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VOL. 44 | NO. 8 | Friday, February 21, 2020

The great home inspector conspiracy finally exposed

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The relationship between home inspectors and Realtors is one of the most misunderstood partnerships in the business world.

Many buyers seem to think both Realtors – buyer’s agent and listing agent – are hoping for a clean inspection and hire lenient inspectors in order to archieve that end.

The listing agent, the conspiracy goes, is actually hoping for the deficiencies of the home to be swept under the wall-to-wall carpet.

The buyer’s broker is hoping for an inspection of the Sherlock Holmes variety with no faucet, appliance or electrical connection being unturned. These Realtors want inspectors who will crawl over every inch, from crawl space to roof, picking every nit.

The truth is, the relationship with inspectors is of utmost importance for all Realtors since happy buyers and sellers spawn more buyers and sellers.

When an inspector misses a defective component of the home, it makes for a most unhappy former real estate client. For that reason, many Realtors are hesitant, or outright refuse, to make recommendations for home inspectors.

Doing so is as bad as referring a bad inspector. This is no place for a head to sink into the sand. The Realtors know the good inspectors from those that are not as skilled, knowledgeable and aware, and should feel comfortable endorsing a qualified inspector.

It was only in 2005 that the inspectors were forced to become licensed. They are now regulated by the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance, the same body that monitors real estate brokers, contractors, accountants and funeral directors.

Its website offers the mission of the department as it relates to the Home Inspector Licensing Program:

“It is our mission to protect the public health, safety and welfare by ensuring compliance through education, licensure and regulation.”

The program was met with trepidation at its inception, and those concerns were well-founded and later proven valid.

In the early going, many of the better inspectors refused to go through the required educational requirements since they had been inspecting homes for years. Why should they have to take a course? Those people are now referred to as handymen. They will not sit for the contractor exam, either.

Certainly, the fees charged for home inspections have increased significantly over the years, but the information, data and reporting has improved with the expense.

The value is there since a home purchase is the largest investment many will make.

The good inspectors use the same forms and are members of one of the large organizations that offer support for the inspectors. Initially, there was only the American Society of Home Inspectors, and that body was recognized as a certifying body by the National Commission of Certifying Agencies. That’s right, there is an agency that certifies agencies.

As of late, the National Association of Certified Home Inspectors has become a group used by some of the more innovative home inspectors. Regardless of their affiliations, the inspectors provide detailed reports replete with photographs and explanations and recommendations.

Recently the reports have been expanded to include what items are recommended for repair, what issues are of the maintenance variety and how to maintain those systems.

While inspecting the home, the wood-destroying organism should be checked. As was well documented in the book Never Home Alone, there are thousands of species of organisms that devour wood, and none are on the endangered species list, if there even is such a list these days.

Having a trophy of a stuffed termite should not cause issue in the social media world. They are not elephants.

Even with the inspector’s knowledge of the home and its construction, it is wise for buyers to include contractors in the discussion of how the repairs should be handled. Does a perfectly functioning 20-year-old HVAC need to be repaired if is not broken? “If it ain’t broke, no one should fix it” does not govern repair negotiations.

“I paid top dollar. It’s old. It’s going to break. I want a new one!” the buyers scream. And the sellers retort, “It works well. Continue to service the system. I am not buying you a brand, new HVAC for your enjoyment.”

The same argument is often put into play when elderly roofs are covering the home. Inspectors warn the roof is at the end of its expected life. Roofs are like people. Some age better than others. Roofs with proper roof vents and are protected from heat may last five to 10 years longer than roofs that were not installed properly.

As in the HVAC case, the owners say, “It does not leak. I am not buying a new one.” The buyer says, “It will leak soon enough. Replace it!”

Those are the easy debates. The grading of the land away from the house always raises a few concerns, as does the termite letter. Many homeowners have contracts with pest companies, but they are for killing the other bugs, not the termites.

In many situations, the homeowners actually have termite service annually, and the termites invade when the inspector is there. Termite treatments are usually from $800 to $1,200, less than a roof or HVAC system.

Radon levels are higher when the sky is overcast, after rains or if the house has been vacant for an extended period. The EPA has set 4 picocuries per liter as the maximum allowable level. There are several companies that charge from $1,250 to $1,500 for radon mitigation systems.

Someone is going to write some checks.

Richard Courtney is a licensed real estate broker with Fridrich and Clark Realty, LLC and can be reached at richard@richardcourtney.com.

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