July, 2008
Ethics
Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors



Ethics and Preferred Vendor Programs

KEITH OBERG

 Part IV of IV: Call to Action and Conclusion

ASHI’s Code of Ethics is one of its greatest strengths and benefits. The code is a guide that has set the bar for home inspectors for 30 years. In fact, without these ethical standards there would be no home inspection profession. How much business could each of us do by promising a dishonest appraisal of a customer’s home? Yet, this is exactly what we provide when we violate our own Code of Ethics.

So, what can an individual ASHI member do?  Lots, actually. Certainly, you can avoid “preferred vendor” programs and their inherent conflicts of interest entirely. You can, and must, adhere scrupulously to the code. But more than that, you can be an outspoken advocate for ethical business practices.

One way to do this is by engaging those companies offering advertising products in frank discussions and negotiations based on your ethical needs. In a previous article, we showed how a major advertising program was made unethical by seemingly minor titles and descriptions. Rather than simply accepting features of an unethical program, you can work with the program providers to make the program ethical. This is how business negotiations should work. Approach the companies you wish to work with, and work with them to create programs that are both beneficial and ethical.

You also can use your interactions with clients, real estate agents, attorneys and others to point out that you adhere to ASHI’s Standards, and that our code is the strongest in the profession. You can show how you meet the highest ethical standards in all of your business operations. Unassailable ethical standards, more even than technical competence, are what will earn you the respect of your clients and the business community and what can, in the long run, be the foundation for success in business. Many consumers are wary regarding the ethics of the real estate profession. Promoting your high ethical standards may be the best way to bring more inspection business to your company.

Conclusion   

ASHI has a long tradition in support of strong ethical standards. This largely derives from ASHI’s position as the voice of the best in the profession and the profession’s role as guardian of the homebuying consumer. Against this backdrop, many of our members see competitors gaining apparent advantage in the marketplace by violating ASHI’s high ethical standards. Real estate agents, unfortunately, have long had the opportunity to be the gatekeepers for those wishing to provide real estate-related services, including home inspectors. The pressure to compromise our standards in order to gain referrals from real estate agents is real and has had a negative effect on our profession.

With this series of articles, we have attempted to provide some background for ASHI’s position on preferred vendor programs, to make clear the distinguishing points that define ethical versus unethical practices with regard to joint marketing ventures with real estate agents, to encourage strong ethics among our members, and to provide realistic means for satisfying our high ethical standards without necessarily causing members to lose market share. High ethical standards can and should be good for ASHI, good for its members and good for the profession.