Dear Barry,

May I help you shed a little naivety? As a high-producing real estate agent in the Seattle area, I have watched as growing numbers of home inspectors, with their authoritarian attitudes, have led buyers to believe that they are entitled to a “mint” condition house, free of defects, real or imagined. For all your endorsements of home inspections, I find the inspection industry to be out of control and run amok! Two reports on the same house have different lists of defects. Some reports are so nit-picky that they appear concocted to justify the inspection fee. One inspector mentions an alleged problem verbally, but then doesn’t list it in his report. Consumers and their agents are victimized by fly-by-night inspectors who operate without oversight or licenses. What you home inspectors need is some imposed standards to control your loose-cannon business that negatively impacts the sale of homes. Thanks for allowing me to share this perspective. –Paul

Dear Paul,

Your points, although exaggerated, are well taken. Without question, there are disparities and inequities in the home inspection profession, as there are in most fields of business. If you’ve read this column with any regularity, you must know that it is sometimes critical of the conduct of home inspectors, as situations are posed by readers. To be sure, there are no illusions here regarding inconsistencies to be found within the industry, especially with so many new and inexperienced inspectors entering the business.

In many states, especially those that do not yet require licenses for home inspectors, it is too easy to set up shop as an inspector. Many begin their careers very little preparation — a two-week crash course from a home inspection school, a home-study correspondence course, or a credential obtained by passing a simple online exam. The results of this inadequate preparation are some of the substandard inspection practices that you have listed.

On the other hand, there are thousands of experienced, qualified home inspectors, providing comprehensive inspections for home buyers and conducting their work according to the standards of practice of set forth by professional associations. As mentioned in past articles, the National Association of Home Inspectors, the American Society of Home Inspectors and state associations such as the California Real Estate Inspection Association provide meaningful direction and ongoing education for inspectors. Real estate professionals should become familiar with the inspectors in their respective areas who represent the competent side of the home inspection field and should encourage quality home inspections by recommending only the best inspectors.

This, of course, raises the issue of home inspector referral practices among real estate agents and brokers. An unfortunate inclination among too many agents is the avoidance of those who are most qualified and most thorough as inspectors. Too many recommendations are given to fledgling inspectors — those lacking the experience needed to provide thorough and comprehensive defect disclosure.

Many articles have been published in professional real estate journals, purporting to educate agents about the importance of disclosing defects and of recommending home inspections to buyers. Yet the point seldom mentioned in these articles is that agents should only recommend the most thorough and experienced home inspectors available.

Clearly, both of our professions, home inspectors and real estate agents, could improve the practices of our respective industries where defect disclosure is involved. In each case, however, self-examination, not finger pointing, would be the best approach.

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

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