Realtors, Do You Challenge or Disagree With the Home Inspector?

By
Home Inspector with JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC HOI 394

Home inspectors and Realtors are both trained professionals. Each would be considered "experts" in their respective fields. Home inspectors should not be giving real estate advice and Realtors should not be dispensing home inspection opinions. Yet once again I have had Realtors, behind my back in this case, completely disagree with my findings. To top it off they have also questioned my competence and knowledge.

These agents (a two woman team) are acting in a dual agent capacity. My-our clients are savvy buyers, with much experience in buying and selling homes. After the inspection the buyers contacted the agents about a major concern uncovered during the home inspection. The agents basically told the buyers that the inspector (me) was not from the area and not familiar with the building practices and architecture of the city.

Well to put this in geographic perspective my office is two towns away and I have most certainly inspected in the area, in fact two streets away from this house. Not that any of this is relative to the home inspection or my abilities.

My clients related their conversation with the agents to me and were concerned about an appointment with a contractor the agents recommended to further evaluate the problem. The buyers stated that they had told the agents they were not inspectors and how could they dispute my findings. Further, the fact that I was not located in the city had nothing to do with my abilities or my discoveries.

My clients had initially been leery of these agents, but now their confidence was completely eroded. These agents had now effectively poisoned their tenuous relationship with the buyers and no doubt will never receive referrals in the future from "our" clients.

The lesson here is to respect the home inspectors' territory and vice versa. All the players in the real estate process have their roles to perform. We as professionals need to remember our areas of expertise and not step over the line into another professional's area.

Read another home inspectors recent similar experience, Electric Garage Door Opener VS. Structure Fairfield County Home Inspection, Connecticut

James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC

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James Quarello
Connecticut Home Inspector
Former SNEC-ASHI President
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC

 ASHI Certified Inspector

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Lenn Harley
Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate - Leesburg, VA
Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland

NOW, WE'RE GETTING SOMEWHERE.  Your assumption about my statement being revealing is so off base, it's comical.  I'm a buyer's agent with full fiduciary to my buyer/client.  I have, as far as I know, a 100% success record in getting defects repaired or the contract cancelled.  That said, when a buyer selects a home inspector that writes maintenance, replacement of operating systems, etc., in a report that is not covered by the home inspection contingency in the contract, we have serious problems.  Our contract says "operating condition".  That, to me, means "as the manufacturer intended".  Anything less means that the system is replaced or my buyer is compensated for the cost of a new system, what ever it is. 

Too often, home inspectors give buyers the impression that "if I write it, the seller must fix it".  That is absolutely not true and all it does is create confusion in the buyer's mind about the purpose of a home inspection, which, I believe is two fold:  (1) to cite "defects" which are covered by the home inspection contingency in the contract, and (2) make the buyer aware of the need for future maintenance needs, which are not covered by the contract.  Too often, inspectors don't make the distinction.

In the case of the defect that you discovered in the home inspection, I would clearly have written the plumbing matter as a material defect and, either the seller would have repaired, or my Home Inspection Notice would have cited the lack of disclosure of the defect as a violation of the disclosure laws.  Further, if they didn't make the repairs for my buyer, they had the duty to disclose this material defect to future prospective buyer and their agent carried the same responsibility. 

Agents are too often too willing to let serious defects pass to the buyer.  That's a serious problem.  The other serious problem that we have is home inspectors who write future maintenance as a defect. 

I absolutely worship the ground my favorite home inspector walks on and will pay for any inspection he does because I know he is experienced, knows his business and doesn't write stuff isn't important.  On the other hand, since he is very experienced and knows our contract, he can write a home inspection report that helps my buyer focus on the real defects, if there are any.  Then I take over and write a report that gets the job done.   Every time.

 

 

Sep 23, 2007 03:39 AM #9
Rainer
134,110
Scott Patterson, ACI
Trace Inspections, LLC - Spring Hill, TN
Home Inspector, Middle TN

Home inspectors don't know everything.  In Texas, they are only "visual" inspectors which means if they can't figure something out, they mark it as "in need of repair" even if it works just fine.

Nobody knows everything!  Yes, Texas has some peculiar reporting requirements but this goes back to their mandated report format that was basically designed by the TX real estate profession.  TX is always used as an example of what not to do when a legislature brings up "Standardized" reporting as part of a home inspector license law.

Sep 23, 2007 03:45 AM #10
Rainer
134,110
Scott Patterson, ACI
Trace Inspections, LLC - Spring Hill, TN
Home Inspector, Middle TN
On the other hand, since he is very experienced and knows our contract, he can write a home inspection report that helps my buyer focus on the real defects, if there are any.  Then I take over and write a report that gets the job done.   Every time.

DO WHAT!!  What in the heck does it matter that a home inspector knows what is in a Sales Contract.  I really don't want to know what is in the sales contract, I have not agreed to anything in it nor have I signed anything that has to do with the sale.

YOU WRITE A REPORT!!!  You have to be kidding me!  You take the home inspectors report and then write another report in your own words?  Why not just list the items of concern that your buyer wants corrected.  A summary of sorts.  As an expert witness in construction and home inspections, I must caution everyone on rewriting a home inspection report so that it is in their own words.  The report should not be transcribed by anyone unless you are willing to assume the responsibility of such an action.

Sep 23, 2007 03:57 AM #11
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Lenn Harley
Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate - Leesburg, VA
Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland

Well.  I don't want to hijack James's blog, and I responded privately to Mr. Patterson. 

If I am out of order, please just delete this. 

Hi Scott.

Yep.  In MD, we do write a Home Inspection Notice.  We write a list of repairs requested and back it up with a copy of that page of the report where the home inspector described the defect. 

The reason my notices are so effective is because I quote the home inspector ver batim and cite back to the Maryland Property Condition Disclosure Statement where the defect isn't disclosed.

These reports relate directly to the contract and the home inspection contingency because those documents themselves limit the scope of the inspection. 

You're attacking the wrong person.  I advocate for the repairs and get them.  The home inspectors that I recommend are maticulous.  I worship the ground they walk on.

 

Sep 23, 2007 07:58 AM #12
Rainmaker
690,134
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Lenn,

I would offer these observations; First it is quite clear that the laws and ways of doing real estate business in your state differ from mine and I would venture Scott's. Doesn't mean they're better or worse, just different. What does matter is that they favor the client. If that is the case, as it would seem from your last post, then I believe we are all on the same page.  

Second; Too often, home inspectors give buyers the impression that "if I write it, the seller must fix it".

I make every effort to be sure my clients understand my report is not something to be used to nit pick the seller into lowering their price and fixing every little defect in the home. A home inspection report is a documentation of the homes condition on the day and time of the inspection. As such it is important to write down the conditions present. Some of these conditions are, as you said, future maintenance issues, not functional or serious defects. None the less they will be in my report, but often not in the summary.

Lastly, I don't believe my "assumption" was comical. I was simply making an observation on what you wrote. You certainly did not initially come off as pro inspection. I appreciate your taking the time to clear things up and further expound on your comments.

Sep 23, 2007 08:48 AM #13
Rainmaker
207,865
Erby Crofutt
B4 U Close Home Inspections&Radon Testing (www.b4uclose.com) - Lexington, KY
The Central Kentucky Home Inspector, Lexington KY

I think Lenn is NOT referring to rewriting the home inspection report.  I'd bet she is referring to writing up the repair request based on the home inspection report.  That's the document the buyer and agent give to the seller listing what they want repaired.  As far as I'm aware, that's pretty much what's done all over.

We do the inspection.  The buyer decides what they want the seller to fix.  The agent writes it up and gives it to the seller or seller agent so they can make their decision.

Looks Lenn does what I recommend in one of the many paragraphs my report:

"IF your purchase offer allows you to ask for repairs, you should provide the seller or contractor (at a minimum) a copy of the pictures and commentary regarding that item in this summary of the report.  The pictures and commentary will help them better understand the need for repairs and what exactly is being asked of them.  It can also eliminate unnecessary phone calls and explanations.  Your real estate agent functions as your negotiator and can better advise you on the terms of your purchase offer and what is considered normal and customary repairs in this area."

-

 

Sep 24, 2007 12:32 AM #14
Rainer
9,269
Kenneth Miller
Jordan Hill Home Services, LLC - Berkley, MI

I can't say about other inspectors, but my report lists items based on 4 criteria: Major defects, Items that Warrent Further Investigation by a specially trained expert in that field, items that are Recommended for Upgrade and general maintenance issues.  I make sure my client understands the difference in the classifications, and I make sure they understand that my report is meant to be an evaluation of the condition at the time of the property. 

I have had a few instances where the buyers agent reworded items in my report both to a client and/or the seller.  When I get called in a case like that, I express very clearly that what I wrote is not what the caller just read to me.  I refuse to allow anyone to increase my liability by changing my wording; I use the wording I use to protect my client.

As far as maintanence issues, I report what I see.  If a furnace is 20 years old, and the life expectancy is 12 years, I report that the unit is functioning properly, but is past it's designed life expectancy.  That is an issue that the client needs to know.  If an agent has an issue with that, I'm sorry, but I'm paid to protect the client.

Sep 25, 2007 01:20 AM #15
Rainmaker
690,134
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Ken,

I would definitely agree about components that are functioning but beyond their useful design life. This "loop hole" can be exploited in the sale of a home.

Lenn had wrote in one of her responses above;

"Our contract says "operating condition".  That, to me, means "as the manufacturer intended".  Anything less means that the system is replaced or my buyer is compensated for the cost of a new system, what ever it is."

The statement is somewhat contradictory, but would seem to imply that even if a system is functioning, it may none the less need replacement. Like your example, a furnace may still be providing heat, yet because it is past its intend life expectancy it should be replaced. If for no other reason than it can no longer be considered reliable.

One component that very often draws argument is roof replacement. When I state a roof is in need of replacement, the first question is; "is it leaking?" I will explain if it is leaking, then it is well beyond the time of required replacement. A roof should always be replaced before it leaks. Never the less, there is inevitably an argument.

Sep 25, 2007 02:57 AM #16
Rainer
26,520
West Hartford CT Real Estate Agent | West Hartford Realtor | www.CTMike.com
ERA Broder Group - West Hartford, CT

It's all about presentation. If a home inspector finds a defect, it can either be presented rationally, or irrationally. I've seen mountains out of mole hills many times. Especially for a first time buyer who isn't house savy, that is the kiss of death to a deal.

I have to say, home inspectors AREN'T created equally. I've worked with Jim, and know he's very reasonable. He wouldn't cite something that wasn't a fact.

This 'team' of agents is obviously worried about lining their pockets.

Sep 25, 2007 04:42 AM #17
Rainmaker
690,134
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Thanks Mike,

The buyers were feeling that way, especially when the agents contradicted my findings. My feeling is we are there to educate and inform the buyer. This means being unbiased and fair in the way the information is presented. A crack in a wall is not cause to call in an engineer 99.9% of the time and that should be made clear to the buyer. It's all about prioritizing the home inspection findings. It benefits no one to grossly exaggerate minor problems.

Sep 25, 2007 05:04 AM #18
Anonymous
Darren Miller

OK all you guys and gals who question how a report is written.

 

Please go to my website http://www.aboutthehouseinspections.com/ on the reports page, type in example and view an actual report. Then come back here and tell me my reporting style is wrong. 

Sep 25, 2007 12:35 PM #19
Rainmaker
207,865
Erby Crofutt
B4 U Close Home Inspections&Radon Testing (www.b4uclose.com) - Lexington, KY
The Central Kentucky Home Inspector, Lexington KY

Your reporting style is wrong.

You forgot how to use the enter key to break up long paragraphs and they are very hard to read.

I gave up after the third page.

Sep 25, 2007 01:06 PM #20
Rainmaker
690,134
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Erby,

I think you're a little harsh, the report to me is better than average. I like the how each section is numbered for easy client reference from the summary.

I would agree that the long run on paragraphs need to be broken up. Large blocks of text are difficult to read and follow.

Darren, What reporting software do you use to generate this report?

Sep 26, 2007 12:10 AM #21
Rainmaker
207,865
Erby Crofutt
B4 U Close Home Inspections&Radon Testing (www.b4uclose.com) - Lexington, KY
The Central Kentucky Home Inspector, Lexington KY

Unfortunately, there's no smiley icons available here.  I was just doing what he asked!!

I didn't bother to struggle thru the long paragraphs to get to the good parts you mention.

It was bertter than some I've seen.

Sep 26, 2007 01:59 AM #22
Rainer
16,773
Amy Bergquist
RE/MAX Premier, REALTORS - West Hartford, CT
ABR, GRI

James- in response to your question on my blog... At times I wish I had questioned a home inspector, not necessarily in front of my client, but behind the scenes.  I've had instances where an inspector has misidentified something, the particular issue I'm thinking of is knob and tube wiring, and my client has taken his word on it.  We did not call an electrician in to verify prior to inspection negotiations because of time constraints.  Given the vintage of the house (late 1930s) we should have questioned his judgment.  Turns out it was not knob and tube, but some type of bell wire.  Knowing that insurance companies do not issue insurance on knob and tube anymore (in almost all cases) we estimated a credit to be given to have the work performed.  Turned out to be less because the scope of work was less.

So, I would never disparage or openly question an inspector in front of my client, however I now know that I do have the right to question.  And I will never be using this particular inspector again, and if he's on the other side of a report I will scrutinize his findings even more.

Sep 26, 2007 03:57 AM #23
Rainmaker
690,134
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Amy,

I think what our two blogs prove is that there is good and bad in every profession. Yours is the most common complaint against inspectors. The reason for mis-identifying or mis-diagnosing is in most cases a lack of knowledge.

I attend two different meetings a month at which we have educational speakers. I am the education committee chairman for one of these groups (SNEC-ASHI). What I notice is the same people regularly attend. This maybe accounts for about one quarter of the inspectors in this State. So where are the others getting educated?

Compounding the problem is the state does not audit or ask for CEUs before renewing licenses. This sends the message education is not important and I don't have to worry about getting caught.

The association I belong to, ASHI, requires 20 CEUs annually for membership renewal. They also randomly audit the membership for compliance. I was audited earlier this year. I take courses constantly as there is always something to learn in this profession. You never can learn too much!

Finally, I do agree you have the right to question, but be sure to get someone qualified who can back you up.

Sep 26, 2007 04:25 AM #24
Anonymous
Billl Duncan

Jim, great post.  That's why I spend almost as much time at the end of the inspection making sure the agent understands the issues and the implications.  

I find some of the worst situations like this are when agents want me to inspect a house that they themselves want to buy.   One agent actually bought a property and engaged me to do an after the purchase "as is" inspection.  He disputed the requirement for a fire rated wall between a garage and the adjacent living quarters. He disputed the need for exterior wiring and conduit to exterior lights, and about 20 other things which I found, some of which were pretty serious safety issues.   The previous owner got top dollar for the property and the market went south not long after that.  I have not heard from this realtor since....nor from that particular agency. 

Oct 01, 2007 01:09 AM #25
Rainer
17,178
Jimmy Breazeale
Sherlock Home Inspections - Coldwater, MS
Well, I don't know about Maryland, but in most states with HI licensing, the contingency contract has absolutely nothing to do with the home inspection.  Home Inspectors in licensing states are bound foremost by that state's SOP.  The scope of an inspection is defined therein, and no contingency contract can be in dispute and be valid.  Further, the inspector is not a party to the contingency contract, nor is the agent a party to the inspection contract.  As long as there are agents and inspectors, these differences in perspective and interests will continue to exist.  But one thing I've learned is this: true professionals rarely allow such differences to stand in the way, and disagreements will be rare.  Another thing that I can say with surety is that knowledgeable inspectors tend to learn a whole lot more about agents than vice-versa. I got pooh-poohed recently for calling out lack of underlayment on a roof because I didn't "understand that that (underlayment) wasn't required" in the jurisdiction in question.  The implication was that I didn't know what I was talking about, and that everything was really just hunky-dory.  That's the kind of stuff to which James is referring, and will evoke disgust on the part of the home inspector every time.  It should be obvious that there is someone else in the process who either 1) is motivated by selfish interest, or 2) doesn't know what they're talking about.  Further reasoning given for "my" ignorance was that, if the roof hadn't leaked in over 2 years (the age of the home), there must not be a problem.  Never mind that the implications were explained in the report.
Oct 02, 2007 04:39 PM #26
Rainmaker
690,134
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Jimmy,

Your eloquence and insight are as usual dead on. I have missed your comments and perspective. Good to have you back.

Oct 03, 2007 02:57 AM #27
Rainer
17,178
Jimmy Breazeale
Sherlock Home Inspections - Coldwater, MS

Good morning, James, and good to hear from you also.  Before I leave out this morning for my appointments, there is another thought that I wish to express concerning realtor/inspector relations.  I want to preface it by saying that I am talking about a small minority of realtors when I make the following comment.  But some of that small minority have been in business for years and are quite successful.  The comment is this:

Some realtors apparently have the impression that home inspectors are merely roughneck hammer swingers turned pseudo professional.  Their judgment of inspectors and reports is clouded by that quite arrogant and very often misguided perception, and it makes them look like fools to those inspectors among us who are, quite often, far better educated than the average agent.  Compounding the problem, such agents are always convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are right, even when it can be definitively proven otherwise, simply because he or she is the real professional while the upstart inspector is, of course, in need of professional guidance.

I'm sure that most agents have their (legitimate) stories of the deal-killing, alarmist, inarticulate inspector who thinks the cavity left by that stump that was ground in the back yard is going to swallow up somebody's kids.  Such inspectors certainly exist.  We, the competent inspectors and reasonable realtors, do not pass blanket judgment.

Oct 04, 2007 02:21 AM #28
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