The Real “Dirty Secret” in the Home Inspection Industry

The internet is proliferated with articles, and videos outlining the alleged dirty secrets of the home inspection and Real Estate industries.  Most of these articles contain faux secrets, claiming that other inspectors are inexperienced, unqualified, or may be writing soft reports to curry favor with real estate agents.  These inspectors are few and far between and deserve little attention from the world wide web, but their existence is hyperbolized to scare home buyers into choosing the author of said articles, or to boost ratings for news channels. I have yet to read in any of these articles, the real dirty secret in the home inspection industry.

There is a practice that a gross majority of inspectors engage in, that if the public were more aware of, they would include it in their interview questions when selecting a home inspector.  The dirty secret is that an alarming number of home inspectors contractually limit their liability to the fee paid for the inspection. What does that mean?

Let’s say you a hire a home inspector who has on his website that he is thorough, experienced, and has your best interest in mind.  He even emails you an article that says most inspectors are inferior compared to him.  You hire him, and a few days later, he’s in the driveway of your dream home preparing for the inspection.  He skims over the roof from the ground, which is all that ANY home inspector trade association requires, and only inspects the attic from the ceiling hatch which is also the only requirement. His liability is limited, so he doesn’t have much to lose.  You recieve the report, decide you are satisfied with the findings, and a few weeks later you are a new home owner. Unfortunately, as you begin to utilize the attic space for your moving boxes, you realize there are some leak stains and some mold growth in the sheathing.  You immediately call a roofer, and to your surprise, he says there are several missing, cracked, and damaged shingles. He says the roof is aged and should probably be replaced soon. The only thing you can muster out of your mouth is “how much will that cost?” The roofer says it will probably start at about $5000, but it’s not a formal estimate–it could be higher.

You reflect back to your home inspection, and you can’t recall any mention of a leak, or damaged shingles.  You call the inspector and he comes out to your property.  At this point, he does get on the roof, goes in the attic, and realizes he may have made a mistake.  Everyone makes mistakes, but as long as they make it right, its ok.  This home inspector is no different. He is going to make it right. He is going to pay you $400, which is all he is required to pay you, since you signed a contract that limited his liability to cost of the fee that you paid him to inspect the home.

Where are you going to get the other $4600?

There is nothing particularly wrong with any business or organization limiting their liability. In this ridiculously litigious society, it is actually a prudent decision. However, a home inspector limiting his liability to such a minuscule amount is “dirty” and it is for the most part a secret.

Caveat Emptor