Here is part 3 of an online discussion of “deal killer” and “deal breaker” home inspectors. While a lot more thoughtful than many comment threads, it did get a little warm.
I noted: “From the American Society of Home Inspectors’ ‘Standard of Practice’: ‘The inspector shall: A. inspect readily accessible, visually observable, installed systems and components listed in this Standard. B. provide the client with a written report, using a format and medium selected by the inspector, that states: 1. those systems and components inspected that, in the professional judgment of the inspector, are not functioning properly, significantly deficient, unsafe, or are near the end of their service lives ...”
A Realtor got a little hot: “If an inspector specified that something needs to be replaced because it is at the end of its estimated life cycle, I would immediately file a complaint on that inspector. It has not been my experience that I have had anyone I have been involved in do this. A few make recommendations aside from the inspection to the buyer, but I don’t always find that appropriate. Also if an inspector is not licensed in a field that they cite a problem with, this has to be backed up by the licensed professional. It is wishful thinking that inspectors are always right or always competent just like in any other field of endeavor.”
(I note here, but did not on the thread, that no one said anything about recommending replacement of anything, only that a system or component appears to be near the end of its service life.)
Another Realtor: “Inspector is there to find any potential issues, NOT to make recommendations about how to fix them or how much the repairs should cost. The ones who overstep their boundaries do not get rehired by me or my customers. I would much rather know that there are problems and hope the inspector will be honest and forthright if she finds any, but I’ve worked with some inspectors who get carried away and over-dramatize minor issues. There’s definitely a balance that needs to be maintained.”
(Obviously, this is an online discussion: the “replacement recommendation” tangent has taken off.).
I tried again: “What about the American Society of Home Inspectors standard I posted? It doesn't say ‘recommend replacement,’ but it does say report that something appears to be at the end of its life cycle.”
The ruffled Realtor replied: “Richard, no association policy that would be like ASHI or NAR (National Association of Realtors) can trump state or federal laws. Our inspectors are supposed to follow state standards that say it either works or doesn’t work. It is also not a code inspection because if we had to do that we would never sell a house. Code can be cited for improper work that is done without a permit or creates a health hazard or danger.”
(Ah. Codes. Another tangent. Online discussions do have their limitations.)
After the thread died, I looked at the American Society of Home Inspectors Standard of Practice again.
It does say: “The inspector shall … provide the client with a written report, using a format and medium selected by the inspector, that states: 1. those systems and components inspected that, in the professional judgment of the inspector, are not functioning properly, significantly deficient, unsafe, or are near the end of their service lives ...”
But it later says: “Inspectors are not required to determine … remaining life expectancy of any system or component.” (Read it here: www.ashi.org/documents/pdf/standards.pdf .
It’s a fine line. It looks to me like the standard provides for a head’s-up for a homebuyer without giving the buyer any real leverage to reopen negotiation. That sounds reasonable – if it’s followed carefully and properly.
My final comment on the thread: This reminds me of good advice for testifying in court, or being deposed: Answer only and precisely the question asked, then shut up.
Next week: An inspector explains what the state Construction Industries Board requires of inspectors.