Some people will do just about anything to make a buck, including terrifying homeowners and home buyers out of their wits. In ever-increasing numbers, vendors and retailers are crossing the line in their use of scare tactics to sell home-related products and services.

Take Housemaster as an example. The home inspection systems franchise company this week announced a book that aims to help home buyers and sellers understand the components of a home and evaluate whether repairs are necessary during the home-buying process. The Pocket Idiot’s Guide to Home Inspections may be a good read and it might even be chock-full of valuable information, but Housemaster’s promotional tactics for the book conveyed exactly the opposite impression.


The body of the announcement listed eight household hazards along with such scary warnings as “can cause water heater to explode,” “long-term exposure linked to health concerns” and even “can lead to death if the home becomes filled with (carbon monoxide) gas.”

Those risks to limb and life may indeed lurk in some homes, but Housemaster’s announcement contained no information about the evidence of such dangers, the appropriate inspection or testing methodologies, or the possible remediation options. One presumably has to buy the book to get those details.

And that’s the whole point. These types of promotions aren’t about news or information. They’re about frightening people into buying a product or a service they might not really want or need.

Homes may indeed be dangerous in some respects. And after all, a good swig of ordinary household bleach or garden-variety insecticide, or a handful of Valium swallowed with a glass of tap water can be just as lethal as other household hazards. Bathtubs can be downright dangerous, as can stepladders, carving knives, power tools, and the list goes on.

And a home inspection may indeed be a wise precautionary investment for the savvy home purchaser, but that’s not a good reason to terrify people into believing that household hazards are a global health crisis or that an individual house is more than likely a deathtrap. It’s simply not true.

Exaggerating the danger of household hazards to capitalize on people’s darkest fears isn’t an ethical or fair-minded way to make money. Enough already.


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