What home inspection service means in general is the professional examination and evaluation of a house’s condition, most commonly in conjunction with an active real estate transaction. The home inspection service usually includes, to a lesser or greater degree, an investigation into the presence and/or evidence of infestations of wood-destroying insects and other organisms. As a result of the inspection, the home inspector produces in a timely manner a report of all his findings and he delivers the report to the client. This article goes into the specifics of the service of inspecting houses in terms of inspector qualifications, regulations governing the industry, and the reasons behind the surprisingly wide variance in performance quality one tends to find.
To provide home inspection service entails meeting a number of qualifications. Though the inspector is a generalist and does not need to be a professional plumber, electrician, or HVAC repairman, he must possess a broad understanding of these systems and all other house workings.
To gain such understanding requires comprehensive training, and highest quality inspection services the inspector must prove it through rigorous testing to receive his license. Qualifying to conduct a pest inspection service may entail meeting a completely separate and additional set of training, testing, and licensing requirements. Further qualifications include adequate financial protection in the form of insurance or bonding and maintaining one’s skill set as building trends evolve through continuing education.
Regulations come in the form of standards of practice established by states and professional trade organizations. Different kinds of checklists serve as enforcement mechanisms, and inspectors must pledge to follow and uphold them. For instance, there are rules for the manner in which one must conduct his inspection business. These rules stipulate how long an inspector is required to keep contracts in his files, certain content or wording that must appear in contracts and reports, and similar guidelines designed to ensure a professional client-inspector relationship. They also stipulate that a statement of what a home inspection is not must appear in the contract.
Other checklists address ethics, general exclusions from the inspection service, and specific inclusions. Ethics rules demand that the inspector disclose financial relationships with anyone party to the transaction, that he not fudge his reporting or publish predetermined findings as a sop to agents, that he not advertise fraudulently, and that he studiously avoid actual or perceived conflicts of interest.
General exclusions rules require the home inspector to state in his contract that the inspection does not entail certain items, including evaluations technically exhaustive, moving objects to gain access, testing for code compliance, environmental survey, determining the cause of defects, or providing any kind of warranty. The inclusions standards stipulate both what must be done during a home inspection and what the inspector is not required to do.
Despite home inspection being a service industry and standards of practice universally applicable, the quality of service varies over too broad a range. Historically, due to limited marketing opportunities and reliance on referrals from real estate agents, inspectors found unwanted tension between loyalty to the referring agent and loyalty to the customer. Consequently, how well inspectors actually served their clients depended on which side pulled harder.
Fortunately, stronger governmental regulations and expanding marketing avenues such as the Internet have ameliorated the tension to a large degree, though service quality still varies. The careful customer can judge fairly accurately an inspector’s performance quality using criteria such as thoroughness, rich report substance, communication skills, target audience of his marketing campaign, ethical behavior, and pest inspecting qualifications.