Dear Barry

My real estate agent recommends a particular home inspector, but I’m highly suspicious. The source of my concern is a magazine article that encouraged home buyers not to trust their agent’s recommendation, but to select their own inspector. The article implied that agents prefer home inspectors who minimize property defects, while working hand in hand with agents to close their sales. What is your stand on this touchy subject? – Beverly

Dear Beverly,

Unsavory alliances can be found in all areas of commerce and human activity, including the sale and representation of real estate. Accordingly, the old “buyer beware” principal still applies, and a healthy measure of cautious restraint is still appropriate when placing your trust in anyone, including agents and home inspectors. But negative generalizations should be avoided because they unduly discredit those of honorable and fair-minded intent. Aside from any articles you may have read, blanket assumptions cannot be justly applied to real estate agents and their purported relationships with home inspectors.

The selection of a home inspector is clearly among the most important decisions you can make as a buyer. It can set your course in the direction of an informed purchase or the discovery of costly defects after the sale. Regardless of the good or bad advice of your agent or anyone else, it is a decision that demands your participation.

As to the disposition of your agent in the choice of home inspectors, there are four main possibilities:

1) You may have an excellent agent, one whose concern for your financial interests is uppermost and whose choice of a home inspector reflects that level of professional integrity. If such is the case, the home inspector being recommended is probably among the most qualified professionals available.

2) You may have an ethically challenged agent, one whose concern for a commission check obscures all other professional considerations and whose regard for quality home inspectors is embodied in the term “deal killer.” In that case, the home inspector being recommended could be among the least thorough, least experienced and least qualified in the area.

3) You may have an honest agent, operating with the best of intentions, but with a limited understanding of the wide-ranging levels of quality, competence and experience among the home inspectors in your area. In that case, the home inspector could be among the best, the worst or somewhere in between, in accordance with any number of undetermined factors.

4) You may have a cautious agent, one who offers you a list of local home inspectors but who prefers that the final choice be yours, thereby avoiding unnecessary liability. Among these agents are representative of the three aforementioned categories: agents who offer a list of the most qualified inspectors, those whose list is a menu of mediocrity, and agents who don’t really know the difference.

Your task is to consider all of the available inspectors, their relative professional qualifications, their comparative credentials, their affiliations with recognized professional associations, and especially their numbers of years in the home inspection business. Home inspectors are not created equal. Choosing a good one can save you thousands of dollars and years of regret. Your agent can suggest possible choices, but the final selection should be your own.

To write to Barry Stone, please visit him on the Web at


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