10 Things You Need To Know

Home Inspectors in Florida 10 Things You Need To Know

By Greg Bertaux, PE, CIEC, HI, MRSA, MRSR, ACI, RPI, CPO, WMI, BRK

Copyright 2018

1. A Home Inspector License in Florida means NOTHING!

No high school diploma or experience is required to get the license.  Getting a license only requires an on-line class and a test.  And now, there are 103 licensed “home inspectors” just in Indian River County. (per 2018 FL-DBPR)  The rule “buyer beware”, has never been more important.  For a meaningful, quality inspection, only hire a professionally credentialed inspector with many years of proven experience and great on-line reviews.  To verify a license, go to  http://www.myfloridalicense.com/dbpr insert inspector’s name and look for other active licenses other than just Home Inspector.

Checklist for hiring a professional home inspector:

  1. Verify professional credential other than licensed Home Inspector.
  2. Confirm NO unlicensed “assistant” used in your inspection (it’s illegal)
  3. If mold services offered, verify inspector is a licensed “Mold Assessor”
  4. Confirm he is not a franchise owner or employee
  5. Confirm he is a Certified Pool Operator (not subcontracted to others)
  6. Confirm he provides narrative report with color photographs within 24 hours.

2. Never Hire a Home Inspector Based on a Low Price.

Unfortunately, many buyers think home inspections are a commodity, like buying a gallon of gasoline, and they will save money by choosing a low-price inspector. The premise is entirely false. Cheap inspectors do terrible work. They are not properly trained to identify defects, they offer services for which they are not licensed, and typically use “unlicensed” assistants to run through a house. Most agents love to refer cheap inspectors for those reason to ensure they get a sales commission. The cheap inspector writes a report while they are at the house, instead of actually inspecting.  It is very easy to make a report that “looks” pretty but is full of oversights and omissions.

3. Never Accept a Referral for a Home Inspector From Your Real Estate Agent

Did you know several of the most active real estate firms and agents have extended family members that are licensed home inspectors and give all their referrals to them.  Now think about it; would you ever allow a used car salesman to tell you who should inspect the car he is selling to you? Yet, the exact same conflict of interest exists between every buyer and their real estate agent. He/she is focused on making a sales commission, and the bigger the commission the greater the conflict of interest. Even if your agent gives you a list of three inspectors, you are not safe. In Indian River County alone there are more than 103 “licensed” home inspectors. Believe me, the three inspectors on your agent’s list, especially the one on the top, are working for the agent, not you.  When your agent says “we use him all the time” and “he is the best”, they mean “best” at giving a simple inspection that ensures their sales commission. This is the biggest dirty little secret in real estate.  It is absolutely true and very unfortunate.

But think of the pressure; agents spend thousands of dollars in advertising, thousands on offices and vehicles, hundreds of hours arranging showings, negotiating contracts, working with sellers, lawyers, other agents, title companies, licensing and continuing education, and each needs to make house payments, car payments, fees for medical care, children, schooling, daily bills, etc. Now, do you really think after months of working for a client and no income, they are going to risk a commission at the end of the process by referring you to a skillful, knowledgeable, honest inspector who will identify problems that can cause you to cancel your contract and spoil their commission and income?

Importantly and on the same topic, did you know that after mortgage crisis in 2008, our US congress finally woke up and made it illegal for mortgage lenders to refer property appraisers. Before that, every appraiser was beholden to mortgage brokers for referrals. In exchange, every appraiser made sure their “appraisal” met the contracted sales price so the lender could approve the loan and earn a commission on the mortgage. And what happened? House values kept going up and up until it all ollapsed. Unfortunately, when congress made it illegal for mortgage lenders to refer appraiser, they failed to stop real estate agents from referring home inspectors.  This leaves many buyers stuck with homes they wish they never bought; full of Chinese Drywall, mold, water intrusion, termites, shoddy construction, and failed permits; all due to poor quality inspections.

4. Your agent is a “Transaction Broker” – bad for buyers.

Recent changes to Florida statutes make all real estate agents “Transaction Brokers“, not single agents like before.  This is a big deal for buyers (my clients) to understand.

It means by law, your agent is NOT obligated to provide Loyalty, Obedience, or Confidentiality to you.    And, they must provide Full Disclosure of known facts to involved parties, meaning the inspection report you paid for, if you give it to your agent, may then be given to the sellers or other potential buyers.  For full information go to:   http://www.leg.state.fl.us/Statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0400-0499/0475/Sections/0475.278.html

Now, carry this thought further, if your agent wants to work for you as a “transaction broker”, do you really think they will refer you to a quality professional home inspector?   Never.   Now you see how it all ties together, and you must research and hire your own home inspector to get a quality, meaningful inspection that reveals the truth about a home’s condition.

To be sure your real estate agent is working exclusively for you, require them to provide and sign a “Single Agent” representation form that binds them to confidentiality, loyalty, and obedience.

5. Confirm Your Home Inspector Carries Mandated Insurance

By law, every home inspector must be insured for at least $300,000.   Be sure to confirm this with your potential inspector.  If an inspector balks at your request or fails to provide a copy of their insurance certificate to you, then you know they do not have insurance coverage. It is a huge risk to you.   According to the text of every real estate purchase contracts: “buyer is responsible for the actions of the home inspector they hire”. If your inspector gets electrocuted, injured, or causes damage to a home, you are liable!

6. Avoid Franchise Inspectors

Do not hire a franchise person for your inspection. In the U.S. there are dozens of companies that offer “home inspection” franchises. The price for a franchise ranges from five to thirty-thousand dollars; most are around $15,000. The sole objective of those companies is to make money selling franchises, not ensuring owners are competent. Avoid being a victim; be sure you verify the name and speak with the person who will actually provide your inspection. Be sure to talk with him directly before signing any inspection agreement.

7. Verify Qualifications to provide Wind Inspections

The requirements by the state of Florida for wind inspections, also known as Wind Mitigation Verification Inspections or WMVI, changed dramatically in April, 2012. The technical requirements for the inspection are now much more demanding, require photographic evidence of findings, and may only be conducted by very select and professionally trained and certified individuals.  The inspection requires special training and specialized tools. A wind inspection is only valid if conducted by a licensed Professional Engineer (P.E.), registered architect (AIA), Licensed General Contractor (GC), or certified wind inspector.

8. Verify Qualifications for Pool Inspections

There is no state law or regulation that defines who may or may not inspect residential pool bodies or that states what must be included as part of a pool inspection. Most home inspectors have no idea what to look for or how to interpret various issues, like shell/deck cracks, safety requirements, primary drain hazards, filter conditions, etc. For a meaningful pool inspection, be sure to only hire a trained professional who is certified, knowledgeable and insured for pool inspections. At a minimum, your pool inspector should be a Certified Pool Operator (CPO), or a state licensed pool contractor/builder, or a degreed engineer.

9. Mold Inspections Require a “Mold Assessor” License

In Florida, any person offering mold related services, or claiming to have any credential related to indoor environmental services, must be licensed by the state for mold related services. There are two types of licenses; one for “Mold Related Services – Assessor” (MRSA), and one for “Mold Related Services – Remediator” (MRSR).

The different licenses exist because anyone who performs mold assessments is not allowed to provide mold remediation, and anyone who performs mold remediation is not allowed to perform mold assessments. You do not want the person who conducts your mold assessment and whom you are trusting to determine if you have a mold problem to turn around and profit from you by stating you need remediation services for thousands of more dollars. This creates a huge conflict of interest, is entirely unethical, and is illegal. Unfortunately, that’s what can happen if you are uninformed or do not hire a mold assessor first.

Be sure any person or company you consider for mold testing has an active MRSA license (mold assessor), and is insured for at least one million ($1,000,000) dollars, as required by law.   It is very expensive and hard to establish. Be sure to verify that the actual license holder conducts your inspection, not an assistant. To verify a license, go to  http://www.myfloridalicense.com/dbpr

10. Verify Quality of Reports

Second in importance to a home inspector’s knowledge & experience, is the quality of the written report a home inspector provides their client.  Before you hire a home inspector, request a copy of a sample report A high-quality, professional report should be narrative (not a check list), comprehensive, and include all findings with color photographs. A quality inspection generally takes two hours of actual inspecting; testing utilities, hiking around a ladder, climbing on the roof and through the attic, etc. If your inspector compiles your report “on-site”, they are not inspecting and are not doing quality work. Professional inspectors provide a digital report via email by the end of the next business day. A typical single-family home will have a report that is about 30 pages in length including a summary of key items, color photographs, and an index.  Also, a quality inspector will make themselves available for follow-up questions and phone calls.

2018  IMHomeInspector.com,  by Gregory J. Bertaux, PE

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