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Uk Home Inspections Rethink


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From the UK

Our Housing minister, Yvette Cooper announced 18th of July, that the planned mandatory introduction of Home Reports due in June 2007, will be indefinitely postponed.

The minister favours a 'phased roll-out' instead, due to pressures from mortgage lenders, some estate agents and the opposition party. Arguments against range from "there won't be enough HI's to cope with a 'big bang' introduction" to "it will upset the UK Housing Market" and lead to a possible recession.

There are 2000 approx, people in training, some almost finished with many having paid $15,000 in course fees alone.

Their concern now is that their Home Inspection Diploma will not be worth the paper it's written on. Many people have given up jobs, businesses and taken out sizeable loans to attend the distance learning courses of 9-12 months duration.

Seeing the Home Report (HCR) as a fatally wounded proposal, many are now considering legal action against the Government in order to recoup course fees, travel costs and loss of earnings.

We are all waiting on whether the Government presses ahead with its controversial plans and as to whether the private sector will take the HCR idea themselves.

For the time being, hundreds of future Home Inspectors are calculating the potential losses they face.

In the meantime, Scotland, having different legislation on such matters, intends to introduce its own HCR's called PIP's in 2008.

A good source of info is http://homeinspectorforum.co.uk


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Hi Scott,

Yes, It's my understanding that they all have to sit for a national exam and that there are a variety of different skill certifications. Unfortunately, it's the people in authority that have cancelled the home condition reports (HCR's). They caved in to the special interests who were squawking about the new "cowboy" inspectors, the delays that the HCR would cause in the sales process, etc.. The litany of complaints about home inspectors was as long as your arm and they hadn't even begun the program yet.

Some of those folks have been in school full-time for the past year and have spent more for the education than we'd spend over here for a home inspection franchise.

I went over to their forum and encouraged them to start up their own association and start doing independent inspections the way ASHI started here in the 70's, but it's like many of them don't seem to understand how it could succeed. Maybe I'm just not understanding the sales process over there.



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It will be interesting to see what develops in the UK. They have far less wood than the US so they use more stone and stucco. The Japanese who have a shortage of natural resources now excel in technology and innovation have stronger building codes than exist in the US and parts of Europe. Anyone have a readdy link to those more procressive areas?

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Hi to all,

I went over to their forum and encouraged them to start up their own association and start doing independent inspections the way ASHI started here in the 70's, but it's like many of them don't seem to understand how it could succeed. Maybe I'm just not understanding the sales process over there.

Mike, here is the problem. Property assesments in the UK are the pervue of the Chartered Surveyors (They are a particularly teritorial bunch who are more like SEs' here).

Independent home inspectors in the UK would leave themselves open to charges of practising as Chartered surveyors with a license, in much the same way the you or I could be called to account for acting as structural engineers.

This does beg the question as to whether anyone needs a 4 year degree to inspect residential properties, the British government thought not, however it does appear that the special intrest groups (Surveyors included who have paid lip service only to thos scheme) have won out.

BTW, for the most part inspecting homes in the UK is very much easier than it is here (or it was when I left England) due to a very limited range of building system variation.



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Based on the information coming out of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales I notice many problems of a structural nature. Often they are related to the drainage from the roofs and improper grading. Sometimes there are electrical and plumbing items as well that do not match ICC /NEC code.

I’ve seen many European and oriental produced appliances that do not match the ones available in the US (a trade balance issue). For example, if you go to South America you will be hard pressed to find any American brand name products (a trade balnce issue again).

Many of the structures in some areas are made of cement and covered with stucco. That is because cement is cheaper than treated cured and insect resistant fisishished lumber. Some places use locally available coral rock that is full of salt deposits which can lead to significant problems. In Hawaii they use lava rock that is crushed up into the mix. Retention of rain water via cisterns and catch tanks are a primary concern in some areas short of readily available surface or subsurface potable water.

It's a professional habit to inspect everything architectural even during off hours. The point being that their code is not the same as ours. Problems exists where ever you look if try to find them and it is an ongoing process of refinement and compliance where common sense is needed to make better designs and structures. The US could learn form them as much as they can learn for us. Obviously each country can learn from the others and regional consideration would be taken into account.

In my travels I have seen many inventive building concepts and use of regional materials. Some work better than others and as a whole all still require some maintenance and aforethought in implementation. As seen in the US maintenance and aforethought can be lacking in some important areas. The absence of these elements leads to poorly designed, built, maintained properties. Some times they features are very unsafe.

Back to the situation in Brittan, speaking as a degreed engineer I have to compete with people with far less education and ability. I salute England for trying to make the bar higher than it is in the US, if in fact that is the case. I would like to read and compare their codes. Which is better protecting the public?

Back to the US: Unfortunately most people in the US will not want to pay for the more educated analytical engineer as compared with the off the street inspector who has no license or viable formal training. Certification is a very poor substitute for proper licensing and proper training. In parts of the US that is all the public has generally available for the their use.

Thus the bargin hunting US general public could lose again if they make the wrong choice of inspectors based primarily on quoted rates and perhaps questionable certification where there is only and illusion of due diligence. If improvement is to be made then the wasteful US should in some aspects follow the lead set by all professionals worldwide. I repeat, each country can learn from the others and regional consideration would be taken into account. We need to move to a more sustainable, capable and adequately educated “greener planetâ€

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My my Al,

You have been busy today. What's going on in the UK has some parallels to what goes on here, but one has to understand the basic differences.

Right now, I'm told by some of my British colleagues that up until now only a very small number of homes are inspected during sales and that these "surveys" are varied. There are "valuation surveys" (appraisals) done for lenders, which are the only essential survey carried out on behalf of the lender but paid for by the borrower (like here). There are the "Homebuyer’s Reports" which are roughly equivalent to what the new "Home Condition Report" is supposed to be, but up until now have been done on relatively few homes because the public there really hasn't come to see the value in them. Then there are the "Full Structural Surveys," which are a full blown structural analysis and report. These too are only rarely done and usually then only for commercial or very unusual structures.

The new home information packs (HIPS) will be required from June 2007 and are going to contain everything that most real estate agents here are responsible for producing, but up to this point have been optional in the UK, namely certain legal paperwork, ie office copies of title deeds, Sellers Information, Fixtures and Fittings List, Local Searches, etc.; the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)(Energy Audit here) which the government cannot postpone or cancel because it is an EU directive and, finally, the contentious item, the Home Condition Report(HCR's).

Over there the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) have been king of the roost for so long that the public practically thinks of them as an arm of the government when considering a home purchase. However, RICS surveyors don't just look at homes, they look at commercial properties, do inspections for municipalities, do appraisals, manage construction projects, provide cost projections for renovations, do structural engineering analysis, soil analysis, records search and many other tasks.

In short, Chartered Surveyors who inspect homes for sale over there are very much like licensed engineers are in the US. They can do the basic inspection for sellers or potential buyers, can do structural analysis and can provide estimates of what it's going to cost a home buyer to, say, add an addition onto a home or remodel a portion of it. What's added into the mix though, if I've understood it correctly, is that they also do the appraisal and perform records searches - things that we don't do here - and many work in specialty fields - some specifically in home inspection as some licensed engineers do here in the US.

What the law for HIPS called for was the establishment of an entirely new profession - that of the Home "Inspector," which I gather the RICS guys resent, because they will take market share and because many don't think that the inspectors will be qualified to inspect structures. That in itself, to me, seems pretty short-sighted, since some of the home inspectors will naturally be referring work to the RICS guys when they encounter structural issues that they are not qualified to diagnose. Then too, the training that some of these people are going through will enable them to make structural calls - unlike inspectors here - and they'll essentially turn out being sort of "Surveyors Lite."

What most inspectors here would find really strange is that surveyor firms over there are sub-contracted to real estate firms to do all of the surveys (inspections) for clients of those firms. There are very few independent home inspectors over there (Most work for the large surveying firms) and there aren't a whole lot of surveyors or new home "inspectors" that seem to want to be self-employed. What's ironic is that many of the large surveying firms there had already provisionally hired many of the new home inspector trainees, even before they'd graduated, to do HCR's for the HIPS that their firms would be producing.

There are literally thousands of folks in the UK who'd quite their jobs and were attending school, full-time at their own expense to earn, the new government accredited home inspection diploma from a host of accredited training schools and courses that sprang up overnight. Many of these were funded with investments in the millions by those who saw the need to train people to qualify to do the mandatory HIPS and HCR's as a golden investment opportunity. Hell, even builders over there had pre-hired some of these folks! We'd look at it as the fox guarding the hen house, but they apparently don't see it that way at all. Cultural differences, I suppose.

Back to the premise of your post - better education for home inspectors - obviously seen from an engineer's standpoint. I don't disagree with the idea of getting more education for home inspectors, but I do disagree with the lofty position that most engineers take that home inspectors are somehow lesser beings than they are, just because they don't have a degree and a bunch of letters after their name on their business cards.

There are many engineers in this country in our field who don't have a clue about HVAC systems, plumbing or electrical systems, yet they received a "by" from states where licensing took hold for home inspectors, simply because they had an engineer's license. At least in the UK they understood that home inspections are a unique animal and they compelled Chartered Surveyors there, who wanted to work in the home inspection field, to at least undergo a form of abbreviated training, to fill in the blanks between surveying and home inspecting. That's something that you don't see done here with engineers - at least not in a formal education setting. Do you?

There are a whole lot of homes built in this country every year where engineers have never even stepped onto site and many of our oldest, finest and best-built homes never benefited from "engineering". They were built by old-school builders who learned through trial and error what works and what doesn't. They figured out what they know just the same way that engineers figured out what they know. This still-young profession is still mostly populated with former trades from the construction industry and many of them, through experience, are every bit as capable as engineers to decide whether a particular beam is sized or placed correctly or whether a repair is adequate or not.

We're becoming smarter and smarter about buildings every day and more and more inspectors understand building science in ways that they never did decades ago. Add to that computers, which are empowering inspectors with abilities they never had in days gone by, and I think it's time that the engineering profession stopped fighting home inspectors, recognized that they are here to stay, embraced them and worked with the home inspection profession to develop a US version of an Engineer-Lite with accredited training and certifications which home inspectors could shoot for without attending 4 years of school.

The following was snipped from one article by a Chartered Surveyor in the UK who had to go through the abbreviated home inspection training there. This is text quoted from the summer 2006 issue of Home Truths, the quarterly newsletter of The Home Inspector's Directory a commercial inspector search engine and inspection information site in the UK. The fellow who wrote this is Stuart Parrett, a Fellow of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (FCIS), a Home Inspector, and the creator of a DIY Home Information Pack Provision facility, Home Inspector network and resource service.

Parrett "gets" it. Here's what he said.

(snip)Converting to Home Inspector status is …………? Depending on “whoâ€
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I have never been to England, but I can imagine that they suffer some of the same horrible political problems that the US has. One of which is the presence of huge bureaucuries that hampers almost every industry. The dominating bureaus often exist for at least one major unstated purpose: to justify its own existence and job security for its workers and some profit oriented empire building.

Professional Societies and Associations also exist to primarily feather their own nests while presenting quite a different picture to the public via the marketing manipulation in the media.

Without the formal presences however “anything goes - cowboy-ismâ€

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