Reuben Saltzman

Drive-By Inspections

“Deal with it now or deal with it later.”  That’s a phrase I’ve heard my father, Neil Saltzman, say many times.

Here in the Twin Cities, there are two primary types of inspections that are done on houses: Buyers Inspections, which are extremely thorough inspections performed for a buyer, and Truth In Sale of Housing (TISH) evaluations, which are quick inspections required for the seller in fourteen of the larger cities in the metro area.  Here at Structure Tech, we do both.

When we perform TISH evaluations, we’re required to follow the guidelines published by the city that we’re inspecting in.  The guidelines are actually quite detailed books that state exactly how the TISH evaluations should be performed, and how different conditions on a home should be rated.   For example, here is an excerpt from the Exterior Foundation section in the Minneapolis TISH Guidelines:

76) Foundation

A) The evaluator shall determine if all visible components of the foundation are in a professional state of repair. Missing or damaged mortar, broken, loose or missing block or bricks shall be marked as B. Damaged or loose plaster/stucco on the foundation, or exposed foam insulation shall be marked as B. The evaluator shall also check the foundation walls conditions such as leaning, cracks, and buckling or bulging conditions, which may indicate structural failure. If these conditions exist, mark as SC.


One might think with all that detail, evaluations would be somewhat uniform between evaluators, right?

They’re not.

Drive-By Inspection Just as there are some home inspectors that will knowingly downplay problems with a house in order to not ‘kill a deal’, and thereby continue to receive referrals from a real estate agent, there are several TISH evaluators that do the same thing on TISH evaluations.  We call them ‘drive-by inspections.’

It’s one of the dirty secrets in my industry.

These evaluators receive referrals for doing a poor job.  Maybe it’s ignorance, maybe it’s incompetence, some say laziness, and it might even be dishonesty.  Whatever the reason,  it’s always the same small group of people that produce reports that completely ignore blatent problems.  These inspectors continue to stay in business because they charge less money and there is actually a market for drive-by inspections.

How could there be a market for drive-by inspections? Some think that a cleaner inspection report will make a house more marketable.  I suppose that if you compared two identical houses, the house with the ‘clean’ report would be more attractive than the house with the thorough report… but that’s not the end of the story.

Almost every buyer will hire a private inspector, and most home inspectors will uncover defects with the home.  What happens now?  As I mentioned in my blog Does The Seller Need To Fix This?, buyers will often ask sellers to make repairs, take money off the purchase price, or cancel the purchase.  Now the seller is stuck having to make hasty decisions on problems that could have been avoided had they hired a thorough inspector.

If a house has problems, the problems will need to be dealt with.  If you want to deal with problems at the last minute, go with the cheapest inspector and get a drive-by inspection.  If you prefer to deal with problems ahead of time, hire a thorough TISH Evaluator, or even better yet, have the TISH evaluator perform a Seller’s Inspection at the same time.  In other words, deal with it now or deal with it later.

Reuben Saltzman, Structure Tech Home Inspections – Email – Minneapolis TISH Evaluator

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No responses to “Drive-By Inspections”

  1. Michael Harrell
    February 24, 2010, 12:56 pm

    Reuben, thought you’d find this interesting, if not disturbing. This letter was submitted to and published in the March issue of Realtor Magazine:

    I’d like to respond to the letter from reader Mark J. Parker, who recommended that all sellers have their property inspected before it goes on the market (“Home Inspections Should Come First,” February 2010, page 6). I disagree. In practice, I’ve seen very few deals fall apart on inspection issues. Plus, in addition to the price of the inspection itself, it could end up costing sellers in other ways: Any defects found would have to be listed on the disclosure form or the sellers could be liable; a potentially long laundry list of inspection issues can drive away buyers; and if sellers choose to fix every item on the inspection list, it will cost them a lot of money—especially considering that buyers typically don’t require the complete list to be repaired. I prefer leaving the unknown alone. —Dave Duncan, ABR®, Realty Executives, Gladstone, Mo.

    I guess I can’t fault a listing agent for looking out for his client’s best interest, but as a Buyer’s Broker this reinforces how critical it is for buyers to have people in their corner, including their own inspector. Could you imagine an unrepresented buyer buying a home from this guy?

  2. Reuben Saltzman
    February 24, 2010, 6:22 pm

    Thanks for sharing this! This guy just publicly announced to the world that he would prefer to have defects with his clients houses swept under the rug or not discovered. Shame on him.

    Yes, this was a very disturbing letter, and it really just proves that there really are people like this – most of them just aren’t as open about it as this guy was. I’m glad buyers have people like you in their corner.

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