologies and building practices emerging. However, not all inspectors stay up to date with these changes through quality ongoing education and training. This can result in inspectors who may not be adequately equipped to identify modern construction or safety issues.
Some inspectors provide vague or incomplete inspection reports that lack necessary details. A subpar report can leave homebuyers without the comprehensive information they need to make informed decisions about a property.
Due to time constraints, lack of thoroughness, or perceived limitations, home inspectors may conduct incomplete inspections, potentially missing costly or dangerous issues.
Neglect of Environmental Concerns:
Despite a growing emphasis on environmental concerns like pests, mold, lead-based paint, asbestos, radon, energy efficiency, and sustainability, some inspectors may overlook these aspects in their assessments. This omission can be a disservice to clients who are concerned about the environmental impact of their prospective homes.
If you are looking to purchase a home or property, it is important to be aware of these potential pitfalls and actively seek out qualified, reputable inspectors who adhere to high standards of practice. This can include verifying an inspector’s credentials, asking for references, and ensuring they have adequate insurance and a track record of delivering comprehensive and unbiased reports.
Additionally, advocating for stricter regulations and standardization in the home inspection industry can help improve the quality and reliability of inspection services. By addressing these issues, homebuyers can make more informed decisions about their potential homes, worry less about home inspection cost, and the industry can work toward better standards of practice and greater professionalism.
In the next part, we’ll discuss home inspectors’ limitations, including the DIY home buyers and inspector fallibility. We will also address how to bridge the gap between the customers’ expectations and the home inspection industry standards.
Blake Williams is organizing a webinar to help home inspection professionals elevate their careers in 2024 with 4 supercharge tactics. These strategies are proven to change the trajectory of your career and the professionalism of the industry. If you are an “inspectorpreneur”, then this is for you. Sign up for the webinar and see yourself go from struggling to thriving.
Enjoy Blake’s video below.