The Value of a ASHI or CREIA Inspector Q&A

QUESTION

“What standards do home inspectors have when writing reports and disclosing information? We made a decision to buy a house because it looked pretty good, and the inspection report was minimal. However, after our offer was accepted, a second inspection report from a previous buyer surfaced, that noted serious defects with the house. There was leakage everywhere, from the roof, to the exterior walls, to water leaking into the garage, and to water pooling under the house. The siding wasn’t properly installed and there was extensive wood rot. Once I got the report, I went back to the property with my agent and rechecked the house, and it was amazing the damage this inspector found that I never would have noticed. I was going to buy a real money pit. How come the other report missed all of these significant items? Wouldn’t the other inspector be liable for not disclosing this?” –  C.H., Castro Valley

ANSWER

Home inspectors and their reports vary greatly in terms of thoroughness and the ability to clearly communicate their findings to a client. The reason for the variance is basically two-fold. First, there are no real standards or specific requirements that govern the experience of an inspector or the details that have to be in a report. The basic obligation of a home inspector in California is to perform the inspection according to nationally recognized standards for the industry. This requirement is so vague, that it offers very little assurance for the consumer that the inspection will provide the information it should.

The second reason for the variances between inspectors and their reports is directly related to the experience and skill of the inspector. Since there are no licensing requirements for home inspectors, anyone can hang a sign out and start in the business whether or not they have any construction experience. There are many people entering into the home inspection industry that believe that the home inspection industry is an easy opportunity to generate income. They think, how hard can it be to inspect a house?

Having 20 years of experience in the industry, I can attest that it requires skill and experience to thoroughly inspect a house, and provide the level of disclosure information expected in California. Having trained dozens of inspectors, I know that it takes about 500 inspections before an inspector can adequately perform an inspection with a consistent amount of skill. This is not a profession that you can learn and master on your own, or through a class.

Based on the information in your letter, I could only guess that the first inspector was unskilled and the second inspector experiences. Finding and disclosing the water issues you mentioned often require a keen sense and a thorough knowledge of how a house is constructed. Obviously, the first inspector did not have the skills or abilities to identify the items that the second inspector did.

You were very fortunate to have seen the second inspection, because if you had purchased the house based on the information listed in the first report, the inspector would have had tremendous liability. He or she would have been liable for any damages resulting from those non-disclosed items, assuming they were visible during the first inspection.

The best advice I can give anyone thinking of buying a house is to hire a qualified inspector to inspect it. And make sure you see a sample of the inspector’s report to see if it will give you the type of information you will want to rely on. There are literally hundreds of inspectors in the industry today, with dozens of report formats, and several national and regional inspector organizations. To find a good inspector, consumers do a little research and find someone they feel comfortable with, and one that is willing to stand behind the accuracy of their report.

The two most established home inspector organizations in the industry are the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), and the California Real Estate Inspectors Association (CREIA). Both of these organizations require that their inspectors have a performed a minimum number of inspections before becoming a member, and require continuing education to continue membership. The strengths of these two organizations are that they truly support the industry by promoting high standards of professionalism, and the continual education of their members.

For example, the local ASHI and CREIA chapters hold seminars and trainings almost every month, and there are many opportunities for inspectors to share experiences and learn from established members. Last month, the Silicon Valley ASHI and CREIA Chapter hosted one of the best seminars on moisture intrusion ever offered in the Bay Area. The inspectors attending that seminar learned more about how moisture infiltrates into building during that day, than they could after years working in the industry.

Remember, the most important thing when hiring an inspector is to feel comfortable with the person and their experience. You will be relying on their abilities and written report when you buy your next house. And you want that information to be accurate, and clearly communicated. To locate an ASHI inspector you can call ASHI headquarters at 1-800-743-2744, or you can contact ASHI through their web site at www.ashi.org To find a CREIA inspector, you can visit their website at www.CREIA.org.