Changing HI Industry
Ask the Inspector
Inspectors under the gun, thanks to a rise in home prices, legal actions
June 24, 2007 Question: Fifteen years ago, I didn't know what home inspections were. Today, they seem to be center stage in every home purchase. Why has the demand for home inspections increased so strongly among home buyers? Why has the number of liability claims against home inspectors also increased? And what role, if any, do mortgage lenders play in selecting home inspectors?
**Answer: **The growing influence of home inspections on residential real estate sales has been rapid and unmistakable. Two reasons stand out:
First, home prices in major markets have increased dramatically. Buyers typically seek the most expensive homes they can afford, leaving little or no reserves for repairs that might be needed later. By disclosing unseen defects, home inspections help avoid unexpected costs.
And second, the litigious nature of today’s business culture arouses caution among all parties to real estate transactions. Agents and brokers have been particularly affected, causing many to become advocates for defect disclosure in general and home inspections in particular.
With the growth of home inspection services has come an increase in liability claims against inspectors. Two circumstances stand out as primary causes.
Some claims are the result of inspector negligence. A contributing cause has been the rapid growth of the industry, prompting an influx of inexperienced and unqualified inspectors. The result has been incomplete or incorrect reporting of property conditions; hence, claims.
But many claims, on the other hand, are frivolous. Although unqualified inspectors are subject to claims arising from incompetence, the best inspectors may be targeted, regardless of whether they are truly at fault.
Many home inspectors carry errors and omissions insurance to avoid such costs, but the deep pockets of an insurance company can be the very magnet that attracts frivolous claims.
Finally, there is the question of mortgage lenders in relation to home inspections. Surprisingly, most lenders show very little interest in home inspection findings. Whereas banks and mortgage companies typically require a termite report, they seldom ask for a home inspection. This means that lenders regard termite damage as more significant than foundation settlement, roof leakage or the safety of electrical wiring and gas-burning fixtures. This perspective is likely to change, but so far, change has been slow in coming.