That lying, cheating home inspector! (Part 1)

I read articles in the newspaper from columnist Barry Stone ( Barry is an experienced home inspector and has been at his craft for 31 years. I look forward to reading Barry’s articles every Sunday in my local newspaper. Often, he takes questions from people who need clarification about what their home inspector has told them during their inspection. Barry does not sugar coat. If a home inspector was wrong, he is not afraid to say so. Likewise, he tells his readers that they may be wrong if the situation calls for it. I like Barry’s style and admire him for his straightforward approach.

One of Barry’s recent articles dealt with a client who discovered that their toilet had a “major leak” when a plumber visited the home to make the repair that the home inspector had recommended. The writer (client) claims that the home inspector missed or minimized a problem. Specifically, they stated that, “…we now believe he was incompetent or dishonest”. They asked Barry if it was possible that the home inspector took a “kickback” from the Realtor to help close the deal.  In his response, Barry explained that the home inspector could have mis-diagnosed the problem. He further explained that it was possible that the client was negligent by opting to buy the home as is. Since there is not any other information in the article, we are left to wonder who was at fault. I have my suspicions.

“…we now believe he was incompetent or dishonest”

Regarding taking kickbacks, it is doubtful that this would be the case. In my 30+ years of inspecting homes the situation has never presented itself. The real estate professionals and home inspector would be crazy to put their license on the line to take a “kickback” to make a deal go through. Again, I have my suspicions about what happened in this case.

Get that deal to the closing table

In my career as a home inspector there has always been the rush for a home purchaser to sign the contract, get their home inspection, have their attorney review the contract (yes, we use attorneys for real estate transactions in my area), and settle any negotiations all in a very short time. When a home inspector finds problems, there are usually only one of 4 ways to proceed:

  1. Cancel the contract
  2. Have the seller make the repair
  3. Move forward and make the repairs on your own
  4. Take a monetary credit for the cost of the repairs.

Since home inspectors are rarely involved with the negotiations that take place after the inspection is completed, I cannot say which is the most common. However, in taking an educated guess I would say that item 4, taking a credit, is often the solution that is settled on.

“I got a guy”

One of the things that has always struck me as strange is that when defects are found and the purchaser wants to take a monetary credit from the home seller, they rely on word of mouth to obtain pricing for repair of these defects. It is rare that a contractor is consulted to look at the specific item and give a firm price. Most of the time the dollar amount is settled on from somebody’s suggestion that, “I got a guy who can repair that for $100”. This could be dangerous. I suspect this is what happened in the example in Mr. Stone’s column.

Do your due diligence

My advice is that things need to slow down. Take the time to have a contractor to look at the problem. In some cases, is may require that the buyer spend more money to obtain a bona-fide bid. After all, contractors do not work for free. They have been taken advantage of too many times by unscrupulous people having them provide pricing during a real estate transaction, only to lose out when the buyer finds a cheaper price after they move into the home.

Certainly, there are items that can be addressed without a contractor visiting the home, but in most cases, it would help to have the contractor see the problem firsthand. In commercial real estate transactions, this is called the “due diligence” period. While the stakes are different in a home purchase, it is still likely that the purchase is going to be one of the largest you will ever make. SLOW DOWN!

Can we sell you rust proofing for your new car?

In a future (related) blog, I want to explore the recent phenomenon of contractors who upsell their services. This has been going on for some time but seems to be increasing as technicians are given a bonus if they upsell services. More to come…

Jamie Dunsing Licensed Home Inspector

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