The answer to that question should be a resounding “yes,” but is it? You’ll want to be sure that it is. This calls for diligence on your part and ethics and integrity on the part of your home inspector.
Some people want to play word games with the terms “customer” and “client,” where the home inspector’s customer is actually the real estate agent, and the client is the home buyer. You have to ask if the home inspector is working with his next job in mind, or is he working with your best interest in mind?
Here’s one way to make sure your home inspector is working for you. Don’t ask the home inspector to wait to be paid upon the close of the sale. Make whatever arrangements are necessary to pay for his services, regardless of whether the home sells. Don’t allow a conflict of interest situation to be created. In other words, if he doesn’t get paid until the house sells, could he be tempted to overlook problems in order to speed up the sale of the house?
You don’t want there to be any doubt about the quality of your home inspector’s report. After all his report gives information you count on to make a qualified decision about buying or selling a home. This is true even if the house doesn’t sell. Integrity is crucial for avoiding problems down the road.
If you see a home inspector’s business card or brochure that shows the inspector is also a real estate agent, find someone else. There’s certainly a conflict of interest here. Who is he really working for, and what are his goals? Do you think he might take shortcuts to make that next sale? Your professional home inspector’s loyalty should be to you, the one paying the bill for his services. He should be free of conflict of interest if he is to give you the objective report you need.
Does your inspector subscribe to a professional code of ethics? Does he make a copy of that code available to you? The American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) has a Code of Ethics its inspectors subscribe to. One of its foremost statements says: “Inspectors shall avoid conflicts of interest or activities that compromise, or appear to compromise, professional independence, objectivity, or inspection integrity.”
It’s also advisable that your home inspector only be involved in home inspection related work. That is, he should inspect homes and perhaps provide environmental testing like radon, mold, or asbestos testing, depending on his licensed qualifications. He shouldn’t participate in remediation or mitigation services for environmental problems.
Your inspector may not be objective if he sells products such as home heating and cooling systems. Would you trust his judgment if he said your home’s furnace needed to be replaced?
In order for you to get the professional and objective report you need about a home, your inspector should be “squeaky clean.” He should be a person of high ethics and integrity. Of course, in order to find such an inspector, you’ll have to do your homework, too.
Because buying or selling a home is such a significant event, make sure your home inspector knows who the customer is. Be sure it is you.