Are we home inspectors who are in business or are we businesspeople who happen to be home inspectors? Do we represent an industry or a profession?
Professional groups and organizations like ASHI have created and affirmed codes of ethics to which professionals who belong to these groups are expected to follow. According to the Boone and Crockett Club, the definition of ethics is “when you do the right thing when nobody is looking.” Simple, direct and to the point, just the way I like it.
One definition of a profession is a paid occupation, especially one that involves prolonged training and a formal qualification. And one definition of industry is an economic activity concerned with the processing of raw materials and the manufacturing of goods in factories. So, I’d say that we are professionals working within the home inspection profession.
With that established, let me review the elements that should guide inspectors in both ethical and moral determinations on a daily basis. By adhering to the guidelines listed below, each one of us can help elevate the home inspection profession as a whole and raise up ASHI in particular as the go-to organization for buyers and sellers of housing stock.
- Personal competence. Your competence improves by gaining continuing education and by playing an active role within the home inspection profession.
- Self-awareness. Be the beacon (not the foghorn) in any situation. Shine and keep shining, realizing that many people are watching your actions and your delivery.
- Self-confidence. As you continue to climb the ladder of success, bring your knowledge to every event, function, meeting and inspection. There’s no need to be argumentative; simply state your case and move on.
- Know your strengths and weaknesses. When attempting to find a solution to an inspection dilemma, issue or unknown, refrain from seeking advice on chat rooms and social media. Instead, buy a relevant book, go to the manufacturer’s website, call the manufacturer’s tech department or take a class on the topic the next time you see one being offered. If you don’t know something, say, “I don’t know, but I can try to find the answer.”
- Emotional awareness. Staying in control of your emotions can be difficult when someone firmly disagrees with you, especially when you are certain that you are right. Say “thank you” and move on, and remember that the pen is mightier than the sword. Your well-worded report can solidify your position on the issue, whereas any hasty words or emotional actions can destroy your position.
- Self-control. I remember a time when I heard some inspectors comment about the abilities (or lack thereof) of another inspector. During their conversation, they named two other inspectors who they believed also agreed with their assessment. Bad-mouthing your fellow inspectors is bad business, and it is the sort of behavior that’s likely to come back to bite you when you least expect it. Attempt to work from these premises: “I am confident that I offer a better product. I charge what I am worth; others can charge what they believe they are worth.”
- Motivation. Take classes, go to InspectionWorld,® attend chapter meetings and seminars. Definitely spread the word that you are part of ASHI, the organization that has been the pinnacle of the home inspection profession for over 40 years. Seek out your chapter’s “go-to members”—nine times out of 10, they will have answers to your questions and the experience to back it up. But also remember that you have to make an effort to get to know these and any other members—don’t expect anyone to call you every week to ask how you are doing.
- Optimism. For those starting out, it can be a big deal to get three, four or five inspections in a single week. But sometimes, even after a strong series of busy weeks, the phone might stop ringing. Be patient. After 36 years working as a home inspector, I can tell you that the phone will ring again. (And when you become successful, you might find that the phone sometimes rings a little too often!)
- Achievement and drive. Be the best you can be and be humble when you learn of a downfall. Keep sharpening your skill set every day so that you can be successful.
- Initiative. Hone your ability to take charge before others do. Maintain control of your inspection and the events surrounding it. Having a clear understanding of the contract and the scope of work can be paramount to your success.
- Commitment. Every day, commit to do the best you can for your family, your profession and your clients. Show people that they can rely on you to be at your best and to meet your commitments.
- Regulate yourself. Do you think that your skill set improves after you perform your third 4,000-square-foot, single-family home inspection of the day? If you have difficulty saying no, try raising your rates. Be the trendsetter in your area. Work half as hard and make the same income. Don’t think it will work? Try it and see. You are a professional—charge professional rates. And as mentioned previously, let others charge what they believe they are worth.
- Innovation. Drones, cameras, roof walking, IR scans, radon, EMR surveys, lead paint…the list goes on and on. Making follow-up phone calls and thanking clients can lead to great rewards. Set yourself apart by showing your good judgment, business practices and responsibility.
- Adaptability. Home inspection is a fluid profession. Failing to adapt will leave you behind. I suspect that you don’t make it a practice to cancel inspections when it is raining or snowing or if it’s too hot, too cold or too foggy. Instead, you make adjustments and proceed with the task at hand. You are a self-starter who is motivated to succeed.
- Take responsibility. Not all inspections go well. Generally, if a problem exists in a home, it manifests within the first year after the inspection. If you are notified or implicated, put on your business hat and determine the best way to take care of the problem. But do it wisely. A lawsuit against a home inspector in my region, for example, can go on for three to four years. Consider whether you want this issue eating at you for the next four years. Then get out in front of it and don’t get trampled.
- Maintain standards of honesty and integrity. All too often in the quest for the buck, folks get sloppy. What might seem like a simple act can be interpreted in many different ways. Two cases in point: explaining the home’s issues to the sales professional before explaining the issues to the client. Or not engaging the client in the process during the inspection. It can benefit your practice to be familiar with the ASHI Standard of Practice, which has been and will continue to be used as the bedrock for state agencies to develop local standards. It is a living document that gets evaluated on a regular basis.
With April being National Home Inspection Month, it’s a good time to reflect on these key components of practicing ethical and moral behavior and actions. Remember that each of us has a duty to provide an unbiased, objective inspection and to report our findings to the best of our ability. When your market is slow, take some time to think about what type of changes you may need to make to provide your clients with a better product and to ensure that you have fewer sleepless nights.
Don Lovering is an ASHI Board Member and the Chief Inspector at Advantage Home Inspection, Inc., in Auburndale, MA. He still has a hard-line telephone 617-928-1942 and has been an active member of ASHI locally and nationally. Don has been a Chapter President and National Committee Chair, as well as a college professor. He is also a past-president of the Examination Board of Professional Home Inspectors (EBPHI). He has been published in the ASHI Reporter and testified on home inspector licensing in six states. Don’s leisure activities rotate around his farm and working with Vermont Fish and Wildlife as a volunteer instructor.