The Truth About Independent Inspectors

There are very few Independent Home Inspectors in British Columbia. The majority of Home Inspectors receive the bulk of their work from realtors. The business of Independent Inspectors is normally generated by direct referrals from satisfied clients or from home purchasers who have had a bad inspection and want assistance in preparing a legal brief for their lawyer.

Independent Inspectors are not influenced in any way by another party. They report and document everything they observe without favour.

Too many Home Inspectors either advertise their services in realty offices or their company or personal identity appears directly on the realtor's web site. The Canadian Association of Home and Property Inspectors (CAHPI) openly advertises that they work closely with the Real Estate Community. That is their marketing choice. We believe that such relationships could be perceived as too cozy.

In our opinion, that sets up conflict of interest situations. An inspector or association of them that approaches a realty agency or salesperson involved in a sale of property cannot be objective. They are beholden to those referring agencies simply because they provide them with a good deal of work. "Where money is involved, morals and independence go out the window." That has been the way of the world since the beginning of time.

The CAHPI Association of Home Inspectors' brochure advertises that they "inspect the Inspectors". In other words, if something goes wrong with an inspection, they infer that they will be on your doorstep to re inspect the home you purchased. This is a grossly inaccurate statement, according to what some homebuyers have told us. In reality, they limit themselves to a simple review of the inspector's report. They don't ask their inspectors to re inspect another inspector's work. They do not come to the home to verify whether a particular point of inspection has been accurately reported.

How can one possibly arrive at an informed decision on a complaint if they don't investigate the condition of the inspection site? If Sears Canada or some other company did a poor job of reporting a home situation, like you need a new roof or your hot water tank shows signs of failure, would they not send out a supervisor to review the original worker's findings if you had a complaint? The answer is obvious. Whose interests are being protected here?

An increasing amount of Home Inspectors report their findings on what is known as a checklist style of report. These reports have a number of small boxes where the inspector marks off items that are either present or not in the home. At the bottom of the report page, there may be a small area for any comments the inspector may want to bring to your attention. No photographs are taken or provided to the home purchaser to show the true condition of the home. "A picture is worth a thousand words."

These checklist reports allow the inspector to go through the house very quickly. A couple of hours on the scene to inspect a house is not uncommon. This type of reporting serves the real estate agent and home inspector well. Less time on the job site, less to be found, less to report on in terms of required repairs, and less worries for the realtor. The deal is not threatened.

Everyone makes their money quickly without the need to approach the seller and selling realtor to inform them this is not the house they advertised. The roof may need repairs. The drainage system will cost thousands to fix, or there is mold growing in the attic. These are only a few examples of common defects found by Independent Inspectors.

An inspector referred by a realtor or realty company can do as many as 4 to 5 of these reports in one day. This keeps down the cost of the inspection fee and allows the inspector to make more money at the end of the day. Who suffers if something goes wrong? Not the bank, realtor, or seller, but the homebuyer who is stuck with a much different bundle of goods than was advertised.

Consumers must be aware that the less time spent on the house inspection by the inspector will increase the chances that an important defect will be missed.

Think about what we are suggesting in another way. If you had a concern about your personal health, would you rather have a doctor spend 15 minutes with you? Or would you prefer that he took more time and ordered X-rays and other sorts of tests? Independent Inspectors take a day to inspect and report on your home purchase.

That further investigation by your doctor would produce photographs (X-rays) of what may be wrong with your body. Everyone knows that one picture is worth a thousand words. The photographs would provide important visual information on the true condition of your body. Armed with that supportive data, the doctor could better assess what had to be done and at what point in time to increase your chances of survival. For example, you either have to replace the roof now, or it has 5 years of life left in the shingles.

Your financial health is not that much different than your personal wellbeing. If you risk hiring a cheap inspector, who runs through a house in a couple of hours and does not provide you with all the details to make an informed decision, you place yourself and others in your family in harm's way.

Realtors are salespersons, and purchasers must never lose sight of that. Their job is to place the home they are selling in the best possible position for sale.

Here is an actual excerpt about what a realtor had to say about a condominium we recently inspected: "Very well kept & spacious apartment. 660 square feet, large balcony (OK to BBQ). Comes with skylights, gas fireplace and large storage area in the suite, inside laundry and dryer. 1 bus to UBC, close to beach & all amenities."

The realtor produced the traditional 2 years of Minutes relating to the building. They often argue that this is all a home purchaser is entitled to. Two years of Minutes reveals very little about the history of a building.

The Independent Inspector discovered during his review of the living unit that it was not kept as well as advertised. One door to the patio was completely jammed shut. Other doors in the suite required repairs and adjustment. A window seal was damaged. At the advertised 660 square feet, the home was not spacious. There was no large storage area as alluded to. A bathroom tap leaked. Moisture was detected behind the bathtub wall tiles which was encouraging mold growth. The bathroom fan was defective. The gas fireplace was an inefficient model and was never meant to be a heating unit. This was clearly marked inside the firebox.

The Inspector spoke with a Strata member about the long-term history of the building. The Inspector learned that 5 years previous an engineer had reported that the exterior balconies were unsafe. Expensive renovations were ordered to support the building in the event of an earthquake. The exterior of the building also had a defective perimeter drainage system. This caused water to enter the walls and ceilings of the underground parking lot. Last, but not least, the tar and gravel roof had reached the end of its life. In conclusion, the manner in which the realtor described the interior of the living unit was inaccurate. More importantly, the exterior of the structure and its failing systems was never alluded to. Is all of this in the best interests of the consumer? Had the buyer purchased this suite, he would have been faced with future high assessments.

Another example is the way a realtor described a house that was for sale. Fortunately, the client had insisted on having the home inspected by an Independent Inspector. Realtor comments: "A peaceful retreat. Award winning home and gardens with water views. An entertainers dream with generous room sizes, open plan, covered courtyard and fabulous kitchen. Lower level unfinished but ideal for media room."

What did the Independent Inspector discover? The realtor had incorrectly reported the square foot living area of the house. Outside patios had been included in his calculations, which was deceiving to the purchaser. The integrity of the stucco cladding was questionable. The multiple roofs had reached the end of their lives. Rats and the presence of mold in the attic were evident. All insulation in the attic would have to be removed and replaced and the wood surfaces disinfected. The good news is the Inspector's photographs assisted the buyer in getting $38,000 off the original asking price for the house.

Global Television reported on November 27, 2001 the problems a West Vancouver woman experienced after she hired an inspector recommended by her realtor. See the attached article entitled "Do Your Research Before Rushing In".

Home buyer: "I was basically told to replace the roof and my problems would be solved with that part of the house. It's been anything but. Lab results show mold levels are dangerously high in the roof and top floor. There's moisture and water damage to the basement, and the drainage system has to be dug up." Repairs will run well above the $50,000 she planned to spend, but her problems won't end there.

Royal LePage Realty openly offers on their web site: "To recommend a reputable home inspection service or arrange for a home inspector to visit your property". Canada Mortgage & Housing (CMHC) recently chose to recommend only one group of home inspectors to the public. Why would they do that in a marketplace where consumers want choices? Would it be because that group of inspectors clearly aligns themselves with the real estate community? Is that in your best interests as a homebuyer?

That is a scary situation for the homebuyer when the persons lending them the money tell them who they should employ to inspect THEIR NEW HOME. Equate this to buying a car. If the car salesperson says to you: "Use my mechanic, he can give you a report at a good price", would you buy the car based on the salesperson's recommendation or would you hire your own mechanic? Realty firms and lending institutions that want to direct you to THEIR OWN PEOPLE have an ulterior motive. Their main interest is to have the deal go as quickly as possible without any hitches. Find yourself a bank, lending institution, or credit union that respects your right to choose your own inspector."

An Inspector who receives work (employment) either directly from the realtor or his/her firm or by some other disguised method (such as the realtor handing out to prospective purchasers 3 or 4 inspectors' business cards) has as his main client the realtor. You can assume that, if a realtor or their firm offers you a number of inspectors' business cards or brochures, that those inspectors have been in all probability pre screened to give favourable reports on houses that the realtor has for sale. Buyer beware.

Common sense should alert most consumers that, if an inspector receives referrals from a realtor, they might be tempted to not report the true condition of the house to the buyer for fear of not receiving further work from the selling realtor. Dateline Television reported on this dirty little secret on national TV recently. For a free copy of that videotape, call (604)435-7637. For a partial transcript of that Dateline Television show, see the attached article "Hiring Home Inspectors" under the "Interesting Articles" section.

If an inspector was too thorough in reporting the deficiencies of a home, the realtor may simply dump that inspector and find some other inspector to provide less revealing and more favourable reports.

See the enclosed article written by the Real Estate Council to realtors entitled "Use Caution When Dealing with Property Inspections". The Council is the "Big Brother" of the real estate industry. They clearly tell their real estate agents: "It is recommended that licencees avoid 'steering' buyers towards particular service providers or communicating information about their fees." It is obvious that Canada Mortgage & Housing and Royal LePage Realty did not get the message. The Real Estate Council is saying to its own realtors that it is wrong for the realtor to interfere with the purchasers' right to choose the inspector of their choice.

CHOOSE YOUR OWN INDEPENDENT INSPECTOR. See individual independent inspector's web sites for further information or contact (604)435-7637 (office), (604)725-7713 (cell), or 1-800-725-7712 for an inspector in your area.