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Greg Johns WIN Cookeville

Contractors as Inspectors -- Why It's Not Enough

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It’s been a few months since the last post. If you look back, you’ll start to see a theme in our posts. Most of them boil down to one main concept – home inspecting for consumer protection. You should know, we also inspect with an interest in building science (see GBA for more information on what this can entail). Now, neither of these concepts/themes is considered “main stream” within the inspection industry. I firmly and unequivocally believe these are the right ideas to emphasize within the home inspection industry. A safe, healthy home is a home that saves the owner money and ensures good health for the occupants. The principles of building science, which are rich in data, theory, and decades of verified performance, melds well with what a home inspection does – assess total building performance for the client to ensure value of investment and health of those living therein.

Now, our industry is riddled with issues. The top three, for us, are price shopping, standards, and adversarial tendencies. This last one can be rather irksome. We’d rather see an industry unified in the desire to proliferate value in home inspections (read, not cheap – but, worthwhile knowledge and information in a consumable and actionable form). Yet, there are those that feel the only way to get ahead is to try and tear others down. We have a few in our middle TN region like this – their websites specifically make claims of superiority based on prior experience as contractors, or laborers in the construction industry. Our retort: We inspect homes every day built by licensed contractors, sub-contractors, and their employees. We’re not running out of work anytime soon. Saying you are a licensed contractor, or have experience as a contractor, does NOT make you an immediately good home inspector. Likely, the contrary, if that’s the mindset you present for inspecting.

What Makes a Good Inspector?

What makes a good home inspector is having basic knowledge about the system components that comprise a home, as well as the ability to show how all systems work together to create the entire home. You also need to know what your state licensing standards are, what your local and national association standards are (if you choose to be a member), what your insurer’s standards are, and where you fit on the spectrum of minimal vs. more than minimal effort and business practice. Often times, these standards are designed with minimal performance in mind. An effective home inspector will go beyond these standards to help enlarge the picture for a client.

Now, many inspectors will balk at doing more than minimal – it’s a liability to go beyond the set standards. You know who else balk at doing more than the minimal set standard (residential building code)? Contractors. A good inspector performing a good inspection will naturally, without much effort, go well beyond the minimal standards for performing a home inspection. And, when this occurs, I believe it actually further limits your liability because your clients will see that you care – about their needs, as well as about the house in general.

It's The Consumers' Choice

What our home inspection industry, and the real estate industry writ large, needs less of is individuals trying to tell consumers what they should or should not consider to be a big deal. Nowhere, and I mean nowhere, in home inspection standards does it say our industry should take that liberty. Contractors are notorious for making “not a big deal” claims. The thing is – it isn’t their place to tell a home buyer what is a big deal. That’s for the consumer to decide based on her/his needs and expectations. What we should do as home inspectors is make sure our clients understand the scope of what we report. The rest is up to the clients.

So, be wary of claims of excellent home inspecting by companies that base their prowess on a history as contractors. Instead, read up on the business reviews. Research company longevity. Give them a call. Do they answer their phone? Do they call you back? Do they actually sound genuine and like they want to be of help? Or, do they just talk over/past your concerns? There’s a difference between making money and making money because you are helping people. We motivate by the latter.

Final Thoughts

To my fellow home inspectors: You might be a good home inspector who has a history as a contractor. You are not a good home inspector because you have a history as a contractor. If you don’t get that difference, read it again. Do my industry a favor – put your effort in showing your local community how you are a good home inspector. Go help clients acquire information that empower them as consumers instead of becoming just another cog in an industry designed to bleed away the value of an invested dollar. Home buyers and owners don’t need sycophancy. They need consumer protection.