The Hungry Home Inspector by P Nathan Thornberry :: Why Some Inspectors are Always Hungry for More While Others Just Go Hungry

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The Hungry Home Inspector

Why Some Inspectors Are Always Hungry For More
While Others Just Go Hungry


Chapter 15

SOPs are so Twenty Years Ago

Maybe thirty.
Depends on how long you had this book before you decided to read it.


The various Standards of Practice that exist today from the major inspection organizations as well as the state licensing agencies are by and large good. There’s nothing inherently wrong with having a minimum standard for an industry.

SOPs offer two specific benefits to home inspectors:

1. They make public a set of minimum standards, giving credibility to membership in an association or licensure.

2. They set parameters for inspections as general guidelines to prevent us having to “reinvent the wheel.”

If we didn’t have standards, both in ethical matters and in how we inspect, our industry would likely not have the credibility it does in the public eye. Some believe that the SOPs are liability protection and they are not. The only reason they serve to reduce our liability is that they give us minimum guidelines within which to operate, and prevent inspectors from doing lower-grade inspections that would not include the basics.

The exception to that would be if the standards are included or referenced in your inspection contract, at which point they become the definition of your scope of inspection. In that case, yes the SOPs serve as a limited layer of liability protection. I say “limited”  because I’ve met a few judges and I’ve yet to meet one who takes the time to read the SOPs or acknowledges them in any meaningful way. The SOPs aren’t inherently something a consumer is mindful of, and usually the contractor’s opinion of the defect  and whether it was “noticeable” gets asked. That’s what the judge goes by much more than a standard you put forth that he’s never heard of, is not going to read, and doesn’t really care about because he’s looking for you to show how you did not damage the other party. Was it “unavoidable” or outside of your control? Are you leaning on these standards as an excuse for negligence? I know, it’s hardly fair, but it’s reality.

The other reason I say SOPs provide very “limited” liability protection is because lawsuits and errors & omissions claims rarely come  about as a result of an inspector exceeding the minimum standards and finding problems they would have otherwise missed or had  no obligation to find in the first place. Claims and lawsuits are more likely the result of bad communication, frivolous/crazy clients out  to cost someone money, the inspector not meeting the minimum standard in the first place, or rather, missing something he should have caught while performing an inspection up to those minimum standards.

Outside of the debate as to whether the standards are good and whether or not they protect inspectors, the SOPs are most often misused.

They get misused by inspectors who are stuck in the past, twenty years ago or more, as an excuse for the fact that they (the inspectors) are becoming irrelevant.

Let me give you an example;

I know that checking for recalls isn’t a part of the minimum standard. It’s up to an inspector to decide if hey want to check for recalls as part of their inspection and offer superior service to their clients. I personally believe that checking for recalls will eventually become a standard, and I think it’s silly that we argue about how far an inspector’s head should go into the corner of an attic and don’t acknowledge as an industry that one in every ten homes he inspected in the last year had a known fire hazard right there in the kitchen staring him in the face.  The solution was simple, it was available for free, and it’s from a major sponsor of every  association and inspector event everywhere, and it’s RecallChek.

For now, it remains beyond the standard and I like that it’s considered a “premium” service. It’s giving inspectors an edge in their market and making them more successful.

In one major market out west, I have three incredibly competitive multi-inspector firms offering RecallChek with every inspection, and about 30 smaller (what we call “big companies in development”) firms doing the same.  I’ve visited there, done presentations to real estate offices, and in every resource area in those real estate offices I found colorful, well done fliers from inspectors who focused on USPs like RecallChek, 90-Day Warranties, and even our Termite Protection Plans.

I say all this because there is an inspector in this market whom I’ve known for many years, and while he was never a client I thought we were on very good terms.  Until one day I was at an inspector conference, sponsoring the event, and he came up to me and asked how things are going.

I say, “Never been better!”

I was having a good show, probably 30% of the attendees had already signed up for RecallChek, which he had noticed, and it bugged the heck out of him.

You see, this inspector, we’ll call him Manwich just to avoid using anyone’s name, has been inspecting for decades. He’s been in leadership positions in a major association, he’s known the guys on the committees that come up with the standards for years and years...and Manwich is the kind of inspector who uses the SOPs in the wrong way.

When a client calls Manwich to get a price, and they ask if he uses an IR camera, if he checks for recalls, if he offers a warranty, or asks any other question about his services that go beyond the bare minimum required by the association’s SOPs that he subscribes to, the answer is a very bitter, “No, that’s not a part of our standards.”  He goes on to insult the other companies to the prospective client, which ultimately results in him not getting the order, and he’s losing a lot of business to the competition.

His business is no longer about the customer, it’s no longer about having fun doing what you do, it has become a losing battle.

Every time I see him at a convention, the clients who choose someone else after asking him a question he’s uncomfortable with become more and more frequent.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not just RecallChek or 90-Day Warranties and it’s certainly not my personal influence exclusively causing these problems for him. The companies I deal with in his area are creative and competitive and they’re coming up with new ways to get business all the time.

I’m just the most noticeable cause of his problems.

What I had been mistaking for an inviting humor-filled smirk all these years was actually a disdainful, “you jerk” kind of look. I had no idea! I think I handled his venting pretty well, but he refused to take any responsibility for his own failures. He actually suggested that he had the influence to change the SOP in such a way that inspectors would not be allowed to go beyond it.

I suggested why he was at it to go ahead and set the pricing for the industry as well. I was being sarcastic, but apparently that is also an issue for him.

Don’t be a Manwich. The SOP is a minimum standard. What really matters is what clients want and what will make you appealing as a company to hire for a home inspection. I’m pretty sure you can pass high school with a D- and do only the required activities every day- I just never thought to try.

Stay hungry my friends.