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'Fly-by-Night Inspectors' Need Standards, Disgruntled Agent Says

By Barry Stone
Saturday, April 23, 2005; Page F08

Q DEAR BARRY:

As a real estate agent in the Seattle area, I have watched as growing numbers of home inspectors, with their authoritarian attitudes, have led buyers to think they are entitled to mint-condition houses, free of defects, real or imagined. 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 aloud 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 are some standards imposed to control your loose-cannon business. -- Paul

A DEAR PAUL:

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Ask the Inspector Archive

Without question, there are disparities among those in the home-inspection profession, as there are in most fields. If you read this column regularly, you know that I am sometimes critical of the conduct of home inspectors. I have no illusions regarding inconsistencies in the industry, especially with so many new, inexperienced inspectors entering the business.

In many states, especially those that do not require licenses for home inspectors, it is too easy to set up shop. Many beginners have 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. This inadequate preparation causes some of the substandard practices you cite.

However, 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. 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 education for inspectors. Real estate professionals should become familiar with competent inspectors in their areas and should encourage quality home inspections by recommending only the best people.

This raises the issue of home inspector referral practices among real estate agents. Too many agents avoid the most qualified and thorough inspectors. Too many recommend fledgling inspectors who lack the experience to provide comprehensive defect disclosure, perhaps in hope of a less-thorough report.

Clearly, both of our trades, home inspectors and real estate agents, could improve our practices.

Barry Stone is a professional home inspector. If you have questions or comments, contact him through his Web site, www.housedetective.com, or send mail to 1776 Jami Lee Ct., Suite 218, San Luis Obispo, Calif. 93401.

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