Historically, the home inspection services trade has gotten a poor reputation. People often denigrate home inspection services because of bad past experiences. My sense is that this perception is not confined to Austin but widespread.
What did home inspection services do to cause such sour dispositions or even, in too many cases, litigation? The comments I have heard tend to cite home inspectors that were just not that conscientious. The home inspector seemed to be more interested in pleasing the agent than the customer, and consequently was too quick, overlooked issues, and produced shoddy reports.
Historically in Austin, the home inspectors found themselves caught between a rock and a hard place. Virtually their only source of business leads was referrals from real estate agents, and to some extent word of mouth from satisfied former customers. It was before people searched the internet, and the phonebook was about the only opportunity to market directly to the public. These circumstances clearly motivated the home inspectors to care more about making agents happy, so that they would get future referrals than about doing right by their customers.
Another problem was that most home inspectors weren’t qualified to perform a proper structural pest inspection, and yet this was one of the services expected of them. Mistakes here were more likely than for the home inspection, and they could have far more devastating consequences like collapsing substructure. As a result, too many insurance claims and lawsuits perpetuated the poor reputation of the home inspection services.
A few years ago, the authorities passed legislature sweeping changes to the law regulating home inspection services. They beefed up standards of practice and licensing requirements. They also stipulated that pest inspectors and home inspectors needed to obtain separate licenses and fulfill separate insurance rules. This has been a big change for the better.
With a vast reduction in the pool of customers, home inspectors must consider expanding their range of services into certain niche markets in order to grow their businesses. Possibilities include inspecting for radon, mold, and air quality. The green movement has heightened interest in energy audits, and use of infrared cameras can give an inspector an edge over the competitors in some instances. Some home inspectors are learning how to perform and bid on commercial home inspection services. The downside to expanding into any of these areas is the upfront expense, and it is not that clear whether the demand is any better than for inspecting houses.