CAN HOME INSPECTORS BE CULPABLE OF COLLUSION?
So what about the home inspector who’s on the real estate agents home inspector list? Don’t they hold some type of responsibility to the buyer as a disinterested third party? Well, isn’t that their job to be disinterested, and a third party? You bet. List or no list, it’s up to the inspector to possess enough guts to choose the buyer over maintaining a position on an agents list, or trying to get onto an agents list.
For new inspectors and those who sold themselves out and care more about a paycheck than people it goes something like this… get onto as many real estate agent lists as possible and maintain this position within these lists as a source of perpetual referrals. I mean just do the math… where else can one enter a trade with very little in the way of an investment, zero experience (in CA) and market to a very niche network of individuals, charge $200 or $300 per inspection and once they’ve made it onto a few of their “lists”…, say 300 real estate agents, the inspector can in some cases make up to $800-1200 per day performing 2-3 quick inspections a day. I don’t care who you are… thanks a lot of cheddar. We like to refer to these types of inspectors as “team players”. What they fail to recognize is, however, there are real people behind every one of these transactions. And in some cases, these individuals put everything in the way of trust, into the inspectors ability to help and guide them through this process.
SO HOW PROBABLE IS IT THAT THIS TYPE OF HOME INSPECTOR WOULD DO SOMETHING THAT WOULD BE CONSIDERED OFFENSIVE TO “THOSE” TYPES OF REAL ESTATE AGENTS AND WHICH IN TURN MAY JEOPARDIZE THEIR PLACE ON THE SACRED LIST?
Not likely, trust me. You don’t bite the hand that feeds you.
So how do they do it? Easy, this type of home inspector will use the report, standards of practice, disclaimers and photos to their advantage. How so? Well, to start they can use the report summary to highlight “very important” issues that would otherwise be considered moderately important to you and me. Which is to say these types of issues lay somewhere in the middle of significant and superficial. But, because they are on the summary, they are automatically elevated to the level of “significant”. Although they may not be. And because the agents and most buyers only focus on the summary and do not read the entire report, most of the time the remaining issues discovered by the inspector which make it into the report are left unscathed. This type of inspector may also choose to bury issues. Meaning this type of inspector will place issues that may be considered for all intents and purposes, “moderately important or signifiant”, to be buried somewhere within in the body of the report because really, who reads the entire report?
Important issues like health or safety related issues require attention IMO. This attention can come in the form of additional inspections or evaluations and / or repairs which if never addressed (when buried in a report), may never happen. These issues which may require additional inspections or evaluations by other professionals simply creates additional work for the real estate agent who now has to coordinate the additional inspection and then, deal with whatever additional issues derive from these inspections. Not to mention that any additional findings just decrease the potential to close a deal.
Here’s an example of how this unfolds…
The Good Inspector – The good inspector inspects a house with a concrete tile roof; this inspector will walk on the tile roof (when safe) while taking into consideration the roof age. Concrete tile will last 40-50 years but the paper underneath the tile which is the true protector of the roof lasts generally only 25-35 years, so as most prudent inspectors would, they proceed to warn the buyer that “hey…, your house is 40 years old… you better have a roofer inspect the roofing paper in order to verify how much life is left within the material”, which requires the removal of roofing tiles (and beyond the scope of most inspectors), thus requires a secondary inspection by a professional of a specific trade in this case a roofing contractor. He will strongly suggest such an inspection primarily for the buyer’s benefit, knowing such an inspection comes with a cost burden which the buyer will typically have to absorb. This inspector further understands that most agents will frown 🙁 on additional inspections because for one, it interferes with their hot Yoga class and second, specialized inspections from a specialist may carry with it a very thorough evaluation accompanied by a bid from the contractor to perform any necessary repairs. Bids for any necessry repairs further requires additional paper work and / or negotiations by the agents.
The “Team Player”– The team player will inspect the same house and elect not to walk on the tile roof but inspects it from the eave with a ladder or from the ground even with perfect weather conditions and the house is a one story with a low sloped roof. He will not take into consideration the age of the roof (because of course that will set off alarms which require a secondary inspection) but will disclose they were unable to walk on tile because of the hazards associated with walking on tile and oh yea… my SOPs prohibit it. Furthermore, by not walking on this roof, this inspector will find less, thus less makes it into the report but that okay because they feel confident that their standards of practice and disclosure will help keep them from getting sued by the buyer. They will not suggest the paper be inspected likely because that was never taught in their 7 day online class or workshop where they were certified. The result is the buyer never receives the information and will now inherit all issues associated with the condition of this roof. BTW, re-papering a roof will likely costs many thousands of dollars.
One more tactic which the “team player” uses to help minimize any potential damage to the real estate agent’s sale from their inspection (also reducing the buyers anxiousness) is to possibly address one token somewhat-significant issue and throw in a few minor or moderate issues during the “walk-around summary”, always at the end of the inspection. This is the time where the real estate agent, buyer and inspector get together and walk around the property and openly discuss issues found during his inspection. It’s also where agents will downplay every single one of the issues in rapid succession because most agents who have every watched a DIY show or flipped a house are now after all, self proclaimed contractors. By an inspector only addressing a few issues in this manner, it will sometimes ease the buyers anxiousness thereby reducing their expectations once the report is finally delivered. “If he didn’t say it on the walk-around summary at the house…it must not exist”.
As a home buyer it’s important that you perform your due diligence and then double check the individuals on that list. You may only get one shot at this so do it right. DO NOT EVER choose an inspector based solely on price or availability. If there is one thing that holds true in the home inspection industry its this… you will get what you pay for.
So who’s on your agents list? Will they be protecting you? See Part 1 of the home inspector list