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Home Inspectors: Heroes, Villains or Scapegoats? CREIA Explains Who’s on Your Side and Who’s Not!

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May 2007 (Palm Springs, Calif.) - In its ongoing mission to inform and educate the public, the California Real Estate Inspection Association (CREIA) reminds homebuyers and sellers, as well as all individuals involved in real estate transactions, that the services of a qualified and professional home inspector are unique in some very important respects.

Benefit and value of service, and accountability are the benchmarks of home inspection professionals. Whether revered, vilified or targeted by frivolous lawsuits, the home inspector walks a very fine line.

FACT: (The Hero part) September 2002, a young couple upon recommendation by their extremely reputable and highly professional R.E. broker seeks the services of a home inspector on a newly rebuilt home in a very desirable area. In a relatively competitive market, an inspection fee of some hundreds of dollars results in a report on the condition of a home in the several hundred thousand dollar range.

REALITY: Within a few short hours, the inspector makes observations capturing enough information to identify a variety of materially defective reportable conditions of which the clients (buyers) were unaware, and so as it evolved, was the builder. Adroit representation by the couple’s broker, substantiated by the inspector’s report findings, resulted in a negotiated transaction closing to the advantage of the buyers, many times cost of the inspection fee. March 2007, the same clients seek out the same inspector on a $2 million home in a highly prestigious area.

As an independent, objective and unbiased third-party reporter, the home inspector works for and reports directly their client. Inspection findings and report information are for the sole use and benefit of the buyer.

FACT: (The Villain part) While often in the eyes of the buyer their inspector may be a hero, this is not necessarily a sentiment shared by all involved in the transaction. The seller wants the most they can get for the property, and the listing and/or selling agents translate that into higher commissions on the sale. Unaffected by the potential outcome, the inspector may not enjoy popularity by all concerned.

REALITY: The young couple looking to firm up an offer on that $2 million home will think nothing of an inspection fee that represents 1/1000th of the value of the property. A great deal of work and the investment of time and money on the part of real estate agents and brokers go into bringing buyers and sellers together on an offer. It’s sometimes difficult for agents and brokers not to want to lay blame to the inspector for the possible evaporation of commissions in excess of $100,000. Inspectors do not “kill” deals, some deals just cannot be made.

With tort reform a faint glimmer on a distant horizon, as a society we have fallen prey to not taking personal responsibility and have no qualms about embarking upon fishing expeditions into the deep pockets of insurers.

FACT: (The Scapegoat part) In any given year, about one in four home inspectors will be sued, typically on a claim of breach or negligence. Even when suit is brought against an agent or broker, the inspector is always either enjoined or named in a subsequent cross-complaint. The moment an inspector steps onto a property, they know their reputation, and company or personal assets are on the line.

REALITY: In the same way that medical malpractice claims have deterred aspiring nurses and physicians, and caused degradation to available healthcare, the more than 75% of frivolous lawsuits brought against home inspectors result in higher fees by those still courageous (or perhaps foolhardy) enough to offer real estate inspection services. Consumers need to know who is on their side, and what the home inspector puts at risk to support them in their transactions.

Homebuyers and sellers are urged to retain the services of qualified inspectors trained and experienced in home inspection. It is also very important that the inspector be a member of a well-founded professional association such as CREIA. Established in 1976, CREIA is the largest and oldest state inspection association in the country. CREIA inspectors must adhere to CREIA's Code of Ethics and follow the Standards of Practice developed and maintained by the Association. Recognized by the State of California, these Standards of Practice are considered the source for Home Inspector Standard of Care by the real estate and legal communities.

To locate a qualified CREIA inspector near you click here or call CREIA at (800) 388-8443.


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