Dear Barry,

With memberships in ASHI and CREIA listed among your home inspector credentials, why don’t you say more in your columns to promote home inspectors who are members of these associations. Truly qualified home inspectors are members in good standing of one or more of these organizations. Don’t you think that public awareness of these inspection associations should be promoted? – Zachary

Dear Zachary,

A number of articles in this column have made complementary mentions of ASHI, the American Society of Home Inspectors; NAHI, the National Association of Home Inspectors; CREIA, the California Real Estate inspection Association, and similar state associations representing the home inspection industry. In short, association memberships are components of a meaningful list of qualifications for professional home inspectors. However, these endorsements demand some clarification.

Although most qualified home inspectors are association members, not all members are truly qualified, nor are all members sufficiently adept at their profession. In fact, some of the e-mails I receive are complaints from readers who say they hired a CREIA or ASHI inspector, but many visible defects were not disclosed in the inspection report.

The disparity among association members is not a problem unique to the home inspection industry or its representative associations. Rather, it is a shortcoming that is common to the associations, guilds and unions representing most professions. Essentially, it involves the conflicting priorities of high professional standards versus the need for large membership enrollments.

Without a large membership, a professional association cannot be truly effective. In order to maintain a significant voice in the marketplace and a position of recognized visibility and influence, every association must establish a membership base large enough to command attention and to provide an effective operational bankroll. When membership standards are raised, the numbers of prospective members who qualify under those standards necessarily declines. Therefore, associations tend to minimize their standards in deference to a larger membership. To offset this unfortunate compromise, there is the hopeful expectation that lesser-qualified members will become more qualified as they participate in the educational programs mandated by the association. And in many ways, this intention is realized, but with limitations that coincide with individual abilities and shortcomings.

A membership program that truly promoted high standards was formerly practiced by CREIA but was abandoned in the late 1980s because its implementation was too cumbersome and time consuming. It involved a screening process known as a peer review, the purpose of which was to measure the actual inspection abilities of prospective members. A peer review was a performance test for home inspectors, wherein a member applicant had to inspect a home that had been pre-inspected by a well-seasoned member inspector. The applicant was expected to find an acceptable number of the known property defects. The underlying assumption was that the ability of the inspector to discover defects was the most reliable measure of professional competence. In the real world of home inspection, that is the only qualification that truly matters. In the world of association politics, that opinion tends to be controversial and provocative. But dissenting views are welcome.

To write to Barry Stone, please visit him on the Web at www.housedetective.com.

***

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