Top Home Inspector believes Job is Essential

Published by The Columbus Dispatch

As America’s chief home inspector, Tim Buell wants consumers to understand one thing: Inspectors aren’t clairvoyant.

“People think we should find things that are hidden, but that’s not what we do,” said Buell, a 68-year-old retired home inspector in Marysville, Ohio.

As the new president of the 8,000-member American Society of Home Inspectors, Buell’s job is to explain what inspectors do and what they don’t do.

In today’s world, that’s not always easy. As homes and technology have changed, so too has the role of home inspectors.

Much of what home inspectors have traditionally done is right before our eyes — checking framing, foundations and roofs, for example. But many of today’s biggest concerns about homes are less obvious. Radon and mold in particular have become huge worries for homebuyers.

 

Buell advises homebuyers to have inspectors test for radon levels and the possibility of mold. (Both services are typically offered at an extra cost.) But, he is quick to add, inspectors aren’t experts in either area, and if tests turn up something, homebuyers should head straight for the specialists.

“We’re like a family doctor, a generalist,” he said. “We see something and we defer to the technical expert.”

Just as the duties of home inspectors have evolved, so has the housing market affected their jobs.

We are in the midst of the biggest sellers’ market in history, forcing buyers to try any trick they can to secure a home. One increasingly common tactic is to waive the right to remedy any problems found in a home inspection. Some buyers are even taking the next — and far more alarming — step of waiving the home inspection altogether.

Buell, not surprisingly, thinks that’s a bad idea.

“It’s an interesting market,” said Buell, “but nonetheless a home inspection is designed to help the buyer’s peace of mind and to let them know the home is safe.”

As new American Society of Home Inspectors president, Buell lands in the thick of a political issue in Ohio: whether to license home inspectors. Ohio is one of about a dozen states that do not require inspectors to be licensed.

ASHI, allied with other groups including Ohio Realtors, would like to change that. They support House Bill 211, introduced last May to require home inspectors to pass a licensing test.

“The real-estate agent, the appraiser, the lawyer — we’re the only ones in the home industry not licensed,” he said.

Buell points out that the bill, which has sat in committee for months, does not require a home inspection. Still, he adds, inspections are a good idea. 

“A home for most people is the biggest investment in their lives, so why not spend a few hundred dollars to make sure it’s safe?”

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