Home Inspector Code of Ethics
In the good old days, the Real Estate Agent was was trusted like the family friend or doctor. Realtors know a great deal about each client including income, occupation, relationships, and personal preferences. A good realtor would find out as much detail as possible to connect the client with the perfect home. Realtors also educated customers and facilitated much of the process — including finding a loan officer, home inspector, attorney and more. This personal team leaves room for a lot of unethical behavior giving the right mix of bad ideas and bad characters. Fortunately, most realtors are really in business to help the client and the teams are helpful — but there are always exceptions. Often the teams are no longer trusted and even referred to as collusion.
One way to address this concern is for the realtor to provide two or three of each team member to the client for the client to “build” the team. This also helps the client feel like they have a choice. This builds trust between the realtor and the client too. The realtor also has the established relationship with each person to help move the process along. The relationship the realtor has with the home inspector might encourage him to adjust the schedule to accommodate a specific closing date.
So, which member of the team is the best to start with? Does it matter if the client finds a home inspector that connects him with the realtor and mortgage broker? Is it best to start with the mortgage expert instead. It doesn’t matter much as long as the first person is ethical and personally trusted by the client. However, with technology today one might argue that realtors are less important. It is easy to search for a home. It is easy to drive by a home. It is not difficult to compare prices and identify a reasonable price. Of course, a realtor will save clients substantial time through his knowledge and experience. Weeding through lists of homes takes time. Realtors know what to ask and what to look for — if they are good. Lawyers can sit on the other end of the phone and provide advice and opinions from afar. Mortgage teams can initiate much of the process with some online forms. However, one team member cannot be “virtual” at all. The home inspector must be hands-on and deeply involved in the home inspection. There is no shortcut in the process.
So, with all that mumbo jumbo and loosely saying realtors, attorneys, and mortgage brokers are expendable (kidding folks!!) we will focus on the home inspector for the rest of this article. Do home inspectors need high ethical standards? Like most professional communities, there are standards and ethics as part of the training. HomeInspector.org has a good list of ethical standards. The National Association of Home Inspectors, Nahi.org also has a documented set of standards. So, yes, ethics are important for home inspectors.
One thing to consider is how the home inspectors gets new jobs. The home buyer seldom buys more than one home per week, and the home inspector needs to eat. Who in the equation can keep the home inspector busy? The realtor is always selling and buying homes and is a great source to keep the home inspector busy with work. When finding a home inspector make sure the home inspector watches out for the interest of the home buyer rather than making the home look good and closing the sale.
Here’s one way to make sure the home inspector is working for the buyer. Don’t ask the home inspector to wait to be paid upon the close of the sale. Make whatever arrangements are necessary to pay for his services, regardless of whether the home sells. Don’t allow a conflict of interest situation to be created. In other words, if he doesn’t get paid until the house sells, could he be tempted to overlook problems to speed up the sale of the house?
Make sure the home inspector is certified. A good search term for finding a home inspector should include keywords like certified, experienced, professional, etc. For example, the main criteria used when buying a new home was finding a “certified Atlanta home inspector.” The search focused on finding the inspector with an affiliation with a professional code of ethics. Immediately look for professional affiliations and experience on the website. Look for something indicating experience. The American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) has a Code of Ethics its inspectors subscribe to. One of its initial statements says: “Inspectors shall avoid conflicts of interest or activities that compromise, or appear to compromise, professional independence, objectivity, or inspection integrity.”