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“About the time we can make the ends meet, somebody moves the ends.” – Herbert Hoover

4 truths about home inspectors

Why are there so many consumer complaints?By Barry Stone
Reprinted from:  Inman News™

DEAR BARRY: I read your column religiously every week and it seems that most of the problems answered by you deal with questionable inspections by home inspectors. I am beginning to think that the majority of home inspectors are either extremely incompetent or are in the pocket of the sellers or realty agents. How can a buyer find an honest, reliable and competent home inspector? –Archie

DEAR ARCHIE: Your question raises more than one issue, so I offer the following four answers:

1. Many of the questions I receive are complaints about home inspectors. Human nature being what it is, people speak up more readily when they have a bad experience than when they have a good one. The fact is, there are many competent home inspectors in the profession, but people don’t write to say what a great home inspection they just had. Therefore, the complaints show up often in my articles.

2. Unfortunately, there are many home inspectors who do not perform thorough or competent inspections. No doubt, there are some cases where this is due to unethical relationships with REALTORS®. Personally, I don’t know any inspectors who operate on that level, so I expect that collusion of that kind is a rare practice.

But home inspectors are often exposed to subtle suggestions and pressures from agents. Without intending to be dishonest, there could be a tendency, in such cases, to soften the presentation of some disclosures.

3. Some home inspectors lack the knowledge and experience needed to conduct a thorough and adequate property evaluation. Most home inspectors receive ongoing education from associations such as the American Society of Home Inspectors and various other state associations. But not all home inspectors are on the advanced side of the educational curve.

4. The toughest question is: How can I find a competent, reliable home inspector? The best I can offer is a method that is not foolproof. Try to find someone with years of experience, who has performed thousands of home inspections. Look for someone who is regarded by real estate agents as a nit-picky perfectionist. In fact, you could call real estate offices and ask if there is an inspector who is known as a “deal killer” or “deal breaker.” Inspectors with that kind of reputation are likely to be qualified and honest.

DEAR BARRY: The house I’m buying is more than 100 years old, and there appear to be some structural problems. The main support beam in the basement is cracked, causing the upstairs floor to sag. The sellers have installed temporary supports and say that permanent repairs can be done at a later time for about $1,000. Should I buy this home or leave it well enough alone? –Chris

DEAR CHRIS: If you seriously wish to purchase this home, you should disregard the sellers’ assessment of the support problems and have the foundation and framing systems professionally evaluated. Concerns regarding the structural integrity of a home should not be left to chance or to off-hand opinions.

The framing defects should be investigated by a licensed structural engineer. The property should also be fully evaluated by the most thorough and experienced home inspector you can find.

Additional problems will be revealed by a qualified home inspector, and with the sellers soft-selling a structural defect, additional findings could be decisive.

To write to Barry Stone, please visit him on the Web at


About Mme Jocelyne

Hi, I'm a transplanted northerner–(born and raised in New York to French immigrants–Oui je parle Francais)-living in Florida for 20 years. In the 70's I worked as a realtor in the Bronx – City Island to be exact. Then I started a family and didn't keep up my license. I aspired to a career in architecture, so I went to New York Institute of Technology for three years, moved to Florida and finished my degree at the University of Florida in Gainesville. After 10 years of working in my dream career I sustained an injury to my shoulder. This injury never healed because I was constantly on the computer doing cad design. I finally decided to make a career change – something where I could use my training as an architect. Needless to say, I was worried – where will the money come from? How will I be able to afford my career change? But, I put my faith in God and went for it. It’s the best move I ever made, other than my husband, children and dogs.

8 responses »

  1. bonjour i came to youre site, and I have read some good articles on it. It’s all about the game let’s PLAY!!!

    • Thank you for visiting my blog. Come back often since as my tag line state “More Than Just Real Estate”. I get asked constantly to play games on facebook, but I have to decline the invite since I am too busy for that. I am a full time Realtor, I am on a Board of Directors for a Crisis Pregnancy clinic, and I am in charge of the religious education at my church. Most evenings I am on the computer working on websites or my blog and twice a week I look at a movie with my husband.

  2. Nice information, many thanks to the author.

  3. Jewell Benesch

    This actually answered my problem, thank you!

  4. Jocelyne, I disagree with the statement made by Barry in #4 where he advises to call a Real Estate office and ask for an inspector who is known as a deal killer or a nit-picky perfectionist!

    First – there is NOT a perfect home out there! And usually nit-picky perfectionist inspectors are going to blow everything out of proportion! WAY out of proportion! And approaching an inspection in that manner is not a Professional Home Inspectors way of doing business!

    A Professional Home Inspector understands his role in the real estate transaction. He understands his job to protect his client, the buyer. But also, there is a seller (who may have alot riding on the sale of the home, especially in today’s market!) – a buyer’s agent – and a seller’s agent involved who are both trying to make their living on the sale of this home. And if a home inspector comes though and nit-picks the house for a bunch of little, trivial things and scares the buyer – THAT is actually a disservice to his client because now they do not accurately know the condition of the home. It is also a disservice to both of the Realtors AND the home seller!

    A Professional Home Inspector knows how to expertly traverse the fine line involved in performing a thorough inspection and accurately communicating the condition of the home to his client the buyer WITHOUT nit-picking the house or scaring the buyer.

    What do you think as a Realtor?

    • Thanks for visiting and you bring up a good point John. Just one thing, I would still want my inspector to be picky, but also intelligent enough to tell the buyers that, this is not a big problem, or it will only be a few dollars to fix this, or this is something you could live with until you decide to make some changes or upgrades. I certainly would want to be aware of any potential problem. To me nit-picking would be stating that the commode lid is a different color than the commode. That is something that can be lived with until the new owners are ready to upgrade or make changes to the bathroom. It is also something that is obvious to all who walk into the bathroom.
      Unfortunately, in today’s society, much of the general public has been swayed by environmentalists who put an unnecessary scare into people. The flip side of that is there are lazy workers who look to save themselves undo effort. Case in point: A plumber used to be able to go in and fix a leaky pipe in the wall by cutting a piece of sheetrock and soldering the hole causing the pipe to leak. Now that the EPA has stepped in it’s a whole other ballgame if the home is pre 1978. A plumber must now box off the area with plastic walls, come in wearing some kind of space suit and place the sheet rock in some space age container just to fix the leak. Even if the hole cut is only 12” x 12”, these precautions must be taken because there may be lead paint on the wall. This not only scares the occupants of the home, but adds undo cost to a simple repair.
      Another example would be older homes with asbestos shingles. Although asbestos can be a problem when handled incorrectly, it takes many years of inhaling the asbestos dust to actually cause a problem. To tell a potential homeowner that eventually, when the roof needs to be replaced, it will have to be by a specialist, is important for the potential buyers to know because of the cost involved in removing asbestos shingles.
      I agree with you that there is a fine line between scaring the potential buyers and performing a thorough inspection. I for one would rather have a thorough inspection albeit a little picky, than to have the buyers come back a few months later and try to sue me, the firm and the inspector.
      Hopefully, most buyers are savvy enough to know what needs immediate attention and what is either cosmetic or not absolutely necessary.
      Just this past August I had a similar experience. It was my listing and the buyers hired a home inspector. I know the inspector by reputation and he is very thorough. The buyers came back with a laundry list of requests that would have cost my seller quite a bit of money. They even gave a choice of fixing/replacing the items or lowering the price by $30,000.00. These were not real problems with the home, they were either cosmetic issues or upgrades the buyers wanted. I advised my seller to reject their offer, and a few weeks later another offer came in and the home sold. Was the 1st inspector wrong? I don’t think so. I think the buyers heard what they wanted and were trying to get the home for next to nothing. People like that will tend to haunt you for months maybe even years to come. Their agent fired them and they went on to pester someone else.

  5. Pingback: Home Inspections — The Good, The Bad and The Ugly « NCHomesbyLarryT

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