In a recent Broker Notebook column, Inman News columnist Teresa Boardman discussed how, in her view, taking care of the buyer’s inspection is a questionable business practice.
As someone who has been on both sides — a former real estate agent and current owner of a home inspection franchising company — I understand where the author is coming from. I see her point of view and agree to a certain extent.
But I don’t believe home inspectors and real estate agents fostering trusted networking relationships is necessarily a questionable practice. On the contrary, I think it can really help the customer.
Undoubtedly, it can become a problem when home inspectors and real estate brokers become too buddy-buddy for the homebuyer’s own good. But, having been on both sides, I believe that when a real estate broker finds a certified professional home inspector who consistently offers an unbiased third-party look at a property, it is oftentimes in the best interest of the homebuyer to utilize that trusted home inspector.
Let’s consider an example from that highly popular Fox program “Scandal” for clarity — and please disregard the fact that the name of the show is “Scandal” for the purpose of this analogy.
Those who have watched the series know that the lead character, Olivia Pope, is a professional fixer who is hired by clients to fix things, no matter the problem. Along with her associates, Pope uses any means necessary to protect the client. In a dramatic turn of events during one episode, one of her clients is working against Pope’s dearest friends.
The same should always be said of home inspectors and Realtors with working relationships. When a Realtor finds an ideal home inspector — one who is courteous with the customer, honest and straightforward with his or her approach and explanation of findings — it only makes sense that the Realtor would want homebuyers to be offered that professional experience.
Clearly, both sides must maintain an unbiased relationship. Just because the home inspector may see the Realtor during various transactions does not change the fiduciary duty to the customer. The role of the home inspector is always — and I mean always — to objectively provide positive and negative findings from thorough inspections. A good home inspector will explain the negatives and what can be done to improve or fix them. But he or she will always do so in the interest of the customer, never to help a Realtor close a deal.
Having had careers on both sides of the inspector-Realtor aisle, I understand that the wrong tone or the wrong words used in explaining the issues (many of which you’ll find with any property) will destroy a transaction. And that is unfair to the Realtor, especially when the issue with the home is blown out of proportion by an unprofessional home inspector. It happens more often than you might think. In many ways, that’s what drove me to launch a home inspection franchise business — to aim to streamline the inspection process and create a system of checks and balances.
The real challenge for any home inspector is building a level of courtesy and trust with the real estate community, while never losing sight of the customer they are ultimately obliged to serve. Professional inspectors need to understand where they fit within the larger scheme of the real estate community. They are, in many ways, the watchdogs. They need to be fair to both the customer and the Realtor.
The best inspectors understand the language of the entire real estate business. It allows them to better serve the customer and to create a meaningful dialogue with Realtors. They also offer customers easy-to-understand and comprehensive reports following a home inspection that the prospective homebuyer can refer to during the purchasing decision and even after buying the property.
Home inspectors who go above and beyond what is expected of them may very well be recommended to customers. But not because any kind of unethical understanding exists between the inspector and Realtor — only because the Realtor respects the professionalism and service the home inspector provides each and every customer.