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 way of inspecting floors and foundations never revealed any real issue. It did show that a house settles and is constantly moving and that a structure can get out of level. But it doesn’t mean that there is a foundation problem.
I’ve seen dozens of real estate deals fall apart because of these types of exaggerations. Many real estate agents refused to work with my colleague because they lost trust and confidence in his ability to provide accurate information to their clients. I’ve even lost business for being too quick to list insignificant items such as misaligned doors on kitchen cabinets, needlessly alarming buyers. This is not to say that home inspectors do find legitimate issues that may cause buyers to pull out of a purchase. Home inspectors are to maintain a high level of integrity in performing their duty. Doing a proper inspection is very important for the buyer and also to gain the trust of agents as well.
I do understand why many practitioners are skeptical of home inspectors. 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. But the truth is, inspectors and agents need each other. We rely on each other’s expertise to give consumers a quality homebuying experience, so we must build relationships based on honesty, trust, and mutual gain. That requires more open communication.
Many agents have helped me think differently about how my skills can best serve home buyers. I was once a building inspector for the City of Snellville, Ga. evaluating 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. An agent I worked with reminded me that wasn’t the objective of a home inspection. She helped me refocus on just delivering the pertinent facts to her clients so they could make an informed decision for themselves. Once I gained this perspective, I took it back to my local chapter of the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors to better educate the members.
When a Real Estate Agent works with their home inspector it provides for a great home shopping experience for the potential buyer and develops a confidence of trust between the agent and the inspector. On both sides of this relationship there can areas of weaknesses. But if they learn to work together their strengths can complement each other.
For instance, the strength of a home inspector can be his ability to look at items reported that need immediate attention and also suggest possible solutions of repair making mention that everything can be repaired, adjusted or replaced, will in turn produce a hopefulness to the client that the house they are about to purchase is worth getting. However, if the home inspector puts into his report ridiculous things unrelated to safety or exaggerating the issues with a dooms day mentality with an over emphasis on the Building Codes, it will ultimately hurt the sale, it also damages the trust factor from the agent that recommended him. An inspector that abides by the code of ethics and being a trained professional will avoid such mistakes. Agents have a need to trust their inspector to do a good job without being foolish in their assessment and reporting of the home. If that trust is missing how can there possible be a good working relationship be established?
For the Agent that insists on having the inspector not include certain legitimate items that should be in the report because they might blow the deal, will ultimately hurt the buyer and the trust of the inspector toward the agent. A conscious inspector will avoid being pressured into compromising the inspection and even turn down inspections that come from that agent. Home Inspectors get sued because they either miss items or compromise on something that should be reported. One time I reported on a deck ledger board attachment on a new house that required Threaded rod with large washers and nuts on each side but instead it had lag bolts. I needed to report this because of the age of the home required them at the time. Decks fall off houses if not attached properly! The agent insisted I remove that from the report because all the homes in the neighborhood had the same issue. I did not remove it because I knew the requirements and if I did it would be a compromise for me. That agent never called me again, and if he would have I would not have taken the inspection. I have personally turned down many inspections from certain agents that tried to pressure me to turn a blind eye to something that should be reported on. It is very important that Home Inspectors have the support and confidence of their agent to trust them in their decision to include what needs to be reported. If that support isn’t there how can a good working relationship be built?
In closing, a good solid home inspection will strengthen a real-estate transaction by presenting a truthful and thorough examination of the home for the buyer and this will spark an appreciation toward the agent and turn into referrals from the grateful customers. This will be the outcome of a working relationship between Agents and Inspectors for the common purpose of honesty, trust, and mutual gain while providing professionalism to potential home buyers.