Choose your Home Inspector Wisely
With the consumer protection provisions of the new Property Practitioners Act now very much in the thoughts of South African estate agents and home buyers, more people are embracing the concept of an independent home inspection as a critical part of the property transaction process.
The problem is: How do you choose a home inspector with new home inspection businesses popping up like mushrooms, now that we are moving into the same consumer protected environment as already applies in many parts of the world – where home inspections have long been the norm?
John Graham, president of the National Association of Building Inspectors of SA (NABISA) has this advice:
Choose a home inspector who has been trained to reduce homeowner risk by being able to recognise building defects and non-compliance in the light of South African-specific building regulations and national building standards.
Graham says: “Critical areas where non-compliance with South African codes pose big risks to South African homeowners are: Roofs, hot water geysers, evaluation of cracks and damp in foundations and walls, unapproved plans and illegal structures, swimming pools and electrical, gas and electric fence installations”.
Graham adds: “Non-compliance with South African building standards poses massive financial and safety risk to homeowners who could face expensive and unforeseen repairs after buying a home.
“Not to mention the risks of personal injury and even death caused by moving into a substandard home. There is also the risk of homeowners being sued by people who were injured while visiting their property. There is also the shock of a homeowner suffering storm or fire damage to their home and then having their insurance claim being rejected because the building or installation did not conform to South African standards.”
Graham explains that NABISA is an association of building and home inspectors who have been trained in accordance with South African standards and building norms.
“NABISA supports any training for South African home and building inspectors which takes into account the curriculum of the national building inspection qualification (BIQ). The BIQ was commissioned by the QCTO (Quality Council for Trades and Occupations) and developed over a number of years by a task team drawn from the local banks, the NHBRC, the SABS (through the National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications), the local municipalities, home inspection companies and SAHITA.
“SAHITA now provides recognised training in the approved BIQ curriculum and will soon also be offering SAHITA graduates with South African-specific inspection software to enable them to provide their clients with better and more accurate inspection reports.
“Instead of paying for in-depth South African training, many new home inspectors in South Africa have opted for the free, basic training provided by the American organisation, InterNACHI”, says Graham. “The problem is that InterNACHI focusses on American building methods and building codes which are mostly very different to what applies in South Africa.”
Graham says the InterNACHI training has high credibility within the USA, but InterNACHI has only limited practical relevance for South African inspectors.
Much worse, says Graham, are the fly-by-night home inspection training and franchising businesses which have begun appearing in South Africa. “People are in danger of being conned into thinking that home inspection is a quick and lucrative business which does not require in-depth knowledge and training. That’s not the case. A home inspector needs to have a good understanding of all aspects of the South African built environment – including building law and standards, building methods and also a working knowledge of all the many parts and items installed in a South African home.
“There are no shortcuts to becoming a competent South African building inspector”.
In addition all NABISA members must subscribe to a Code of Conduct which prevents inspectors from doing remedial work on properties which they have recently inspected.
“NABISA believes that, to insure that inspection reports are honest and impartial, there must be a separation between the inspector and whoever is later appointed to fix the house – as a result of the inspection.” Graham says this is particularly important in a South African context where a culture of corruption is prevalent.
It is interesting that one of South Africa’s biggest banks now requires that home inspectors appointed by the bank to do inspections for its clients must be NABISA members and/or SAHITA certified.