Consumers are looking for value, at least that is what the trend gurus state. However, How do you know that you are getting value. Is value only described by price or by other factors?
When buying a home, you are going to meet various service providers who will be stating that they will be providing you value in the service that they provide. Certainly all of us would like to pay as little as possible, but we also realize that the cheapest may not be the best. More expensive home inspectors will always make the argument that by paying more, you may not be obtaining any kind of service, so that is why you should pay more. The question becomes: how can you tell if the home inspector will provide you with value before you hire them?
In Texas, and in much of the country, there are minimum standards which a home inspector has to meet, so the phrase “we go beyond the standards” is common. I have used it. That phrase becomes meaningless, when you cannot find a way to compare services. Reviews are great, but most people do not write reviews of home inspectors or other service providers on a regular basis. Would experience matter? I believe yes, but most people come to home inspection through their experiences, and length of service as a home inspector might not mean as much as you think. A news report which came out not to long ago was investigating a well established home inspector with a long history had been missing items on his reports.
Perhaps it would be best to turn towards the Better Business Bereau or the Texas Real Estate Commission to find out about complaints. The Better Business Bureau has its Accredited Business program for businesses which meet a certain standard. If you have ever applied for this accreditation, you will know that they do check your business out (they are serious about being able to confirm facts), and there is no garauntee when you apply that you will be approved. A few home inspectors have taken this step. More commonly, checking the website of the Texas Real Estate Commission (TREC). Most complaints against home inspectors would go through the commission, so you would find any issue there. You will need the license number of the home inspector to check their status on that site. Every home inspector in Texas has to include their license number in their advertising, so their website will have it listed somewhere ( mine is #9073). In other states, you need to search for any agency which will oversee home inspectors, but if one does not exists, check with the BBB.
Should you trust the opinion of your Realtor? Well, yes. The home inspector that they suggest is someone that they trust, so that is a good source. However, if we consider Houston, we have around one thousand home inspectors in the greater area. Does your Realtor know many of them? Have they evaluated various home inspectors? Maybe to a degree. The internet is opening new frontiers in the real estate business. The consumer is moving towards a process where they can pick and choose services and products that they want, whiule leaving other items on the table. I started writing about “value” when looking at which Title company you could use. There had been a study from the Government Accounting Office, which demonstrated that if consumers would start shopping around for a Title company, they could save a great deal of money. The same would be true if consumers took this shopping around attitude to all real estate service providers. Most expensive does not mean the best.
As a consumer myself, I am willing to pay more to obtain the best quality. However, I know that paying more is not always going to provide me with quality. The stock in trade for home inspectors is the information that we provide. That led me to look at websites from home inspectors around the United States. All of the websites offer some degree of information. The home inspectors that I trust most are the ones who share information freely. Take this site as an example. I feel that there is a wealth of information here; I have not found another home inspector in Houston with so much (alright that was an obvious plug). If you are not in Houston, you do find home inspectors writing articles for their sites, or maintaining a blog. I think that this boils down to communication. You have to be comfortable communicating with your home inspector. They could have a wealth of information, but if they do not express it to you, then where is the value? You need to decide how to evaluate this factor. Speak to them on the phone, read their websites, or check in any other way to determine how well they will communicate with you.
My hope is that consumers do begin to use the power that is now theirs to pick and choose everything when it comes to their real estate experience. They will save money, and they will cause the industry as a whole to evaluate the quality of service that we are providing. This can only be good for the industry and the consumer.