Originally Posted By: Chris Guerra
This post was automatically imported from our archived forum.
TIME TO ?UNIONIZE? ?
I have thought about it for some time now. Being in the Inspection Industry for years and seeing the inspector community grow larger than ever, now may be the time to realize, what I feel, is the next imperative step to the Professional Home Inspection Community. I know in advance some may disagree with me, and that is absolutely fine. I just want to ?air? the subject and my thoughts on it.
In recent telephone conversations, I have been asked by the Current President of ASHI, and the Executive Director of NACHI, (the two largest Professional Home Inspector Organizations in the Country) to email and post to their web site, respectively, my thoughts and opinions on the subject. This letter has been prepared in response to those requests, seeking their consideration and the consideration of their membership at large.
I will also forward this message to both the CREIA and FABI organizations, of which I have either been or are still currently an active member, in hopes that they will present it to their memberships too. You, the reader, may forward it (or reprint it) to any other Professional Home Inspector organization that you may be involved in, however should you do so, I ask this message must be presented in its entirety and without deletion or additions made hereto. (All US copyright laws are in effect concerning this document).
I further feel this should be a MUST READ for people entertaining the idea of becoming a Professional Home Inspector.
Some noteworthy points ?
1. MONEY - Nationally speaking, we as Professional Home Inspectors, in large part are CLEARLY under compensated for the services we provide. Due to an unprecedented number of new ?home inspectors? (possibly a 1000 per week at times) coming into the profession and increased competition in the marketplace, some ?inspectors? are charging as little as $99.00 per ?inspection?. Coupled with increase costs of E&O Insurance, gas prices, marketing costs, tools and equipment (including reporting materials), trade organization fees, etc., etc. WOW, are we becoming an NON PROFIT PROFESSION?
Now I have heard the arguments and reasoning but must be honest and tell you, what I and more importantly YOU can charge for our services in a given marketplace is by far a ?set rate?. Set not only by what the market would bear, but what the initial inspection firms in the area thought was fair some years earlier, in some locations across the country this rate has not increased in 10 years, and in a few areas it has actually DECREASED. I here and share the horror stories in the LA area, most inspectors there (due to the shear number of them) cannot earn more than $200-$250.00 for an average sized house. While here in Florida we are charging the same rates on average, but we too are feeling the pressure of a ?glass ceiling? or ?price cap?, that may be tightening around us. Now, let me ask you, (on average) does anyone think it is cheaper to live in LA than Florida?
The obvious answer is NO.
2. HEALTH CARE AND LEGAL ISSUES ? I used to be able to afford some pretty decent Medical & Dental Insurance for my self and my family (not to mention Work Hazard and a host of other insurance?s should something happen to me). However due to a continuing ?stagnant? ability to have a price increase that I normally would charge my clients year over year- again fueled by the FLOOD of new ?Home Inspectors? going through a one week training course AT BEST. Further I used to have a ?pre-paid? legal service, should I ever need them, but this too has gone by the way side as I sharpen my pencil and trim the ?fat? (actual necessities) from my operating expenses in order to compete with those $99.00 Home Inspections.
In this ever increasing litigious world we are living in, with more and more Home Inspectors losing court cases or having their insurance companies settle out of court (and not in the inspectors favor in many instances). Than in some instances to raise the Inspector?s premiums to a point of them being driven out of business (or bankruptcy) in a few cases. How can we not afford to protect ourselves ? Actually how can we?
OK, so enough about what I face daily, or may face some day, though I am sure I do not sound a lone voice here, and would think to the contrary. As you may be aware, there are many other points we all know about and sometimes face as Home Inspectors that I could go into, but won?t. Rather let me mention a few other things that I find interesting with regards to compensation vs. risks vs. other but related industry professionals.
 Real Estate Appraisers (on Average) charge $350.00 for their work. While I have never been a RE Appraiser and am sure that their industry faces its own challenges (as do individual Appraiser?s in their businesses), and without knocking what they do, I have yet to see one spend more than about 30 minutes ?on-site? for a typical residential structure?..I assume afterwards that they have a few hours of reporting time as well ? but don?t we all. Also from what I am aware of ? their chance for litigation with a client or other RE professional is a whole lot less than what we face.
 As another example, here in Florida ?as well as in other states that have slab foundations (I would assume), there are guys that run around detecting leaks in under-slab (underground) water supply lines. Here, they charge on average $250.00 to find a leak (the first leak, with additional expenses for finding more than one) and use some ?not so sophisticated? equipment (audible detection devices) to do this. Again I stated ?detecting? as in = FIND A LEAK, they don?t fix them. They insure that their findings are factual by opening up the slab (ground) with a large sledge-hammer and perhaps a shovel, and clamp off the leak. You need to have a plumber do the actual repair work. Not knocking anyone now, but it appears the hardest work they do is swing that hammer a few times ? most ?leak detectors? are on site 20-30 minutes. While I am sure that on occasion they encounter a job a bit harder than most, (multiple leaks or under a cabinet, etc.), they surely cannot face the challenges we do, nor do they prepare any formal reports, etc., etc. Yet they command and are paid regularly the same fees we are charging for approximately 1/8th the time it takes most of us to do a COMPLETE home Inspection & Full Color Report with photos, which is customary now in this area.
I am certain that there are many other instances I could point out, and are equally certain that each of you could share these same types of ?truisms? with me. THE POINT HERE IS ?WE ARE BEING UNDERPAID? and if the number of new Home Inspectors isn?t slowed or controlled in certain market areas ? WE AND OUR CUSTOMERS WILL ALL SUFFER??Can you see the day when A Professional Home Inspection Costs $50.00 -? Can you imagine the quality of that inspection or the report ? IS this something YOU want to be a part of ?? ??I DON?T. But that may be where this industry is heading ? and I?m not trying to play on anyone?s fears, or otherwise ? PLEASE.
SO What to do? SHOULD we do anything?
The reason for this email, or post, or article, depending on where (if at all) it may find a publishing, as its title implies is ?IS IT TIME TO UNIONIZE?? Now I don?t particularly like the word ?Union? as perhaps many of you, but for lack of a better term?..lets consider some benefits of this action.
(I?m realize there could be negatives too).
COULD it be possible that one or more of the Professional Organizations we as Professional Home Inspectors belong to is/are willing to Charter, Lead, or Initiate a ?fact finding? and ?poll? it?s membership based on my proposal? After all it is just a proposal, and I am an individual just trying to run my business. But these (our) organizations, should any have the wishes of its members to further explore (after all I think that?s partly why I became a member ? to better myself and for a betterment of my business and the Profession in general), for our collective good and provide us some feedback.
I ALSO BELIEVE THAT THE FIRST PROFESSIONAL HOME INSPECTOR ORGANIZATION, that takes steps to evaluate and perhaps bring about this kind of a ?movement? may wind up being THE ONLY. Potentially, to be the most powerful and respected Home Inspector Organization in this Country.
In closing, I?d like to list what I see as some BENEFITS (perhaps just wishful thinking) IN BEING A PART OF AN INSPECTOR ?UNION?
 Substantial Decrease in the Cost of E&O Insurance (or perhaps ?FREE COVERAGE? ?included as a part of union dues).
 Full Portfolio and Coverage to Home Inspectors, their employees and families of Quality Medical & Dental Insurance Coverage. (Perhaps paid for as a part of the dues).
 The ability of the Union to Control and Set MINIMUM Inspection Fees (Say $500.00 per Inspection in most market places) Universally.
 The ability of the union to control the amount of Inspectors in a certain geographic region based upon population (though I admit this may be a very difficult thing to bring about).
 In relation to the above item, if it could be accomplished this one would be a by product of it ? nonetheless without stepping on any toes ? the ability of the union to control the agenda, the duration, the curriculum, and the ?certification and development? of individuals wishing to be Professional Home Inspector?s.
 The ability of the union to establish ?levels? of professionalism and somewhat control compensation of such ? for example ? most construction trade organizations have tradesmen performing at levels of ?Apprentice?, ?Journeymen? and ?Master? Levels. Currently the Home Inspection Industry does not, however I for one feel it should. I think it would clear up a lot of expectations of the public in general, possibly help staff the organizations of current businesses, and promote betterment of the Industry overall. (I am sure there may be some disagreement over this point, but that is OK, I am just trying to bring out some ideas here).
 Perhaps the ability of the union to compensate inspectors (from a disaster relief fund) for times of business turndown, court involvement, emergency, or family problems, etc. In other words a limited financial ?safety net? could be provided to inspectors meeting certain ?needs? criteria.
OK, I?ll admit, I have temporarily run out of steam on the issue, as distractions here in the office have sidetracked my thoughts. Honestly though, my Hopes and Aspirations in publishing my thoughts, is for them to be discussed, contemplated. Should the majority of us think it?s a good idea, perhaps even the direction the Professional Home Inspector Organizations should move towards, (and with credit to each of them, in part they are already providing a lot of these services but on a more passive or less than desirable level to their members ?my opinion), than I certainly would welcome a well thought out, beneficially structured, ?unionized? organization of Professionals to be a part of.
And by far greater measure than the benefits of membership I receive today and with lasting results that will make the best out of our industry, and our profession, allowing us to give our clients the absolute best service and with compensation to each of us at a level that allows us to continue to enjoy to do this without reasonable fear of loss, due to litigation, health, or unexpected phenomenon (namely weather).
Thank you for taking the time to read through this message. I know it?s a little long, but this could be a very important milestone in our Profession and should not be taken lightly. We want to do this right, if we do it at all.
Lead Inspector & Business Owner
Diligent Property Inspections LLC