So what's all the fuss about independence in home inspection, and how does it affect the homebuyer?
Consider who recommends the home inspector. If it is a friend who has used an inspector, your lawyer, or a professional association directory, you can be reasonably certain that they are basing their recommendation on some type of facts. A previous client can tell you how they were treated, what kind of information they received, and what type of follow up service was provided. Your lawyer can relate the experiences of several clients who have used one or more inspectors. A professional association such as InterNACHI or ASHI can provide a list of all qualified inspectors in your area.
If the referral source is someone who is in a position to profit from the sale of the house, either very directly (like the current owner) or less directly (like the seller's or buyer's Realtor), there exists a very real opportunity for a conflict of interest. Dishonest Realtors don't tend to like Independent Inspectors, so they may try to steer you away from us. Ultimately, the choice of inspector is your decision, not theirs.
Many years ago, I decided that it is critical that home inspectors be completely independent of Realtors. In this way, my clients can be certain that there is no conflict of interest on my part.
For more information on the importance of independence in the field of home inspection, visit: www.independentinspectors.org.
The Facts of Independence
Fact: As of January 2007, there were over 7,000 home inspectors listed as members of the Canadian Association of Home and Property Inspectors and the American Society of Home Inspectors. In addition, there are many others who either choose not to belong, or are unable to meet the membership requirements of these professional associations.
Of the over 7,000 inspectors indicated above, only approximately 150 have chosen to signify their independence from influence by joining Independent Home Inspectors of North America (IHINA) and signing a pledge to remain independent of real estate agents. Only 17 Canadian home inspectors have chosen to be truly independent and I am the only one in Alberta.
Fact: On average, most home inspectors get 70% of their referrals from Realtors. That makes them dependent on Realtors for their livelihood. In the past 5 years less than 15% of our inspections came from Realtor referrals. Honest Realtors love us, dishonest Realtors hate us.
Fact: Realtors keep "short lists" of 3 or 4 home inspectors to hand out to their clients. If one of these inspectors causes a deal to fall through, they are dropped off the short list. To stay on the list, the inspector ends up working for the Realtor, not the buyer.
Fact: In a recent court case in New Jersey, the judge found that the home inspection report "was so "balanced" as to render it pablum and worthless" and had told the buyer "nothing important about the condition of the house they had agreed to buy, but undoubtedly pleased the realtor. In that respect it was affirmatively misleading."
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