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Home inspections - the US way
Home inspections - the US way
I have recently received a bundle of documents from the Home Inspection Institute of America. The picture these paint of the house survey in the USA is of a two-tier process where an appraisal is equivalent to a mortgage valuation and where a home inspection seems to approximate to a building survey (or possibly a homebuyer report). The US Department of Housing and Urban Development recommends each and every homebuyer (who requires a mortgage) to have a home inspection. It seems that different US states regulate home inspections in different ways - some certify home inspectors and some do not; and some register inspectors and some do not. Generally the "home inspector" is someone with a trade background and he or she will have undergone an intensive training and assessment programme by someone like the Home Inspection Institute. The Institute also produces a standard report (this has recently been amended to take into account, among other things, that most US houses now have more than three bathrooms!) and they carry out regular reviews of inspector's reports to ensure that standards are being maintained.
The Institute has recently produced a document entitled "The standard of care for the home inspection profession", which makes interesting reading. The ethics section says that the inspector should not carry out any work on the property within at least one year of inspecting it, should not recommend a specific contractor to carry out work on the property, and should not provide an opinion of the market value of the home. The pre-inspection agreement is discussed and the document goes on to specify in considerable detail the components which should be inspected, before specifying 93 things that the inspector should not do. Included in these are climbing or walking on the roof, reporting on cosmetic items, and reporting on or determining the source or cause of odours. The length of the report at 35 pages is rather longer than our homebuyer survey but a reading of the standard of care document suggests that the level of inspection is rather less than we would expect of a full building survey.
Using computers to train and accredit surveyors
You do not need me to tell you that computers are rapidly changing our lives - the Internet for example is revolutionising shopping and there are signs that the estate agency function is likely to be under severe attack from this medium. Two of the papers in this issue consider the use that computers can have in first, training surveyors and second, accrediting them. Stephen Mika's paper presents ISIS, a computer-based audit of the competency of the surveyor - this is of course a very topical issue at the moment. Shelbourn et al.'s paper presents the results of research which is at a rather less developed stage but which in the long term aims to provide a medium by which students can be trained in survey techniques by using virtual reality. Two other papers have an environmental theme - Yip's paper considers what contribution the construction process can have in reducing air pollution in Hong Kong while Lowe and Bell's paper looks at some of the technical issues that need to be addressed if the Building Regulations are to help provide us with sustainable housing.