Can You Pass The Test?

Home Inspector with Inspection Support Services Inc.

TIPR - A Quick Analysis

"Life is the art of drawing sufficient conclusions from insufficient premises" Samuel Butler

On a typical Test Inspection with Peer Review (TIPR) session you will normally find six or seven home inspectors completing their TIPR. You would also likely find different approaches used to inspect the test house, along with different report systems produced for the "Examiner Team." There may also be similar or even perhaps different findings during the peer review. This information not only provides a valuable assessment tool, it is also useful to determine whether the inspector was successful or not on this particular home inspection. The results also forms part of the data that can be useful for validating the inspection skills and technical knowledge of home inspectors. 

Let's look at an actual TIPR experience. As the Chief E.xaminer I just recently assisted in a TIPR session in which 28 home inspectors inspected four houses in Kingston, Ontario on November 29th, 2008. First we needed to acquire four houses to conduct the test inspection process. Each house had a volunteer house sitter to oversee and coordinate the scheduling of the seven home inspectors assigned to inspect each house. Each applicant inspector was allotted approximately 3 ½ hours to complete the inspection and to prepare an "Applicant Summary Inspection Report." This form is a summary page for reporting the "must find" conditions for this particular house. Applicants did not have to complete a full inspection report on the 29th for the Peer Review, but were required to mail, fax or deliver it to the Chief Examiner within 48 hours following the TIPR.

Hopefully you can appreciate that a lot of time and effort goes into conducting these TIPRs. The examiners often dedicate about a day and half (perhaps more) to the process, which starts with the examiners inspecting the house and creating the "must find" list. On the day of the TIPR they undertake a very long day for the Peer Review of each of the TIPR applicants. During the Peer Review each applicant is asked to present their findings of those "must find" defects and answer a series of preset technical questions used to assess the inspector's general knowledge and education of home inspection. The examiners also assess the applicant's verbal and written communication skills. The TIPR applicant must score a minimum of 80% on the "must find" defect portion of the assessment in order to successfully complete the TIPR. They must score 75% or better in the other to assessment areas - communication skills and technical knowledge.

Often the question is asked, "What is deemed a ‘must find' defect?" After all, the issue determines the difference between a significant defect and one of lesser importance. One of the key benchmarks used to determine the "must find" defects originates from the Standards of Practice (SOP). The SOP sets the minimum performance standard for conducting a home inspection. The Standards define "significantly deficient" as unsafe or not functioning. It also defines unsafe as "a condition in a readily accessible, installed system or component that is judged to be a significant risk of bodily injury during normal, day-to-day use; the risk may be due to damage, deterioration, improper installation, or a change in accepted residential construction standards."

Sooner or later the question that often arises is, "Why do I need to become a National Certificate Holder?"  This question is often followed by the debate of who is bigger, better or best.

As a well-seasoned and experienced home inspector I believe very strongly in the earned designations; but as an educator, true experts have two qualities. First they have a lot of experience, and secondly this translates to a verifiable ability to do "something" successfully time and time again. In most fields an expert does not just mean "experienced," it means "proven." Those inspectors that have taken the extra steps to become a National Certificate Holder have "proven" not just their experience and education, but also their expertise. Equally as important, they have proven their commitment to achieve the highest possible "standard" in home inspection.

Over the last 3 years, 450 applicant inspectors have put themselves to the test.  Here's what we've found:

•(1)   Currently between 15 to 20% do not successfully complete the TIPR.

•(2)   Applicants' often fail to highlight the information about the "must find" conditions they report to the examiners, often leaving it concealed in the inspection report.

•(3)   Many inspectors, who were unsuccessful in their TIPR, appear to fail to follow the  SOP requirements completely.

•(4)   Sloppy reporting and poor communication skills are areas that often require improvement.

On a more positive light -

•(1)   There are certainly some outstanding home inspectors out there providing an extremely high level service and professionalism.

•(2)   There are some inspectors that have no association affiliation that have successfully completed the TIPR and fulfilled the requirements to become a National Certificate Holder.

•(3)   There are some home inspectors who willingly admit that the TIPR process has been a valuable assessment that helped them realize their vulnerabilities.

Does this help indicate our strong points on which the home inspection sector can build for a better future? Does it help in recognizing our value of this process as a home inspection community at large?

One thing I do know - the stats do not present false information. They are based on real experiences - tested in the field, and communicated in the reporting method. The facts dispel the myths of labelling and false assumptions. They help us see that there is still much work to do, and hopefully make room for us all to realize the need to find common ground to better our profession.

Our profession is changing fast and some may view the National Certification process as an impediment. On the other side, many inspectors see the effectiveness in which the proof is in "drawing sufficient conclusions" through the extra level of rigor and validation by testing of each and every home inspector. Why not take up this challenge and "prove" you are also one of the best?

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