DEAR BARRY: As a Realtor, I have wondered about the differing business practices of home inspectors and termite inspectors. Home inspectors, as a rule, never do repairs on the properties they inspect.
Termite inspectors, on the other hand, routinely repair the defects listed in their reports. They even include bids for repairs at the end of every report. Home inspectors view repair work as a conflict of interest. Termite inspectors view repairs as an essential part of their business. Can you explain this inconsistency? –Kay
DEAR KAY: Many people have wondered why home inspectors avoid repair work on homes they inspect, while termite inspectors perform repairs as a daily routine. The answer lies in the origins of these not-so-similar professions.
Termite control is an old, long established form of business. It began generations ago, when conflicts of interest were not viewed in the same light as they are today.
In those days, no one questioned the logic or the ethics of inspecting a home and then doing the repairs. Therefore, corrective work has been established as a grandfathered tradition for termite inspectors.
Home inspection, on the other hand, is a relatively new profession — conceived in the 1970s and barely known to most people till the 1990s.
Home inspections emerged in today’s litigious era, in a climate of frivolous lawsuits, in an age when conflicting practices were no longer acceptable. When home inspection standards were written by the founders of the profession, repair work was specifically prohibited.
In a nutshell: The repair practices of the termite industry arose in a bygone era, when agreements were cemented by a handshake. Home inspectors march to the beat of a newer drum, with a less trusting cadence.
DEAR BARRY: A friend just informed me that he has become a home inspector. I was about to hire an inspector for over $300, but my friend offered to do it for free. Something tells me you won’t like this idea, but I just wanted to check it out. What do you think? –Bill
DEAR BILL: Home inspection is a learn-as-you-go business. It is not possible to be a qualified home inspector at the entry level, regardless of prior education or professional experience. Every home inspector is an inspector in training who begins business by pretending to be qualified and who gradually becomes qualified by performing thousands of inspections.
Ask any group of highly experienced home inspectors if they were competent inspectors when they began to inspect homes. Without exception, they will admit that they were not truly qualified at the outset of their careers. Unfortunately, the only way they could become qualified was to practice their new craft at the expense of trusting customers.
If you want to know the condition of the home you are buying, pay the price of a highly experienced home inspector. If you want to do your friend a favor, have him attend the inspection to learn by observing.
Undisclosed defects can cost you a lot of money and a mountain of grief. Consider this when you choose a home inspector.
To write to Barry Stone, please visit him on the Web at www.housedetective.com.
What’s your opinion? Leave your comments below or send a letter to the editor. To contact the writer, click the byline at the top of the story.