Of all the columns I've written in this paper, not one has generated so many complaints as the one about home inspectors. In fact, they're still coming in - most of them from inspectors. And of all the e-mails I get from homeowners - about a thousand a week - guess what's one of the most common complaints? Bad home inspections.
There's something seriously wrong with that.
I've gotten e-mails from inspectors across North America, telling me I should stick to contracting. I've been called a "media monster" who doesn't know what he's talking about.
You know what? I don't care.
If I'm getting this many complaints from homeowners who've been ripped off by poor-quality inspections, I think inspectors should spend less time trying to defend themselves and more time doing the job right, and cleaning up their industry.
I'm a contractor, and I don't pull my punches if I see that a contractor's work is crap. If a home inspector does poor work, he shouldn't be protected by others in the business who seem to care more about their industry's image than about the people who spend hard-earned money on the basis of an inspector's "professional" opinion.
There are experienced, conscientious inspectors who do a good job, and sometimes go beyond what their checklist requires.
But others - too many others - just don't know or don't care.
Home inspectors aren't licensed. There isn't a mandatory certification for them in this country.
If you want to get into the business, you can take a course online, or attend a class over a few weekends. It's a non-regulated profession. That means anyone can print business cards, buy a ladder and a flashlight and call himself a home inspector. It doesn't make him a good one.
HIRE THE PROS
Good professional home inspectors belong to industry associations that set standards and require certain qualifications. But not all inspectors belong. Check to make sure your inspector is at least registered.
To become a registered inspector, candidates have to complete courses, pass exams, have practical field training, perform a certain number of paid home inspections, go through a peer-review process and sign an agreement to comply with standards of practice and a code of ethics. That's all good.
It would be better if all inspectors were required to be registered. In a regulated system, owners would be covered by insurance in case an inspector made a mistake or missed something.
A home is the single biggest investment most of us ever make. But home inspection is the only part of the buying process that's not regulated. Go figure.
ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS
So how do you find a good inspector? For a start - just like when you are looking for a good contractor - don't go for the least-expensive option. You get what you pay for in most things in life.
Ask for references - and make sure you check them.
Slow down. Don't fall in love with a house before it's inspected or you won't want to believe the bad news.
If your inspector says he can fix the problems he finds - as a side job - fire him. That's unethical.
DO THE JOB RIGHT
I'm not a home inspector, but I can damn well do a good inspection. I know what to look for, and so should anyone who puts "home inspector" on his business card and the side of his truck.
I've heard inspectors complain that they aren't able - in the time they have - to do the job more thoroughly. For instance, they don't have time to move furniture to check behind or under it for hidden defects. Or is it that, if they spend too much time on a job, they start to lose money on the deal?
They can't see through walls. (Neither can I, by the way. So I use an thermographic imaging camera to help.)
They can't be expected to know everything. But if an inspector isn't confident about something, he should recommend that a professional electrician, HVAC specialist or plumber be brought in by the homeowner.
A professional home inspector should show up at the house with the equipment he needs to do the job properly. If the weather prevents him from safely checking the roof, he should try to come back on a day he can do the job - not just write out a report saying he didn't have access and take your money anyway. And make sure they don't inspect at night (after their day job most likely) - what are they going to see in the dark? Do I sound passionate about this? I am! I'm sick of hearing from owners who've been ripped off by lousy inspections. If someone is going to call himself a home inspector, he should do an inspection. If he's going to take money from owners, he should give them what they paid for.
Mike Holmes is the host of Holmes on Homes on HGTV. E-mail Mike at email@example.com or go to http://www.holmesonhomes.com His new book The Holmes Inspection will be available in stores on May 27. Stay tuned to this column for a follow up on the subject.