When I started Alto Home Inspection, I did so with the intention of helping people better understand the positives and negatives of their homes. This understanding extends to inspecting homes for buyers and sellers, testing homes for mold and air quality problems and performing radon measurements.
I didn’t fall into the career of home inspection and residential environmental consulting by chance. Instead, I chose this career after working for over twenty years in a completely different career. I was burned out and needed a big change.
Although some of my clients are referred to me by real estate professionals who trust my guidance, my approach to home inspections, mold and radon testing is never influenced by a desire to allow a home sale to proceed. I handle every aspect of running home inspection business in a way that extends my reputation as a reliable, unbiased, independent inspector.
What is an independent home inspector?
Generally stated, an independent home inspector is one who doesn’t rely on real estate agents for the majority of their business. Independent home inspectors have instead built their businesses by providing detailed home inspections that place emphasis where it’s most appropriate.
On the other hand, an inspector who may be beholden to a particular real estate agent for their livelihood might be tempted to provide little context around the importance of a crumbling foundation to their clients. They might make note of the problem in a report, but without explaining its potential consequences or relative repair costs.
My approach for something like a crumbling foundation is to explain in simple terms what the problem is, what would happen if it wasn’t repaired, and what type of company to contact for the repair. Although I don’t provide exact repair cost estimates, I try to provide a price range when asked.
When the report is reviewed with my client, I would place this foundation problem in context with the other issues found with the home, with the goal of giving them the information needed to make an informed decision about how to move forward with the purchase. As a rule I do not encourage or discourage my clients to either back out of a purchase, or to move forward.
I am not suggesting that those home inspectors who rely only on referrals for business are somehow doing a disservice to their clients. But I am saying that my independent business model removes any temptation to have any bias whatsoever in my reporting and assessments.
Why did Alto Home Inspection, LLC decide to be independent?
As my plans of forming a home inspection company began to take hold in my mind, I knew that I wanted to build the business as an independent one that didn’t involve an endless cycle of trying to convince real estate agents to include me on their list of preferred home inspectors.
According to Gina Bliss at the NY Daily Record, “The better the job you do as a home inspector, the fewer referrals you will receive.” This is exactly the type of statement that concerned me.
I wanted to be a truly unbiased and independent resource for home buyers, home owners and sellers. After I became established in the Buffalo area as detailedt, independent inspector this idea was reinforced after meeting with several real estate agents who reacted to my presence in a very skeptical manner after their clients found me on their own, apparently without the agents consent.
On one occasion, an agent who my client was working with greeted me on the sidewalk and said “are you even licensed?”. I can only imagine that this agent was shocked that her buyer went against her agent’s wishes and found an independent home inspector. As a New York licensed home inspector who is authorized to inspect homes throughout the state, including Western New York, I was a little offended by this question.
To wrap up this thought, Alto Home Inspection LLC is an independent home inspection company that doesn’t go out its way to get on the referral lists of real estate agents.
Can home inspectors pay to be referred by real estate agents?
“Home inspectors shall not directly or indirectly compensate, in any way, real estate brokers, real estate salespersons, real estate brokerage companies, lending institutions or any other party or parties that expect to have a financial interest in closing the transaction, for future referrals of inspections or for inclusion on a list of recommended inspectors or preferred providers or any similar arrangement.”
This long sentence essentially says that home inspectors can’t provide anything of value to those in the financial chain of a real estate translation, either as payment for future referrals or to be included on a list of home inspectors that home buyers may receive.
Why should a buyer hire an independent home inspection company?
If you are buying a house, especially here in the Buffalo area where older homes dominate many towns, you owe it to yourself to hire a home inspector who depends solely on the quality of the inspection, and expertise for their income.
Some agents unfortunately are more interested in ensuring that a purchase continues after the inspection than they are in helping their clients learn about the house.
According to Trulia, “… if the inspector and agent have a strong work history, their relationship may feel more like a partnership, leaving you as the second most important party in this venture”.
There are absolutely many agents who want the best outcome for their clients, but from first-hand experience I can say that there are some who would prefer for a home inspection report to be an overwhelmingly positive document, even in cases where potentially costly issues are found with a home’s roof or electrical system.
What’s the typical connection between agents and home inspectors?
Although I’m successful in avoiding dependence on agents for consistent income, I’ve gotten to know many over the years and I’ve gained a sense for the pressures that they face when it comes to home inspections.
Real estate agents depend purely on home sales for their income, and most home inspectors depend only on inspections for their livelihood (although some provide other helpful services such as radon testing and mold testing). It seems that there’s a strong possibility that the two professions might have a tendency to join together in a way that benefits both of them.
Most real estate agents in Buffalo, Hamburg, Amherst and other areas of Western New York want to help their buyers by providing solid information and recommendations. These agents sometimes maintain a list of expert home inspectors that they provide to their clients.
These lists should contain at least three names of home inspection companies or individual inspectors. The list that an agent provides should be updated as the particular agent learns more about capabilities, professionalism and communication skills of the particular home inspectors.
These referrals aren’t always bad. If an agent has the best interests of their client in mind at all times, and the home inspector is focussed on a detailed, thorough and unbiased home inspection then this could be a matchup that helps the client.
But there’s reason for the home buyers to be cautious about these arrangements, according to Consumer Reports:
“A real estate agent wants to close the deal, and that incentive may be at odds with that of the inspector, who gets paid for his report. If the report raises too many issues, or serious ones, it can be used to negotiate a lower price or even scuttle the deal. An inspector who has been referred by your agent may feel obligated to go easy on the inspection.”
What’s the best way to find a home inspector in your area?
It can be difficult to look ahead far enough to consider home inspection companies when you are in the process of house shopping. It gets more challenging as you move farther along the process and things start heating up with tough decisions about neighborhoods and purchase offers. But the earlier you start researching, the better you’ll be able to find an unbiased and highly qualified inspection company to best assess the condition of your home.
A few tips for avoiding conflicts of interest between home inspectors and agents:
- Research reviews of independent home inspectors near you.
- Avoid using a list of home inspection companies that your agent might provide.
- Check to see if the home inspector is BBB Accredited. This accreditation validates the home inspector licensing, among other things.
- Ask to see a sample home inspection report. This should help you get a feel for what the inspector looks for in the house.
- Make sure that home inspecting is the full-time business of the individual inspector. There are many part-time inspectors who may not be fully committed.
Independent Home Inspector Near Buffalo, NY
If you are looking for an unbiased home inspection company near you, then Alto Home Inspection, LLC would like to help!
We are BBB Accredited, and have a 100% 5-Star rating over dozens of reviews left by past clients on Google, Facebook and Zillow.
We also don’t depend on agent referrals for our primary business, and are 100% committed to our clients.