Every house has its own story, even before the first folks move in. As someone who reads houses, my job is to learn that story and tell it to you, allowing you to continue with the home buying process in an informed and intelligent manner.
The failings of state regulation
The Louisiana State Board of Home Inspectors has education requirements but has yet to adopt an educational standard. If this sounds convoluted to you, it is. The courses of instruction required by the Board have no legs to stand on. Someone, duly approved by the Board, goes up to the front of the class and talks about the topic at hand for the requisite number of hours. Licenses are granted and Continuing Education Credits are awarded. The reins are thrown to the wind.
There are consequences from this lack of an educational standard. If an inspector were chosen at random from among the hundreds, he could turn out to be either a former gas station attendant, still struggling to understand the difference between a joist and a rafter, or he could be an accomplished carpenter, contractor and autodidact, constantly engaged in learning everything there is about houses, driven only by great pride in the service he provides, by a desire to improve it, and by the resolve to become the best of his kind. At first glance, these two inspectors from opposite extremes will look the same, they’ll both wear the same license. Their fees won’t tell you which one is which. Their certifications, association memberships, their years of experience and the number of inspections they claim to have done, won’t tell you which one is which. There is but one metric, one yardstick, that will give you even a rough idea where these two inspectors stand on the expertise scale.
Finding your inspector
Inspecting the house is only half the service rendered you by the inspector. The report is the other half. In my case, writing the report takes twice as long as inspecting the house. In many cases, the report is generated during the inspection with a series of key entries and printed out directly from a PDA at the end of the inspection with a few more clicks. The Board of Home Inspectors has no report writing standard. Its each to his own.
The best way to find your inspector is by reading reports that he has written. Authors are judged by their works, so home inspectors can be, since they are required by law to render their findings in the form of a written report.
Ask family, friends and co-workers for any home inspection reports they might have. If you have a prospective inspector, ask him or her for a sample report. Some keep one on their website. Skim through at least a dozen reports before making your choice. It’ll take that many before you learn how to recognize good reports. They will be easy to read and should enlighten you.
Adversarial relationships in Real Estate
Conflicts of interest occur when people make decisions that are biased by their personal goals, in neglect of professional obligations to others. Agent are bound to serve their clients, but when it comes to choice of home inspector, a personal interest intervenes: their commission. The part of the brain that manages emotions is different than the part that handles cognition, but brain scans have shown that the two are tightly interconnected. The emotional goal of the agent cannot be separated from his professional goal, which is to serve your interests alone. The inspectors they recommend reflect, to some degree, their need to protect their commission and not your prospective investment. The only sure way to protect yourself from this conflict of interest is to avoid it.
When it comes to choice of home inspector and inspection report, buyers have an adversarial relationship with their agent, as well as the seller’s agent and the seller (or builder) himself. Each of these parties has a personal interest that isn’t the same as yours. The two agents are highly vested in their commission, the seller (or builder) is strongly vested in the proceeds of the sale of the house. The buyer is the only one vested in a thorough and accurate disclosure of all issues involving the house.
Agents and sellers are not bad guys, however, their judgement in regard to choice of inspector is compromised. Just because an agent says they don’t act on conflicts of interest doesn’t mean they are free of the their influence. They are still compromised.
To most folks, the purchase of residential property is the single biggest purchase they’ll ever make. When a compromised inspection report misses something, you become damaged to the dollar amount needed to fix the missed finding, since you could have negotiated the repair with the seller had you known the issue was there. Conflicts of interests are everywhere, but it is here, in real estate, that you can be damaged the most by reports compromised by the influence of the agents and seller in regard to choice of inspector and inspection report.
I see buyers these days as surrounded by a fence. The fence posts are the two agents and the seller (builder). Occasionally, a wayward inspector will fall under the influence of agents and seller and serve to advance the influence of the agents and seller over you. These four compromised professionals are holding hands in a circle around you, where they can more effectively screen other inspectors trying to reach you and upset their carefully crafted influence on your choice of inspector. This has been practiced for several decades. It works so well that the most successful inspectors in the state are not the ones with the greatest expertise, but the ones most favored by agents and sellers.
When a buyer meets up with an inspector of great expertise, it is most likely because the buyer took the initiative to seek out and identify a good inspector.
I don’t solicit agents for inspection referrals. That leaves me with your interests alone to serve.
No house is ever perfect, not even new ones. The day I find a perfect house, I’ll know I’ve died and gone to heaven.
Even newly constructed homes are not perfect. The building codes are just minimum standards, much is not inspected by the code authorities, much can go wrong and, based on my experience, much does go wrong.
I don’t make things up in my reports. It’s either common sense or I back it up with a quote from an authoritative source, such as manufacturer installation instructions, product listings and model code books.
I’m licensed locally in electrical and AC/heating service. My 15 years as an inspector was preceded by 14 years self-employed in the trades, serving all major trades but plumbing.
My profound deafness came at a young age and gave motivation for skills in learning on my own. These skills got me through HS, Vo-Tech for Radio/TV repair, and college for electrical engineering. As a home inspector for 15 years, I’m still learning on my own. My cochlear implant helps. I’ve always found a way to talk to folks.
My inspections cover what I can see and what I know. I research what I see and don’t know. My inspections run from 1 to 4 hours, averaging about 2 1/2 hours. The customized report writing is done offsite, and takes the rest of the day. Reports are Emailed within 24 hours of the commencement of the inspection.
My inspections are thorough. They’re brief and easy to read, just like this web page. I don’t waste your attention or your time. I write what you need to know, and what you want to know.
My fees are posted on this site. They haven’t changed since May 2013. A different house might draw a different fee, but the fee doesn’t change with a different buyer. You can be sure no one is getting it for a better price than you.
My name is Marc LeBlanc. I own Sherlock Inspection, serving south-central Louisiana with integrity since 2003. You want me as your inspector because of my dual expertise in inspecting and in reporting, and because I tell you exactly what I find.