Originally Posted By: Chris Guerra
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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.

Chris Guerra
Lead Inspector & Business Owner
Diligent Property Inspections LLC

Originally Posted By: wengelking
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So, Chris, what do you have against the “Free Enterprise System”?

I suspect that the vast majority of us are self employed, and as such can set our rates and hours and everything else ourselves. If you can't compete, then just get out of the business, and go find yourself a job that does have a union to take care of you.

The main problem with the economy of this country today is caused by over-regulation. The last thing we need is additional laws or more unions to tell us how to run our lives.

But, there is no reason for me to rant and rave on the issue. As I said, most of us are self employed, and as such, a union would never work, anyway. That, in our case, is pretty much the job of Associations, and I see you don't even belong to this one!


Originally Posted By: cbuell
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good response Walter

It is easier to change direction than it is to forget where one has been.

Originally Posted By: charper
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You certainly have a right to your opinion and I will go to my death defending that right. However so do I. Unions are worthless. Money/dues go to the top for the bosses. I certainly do not need some goon telling me how to run my business and set my prices. That’s my 2 cents worth.


Originally Posted By: psabados
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Well, that’s one of the most interesting first posts that I’ve seen in a long while.

I certainly don't like the idea of a group or union setting my income levels by dictating how much I have to charge. Also I don't like the thought of the Union placing limits on how much I can earn. And what if I don't like the minimum limit that's going to be set, how do I protest? Strike against myself? How in the world could you force each individual inspector/owner to abide by such a plan?

No, I think I will stick with the Free Enterprise system.


Originally Posted By: gbell
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Hello Chris,

What a thought provoking post. I am a little surprised by your use of the word UNION since they have no power in Florida. I too have given a lot of thought about what we could do to improve our industry beyond where we are now. What the future holds for us over the next decade.

I would like to share some of my thoughts.

How do we fund all of the benefits you have mentioned?

What segment of our industry has the highest initial cost and profit margin for the provider? (I love to answer a question with a question) Number one I would think is training new inspectors.

A National hands on training program done in house. This program could have national standards and variations based on geographic regions. A program of this nature would require a small number of support personnel as many aspects could be handled be each chapter. After costs the fees generated could fund many of the other benefits and be a source of revenue for our chapters.

Mentoring you mentioned appraisers. In Florida to become an appraiser you have to work for a licensed appraiser for two years before you are eligible to take the exam to go out on your own. I do think this could be used to allow something similar for us if and when legislation is passed.

Do any of you ever see anything on TV about what makes our profession so special? We need a national media campaign that promotes what makes our inspectors worth the extra costs you want to achieve.

Insurance I think the costs are reasonable considering the risk taken. If you are doing 300 inspections a year that is about 10 dollars for each inspection.
What if I can?t do 300 inspections a year? Then maybe this is not the best opportunity for you.

At present there isn?t an association (that I am aware of) that is willing to work on this approach. Maybe some day there will be if enough of us think along the same lines.

Greg Bell
Bell Inspection Service

Originally Posted By: rmoore
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Ummm...No thanks!

Richard Moore
Rest Assured Inspection Services
Seattle, WA

Originally Posted By: cmccann
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Now that’s funny I don’t care who you are. LMAO icon_lol.gif icon_lol.gif icon_lol.gif


Originally Posted By: Blaine Wiley
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Union NO.

I prefer to find my own health care, retirement, and make political donations in my name, to the candidates of my choice. I don't want Sluggo, Vinny or Vito coming over to "explain" to me that I need to slow my inspection down and raise my prices, and by the way dues are going up $10 per week.

I am a small businessman. I want to set my own prices, advertise, market, hire, fire, train and anything else I want to do the way I want to do it without worrying if I'm violating some obscure union rule.

I also don't want state control as in 2 years as an apprentice like appraisers. Get the Government out of my way please.

I'm here to make a living for me and my family, not the union bosses and the other inspectors in my area.

Originally Posted By: rwashington
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Chris, setting a minimum inspection to $500 would destroy all of us. Depending on the market, sq footage, and alot of other factors that idea would be an industry killer.

Richard W Washington


Originally Posted By: kmcmahon
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Wisconsin Home Inspection, ABC Home Inspection LLC

Search the directory for a Wisconsin Home Inspector

Originally Posted By: Blaine Wiley
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$500 per inspection. Crud, we struggle to set our minimum at $199 around here. Most guys are $165 for homes under 1000 sq. ft., then go to $195 or so to 2K sq. ft. It will change as the property prices rise, but not overnight!

My phone would never ring at $300, let alone $500 ![icon_evil.gif](upload://1gvq2wV2azLs27xp71nuhZOKiSI.gif)

Originally Posted By: James D Mosier
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I vote NO! I’m happy to see I’m not alone here.

I work in a union shop (factory). I got out of the union because I didn't like subsidising the slackers paycheck. Now, 10 years later I am taking steps to leave the company altogether, because I am still subsidising the slackers paycheck. That's how I ended up here.

My only experience with trade unions is they they can get pretty violent when non-union tradesmen are used. I live in a heavily pro-union area and it is a shame how often legitimate business is forced away (or scared to come here to begin with). Just a few months ago some trade union burned several pieces of paving equipment owned by a non-union company because they got a contract that the union thought they should have gotten. The company pays prevailing wage and still underbid the union. How? My guess, the non-union workers actually put in a fair day's work.

Jim Mosier

Originally Posted By: dplummer
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NO Union for me!!! Richard, loved your post. Doug

Originally Posted By: rsonneson
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I really do not know how a union could be a direct benefit to setting prices but I do believe that the insurance issue is real. Be it a trade organization that can come up with a price that is affordable or a union movement that can provide its members with inexpensive insurance coverage I believe it would be huge. As health insurance becomes a major business expense anyone that would offer me group pricing on a health plan would get my attention and my consideration.

Bob Sonneson

American Home Inspection Technologies

Originally Posted By: jhagarty
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Joseph Hagarty

HouseMaster / Main Line, PA

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

HouseMaster. Home inspections. Done right.

Originally Posted By: kmcmahon
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rsonneson wrote:
I really do not know how a union could be a direct benefit to setting prices but I do believe that the insurance issue is real. Be it a trade organization that can come up with a price that is affordable or a union movement that can provide its members with inexpensive insurance coverage I believe it would be huge. As health insurance becomes a major business expense anyone that would offer me group pricing on a health plan would get my attention and my consideration.

I can see the need for this. Healthcare costs suck, and the only way to get affordable heathcare is to be in a group. Not sure what the liability is for an organization like NACHI to offer a program like this to the members, but it may be something to look into....union, hell no.
Of course I know very little about group healthcare costs as my company picked up the major piece of the pie when I worked for them...something NACHI obviously could not do.

Wisconsin Home Inspection, ABC Home Inspection LLC

Search the directory for a Wisconsin Home Inspector

Originally Posted By: Chris Guerra
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Hi to all who have responded thus far…Trust me, I agree with EACH AND ALL of you, I too am not fond of Unions (and I’ve never been a part of one). I am sure there are many negatives associated with them and thus the reason for their generally bad rap overall. If I did not make it clear (and perhaps I didn’t) a “UNION” is not my intent, but it was the only word that I new of that would convey the general practices and policies of what I felt we collectively need in this industry. We need a common and strong bargaining base - some strong “force” to bring great benefits to us all and negotiate the best prices for them and then some.

As an example. IF I look at most of my expenses, as A single inspector operation, I see figures like

600.00 month for my family med & dental
100.00 month for Professional association membership dues
350.00 per month for E&O Insurance
800.00 advertising costs.

Total around 1850.00 per month. My thoughts are if an organization (or "union" - note the quote marks) existed that could offer me all of this (above expenses) and free real legal defense if ever needed - as well as all the normal perks most organizations have, and then in addition could actually help me boost my bottom line by my association with it. I would be more than happy, overjoyed even, and gladly pay 1000.00, 1250.00 or even 1500.00 a month to one such organization, versus what I'm doing today. I think what I am seeking is value.......I don't see much of this out there. In addition if we don't stop the erosion of the fee schedules charged by some inspectors -somehow- none of us will want to do this anymore as independents IMHO.

As far as some of your questions about "branding" and such - I cannot speak for what will become of it.

I am not an NACHI member yet, though I am both a member of ASHI and FABI, when I worked as and owned my inspection business in California, I was a member of CREIA as well. I formally was a member of NAHI, but did not like the way they changed their policies and really did little to promote their inspectors in my opinion, so it became necessary to move away from that organization.

With regards to pricing increases perhaps such an organization could make a web page that would reflect "RECOMMENDED" pricing for different geographical regions based upon the "certification" training, experience levels, etc.,etc of its members and set them at elevated prices for example the 400 or 500 dollar range for most areas - thereby two things would occur. 1. Over time the advertising and continuing announcement of an inspection in this price range would get people used to seeing these fees as not impossible and #2 have current customers realize "What a bargain or discount they are getting since the inspector only charged me 350.00 to do this house when there organizations web site said the suggested price should be 500.00. I don't know guys and gals, I don't have all the answers on this- but am just exploring things here with all of you. That's what this forum (or segment of it) is all about and that's what pushes the envelope in any business or undertaking.....lets keep exploring. PLEASE keep your positive feedback coming.

Originally Posted By: mmason
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I say that free enterprise should reign supreme. My family has been self employed for 3 generations and we have never liked being told how to run our businesses. Unions had a place many years ago but as far as I am concerned the world would be a better place without them. They jack up the price to the consumer and offer little or no benifit to them. The consumer is our boss as business owners and I for one don't want some union telling me what I can and cannot do. There may be 1000 inspectors a day coming into this business but I will bet dollars to doughnuts that most of them don't stay in business long. I would like to think that I can take care of myself and I don't need a union behind me to earn a living.

Michael J. Mason
Mason Home Inspection
California Capitol NACHI Chapter President

Originally Posted By: rwashington
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Kevin does make a very valid point about heathcare costs. Does anyone have any insight as to what it would take for NACHI to come up with a group rate with a larger insurer?

If I was not on my wife’s work PPO our costs would be in Chris’ range.

Richard W Washington