Home inspection columnists

Originally Posted By: rray
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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:

"Outside Interest

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.

Originally Posted By: jhagarty
This post was automatically imported from our archived forum.

Joseph Hagarty

HouseMaster / Main Line, PA

Phone: 610-399-9864
Fax : 610-399-9865

HouseMaster. Home inspections. Done right.

Originally Posted By: rray
This post was automatically imported from our archived forum.

Joe, do you charge the same price?

Home inspections. . . .

One home at a time.

Originally Posted By: rray
This post was automatically imported from our archived forum.

If the WDI are inside the condo, we note it. California law, however, reserves a lot of WDI stuff to licensed pest control services, so I have to be very, very careful what I say there.

I note on the CREIA site under their Standards of Practice the following:

C. The following are excluded from the scope of a real estate inspection unless specifically agreed otherwise between the inspector and the client:
8. Common areas, or systems, structures, or components thereof, including, but not limited to, those of a common interest development as defined in California Civil Code Section 1351 et seq.

I note on the ASHI site under their Standards of Practice the following:

13.2 General exclusions:
A. Inspectors are NOT required to inspect:
1. common elements or common areas in multi-unit housing, such as condominium properties or cooperative housing.

I note on the NACHI site under their Standards of Practice nothing!

Because different areas of the country, and different states, have differing needs, regulations, etc., I believe our SOP need to be updated to at least state something similar, to at least give us the option like the other two organizations do. Right now I'm not in compliance with NACHI SOP and never will be due to my location, etc. If I can't be in compliance with organizations to which I belong, typically I let my membership expire. This, however, I think is a glaring omission and needs to be corrected posthaste.

Home inspections. . . .
One home at a time.

Originally Posted By: gbeaumont
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Hi Russel,

very thought provoking posts, with many ramifications for the unwary.

My thoughts are pretty much in line with Joe H’s on this one, I know that in an ideal world that the condo association are responsible for the common areas, and the structure, however few if any of them have their buildings inspected on a regular basis (I consult to 3 who don’t…yet!) and our first duty of care is to the potential buyer of course, and if there is a major cost implication to the buyer as a result of bad siding roofing or whatever, that could have a major impact on the units salability, many Condo associations do not fund their repairs & maintenance sinking funds at anything like a realistic level, indeed one local development has just hit up the owners for $4,000 a piece over and above condo fees, due to unexpectedly needing a new roof. If I were a buyer of a condo and got hit with that soon after having an inspection done guess who would be on my “to sue list”.

Also I would have to note in the report any and all safety related issues, whether they are under the associations control or not. ie. major trip hazards adjacent to the buyers unit, unsafe decks (I saw a Duesy last week) I think that is only common sense (if I show any)

Like I said very good post I for one am still thinking about it ![icon_confused.gif](upload://qv5zppiN69qCk2Y6JzaFYhrff8S.gif)

It is also fair to say that my comments are mostly based on condos in my area being in large part the "town house" style.

As to the SoP issues California Has a statue to fall back on and ASHI's standard is open to so much interpretation that it may as well not be there. I feel that maybe our ethics committee could do with taking a look at this issue, and advising as to whether we can add this topic into our SoP, but I suspect that it's one of those ares that has too many regional variations, and as someone else pointed out that statues will always prevail over SoP in any State.

Gerry Beaumont
NACHI Education Committee
e-mail : education@nachi.org
NACHI phone 484-429-5466

Inspection Depot Education

"Education is a journey, not a destination"

Originally Posted By: rray
This post was automatically imported from our archived forum.

CREIA has succeeded in getting most of their stuff written into law in the Business and Professions Code.

Many home inspectors who are not knowledgeable about local and state laws, though, would see our NACHI SOPs and think, as I do, that we're required to do things because it is not stated that "we are not required to." I really like those "not required to" words. They are very useful in many, many circumstances, while still allowing one to do them if one wants to.

And as we all know, state and federal laws right now don't cover a lot as far as home inspectors go.

I think it will be difficult for NACHI to make inroads in California without being a little more in line with CREIA and ASHI regarding our SOP. There aren't too many Capt. Kirks out here because so many think that belonging to CREIA/ASHI is necessary to be successful. I'm proving them wrong. But note how similar ASHI and CREIA SOPs are without simply being one and the same. We could do the same.

I actually think I am quite lucky here in San Diego since none of my competition that I am aware of inspects the exterior. That shortens the inspection time, of course, as well as the report writing time.

I got a call yesterday afternoon from a price and information shopper. He specifically was interested in the complex and his building, which is why I brought all this up. He was in a huff that I was not going to inspect the exterior and give him an opinion on how the association was taking care of all, ALL, the buildings on the property. I'm familiar with the complex (very large) and simply ain't gonna give him an opinion on how the condo association is maintaining the place. I explained to him why we do and don't do what we do and don't do and gave him my price. I also encouraged him to call around and see if anyone would inspect the exterior, and I gave him names and numbers of my major national and local competitors. After a 20-minute conversation, he thanked me and hung up.

This morning, Franco called back to book the inspection with me. He had found one competitor who was $10 less than me, everyone else was higher (time to raise my prices), and no one who would inspect the exterior. He decided to go with me since I was so helpful to him and even gave him numbers of the competition. "That," he said, "indicated that you don't have anything to hide."

It's a dandy condo, too, 2200 SF in La Jolla, which means a good inspection fee and a high hourly rate of pay.

Home inspections. . . .
One home at a time.