Choosing an Inspector

So then, what exactly is home inspection?

The Texas Real Estate commission defines it thusly, “A real estate inspection is a limited visual survey and basic operation of the systems and components of a building using normal controls and does not require the use of specialized tools or procedures. The purpose of the inspection is to provide the client with information regarding the general condition of the residence at the time of inspection.”

A tongue-in cheek, but apropos version is:

“A business with illogically high liability, slim profit margins and limited economies of scale. An incredibly diverse, multi-disciplined consulting service, delivered under difficult in-field circumstances, before a hostile audience in an impossibly short time frame, requiring the production of an extraordinarily detailed technical report, almost instantly, without benefit of research facilities or resources.” – Alan Carson

One thing that is often overlooked about home inspectors is their relative inequality with regard to knowledge, experience and forensic skills. The purpose of a home inspector is to discover and report defects. The ability to do this effectively involves skills that take many years to develop and refine. Some inspectors are far better at this than others. Unfortunately, most people don’t realize this when they hire a home inspector, and spend little, if any, time selecting one.

The requirements for licensing by the State of Texas are embarrassingly minimal. There are two approaches to obtaining a license. Some persons begin as apprentice Inspectors under the sponsorship of a professional Inspector. They next become licensed as Real Estate Inspectors, and then as professional Inspectors after satisfying education and experience requirements, including the completion of a specified numbers of inspections. Using an alternative approach, an applicant may substitute specific additional courses or personal experience in lieu of the requirements of first having been licensed as an apprentice or real estate Inspector and having completed the required inspections from Dallas Real Estate Inspectors.

Herein lies the rub. With absolutely no construction experience, any person can enroll in 488 classroom hours of inspection-related courses in what often amounts to no more than a “test-teaching” facility; pass the exam and– voilà! – that person is deemed a professional Home Inspector by the State of Texas, complete with a mile wide and inch deep understanding of the profession. In the military we referred to these folks as “shake and bake”. When you realize that Texas requires 600 hours for manicurists and 1500 hours for hair stylists, perhaps you’ll begin to put things into perspective.

If those figures impress you consider that until January 1, 2005, Real Estate Inspectors were required to have a mere 188 classroom hours to pass muster! Further exacerbating the problem has been the growing out(in)-sourcing trend in corporate America, combined with the resultant rising unemployment, that swelled the ranks of licensed inspectors in Texas from 2,196 in 2001 to a whopping 4288 as of 7/17/08. That’s an almost unimaginable 195% increase in just a little over 6 years! And this during a period of time when the total state population grew by a mere 16%. Many of these practitioners are from backgrounds totally unrelated to residential construction and serve merely to make the crowd bigger. At last count the license numbers had soared to 20,736 (as of 7\2013) Stratospheric!

It almost seems that, for some unknown reason, real estate brokers want to flood the market with new inspector licensees. Could it possibly be that, compared with experienced inspectors, inexperienced inspectors find little that will impede a sale from proceeding or the brokers’ progress toward the collection of their commissions? So, if you feel really lucky and you’re up for a little on-the-job training, let high license numbers and low prices be your guide.

FEES

Though the least important consideration, I am listing this first because it is often the first question asked by prospective clients. Professional inspectors are not fungible goods. That is to say that they are not a commodity. One is not necessarily as good as another. All inspectors must be licensed in Texas, but that license is simply a license to operate an inspection business and is not indicative of the licensees’ skill level.

A professional home inspection is an investment. If you are a comparison shopper, resist the temptation to allow pricing to be your major concern. The price of a home inspection for the average house of about 2000 s.f. is $425 -700. Beware of those charging less. Bargain Inspectors are typically inexperienced newcomers who cannot justify to themselves or their clients charging the market price for their services. In the home inspection business, you really do get what you pay for. A single defect missed by your “discount” Inspector could easily cost you 100 times what you saved. More importantly, in the event of a missed safety issue, you could lose your entire home – even your life.

The price of a home inspection from Texas Inspector represents a very small percentage of the overall price of a home that will likely be the largest single purchase you ever make. This is the best money you will ever spend.

See: http://www.housedetective.com/2007/09/20/price-shopping-for-home-inspectors/

EXPERIENCE

Minimal state requirements not withstanding, most professional inspection firms require an apprentice Inspector to complete a minimum of 800 inspections prior to sending them out for the first time to inspect client homes unsupervised.

In the past 15 years Texas Inspector has inspected an aggregate total of properties valued in excess of $2.4 billion. Yes, that’s b-i-l-l-i-o-n.

Also understand that nearly 64% of home inspectors have been in the profession less than 10 years as per a recent poll conducted by the National Association of Home Inspectors. Be certain that the inspector you choose has been in business longer than 10 years, is code-certified, and has ample hands-on residential construction experience.

Licensing

Texas was the first state in the nation to require licensing for home inspectors (1988) and to adopt legislation (in 1991) defining the minimum standards to which professional Dallas Texas Real Estate Inspectors must conduct an inspection. All Inspectors within the state must be licensed by the Texas Real Estate Commission. Only 3 of the other 30 states regulating home inspectors have chosen to follow Texas’ obviously questionable path of licensing inspectors under the real estate commission umbrella.

See: http://www.ashi.org/customers/state.asp

In addition, all Inspectors who perform Wood Destroying Insect (WDI) inspections in conjunction with their property inspections are required to be licensed by the Texas Department of Agriculture’s Structural Pest Control Service. These are the bare minimum licensing requirements.

There are levels of licenses in both of the above categories. There are three levels of Home Inspector licensing in Texas: Apprentices, Inspectors, and Professional Inspectors. There are two levels of Wood Destroying Insect (WDI) Inspectors: Technicians and Certified Applicators. Be certain that the Inspector you are hiring is both a licensed Professional Inspector and a Certified Applicator. All others are trainees.

Warning

Many inspectors in Texas are operating either without licenses or with expired licenses. Try as they may, the Texas Real Estate Commission appears not to have sufficient manpower to identify and take action against many of these under-the-radar crooks.

So to make certain that your inspector is on the up and up go to:

http://www.trec.state.tx.us

Type in your prospective inspector’s name and or license number and let the games begin!