Originally Posted By: rray
This post was automatically imported from our archived forum.
How many of you are familiar with Barry Stone? His home inspection column, “House Detective,” is syndicated in newspapers throughout the country.
For some very good training and logic concerning the home inspection industry, I would encourage everyone to read every one of his columns:
I've responded to several of his columns since I've been in business, the most recent of which was this column:
I recently purchased a condominium, and my home inspector only inspected the interior. He didn't check the deck, the siding, the roof, or any other portion of the building's exterior. Is this a reasonable approach to inspecting this type of property?"
Barry does a good job of answering the question from both sides of the issue. Here's what I wrote him today in response to that column:
Hi again, Barry. I've seen a couple of times where you call it an "unreasonable and overreaching omission" when a home inspector inspects only the interior of a condomonium.
When I first started, I thought as you do. I thought that it was my duty as a home inspector to inform my client about the exterior conditions of the condominium. I still think that, but I have to take a different approach now.
First, due to a proliferation of locked gates in a condo complex, not to mention the agony in inspecting a 37-story condominium tower in La Jolla, it can take far more time to inspect the exterior of a condominium complex, and while time is not my major consideration in doing a home inspection, time is money. So I priced my inspections accordingly; there was no difference in price between a condo and a single family house. Never got to do a condo inspection; price always killed it. When I got around to shopping my competition better, I could not find a single inspector (out of 181 that I called) who would inspect the exterior of a condo. So I quit doing exteriors of condos (as if I had ever started!) and lowered my condo prices to be in line with my competition.
When I inquired of a couple of home inspectors that I had previously done business with in my property renovation business (and the reason why I entered the home inspection business; I thought their work was sloppy), they claimed that it was an insurance liability issue. Seems that HI E&O insurance companies don't like to be sued by condo associations because a home inspector intruded into their jurisdiction and cost the condo association time and money. After further research with my own E&O insurance company (remember that I am a franchise home inspection company), this turns out to be true. My E&O insurance does not cover me for statements that intrude into the jurisdiction of the condo association.
Hmmm, what to do?
Here's how I solved the problem. I believe it is always best to be forthright and honest with everyone involved.
First, I specifically tell Realtor and Client that we cannot inspect anything that is under the jurisdiction of the condo association. That typically includes roof, exterior walls, foundation (unless there's a crawl space that I can get to from the interior of that specific condo, and we do have them here), porches, patios, stairs, chimney, common parking areas, common garages--you get the picture; I have a whole list.
Second, when I issue my report, it states early in the report, in emphasized text formatting:
"Common Areas?Inspectors do not test, analyze, inspect, or offer an opinion on the condition or function of areas or structural components common to more than one unit, systems serving more than one unit, or areas which typically are under the jurisdiction of the condominium association, including, but not limited to, structure exterior (including decks, balconies, porches, patios, and parking structures), roof, foundation, fences, and utility service entries. Recommend checking with homeowners? association BEFORE CLOSE OF ESCROW concerning Client?s responsibility and any fees, dues, or assessments which might be forthcoming for common area improvements. Recommend walking property to determine if homeowners? association is maintaining structures and property in a condition satisfactory to Client. Recommend having qualified condominium association personnel inspect foundation, structure exterior, and roof BEFORE CLOSE OF ESCROW to help detect any problems."
Third, further on in the report where I normally discuss structure, roof, foundation, etc., I have this paragraph:
"F. Common Areas or Components
See Section B, Note 8 [Section B, Note 8 is the paragraph above]: Exterior Grounds, Foundation, Exterior Walls, Roof, Garage, Water Heater, Utility Service Entries, etc. Recommend having qualified homeowners? association personnel or public utilities inspect service entries before close of escrow to help detect any problems. Recommend having appropriate and qualified homeowners? association personnel inspect foundation, exterior walls, roof, garage, water heater, and any other common area structure or mechanical systems or components before close of escrow to help detect any problems. Recommend acquiring homeowners? association public records, minutes, bylaws, budget, etc., to help determine any consistent problems with common area grounds or components before close of escrow.'
I'm not a fan of checklist reports because they don't allow this type of interaction with the Client.
Now if I see something flagrantly wrong or problematic in areas under the jurisdiction of the condo association, I won't hesitate to point it out to my Client and Realtor, while also stating that I cannot put such information in the written report. I encourage them again to contact the condo association BEFORE CLOSE OF ESCROW and BEFORE HOME INSPECTION CONTINGENCY PERIOD EXPIRES.
I have had no negative feedback on this approach. And I have had several positive feedback, including one where the Client discovered some interesting information in next year's budget and most recent minutes, which had not yet been published at the time of the inspection but which my report encouraged Client and Realtor to get.
Considering that most of the franchises probably get their insurance from the same place (Business Risk Partners, Lloyds of London, etc.), this is probably the tact taken not only by The HomeTeam Inspection Service, but probably by Housemaster, Pillar to Post, World Inspection Network, U.S. Inspect, etc., but of course I can't speak for them. I know it was the tact taken by Amerispec three years ago because they inspected a condo that I bought and renovated, and I know it's the tact taken by several of my larger local competitors.
I'd actually like to do nothing but condos. The hourly pay rate is higher than doing SFRs: less time to do the inspection, less time to do the report, more time to drink margaritas at the beach while watching sports, more time to go to Pennsylvania for free ride-alongs, etc.
Home inspections. . . .
One home at a time.