Jim Brown is a certified home inspector with Final Word Home Inspection Services in the Atlanta area. He cofounded the northern Georgia chapter of the InterNACHI home inspector certification program.
Do You Trust Home Inspectors?
When both parties can build a respectful and professional relationship together, your clients reap the rewards.
July 12, 2017
When I started as a home inspector 35 years ago, I shadowed an older colleague who would put a marble on the floor of every home he inspected. If the marble rolled even slightly in one direction, he would state in the inspection report that the home was sinking and a structural engineer needed to test its foundation. This method, of course, isn’t a reliable way to uncover serious foundational problems. The only thing it proves is that the house is settling—which is hardly unusual.
I’ve seen dozens of home sales fall apart because of these types of exaggerations, so I understand why real estate professionals are sometimes skeptical about home inspectors. Many agents dropped my colleague because they didn’t trust him to provide accurate information to their clients. I’ve even turned off agents who thought I embellished my findings in inspection reports. They said I was too quick to list insignificant items such as misaligned doors on kitchen cabinets, needlessly alarming buyers. But I’ve worked with my share of unscrupulous agents, too.
When I speak at real estate offices across northern Georgia, I often encounter animosity from agents who view inspections as a roadblock to the home sale. It often feels like home inspectors and agents are on opposing teams, but the truth is we need each other. We rely on each other’s expertise to give consumers a quality homebuying experience, so why don’t we trust each other more? We’ve each done something wrong once or twice to make an inspection go less smoothly than it could have. I’m willing to admit my faults. Are you?
When I was a new inspector, I initially misunderstood my role in the real estate transaction. Eventually, an agent I worked with helped me see my purpose more clearly. In my previous work as a building inspector for the city of Snellville, Ga., I evaluated property against strict building codes. When I transitioned to home inspections, I used the same “pass or fail” mentality to judge the condition of a house. The agent reminded me that wasn’t the objective of a home inspection. She helped me refocus on delivering the pertinent facts to her clients so they could make an informed decision for themselves. Once I gained this perspective, I helped organize classes including this concept for fellow members of my local chapter of the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors.
Agents have also tried to pressure me inappropriately. Some insisted I exclude legitimate problems with a home on my inspection reports to keep from blowing a deal. A conscientious inspector won’t compromise the inspection at the expense of the buyer’s best interest. (That’s often how home inspectors get sued.) One time, I inspected a deck that was fastened to a home using outdated materials. Decks fall off houses if not attached properly, so I needed to report the issue. The agent I was working with insisted I remove it from my report because other homes in the neighborhood had the same issue. After I refused to comply, I never heard from that agent again. And if he had called, I wouldn’t have performed another inspection for him.
Trust is a two-way street that both inspectors and agents must be willing to travel. You need to trust that I, as a home inspector, won’t unnecessarily undermine the sale. I need you to trust my knowledge and have confidence that I am reporting issues your buyers need to know in order to make an educated buying decision—even if, sometimes, it makes them think twice about the purchase. If our relationship breaks down over lack of trust, it’s your clients who will ultimately lose.
Updated: July 17, 2018