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Hiring a Flooring Inspector; What NOT to do?

Most homeowners do not realize there is a profession like flooring inspectors…until they have issues with their floor and someone needs to be brought in to assess and determine the cause of a failure and which party is responsible. Sadly, some flooring manufacturers make the same mistake homeowners do and let price decide which decision they make when hiring an inspector. Most of those manufacturers are not my preferred client for the same reason; if cheaper price is that important, then I am unlikely to be the inspector they hire.

As the Aamco commercial stated for years: You can pay me now or pay me later. In the end, I get paid later and price my services accordingly when someone needs me. I have went behind two, even three inspectors and when my report proved the cause and who was responsible, it cost someone a LOT more money and likely replacing a floor and possibly tens of thousands in legal fees. In one case being the 4th inspector called, a manufacturer ended up paying my invoice AND replacing a floor and three other inspector invoices. Over a few hundred dollar mistake, it cost them several thousands of dollars, a new replacement floor, and lost credibility with the homeowner and retailer.

Like many professions, there are a variety of choices when it comes time to hire a professional. I like to remind people when inquiring about hiring a floor inspector to think of Barney Fife. Andy gave him ONE bullet and if he misfired (which he usually did), he had no more bullets in his gun. To help a homeowner make an informed choice, I decided to create a what to look for and what NOT to look for guide.

When you buy a house or a car or any large purchase, obviously you have a budget to stay within. But do you go to a car lot and ask the sales person how much? No, you decide which branch of car you prefer. You may have more than one brand of vehicle you like. Some may want a truck, some an SUV, some a sedan, some a sportier vehicle, some want brands that have proven to be less problematic and drive longer than other brands.

You may want something more fuel efficient or something designed for longer trips and cargo space and comfort are more important. You may want something that will pull you camper, boat, or other recreational items. Regardless, long before you get to price, you have made several choices of what is important before you pare the list down and THEN focus on price.

With floor inspections, if a consumer comes right out asking me how much, I have to ask for more information in order to give them a price. If price is the only or main thing they are focused on, more than likely, I am not the inspector they are looking for. For me, they may not be the client I want to work with. In the several states I work in, there are FEW inspectors who can match my resume. I maintain more than 36 national certifications with multiple credentials for each floor covering. I have certifications more than 75% of other inspectors in my areas I cover can’t or will not be able to get. Not because I like to spend money on certifications; I know some schools and instructors are better than others or may be more qualified to provide better training than others.

More than once after nearing 15,000 inspections, I learned that if price becomes a main focus for a client, I am unlikely to accept an engagement. Not because they are not worth my time, but because if price is that critical, I am may not be within their budget and I am fine with that. Most of us have limited income; if some inspectors are willing to work for less, they may be better suited for that client. I do not and will not price match another inspector. If they can’t match my credentials, why would I even consider trying to price match them?

More than 75% of flooring inspectors do not carry insurance. Many of them live job to job and have little to lose if they are sued. Not that a homeowner or other involved party will ever need to sue them, but if they don’t buy insurance, maintain a professional website, maintain multiple credentials like a TRUE professional does should tell you a lot about that inspector. Look at one of their reports; you will find you will get what you paid for. More than once I have seen a judge dismiss a report as evidence due to lack of credibility or substance.

Mercedes, BMW, Lexus or other premium brand cars realize everyone can’t be their customer. They tried to lower quality to gain market share and most found it hurt their quality and brand and they stopped trying to be the car for everyone. I am the same; if you have a limited budget, you have to find the inspector you can afford and hope they can provide you what you need.

More than likely, a top tier highly certified inspector like me is not going to discount their brand or reputation to try to be the inspector for every client. I take on fewer clients, but work at a higher level so I can give each and every client the best service available. If you need a cheaper inspector, I totally understand and realize I may not be the option for you. I also know from past experience in several businesses than any time I did try to lower my price to suit a client, I worked three times or more harder for that money than if I had just maintained my price and lost a potential client. For me now, it is nothing personal; it is just a simple business decision.

If you call me and one of the first things you focus on is price, understand price comes further down the list of importance when making a choice involving the most expensive purchase most people make (their home). If you allow me to get more information, I will do everything I can to provide you a fair price for the service I offer. If it is not within you budget, that is understandable. If price is that important, you may find it may cost you a LOT more by making the wrong choice.
If you have to hire another inspector because the cheaper one failed to deliver, it may come back to haunt you if you move to legal action. Any competent attorney will bring that out and show a judge or arbitrator you were “shopping” rather than making the right choice the first time. Like Barney, if you misfired your one bullet, judge, mediator or arbitrator will see right through this. You may have saved a few hundred dollars hiring someone less qualified for a lower price. It may cost you MUCH more if they fail to deliver.

The choice is yours; it is YOUR money and YOUR house. Letting price be your main focus may come back to bite you. I can afford to lose clients when price is that important. I am like the luxury car maker: I know who my client is and I refuse to compromise quality to gain clients. I will not discount my time or my report over price. Luxury car makers tried to discount quality to gain customers; they found out it did not work well. You get what you pay for; cheaper anything is cheaper for a reason. Is it worth risking your most valuable investment to get a cheaper price? The wrong choice may cost you FAR more.

To ease your mind, there are manufacturers I stopped working with over similar reasons. I refuse to discount my time and price or take their side just because they may be writing the check. My reputation is not for sale at any price; there are times I don’t work with manufacturers who expect me to compromise the value of my time.
What NOT to focus on: price, price, price. If I need a doctor for a serious procedure or an attorney for a legal representation, shopping for the cheaper one is usually not on my personal list. I want the right person for the job and lower price is not going to be something I expect. Hire a cheap contractor and find out why they are cheap. Their work often reflects their price. They use cheaper materials and cut corners to get a cheaper price.
DO NOT ask me to refer another inspector. Not because I dislike other inspectors. I will not refer someone I would not want to personally use to inspect my own floors so I am not going to refer them to someone else. I also know other inspectors at my level are going to be comparable on price because we invest too much into our business to lower price to get work.

If you live in another state and there is a peer I would trust who could do an inspection of that level for less, I may be more apt to refer them at times. I may even refer a homeowner to go to a school, industry or other web page and instruct them to interview two or three until they find one they are comfortable working with. There are some good inspectors out there. There are some I would not have inspect my dog house or storage shed. Some may be decent inspectors, but their professionalism may be in question. I will not refer them to anyone as I do not want to be associated with them for professional and person reasons. Sadly, like other professions, there are those who give our industry a “black eye” and I want nothing to do with them.

What TO FOCUS on:

Certifications: how many, which schools, are they specific to that floor covering. Not all schools are the same.

How long have they been in business: all of us have to start some place. But a good inspector will continue to invest in themselves and training is one area they will make an investment. Buying the best tools for the trade is another area a GOOD inspector will not cut corners. Like a mechanic or trades person; our tools are how we earn our living and not an area a true professional will cut corners on. I upgrade my meters every few years for a reason; they make ongoing improvements and I want the state of the art tools for my profession.

How do they run their business: Do they have a professional website? Do they carry proper insurance? Do they educate you before they try to sell their services? If they sell their services before they educate a client, watch out.

Are they professional in dialogue? Disparaging another inspector or using profanity or unseemly words says a lot about their professionalism. Taking down to a prospective client is unacceptable. There is a difference between stupid and ignorance. ALL of us are ignorant in some areas, but we are not stupid. Ignorance means it is an area we are less informed or not trained in. Doctors and other professionals are highly intelligent in their areas of expertise; judges are too.

Most homeowners are not trained in flooring or may have been misinformed by an unethical or possibly misinformed sales person, but does not imply they are stupid. If an inspector talks down to you, likely they are not the right person you should work with. As my friend and financial mentor Dave Ramsey says, if they do not have the heart of a teacher first, then proceed with caution. Education/explanation should come before selling.
How many inspections have they performed? That number may not be critical; cheaper inspectors have to do more inspections to make a living. Luxury car makers or custom home builders can do fewer jobs and earn as much or more money that discounted competitors. Quality comes with a price.

Since inspection reports are confidential, it is unlikely they can send you someone else’s inspection report without violating industry ethics rules or even offer references from previous clients. On my website, there are dozens of references from past clients posted with consent. My clients are my best sales people; they did not make that until AFTER hiring me, paying me, and getting the professional level of service and report I deliver.

If an inspector puts all of their eggs (credentials) in one basket (school), beware. Schools change over time and some changes are not for the better, They change instructors and some instructors are not as highly qualified or regarded as others. A TRUE professional inspector will not cut corners on training and education.

What about ongoing training? Medical professionals, engineers, attorneys, accountants or other trades invest in ongoing training. Things change constantly and to stay on top of their profession, ongoing education should be something any highly competent professional should maintain.

Some inspectors may go to a training event every other year where inspectors like me take training monthly. With webinars, it is easier and less costly to stay on top of industry changes and still maintain my business. Do you want a doctor who does not stay on top of medical changes? How about an accountant who is not on top of tax law changes? Or a contractor not on top of building code changes? Flooring is constantly changing with technology and an inspector not on top of the changes will often make uninformed and incorrect assessments.

In closing, I understand I can’t be the floor inspector for everyone and if price is a deciding factor, I am fine with that. Each client has to make the best decision based on their needs and budget. I have a business to run and have limited time. I have no interest to work 10, 15, or 20 inspections a week to earn a living. I am getting too old to work that much and still have a balanced family life. I have to draw a line and put a price on my time.