Requirements and qualification for different franchise home inspectors, or lack of them.

  I had a prospective client call me the other day regarding a home inspection in the Orillia, Midland, Muskoka, Dorset, Parry-Sound, Gravenhurst, Bracebridge, Bala, Port Carling,and Muskoka area I serve. Once again I discovered that even after many years of doing this type of work some questions can still take me by surprise. Her question to me was how was I better qualified than a local national franchise operator.

  Well I know I have about the 600 hours of home inspection specific education, and I know I have over 40 years in building construction and renovation, but, I was unable to answer because I had no idea what requirements a franchise operator had to meet for background and for home inspection specific  training to become a nationally accredited franchise home inspector. I decided after I got off the phone to find out. I was in for a shock.

    I began as so many of us do nowadays by beginning a web search. Typing a request into a search engine for   home inspection franchises I came up with several to choose from and so as to be fair I chose one from each of the first five pages to look at.  In no special order there was Lighthouse Home Inspections, Global Property Inspections™, Pillar to Post home inspection, A Buyer's Choice Home Inspections, and AmeriSpec of Canada. I went to the official home page for each and delved into the individual web site to see if I could find out how much home inspection specific training they offered and what, if any, outside training or experience they required for their home inspectors.

  On Lighthouse home inspections franchise page I find this statement. "Lighthouse is looking for business minded, focused and motivated people to join the team.  Though a background in the home industry is helpful, it is not mandatory." Wow, no experience, background or outside training necessary. Then I read on a little further to find “ Our field training includes several mock inspections and attendance at various homes, so you will be experienced from the moment you start your business."  Then further into the site I found this statement: "The Lighthouse Home inspection training course provides both in-class and extensive field training, including technical, customer service, sales, marketing and office management."

  It would seem that the franchise owners believe no experience, no outside training, and no background in building is necessary to conduct Home Cottage and Commercial inspections anywhere not just in Orillia, Muskoka, Dorset, Parry-Sound, Gravenhurst, Bracebridge, Bala, Port Carling, or Midland. It would also seem that they consider ”several mock inspections and attendance at various homes”  to be  “extensive field training”  Shocking, at least to me. I couldn’t believe that this attitude towards minimal training and experience would be shared among other franchise owners though so I went on with the search.

  The next franchise I looked at was GPI or Global Property Inspectors where I found this statement: “ Whether you have construction, marketing or sales experience, or you’re just looking for something new in a stable, growing industry, an GPI home inspection franchise is your best choice to benefit from your hard work and determination. ” Once again there was no mention of outside training or experience being necessary. GPI does say “After you’ve completed the Global Property Inspections Business and Inspection Training Academy, we will match you with an experienced professional in the field, giving you up to a week to use the knowledge you’ve learned at the academy while performing real property inspections with another franchise owner. You’ll get hands-on experience performing inspections in the real world. ” “ Complete training package with more than 100 hours of education”

  Once again Wow.. 100 hours of training with a week in the field as part of that. Since some of the sixty hours at the ‘training academy” are devoted to marketing and running a business, after all that is what a franchise offers, a proven business system the franchisee has to learn, that does not leave much time for training on home inspection for an inspector that may have no experience in the building or renovation field at all.

  On to the next franchisor Pillar to Post home inspection.  They do say on their website ” Initial training is split between classroom sessions, homework assignments and hands-on inspections of off-site houses”  But, they do not specify on how long those courses are or how involved they are. Once again no mention of background, experience, or other training is made. 

  There is though much mention of the fact they have marketing alliances with real estate and relocations professionals. They state that they are “Approved supplier status with major Realtors – Re/Max, Keller Williams, EXIT, Long & Foster and others” and that “ By reinforcing the local level relationships between our franchisees and the real estate and relocations professionals in their areas and by emphasizing Pillar To Post's credibility to home buyers and sellers, corporate alliances play an important role in our franchisees' success. ”   Now I did not say that, their Website does.

  Forming alliances with those types of businesses you have to wonder who the inspectors are working for. I cannot imagine a homeowner getting an impartial and unbiased home inspection given that the inspection service admits alliances with Realtors and relocators supply a large portion of the business. After all, the home buyer is only likely to use the service once while if the inspectors keep the Realtors happy they will make many recommendations for them. Frankly I find a total lack of credibility in these types of alliances.

  Hoping to find something a little more positive the next franchise I looked into was A Buyer's Choice Home Inspections. Here is what I found on their website:  They offer the prospective inspector "The boot camp". "This is an intensive interactive course at our head office. Your professional trainers will guide you through all technical subjects pertaining to inspecting, including customer service, field training, marketing, business law, operations, staffing, and all relevant business topics in order to successfully operate your business. It concludes with participation of actual customer inspections and a test inspection, followed by graduation ceremonies and a certificate of completion."

  While here too there is no mention of any experience or background in building or renovations required and most of the subjects seem to pertain to the business end rather than learning about the home and the systems within it, they do add, “you are then guided through our mentoring program which includes an ongoing weekly training call which continues for a minimum of 6 months.”

  In effect a person with no background, no experience in building or residential construction, after a short intensive course most of which involves how to run the business, and while receiving a once a week call with home office is now qualified to inspect your home. To me, this is scary.

  Oddly enough this franchise A Buyer's Choice Home Inspections, offers a “ master franchise” opportunity. Here you can buy the right to sell unit franchises and one master franchiser says “With the excellent support from the Head Office I have sold more franchises in the first six months than I gave myself three years to sell. There are a lot of people who want to become business owners. Head Office shows you how to sell them franchises. It has been that simple and straight forward for me." It would seem that selling franchises is the name of the game not conducting home inspections. 

  At this point I figured I had maybe just picked some poor examples It just does not sound like training and educating people to properly inspect and protect the home buyer is what is going on with these franchise operations.  I decided to take the franchise from the top of the list on the front page, surely the top ranked site / franchisor would be better.
Up came Amerspec a quite large franchisor in the US and Canada.  I found this information on the their website. “The AmeriSpec Academy is a two-week intensive training course. During week two, you will focus on marketing and managing your business. The week is segmented into the three critical core competencies needed to operate the business, AmeriSpec continually strives to understand how to market to both the real estate professional and the end customer. ”

  It would appear here too that one week is considered sufficient training and focus on structure and systems in the home to begin performing home inspections with the following week devoted to learning how to run the business.

  It seems to me that quite a few franchise operators are taking advantage of people who are out of work or looking to change careers. They are in the business of selling franchises. That the franchise owner may have no background in residential construction, no training other than a one or two week "intensive program" of 100 or so hours, and no inspection experience other than one or two practice sessions, concerns them not at all.

  A homebuyer depends on a through, educated, experienced, and unbiased home inspection report to make one of the most important decisions of their life. Can they realistically get that from a franchise inspector ? I would have to say not if the inspector only meets the requirements of the franchising company.

  I will admit there probably are many people with some background and experience in the home systems and structure buying into franchises for the business expertise they offer. There is also no reason that an inspector cannot continue his or her education, I know I do. However it is troubling to me that by buying into a franchise someone with little or no background and a one or two week training program can put up a recognized name brand letting people believe they are getting an unbiased, educated, and experienced home inspection. I now know better, and I know what to tell a client when they ask how I am better than a national franchise operator.