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Reuben Saltzman

Are walk-through consultations ethical? Yes.

Earlier this month I discussed the unfortunate trend of home buyers skipping the home inspection in order to make their offers more attractive in an incredibly competitive real estate market. In response to this trend, we’ve started offering walk-through consultations to home buyers as a stop-gap service to help people who are looking for an expert eye.

Opinions on these walk-through consultations are all over the board. Some home inspectors are adamant that they will never do these because they’re afraid that this waters down our core service too much. Some are afraid to step out of their lane. Some are afraid of this service cannibalizing their home inspection service. And some are afraid of potential liability associated with a new service that doesn’t have a clearly defined set of rules.

I’ve had several of these inspectors reach out to me to explain to me why they will never offer this service, and to them, I say “okay.” I’m not here to convince any other home inspector of what they ought to do or ought not to do.

On the other hand, many home inspectors have followed suit and started offering this service to their clients. I’ve seen numerous home inspectors offering a similar service, both here in the Twin Cities and at the national level. The way I see it, there is a need in the marketplace, and I’m happy to have my company step outside of our traditional service area to fill this need.

Ethics Questioned

There was an article published last week by Minnesota Realtors® titled “Walk & Talk Inspections: Are They Ethical?” It’s behind a membership wall and I don’t have permission to share that article, but I’d like to discuss some of the ethical concerns that I’ve heard people raise about walk-through consultations.

Nobody should be skipping the home inspection. Yep, you’re preaching to the choir. Of course, I completely agree.

Real estate agents who tell their buyers that a walk-through is a worthy replacement for a full home inspection are not protecting the client’s best interests. Yep. I couldn’t agree more. I sure hope no real estate agents are doing this, but this is a real concern that has been raised.

Walk-through consultations could lead to damaged properties. It depends. If a home inspector will be conducting an abbreviated home inspection under the guise of a showing, then yes. Properties could be damaged. But a true walk-through consultation is not a home inspection and looks nothing like a home inspection. There’s no walking of roofs, no testing of components, no removing of cover panels… nothing like that. At least there shouldn’t be. The only tool that we bring to these consultations is a flashlight.

Walk-through consultations are unfair, unethical, and sneaky. The concern here is that a home inspector shouldn’t be allowed into the home without the seller’s knowledge. Even if they’re only looking? Really? So what if I were buying a house for myself? Would I have to disclose to the home seller that I’m also a home inspector before I viewed any houses?

Never mind, don’t answer that. I think this goes back to the concern that someone is trying to sneak in an abbreviated home inspection during a showing. Which should never happen.

To err on the side of caution, from day one, we’ve asked the buyer’s agent to please notify the selling agent/homeowner that they will be bringing a home inspector to the showing. We included this language in our communication at the advice of some wise real estate agents that we work with, just to be on the safe side. In short, there is nothing inherently unfair, sneaky, or unethical about any of this. But I appreciate these concerns being raised because there ought to be some Standard Operating Procedures around these consultations.

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