A new report released by the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) ranks the best and worst states for home inspections according to the society's criteria.
"It's ASHI's overall views of regulations of home inspectors in the states," says Bob Kociolek, director of chapter relations and state affairs for ASHI.
Before 1985 there were no state regulations for home inspectors or home inspections today that's changed. It started with Texas enacting the first Professional Practice Act. Today, 32 states have adopted some form of regulation for the home inspection industry. But, according to the report, it may not be enough.
"We have a grading system and it's based upon what we consider to be key criteria to both guarantee public safety -- in other words, the interest of the home-buying public -- and to advance the professionalism of the home inspector profession," says Kociolek.
States receive points according to the weight or importance ASHI places on different regulation standards and are evaluated against 13 criteria, including experience, education, testing requirements, standards of practice, and codes of ethics. ASHI believes there must be an entry exam.
"It's a high-stakes exam. High stakes meaning that it determines whether someone can enter a profession and it's designed to measure minimal competency in a profession. We consider it a must-have in any regulation for home inspectors. The public has to be guaranteed that anyone the state esteemed as licensed or certified at least meets a minimum criterion of knowledge about home inspection and some experience -- can basically do a home inspection," explains Kociolek.
The top five best states for home inspections, according to the report are: 1. Louisiana; 2. New Jersey; 3. Arizona; 4. Texas; and 5. Massachusetts. Complete details of the findings, state scores, as well as the grading criteria can be found in ASHI's official Position Statement on Regulation of Home Inspectors at ashi.org
"They all have good exams that measure minimal competency. They have typically good educational requirements -- both pre-licensing education and continuing education. They all have good standards of practice -- meaning a set of things that need to be inspected and those that won't be inspected are spelled out clearly to both the inspector and the homebuyer -- and they typically have a good code of ethics or prohibited acts," says Kociolek.
He says a solid code of ethics and prohibited acts is important because it guarantees the independence and integrity of the home inspector as well as guaranteeing that the home inspector works for the homebuyer only. It also confirms that the inspector is not attempting to try to sell repair services.
"It also offers remedies in case home inspectors cross the line in some way or commit a prohibited act," says Kociolek.
But having a code of ethics and prohibited acts is not enough; states also have to have some teeth in their regulations.
"It's important that these laws be enforceable too," says Kociolek.
Some states that in previous years ranked higher on ASHI's list have dropped because of a lack of accountability.
"Pennsylvania has a law which has a lot of good verbiage in it, but there's basically no state authority that will come in and discipline a home inspector who violates the mandates of the law," says Kociolek.
The five worst states for home inspection according to ASHI are: 27. Pennsylvania; 28. South Carolina; 29. Montana; 30. North Dakota; 31. Georgia; and 32. California.
California has been ranked dead-last for two years. ASHI says it's because several of its provisions, including its "prohibited acts" provision, which outlines an inspector's code of ethics, cannot be enforced.
While new laws are constantly being added to the books for various regulating states, there are still some 18 states that have no home inspector regulations. They are: Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Utah, Vermont, Washington and Wyoming.
"Most of them have had bills that were introduced in the last number of years that have failed for one reason or another," says Kociolek. But he adds, "The trend is pretty clear towards regulation so we expect it to continue."
ASHI's 2007 position statement encourages states to authorize a "sunrise" review by a neutral public agency to determine the need, costs, benefits, and alternatives to the proposed regulations prior to adoption. And ASHI is again this year urging lawmakers to evaluate whether laws as drafted are enforceable.
"Consumers should be very careful when they hire a home inspector," says Kociolek. He recommends looking at credentials, getting references, and going to organizations such as ASHI to see who is a member.