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Realtors and others often ask me, "Why are you always harping on and on about cracks in brick veneer, and the questionable practices of the foundation repair business?" Listen, if you could see the unbelievable things I see each and every day in my structural engineering business, you'd understand why I get so riled up about it. I'm not exaggerating when I say I get AT LEAST a half dozen calls a week where I'm being called in to evaluate a problem that was found by a home inspector who stated to his client (homebuyer) that he was not qualified to evaluate or offer professional advice.

So, this leads me to this question: As a Realtor, how do you develop your list of home inspectors that you give to your homebuying clients? Have you ever asked your list of inspectors why they each feel qualified to inspect houses for a fee? What did they do for a living before becoming an inspector? What do they do to increase their knowledge and strive to become better each day? And whenever you hear them tell a buyer that they are not qualified to explain the causes of cracks in drywall, ceramic tile, concrete floor slabs, brick veneer, foundation walls, etc., over and over again, instead of removing them from your list do you sympathize with them and say: "Well, he's just trying to limit his liability"?

What liability are you talking about? Have you ever read the home inspector's contract that his clients must sign before the inspection begins? Do you know of any home inspector that does a fee-paid inspection who doesn't use one? All the contracts say the same thing: You (client) agree to hold me harmless, and accept that I am not responsible for anything I might miss, and that if I do miss something, the ultimate limit of my liability is the "fee" you paid for the inspection. If they miss an $ 80,000.00 needed repair, their financial liability is simply the fee paid for the inspection-a few hundred bucks.

Do you ever explain this to your home-buying clients? Perhaps you should? Perhaps you should further tell them that a home inspection is a good way to screen a home for major problems and unsafe conditions, but it is BY NO MEANS a guarantee or warranty that the house they are buying is free of major problems or unsafe conditions. Even though the inspector is likely to discover a wide variety of nit-picky problems and recommend their repair, these are by no means the only problems that exist!

Folks, I'm here to tell you that house construction is not Rocket Science! You do not have to be a rocket scientist to build or remodel houses, so you do not have to be a rocket scientist to inspect them. Houses are very simple structures. Hence, there is absolutely no excuse for a home inspector to recommend the further evaluation of such above-named cracks by some other professional, and/or refuse to express an opinion or provide an explanation as to their cause. The only reason I can think of as to why they might do this, is that they are not qualified to inspect houses or they have two or more inspections to complete that day and don't have the time needed to figure out the problem. Inspectors who book two or three or four inspections each day, can only allot a few hours per inspection. You may want to remove these guys from your list. They are obviously in it for the money.

If an inspector does explain the cause of the problem and feels that it needs further evaluation to determine if it needs a structural repair, then he should always recommend that an engineer be brought in to perform the necessary structural analysis. If the engineer determines a repair is needed, he can develop a repair plan, which can then be given to "several contractors" for competitive bidding.

But for a home inspector to simply walk away from explaining the causes of cracks and how they developed is downright criminal. Evaluating cracks is part of being a professional home inspector, because part of being a professional home inspector is having extensive knowledge of house construction and the types of problems that develop naturally due to Father Time or from improper construction. An inspector must be able to differentiate between ordinary, common insignificant problems/developments versus ones that are unusual/severe, and which may require expensive structural analysis and repair. That's why you hired them!

If you continue to allow these home inspectors to shirk their responsibilities, then at least ask the inspector to discount his fee to help pay for the so-called expert being brought in! Or, remove them from your list. Unless of course, you plan to call a foundation/structural repair contractor (which is what most home inspectors recommend) for their "free evaluation." But you know what this means---you get no explanation of the problem--only a recommendation and cost estimate for repair.

So, just like the home inspector, have you ever asked a foundation repair salesman why he feels qualified to evaluate structural problems with houses -- for free? I've looked over hundreds of foundation repair proposals and never have I read an explanation for why something is cracking or why something needs to be repaired! In rare cases, they might say something like the repair is needed to "stabilize" a floor or foundation. Otherwise, it's always just a cost estimate and proposal for repair-that they contend you asked for!

Why is this?

Well, it's because they are not qualified or capable of performing the necessary calculations or structural analysis to determine the severity or criticality of a problem. So, they just develop a repair to "counteract" the probable cause of the problem-such as floor sag or foundation settlement. This is what you get for your free evaluation - a repair proposal!

Folks, only an engineer can structurally analyze a joist or beam or footing or foundation and explain why something is unsafe and needs repair. Surely this is what needs to be established before you ask someone to fork over tens of thousands of dollars for a "suggested repair to simply counteract a problem" in order to salvage a real estate deal?!

Why don't you call JADE today? We won't give you the "run-around" nor will we recommend repairs without telling you the reason why repairs are needed.
Call 256-318-0982 or visit us at www.jadeengineering.biz.

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