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Thought I'd post this new blog topic here, maybe stir up some activity...or not.

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Benign inspection reports are those that are friendly to the agent.  Agents don’t have a stake in the condition of the home.  Their stake is in closing the sale because, by law, that’s the only way they can earn their commission.  Home inspection report help the buyer.  They do not help the agent sell the home.  Since agents can’t make home inspections illegal, they tend to do the next best thing: Influence the buyer to hire an inspector known by the agent to produce benign reports.

Benign reports are readily available in Louisiana.  The State Board of Home Inspectors has a classroom educational requirement of 90 hours but no educational standard.  An instructor who basically talks abouts things related to home inspection for 90 hours satisfies Board requirements.  Without an educational standard, an educational requirement has no legs to stand on.  It’s moot.

As an inspector who has completed the 90 hours of home inspection ‘education’, 2 years of vo-tech instruction in radio/tv repair, 5 years of college for a Bachelor degree in Electrical Engineering and then completed 14 years of experience as a home inspector, I can tell you that the body of knowledge needed by someone to complete a decent home inspection is greater than that required to fix a tv set but less than that required to serve as an engineer.  90 hours is a joke.

Not all inspectors are the same though.  Some take pride in their occupation and strive to learn more about houses on their own.  These inspectors can serve homebuyers much better but their reports are not benign.  They’re not friendly to agents.

The problem has reached the point where the most successful home inspectors in the state are not the ones with the greatest expertise, it is the ones that produce the benign reports that agents favor.  In a way, because of statutory and regulatory omissions, incompetence among home inspectors is rewarded.

Avoiding benign reports is simple:  Find your own inspector.  Ignore the many certifications that so many inspectors boast.  They are mostly the product of schools not accredited and function merely to convince a buyer that he/she has found his inspector.

The only good way to find your inspector is the same way you would find a good author:  Read his works.

If an inspector does not have a sample report on his website, call and ask him for one.  If he doesn’t offer you one, look for someone else.  Always begin your search for your inspector by browsing through at last a half dozen reports, even if they’re from another state.  That way, you’ll come to recognize what a good report looks like.  Most are benign to agents, only a very few tell you the whole story, what your agent doesn’t want you to know.

 

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I am not sure what "benign" is referring to - is it that some items that should be reported are not being reported, making the report "benign", or are you referring to the  writing that is used to describe a problem either does not present the issue in an objective manner or downplays the significance of the issue? 

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Benign, in this case, refers to reports that are friendly to the buyer's agent.  Agents screen the inspectors they've come to know for the ones that produce these benign reports.  They choose these inspectors to recommend to their buyers.

Lots of inspectors produce these benign reports.  The reasons vary.  Some just aren't good inspectors, others are acutely aware of the money trail and quietly, perhaps subconsciously,  leave out major issues that the buyer wouldn't notice right away.  Some deliberately water down their reports because of the obvious link between non-consequential reports and business success.  Still other actively collude with agents.

The more helpful a report is to the buyer, the greater a threat it is to the agent.

Home inspection reports, even the lousy ones, do not help agents sell houses.  Agents are in the business of selling houses.

I like the HI business but conflicts of interests has badly contorted this profession, at least here in Louisiana.

Edited by Marc

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...the inspectors that realtors in this area like most are the franchise outfits that anyone can buy, take a few weeks of "training", and then hang out their shingle with all the support that the franchise offers, like coupons, warranties, canned software, published info and brochures.  They wear the logo ball cap and the knit shirts.  They like to break their offerings into "packages".

I have been behind some of these and seen their reports, which are a lot like what Marc describes.

 

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I am sure the real estate market in Louisiana is as Marc describes.  The influence of an agent on the inspection and process is up for discussion.

I think Marc is a little jaded in his writings and can tell you that it is not exactly that situation in Michigan.  Yes we have some inspectors that "soften" there reports and conversations, but not always to benefit the agent.  Agents are not inherently evil!  Agents do not have to protect anyone that is acting unethically or outside the law. 

I have been in this business for many decades, am married to a real estate broker, and count many real estate people as my personal friends.  I have been in many markets across the United States and interacted on a personal level with both inspectors and real estate agents.  To lump them together, all as slackers and crooks, is not reasonable.  Nor is it reasonable to spout platitudes about me, myself and I.

I also believe that "benign" is not a good word for this conversation.  Benign means gentle or not effective to this northern boy.  Of course, we all think of benign and cancer. 

Hope others will  contribute to this discussion. 

 

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52 minutes ago, Les said:

I have been in this business for many decades, am married to a real estate broker, and count many real estate people as my personal friends.  I have been in many markets across the United States and interacted on a personal level with both inspectors and real estate agents.  To lump them together, all as slackers and crooks, is not reasonable. 

That was not my intention at all.  There isn't room on this forum for  thorough treatment of the issue.

A person whose objectivity is compromised by a COE isn't necessarily deliberately attempting to deceive someone.  They simply aren't aware of the COE and, like all of us, tend to see things from their viewpoint.

There are indeed some crooked agents out there but most I believe are honest.  Same for HIs and others.  This mechanics of this COI needs to get out in professional and public circles.  Once they are all aware of the mechanics of it, that alone will put a big dent into the practice.  In the meantime, state legislature should take measures to address it.

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Thanks, I better understand where you are coming from. Doesn't this COI exist in any situation where a salesperson could be asked to recommend someone to evaluate the thing they are selling? Last time I bought I used car, I told the salesman I wanted an evaluation of the car by an independent mechanic and he whipped out the names of four mechanics he would recommend. When my daughter was selecting a college to attend, and I voiced some concerns about a particular school to their admissions officer, and the officer quickly gave me the websites of several college ranking sites that showed that school in a very favorable light. My point is, since this COI is present with basically any salesperson, I don't think trying to educate the public will really make a big dent in the issue as the public should, through experience, already know you cannot really trust all sales persons, or the public will simply be naive enough to accept what sales persons recommend.

     In the case of the Realtors and Home Inspectors COI, getting the governing board (legislature?) to prohibit Realtors from making any recommendations is the only way to resolve the issue that I see as viable. Buyers would have to find their Home Inspector independently. That would be interesting as those Home Inspectors who currently do not market to the public but rely solely on Realtor referrals would actually have to become business people who can market to the public.  Just my humble opinion.

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3 hours ago, Charlie R said:

Thanks, I better understand where you are coming from. Doesn't this COI exist in any situation where a salesperson could be asked to recommend someone to evaluate the thing they are selling? Last time I bought I used car, I told the salesman I wanted an evaluation of the car by an independent mechanic and he whipped out the names of four mechanics he would recommend. When my daughter was selecting a college to attend, and I voiced some concerns about a particular school to their admissions officer, and the officer quickly gave me the websites of several college ranking sites that showed that school in a very favorable light. My point is, since this COI is present with basically any salesperson, I don't think trying to educate the public will really make a big dent in the issue as the public should, through experience, already know you cannot really trust all sales persons, or the public will simply be naive enough to accept what sales persons recommend.

     In the case of the Realtors and Home Inspectors COI, getting the governing board (legislature?) to prohibit Realtors from making any recommendations is the only way to resolve the issue that I see as viable. Buyers would have to find their Home Inspector independently. That would be interesting as those Home Inspectors who currently do not market to the public but rely solely on Realtor referrals would actually have to become business people who can market to the public.  Just my humble opinion.

COIs are common, perhaps in every case involving a salesperson and a buyer but what's important is that the consequences vary.  The purchase of residential property is a really big transaction so it's in real estate that the most damage can be done to the buyer who isn't savvy on the COI that's created when an agent recommends an inspector to the buyer.  An aged roof whose failure hasn't begun, a stapled roof deck in a 110 mph wind zone, aluminum conductors are all adverse conditions that the buyer might not notice so these things might easily go on the chopping block if the inspector decides to keep the referrals coming.

Just now, I had a discussion with a visitor from Cameroon, Africa about alcoholism in our respective countries.  With this thread still fresh in my mind, it then dawned upon me that alcohol never actually tastes good.  It's the alcohol that contorts the drinker into saying that it tastes good because of the effects of the alcohol.  I could say the same for lots of things all around us and wish I could have said something along those lines in my OP.  I don't think most agents are crooked.  It's just that their judgement is contorted to believe that their assessment of a good inspector is also good for the buyer as well.  So simple but so hard to grasp...at first.

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3 hours ago, John Ghent said:

Benign is a word most closely associated with Malignant (as in tumor).  If an "easy" report is B9 is a tough report Malignant?

Poor word choice.

Benign means friendly.  A benign cancer is one that does not spread to other tissues.  Remove it and you're fine.

A benign report is friendly to the agent.  It won't hurt his stake in the sale of the house.  It screws the buyer...big time.

Benign/malignant does not correspond to reports.  Just benign.

I could choose another word for it.  Inert?

Edited by Marc

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5 hours ago, Charlie R said:

     In the case of the Realtors and Home Inspectors COI, getting the governing board (legislature?) to prohibit Realtors from making any recommendations is the only way to resolve the issue that I see as viable. Buyers would have to find their Home Inspector independently. That would be interesting as those Home Inspectors who currently do not market to the public but rely solely on Realtor referrals would actually have to become business people who can market to the public.  Just my humble opinion.

Good opinion.  Regulatory body cannot do such things without an enabling statute though.  Legislature would have to grant that authority.

Your suggestion is one way but neigh impossible to enforce.  Board of Realtors operates with very little accountability to anyone.  They can pretty much enforce what they like, even blatantly ignore their own rules.  I've known that to happen.

Yeah, those inspectors who rely on realtor referrals would have it tough.  I suspect within a few years, most would leave the business if the COIs could be stopped.  That won't happen.  Nothing will stop COIs completely.  Best way to curtail COI practice, I'm convinced, is to mandate monthly submittal of all inspection reports.  Depending on the regulatory structure, the COO of the regulatory Board could choose one report at random from each inspector, each month. Remainder of reports are discarded.  Sanitized version of chosen report would be posted on Board's website (via a link) alongside inspector's name, license number, etc for buyers to peruse and choose their inspector.  Reading an inspector's work product is best way to gauge expertise.  Certs and association memberships ain't worth a damn.  Finding their inspector this way would bypass agent's attempts to influence their buyers, make their faces go red.  Kidding.  It has best chance of success though but you'd have to get it past legislature first.  Legislative process is political.  I mean like...deep down, dyed in the wool, political.

Edited by Marc

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1 hour ago, Charlie R said:

Another avenue as Marc has pointed out is public education. Here is an example of a great website, but how do you get this out to the public in general? Possibly get the legislature to at least state that home buyers be made aware of this site and maybe other sites.

http://www.independentinspectors.org/

I've contacted them.  Don't know what to expect but we'll see.

John D is a member.

Edited by Marc

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Marc, i think it is a good blog. It says what you want it to say.

Now I will pick it apart. :) Actually have no problem with 'benign report' but I have seen this phrase before in your previous posts, so did not think of the C word and malignancy. Maybe there could be a poll done?

Paragraph 3, try another sentence structure for 'As a .... " to start. It Isn't clear right away where that sentence is going.

Change 'TV/radio' to 'electronics', as that is a more relevant way to describe your training.

pp 4 "Not all inspectors are the same though.  Some take pride ... Say that differently, or at least, a comma before 'though'. How about " There are inspectors who take pride ..."

pp 5 "The problem .." Not clear because pp4 is about the good inspectors.

Sorry if that seems picky, or even picayune. :)

As for the content, if that is what you base your biz model on, all power to you. It can be an uphill battle to beat the status quo, and be advised that realtors that remember you might read your blogs, too.

Maybe there are some that truly want a stringent report for their beloved clients?

Maybe they will read your blogs and would like to be praised as being above the manipulation to secure a deal?

The blog may seem a bit negative to your potential client who has had multiple visits with an agent and has come to trust that person implicitly. Then here you come to tear the bond and separate the client from his agent. He knows the agent, doesn't know you.

 

Edited by John Kogel

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All good points indeed.  I do write with too much haste most times and this topic needs more planning than most because it's breaking new ground.

Edited by Marc

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I notice you haven't said what kind of reports you write, we assume they are not benign, so are they 'Alarmist"?

Maybe you've already described your reports elsewhere, but it would help to add that here. Neither benign nor alarmist, but .....

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Benign.... hmmm

"Agent-friendly" /"Client-friendly"??

fair, impartial /biased

candid /artful, biased

just musing.....

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15 hours ago, John Kogel said:

I notice you haven't said what kind of reports you write, we assume they are not benign, so are they 'Alarmist"?

Maybe you've already described your reports elsewhere, but it would help to add that here. Neither benign nor alarmist, but .....

The term I'd use is 'Home Inspection Report'.  No adjective necessary.

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On 10/21/2017 at 6:05 PM, Marc said:

All good points indeed.  I do write with too much haste most times and this topic needs more planning than most because it's breaking new ground.

I've just got to point out that you are most emphatically *not* breaking new ground. This topic has been hashed to death for the last 30 years. 

As for benign, I'd use the word that the judge used in ruling against Housemaster in the Herner vs Housemaster case: Pabulm. 

 

 

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No prob here with the term "benign", which googled first defines as gentle, then kindly.  We don't don't have to set up polar opposites for every term we use.  As for Pablum, that is a brand name and the judge risks a nasty letter from manufacturer's lawyer for its unauthorized use.  Aspirin was once a brand name till it was lost by popular takeover of the term.  They say Coca-cola has a six pack of lawyers defending the word Coke.

Reports I have issued that were most critical (my opposite of benign) have usually gotten replies from listing agents, when there is a reply, that the report is "too technical", hard to understand.

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13 hours ago, Jim Katen said:

I've just got to point out that you are most emphatically *not* breaking new ground. This topic has been hashed to death for the last 30 years. 

As for benign, I'd use the word that the judge used in ruling against Housemaster in the Herner vs Housemaster case: Pabulm. 

 

 

I looked up Herner and noted there that the realtor was the "customer in fact" of the inspector, so that the realtor paid him.

When my sister bought a house in a nearby city the realtor, knowing the sister worked a 56-hr week and lacked the time to shop and hire an inspection, hired one for her, and paid him after his inspection, according to the realtor, found zero problems.  No need for a report.  

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6 hours ago, Jim Baird said:

I looked up Herner and noted there that the realtor was the "customer in fact" of the inspector, so that the realtor paid him.

1

Absolutely not. That's the whole point of the suit. The Herner's paid the inspector. The judge found that *despite that,* the inspector provided a report that made the realtor the "customer in fact"

HernerVHousemaster.htm

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45 minutes ago, Jim Katen said:

Absolutely not. That's the whole point of the suit. The Herner's paid the inspector. The judge found that *despite that,* the inspector provided a report that made the realtor the "customer in fact"

HernerVHousemaster.htm

The judge said the inspector had: incorporated the instructions of Housemaster Corporate into his report and thus served their interests; served the agent because 80 percent of his referrals came from agents; and served the seller by furnishing a 'balanced' report, one that considered his interests.  The inspector failed to meet the buyer's reasonable expectations.

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