Some California home inspectors are failing consumers as well as a basic test. And yet, they get a pass from state regulators thanks to a surprising lack of standards and oversight.
Lindsay Pedroche knows firsthand.
She and her husband were eager to buy their Livermore home soon after they married.
“We were very excited,” she said.
It was their first house, and the four bedroom with tan paint and red trim was a dream house, until it rained.
Pedroche says the glass panes in three upstairs windows were loose.
“This one was pushed out at the top and then rain was coming in leaking all along the window and on the frame,” she explained.
Another was gaping.
“The glass was pushing completely out and you could put your hand outside,” she explained.
Pedroche was surprised to find an obvious flaw because before she bought the house, she hired a home inspector. His report gave the windows the highest rating: “acceptable condition.”
“It, basically, was $800 wasted,” she said of the report.
Lindsay asked the inspector to pay for repairs and refund his fee. He refused.
For recourse, Lindsay can post a negative review online or take the inspector to small claims court. But she can’t ask the state to step in because home inspectors aren’t licensed in California.
“It’s really the only unregulated part of your home buying experience,” said Assemblyman Matt Dababneh.
Dababneh has proposed new legislation to license home inspectors — much the same way most others who help you buy a house are licensed.
To list a few: your real estate agent, mortgage broker, attorney, title agent, appraiser, surveyor, insurance agent, and locksmith are all licensed. If there’s a dispute, you can challenge their license; if they’re required to hold a cash bond, you can seek reimbursement for violations.
None of that applies to home inspectors.
“There’s no professionalism and set of basic standards for what it means to be a home inspector,” Dababneh said.
We combed through Yelp! and found Bay Area Home inspectors with an average of 4.25 out of five stars.
Lindsay’s scored 4.5 stars. But Debabneh, who had his own one-star experience with a home inspector, says there are enough bad home inspections to set statewide standards for the people inspecting houses.
Dababneh decried the current lack of standards, education or credentials.
“You print out a form from the Internet and call it home inspection business,” end said.
Lindsay Pedroche ultimately paid $2,500 to replace the leaky windows. She then asked us to hold the inspector accountable.
He declined our requests for an interview. By text message, he said he has “no idea” if Lindsay’s window panes were loose. He said he looked at the windows, but touching the glass is “not standard operating procedure.” He told NBC Bay Area that he recommends that all of his clients double check his work with “a walkthrough of the house...to check the condition of the property.”
Lindsay disagrees. The way she sees it, she paid him to deliver a comprehensive report and he didn’t.
But the inspector isn’t budging. He’s keeping his fee.
“At a minimum, I would have like to have my money back for the inspection that he didn’t do properly,” Pedroche said.
Although they are not licensed, home inspectors have formed several professional associations.
Former general contractor Dave Pace, who has inspected Bay Area homes for 24 years, is part of the California Real Estate Inspection Association.
Pace expressed sympathy for Lindsay. However, he said CREIA doesn’t want the state to rush into regulation.
“We’re not opposed to licensing,” Pace said. “We’re just opposed to bad licensing. And any bad licensing that lowers the bar we would not be in favor of.”
But if anyone in California can call themselves a home inspector, isn’t the bar already pretty low?
Pace concedes it is.
“I am familiar with inspectors who were working at a grocery store on a Friday," Pace said. "Then on Monday, they’re out inspecting houses."
He also told NBC Bay Area that 50 percent of inspectors failed his group’s competency exam. And yet, the association just flexed political muscle and delayed the licensing plan to allow more study.
Dababneh, the assemblyman, is aiming for action next year. Lindsay believes state oversight is overdue.
Pedroche’s plea to Sacramento is clear.
“Require some sort of standard for all of these home inspectors to follow,” she said.
Pedroche regrets that she took her realtor’s recommendation for a home inspector.
It is important to remember that someone else’s endorsement is no replacement for asking tough questions yourself. Ask a prospective home inspector about their credentials and what happens if something goes wrong. Some carry insurance for errors and omissions, which might cover you for their mistakes.