January, 2016
Feature
Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors



Peer Review: Put It on Your To-Do List for 2016

CAROL DIKELSKY

Do any or all of the following statements ring true?

While working on site, I usually don’t have anyone with me to consult about what I find or how to handle a difficult issue.

Having independence and autonomy is part of why I chose to become a home inspector.

Sometimes it might help to know what other home inspectors would have found and included in their report had they inspected the very same house.

Enter the peer review process.
According to David Bunker, ASHI member and former chair of the peer review committee of the Great Lakes Chapter (GLC-ASHI), “A peer review provides an evaluation by a panel of experienced inspectors. Essentially a critique of your home inspection skills and knowledge, a peer review offers an excellent opportunity to identify your strengths and weaknesses. The results can help you feel more confident when you are working independently in the field.”

Bunker said, “Some inspectors think that a peer review is some kind of graded test, but it’s actually an interactive educational experience. And you don’t have to be a new inspector to benefit from it. You may have done thousands of inspections in your career, but going through a peer review at any time is something you can do to motivate yourself, boost your knowledge and enhance your credibility.” He further emphasized, “Peer review is foremost an educational experience, not a test or certification program.”

ASHI member Rick Vernon, current chair of the GLC-ASHI peer review committee, added, “I encourage inspectors to look at peer review as a self-assessment and educational event. It’s a unique way to see how your inspection methods or sequence can be improved upon. Seeing how others inspect the same house will not only educate you, it will also help you identify potential areas of weakness and items that you may be overlooking in your inspections.”

How did peer review programs get started?
In 1990, GLC-ASHI was the first chapter to offer a peer review program after ASHI National dropped the field inspection requirement for full membership in the society. GLC members believed that the practical experience gained from inspecting a house under the scrutiny of experienced peers was valuable, so they created a program that they continue to refine and offer in conjunction with educational sessions. Their efforts have been so successful and appealing to other chapters that several have established their own programs.

Bunker said, “It’s my hope that, some day, all of ASHI’s chapters will offer some kind of peer review. There are many ways to have a successful program. Each chapter can create its own pathway. “Because the process is exciting, fun and challenging, it appeals to home inspectors looking for something different from traditional classroom instruction. Participants can compare their inspection techniques and observation powers against a ‘known entity,’ thus getting a real-time check of their knowledge, skills and abilities. Chapters that provide peer review opportunities are offering a unique educational experience that may help retain and recruit members.”

How does peer review work?
Most programs generally work like the GLC-ASHI example: On the morning of the peer review, committee members collectively inspect a preselected “review house.” Immediately after, they discuss their findings and designate 10 “must-find” items that they expect inspectors to include in their report.

Next, each participant inspects the house and delivers a report to the committee. Committee members may ask leading questions that might help the participant cover all of the correct responses; however, if a participant clearly misses any must-find items, he or she will not earn the designation Inspector by Review® or Master Inspector by Review™ that day (see Page 16 for explanations of these designations). Participants can try again when another peer review program is offered. Many inspectors repeat the process until they earn one of the designations.

All home inspector’s performance results are kept confidential. The results help participants determine their skills (and shortcomings) in a nonthreatening environment with no legal risk. Even a peer review that doesn’t conclude with a designation can be a “win” if the home inspector learns new information about where to focus attention on the job.

Vernon stated, “Participants who assume that having a peer review would be less challenging than it is sometimes are disappointed in their performance. This program can be humbling. I encourage inspectors to take a step back and realize what they have gained in education and experience, and I point out that it may be beneficial to review some topics before signing up for another peer review.”

Bunker said, “Gaining the designation Inspector by Review® or Master Inspector by Review™ is not the only reason to attend a peer review. In fact, the best reason to go though a peer review is to learn from other inspectors. Having this opportunity to learn on site is an invaluable asset to your personal and career growth, no matter how long you have been in the home inspection business.”

Vernon said, “Participants tell us that the peer review is a wonderful, challenging program. They also tell us that they learned something new and that they will sign up again. In fact, many members who have already earned the IBR or the MIBR designations return as participants again and again.”

GLC-ASHI recently introduced new group-related options that are designed to encourage people who are hesitant to do a one-on-one review to try a group peer review.

Want to be part of a peer review committee?
David Bunker got hooked on ASHI chapter committee work by becoming involved in the GLC-ASHI peer review program. He explained that the team members become good friends as they bond by preparing for the inspection day, discussing the inspection details and evaluating each participant’s report and background information.

What makes peer review committee work so special? Bunker listed three key elements: “The camaraderie that comes with bonding over a day’s work at the chosen site; the fact that every time I worked on a peer review team, I learned something new myself; and finally, the knowledge that what a home inspector learns during a peer review will often apply to how he or she handles issues that will come up on the job just about every day.”

Rick Vernon added, “There is never a shortage of volunteers for peer review committee positions. We encourage each participant to rate the program and suggest improvements. Personally, the peer review process energizes me every time I participate. I get excited to see the enthusiasm it generates from the committee members and the participants.”

Interested in having a peer review or becoming involved on a peer review committee?
Check your chapter’s educational listings or ask about it at the next meeting you attend.

ASHI Chapters with Peer Review Programs
Great Lakes Chapter (GLC-ASHI)
Greater Omaha Chapter
North Carolina ASHI
Northern Virginia (NOVA-ASHI)
Tri-State ASHI (Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware)
ASHI Western Washington Chapter
GLC-ASHI was instrumental in developing the Canadian
Association of Home and Property Inspectors’ TIPR program.

Great Lakes Chapter (GLC-ASHI) Offers Four Peer Review Designations
By Rick Vernon

GLC-ASHI recently introduced changes to their program that will allow even more people to benefit. The following four peer review designations offer options for all members who want to increase their education and recognition in home inspection.

Group Educational Review
3 ASHI continuing education credits provided for successful completion

This review is designed primarily for new inspectors who have conducted fewer than 50 inspections. Participants are guided through a home inspection by senior, experienced home inspectors (called Educational Mentors [EMs]) who emphasize the ASHI standard during the inspection. EMs take participants through all systems in the house either one on one or in small groups.

Benefits of the Group Educational Review:

  • plenty of opportunities for questions and answers
  • excellent learning tool for new inspectors
  • no time limit
  • interaction among participants is encouraged

Individual Educational Review (IER)
3 ASHI continuing education credits provided for successful completion

This review is designed to offer a transition between the Group Educational Review and the Inspector by Review® (IBR) designation. It is recommended that candidates have completed 50 to 100 inspections.

This review offers a practice IBR, in that candidates do the following:

  • individually inspect the house during the first hour
  • interact with other candidates during the second hour
  • review the house with an EM, finishing in a classroom setting with a photo review and discussion
Inspector by Review® (IBR®)
5 ASHI continuing education credits provided for successful completion

This review is for inspectors who have conducted at least 100 inspections and have had at least one year of experience in the field. (Note: There is no required minimum number of inspections or time as an inspector; however, these criteria are recommended as the minimum for attempting the IBR.)

The candidate inspects the house on his or her own and presents the results to the review committee members, all of whom hold an Inspector by Review® or Master Inspector by Review™ certificate and have inspected the house and agreed on the major defects or must-find items.

The IBR candidate must show competency by doing the following:

  • describe all of the must-find items
  • correctly answer 70% of 30 general-knowledge questions
  • demonstrate that he or she inspects and reports in substantial compliance with the ASHI Standard of Practice by presenting two recent home inspection reports to be reviewed by the committee

A “pass” earns the candidate a certificate of achievement and designation as an Inspector by Review.®

Master Inspector by Review™ (MIBR™) 5 ASHI continuing education credits provided for successful completion

This review follows the same procedure as the IBR,® but to earn the Master Inspector by Review™ designation and gold pin, the Master Inspector must meet these additional requirements:

  • ASHI membership for the previous five years
  • substantial contributions to the promotion of the industry and the chapter (for example, serving on committees, boards, as a chapter officer or in another capacity at the chapter or national level)

IMPORTANT NOTE: Because the designations of Inspector by Review® and Master Inspector by ReviewTM are registered or trademarked by GLC-ASHI, these designations cannot be used by any member or entity unless the person has successfully completed a program administered by GLC-ASHI or a similar program licensed by GLC-ASHI.