Any slight slow down in real estate sales can be a challenge for us all. When sales slow, not only is there a direct economic impact on real estate agents, but also on the related professionals whose job it is to serve and support the customers in the real estate transaction. Fewer real estate sales mean fewer appraisals, surveys, title policies, and mortgages. It also means fewer home inspections, the service nearest and dearest to my heart.

One of the consequences of a slow down in real estate, and likewise any slow down in the number of home inspections, is that some inspectors begin to do “side work”. I’ve seen home inspectors advertising such services as WDO repairs, appliance repairs, minor electrical and plumbing repairs, and other general “handyman” fix-it repairs. And all listed right next to their home inspection service!

Wow, this is really scary!

This is scary for two reasons. Not only should you always have a licensed professional conduct repairs, but this type of activity is also a possible violation of Florida state law for the home inspector.  AND an ethical violation of every major home inspector trade association.

I’m assuming that it’s common knowledge you should always choose a Florida licensed home inspector to conduct your home inspection.  The Florida home inspector licensing law states “A person may not…Perform or offer to perform any repairs to a home on which the inspector or the inspector’s company has prepared a home inspection report.”

You would be well served to also make sure that licensed home inspector is also a Certified Master Inspector or Certified Inspection Expert.  You should also know that the code of ethics for the largest trade organization for home inspectors, InterNACHI, states that “The InterNACHI® member shall not perform or offer to perform, for an additional fee, any repairs or associated services to the structure for which the member or member’s company has prepared a home inspection report for a period of 12 months.”

It is the intent of the Florida home inspector law and the NACHI Code of Ethics to keep the inspection process free of “conflicts of interest” that are sure to arise when the outcome of the inspection has a financial benefit to the inspector beyond simple payment for the actual inspection.

When home inspectors stray away from this mandatory legal and ethical position, the entire real estate process breaks down. Ultimately, both buyer and seller lose faith in the process, putting everyone involved in a very high-risk position, including the real estate agent. At the least damaging end of the scale, a conflict in interest can result in the dying of the deal. But at the most harmful end of the scale, it may also result in potential legal action by an upset buyer or seller.

The simple solution to reducing your liability is to ensure that a properly licensed home inspector does your home inspection and that a properly licensed contractor does your repairs, and that these two people are not the same! Two heads may be better than one, but if one guy is wearing both hats, it is sure to end in trouble.