Why hiring an unlicensed person to perform a home inspection might be risky

I’ve had a few clients in the past who have wanted to save money on their home inspection fees by having their friend, usually a general contractor, perform a house inspection for them for a free or reduced cost. This is usually not a good idea, and here are the reasons why:

First of all, please note that it is Oregon law that anyone who inspects two or more systems in one property must be licensed as a home inspector. Therefore, Oregon law does not recognize “general contractors” as home inspectors. To be licensed as an actual Home Inspector, the person must have gone through specific training and be licensed as such.

Home inspectors have a checklist of items that they must cover in their home inspection report. They should spend at a minimum of several hours going over the entire property: physically going up on the roof to check the condition, going down into the crawlspace and checking out the entire area to check for water/pest intrusion and looking for cracks in the foundation, pulling off the electrical panel to check for overheating, etc., etc.

If you do find something on your “inspection” that you would like the seller to remedy, the seller is likely to request a copy of the inspection report. The current standard sale agreement* states that the seller is entitled to a copy of the inspection report should they ask for one. If you do not have an actual inspection report to refer to, this will not hold much weight with the seller, and they aren’t likely to be inclined to do anything about the problem.

In addition, the current sale agreement* states that you may withdraw your offer based on a professional inspection report, but note the word “professional” in the sentence: since Oregon law does not recognize anyone who is not a licensed home inspector a “professional” it is possible that you may not have a contractual right to withdraw your offer. When I proposed this question to my Principal Broker (my supervisor) they got in touch with PMAR‘s (our local Realtor association) top legal counsel, and he had agreed – the home inspector must be licensed with the CCB in order for the buyer to withdraw their offer based on the home inspection report. This is still a question of law, and if you find yourself in this situation you’ll need to contact an attorney for advice on how to proceed.

In addition, I am concerned that if something is overlooked on your inspection, I worry that there will be no recourse against the person that you hired as an inspector. Licensed home inspectors are held accountable if mistakes are made, but if the person is not licensed as such, I am not sure you would have any recourse.

However, please note that home inspectors come in all different shapes and sizes and therefore their costs can vary considerably, but you get what you pay for. Stay tuned for an additional post regarding the differences in home inspectors.

*I am referring to the current OREF form in Oregon, which is subject to change.

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