Mr. Jim Farmer of Oxnard, California has been in the inspection business for over 30 years, since 1976, and has held every position on the Board of Directors of CREIA.  Well known as an expert Witness, he shares his inspection philosophy and thoughts on the industry.

Note: Since the time of this interview below, we sadly report that our esteemed colleague Jim Farmer passed away on May 19, 2010.  He was 74.  Read More

Mr. Farmer currently belongs to the ASHI and CREIA trade associations, and has held every position on the Board of Directors of CREIA. Mr. Farmer said, “When you are a board member, if you are doing your job right, you get to see how different things affect the industry, and how those same things will affect you personally. You come to realize where the industry is heading, and who is trying to manipulate the industry, such as realtors.”

Mr. Farmer says that “these manipulations usually create a negative influence. Home inspectors already have standards in place from organizations such as ASHI and CREIA, and many states that have licensing already use these standards.”

“The manipulation of the industry that takes place does not help us protect the industry and the Client. Everyone involved in the sales process is there to make sure that the transaction closes. Inspectors are the Client (buyer’s) advocate. The Inspector has to be truthful and honest, and whether the client decides to buy or walk away has no bearing on his report.”

Regarding advertising your inspection business, Mr. Farmer says, “The unfortunate part of looking at advertising to the consumer is that you can’t afford much advertisement. You get referrals from REALTOR©, and many inspectors want to please the REALTOR©, so that they continue to get the referrals. Some of them do this, but not all of them. You can really only advertise to the REALTOR©. They’re the ones who refer us to the consumer

“Many inspectors tend to call a defect, and then write a justification for it, that doesn’t prove to be correct. Sometimes this hurts the ability of the client to make an informed decision. For instance, an inspector might state that there are cracks in the foundation, but he didn’t see any movement in the structure…”

“By doing this, they create liability for themselves, and possibly for the REALTOR©, as a negligent referral.

“A good computer program, such as 3D, will help tremendously in better spelling out the conditions of the property, and be more informative than check-off style reports. When you read check-off reports, they don’t really tell you anything.

“Any good inspection software should help decrease your liability. It’s so easy just to reach into your library of comments, and choose something that is informative.” Mr. Farmer provided an example related to heating ducts. He said, “We might have some rigid fiberglass heating ducts. There is nothing wrong with them, but the American Medical Association says they may be a health risk, because you have moisture and dust in them where diseases can breed and grow. This type of statement lets them know that they should do some type of further investigation and/or remediation on this. If you use software, you could use comments that were right there, ready to go, that you might otherwise forget.”


When asked to share with us some of his home inspection philosophies, Mr. Farmer said, “When you are on an inspection and you say “Should I report that?”--  it’s a must! If there is a question in your mind, you need to spell it out and explain why you have concerns.

“In California, we have disclosure laws. If you question whether you should, and you don’t, it will come back to bite you. This should apply anywhere, whether or not you have the disclosure laws. First and foremost are safety issues, no matter what side of the state line you are on. You are not a code inspector, but the codes that are becoming standard in the ICC are the minimum standard for building a home. You need to know them, and judge the construction by these minimum requirements.

“If you have done an inspection in the past, and you are still within the statute of limitations, and you are now doing a re-inspection, you should not be afraid to report additional findings. We aren’t perfect, so we have to do the best job we can… Things out there may not have been as bad in the past as what you are finding now, but you have to take things into account, and report what you see.”

We asked Mr. Farmer, “What’s your opinion on errors and omissions insurance?”

“Even though it’s a target on your back, I have to have it. Every inspector should have it.”, he replied. “It’s a must in the industry. People believe that an inspector must have E&O insurance. However, it’s better to be a good inspector, than a bad one with E&O insurance. Insurance companies don’t just roll over and pay out. Most times they force you to go into litigation to pay. A lot of times we are in a position where there is 30 days between when we inspect, and the person moves in. You would be surprised what can happen in 30 days. A dishwasher might work today, and tonight it could leak, just as a car could start today, and might not start tomorrow. We all know of a bumper sticker that says S_ _T happens’. People sometimes take their old dishwasher and swap it with the one that was there when you inspected. It’s amazing how many light bulbs blow when I flip the switch.”

Mr. Farmer tells us of a gentleman named Jeff Lunt who had a book that explains the above situation...  “Between the time of buying a home and the new people moving in, the house goes through a nervous breakdown.”

“I had an experience of a nice young English lady that bought a house, and the flapper valves in the toilet wouldn’t work. It was an old toilet with a Colton Flapper that has a little water tray on the end, and the valves worked under normal operation. She would go up to the toilet, and hit it, and the Colton flapper would not have time to fill the water tray and the waste wouldn’t flush. He had to have a plumber come in, and replace the Flapper valves with a much cheaper flapper for her.

“People slam doors, and door handles come off in their hands. With fireplaces, some people never used them. Some use it all winter long, and there can be problems if the clearances aren’t right. It depends on people’s usage patterns.

“One of my major inspection philosophies is that, hopefully, the one I did today, will be better than the one I did yesterday, and the one I do tomorrow  will be better than the one that I did today..

“I inspect every property as if I was going to buy it. I look at it like, ‘Does it satisfy me first?”’ I can be pretty fussy.

“My hobby is the inspection business. I love to know the Court appellate decisions affecting our industry. You have to love education, and continue to learn.”

“CREIA the largest State Association and it’s Standards and Code of Ethics are recognized in California along with ASHI’s Standards and Code of Ethics, and ASHI is the oldest nationally recognized Association.”  Both CREIA and ASHI have legally defensible Psychometrically Valid Test.  Mr. Farmer said when asked about inspection associations. “There are approximately 26 states that have some form of statutes that refer to ASHI standards.

“In the state of California, we have instructions that say, ’In a court case, a judge may use the standards of practice of CREIA and ASHI, or any other nationally recognized organization. To date, only CREIA and ASHI are accepted, and not challenged by courts, and are used to demonstrate reasonable care in the state of California. In several states that have licensing, ASHI standards are mandated as the state standards to license home inspectors.”

Mr. Farmer shared his opinion on getting into the home inspection business as of March 2007:

“In California, the inspection business is down, because real estate sales are down. This is just a correction. 90-95 was one of our worst corrections. We have increased a lot in the number of inspectors since that time. It’s more difficult to come in now, because there are fewer jobs. Don’t give up your day job yet, but as the population grows people have to have a place to live. The volume of home sales and inspectors will increase. Now is the time to learn and get your feet wet. You can do some inspections, so you have experience. Inspectors often say, ’What the hell am I supposed to do?’ when they go out on their first inspection. People take 10 years just to figure out how to use their microwave.

“When talking to your clients, at the end of the report you should engage your brain before opening your mouth. Think of what you are saying to people. You have dishwashers called ‘builders models’. They are cheap. But if you say ‘You have a cheap dishwasher’, it’s not the best way to speak to your client. You should say ‘You have an economy model’. You can’t say things like ‘This house is in the slums’. It’s better in the long-term for them to purchase than to continue to rent.

“You may go out and you have a bad shingle roof. You don’t say ‘Your roof is shot’. They think, ‘I don’t have $10,000 to fix the roof!’ You have to tell them that the roof is at the end of its life, and that they need to repair or replace it. You can let them know that they may be wasting their money on a repair, but it may give them another year or two before they have to come up with the money to replace it.

“The final question, which every inspector should not answer, is ‘Would you buy this property?’ You might say, ‘I don’t know the price of the home, and I don’t know your finances. I’m here to tell you the condition of the property, and that’s it.’

“I don’t care whether the deal goes through or not, but I don’t want to be an alarmist. I want them to make the decision as to whether or not to continue.

“I have also had people blame me for the deal not going through.  People want to look around for someone they can blame the decision on.

“In court, we hear this quite frequently. ‘The inspector said I should have a specialist make a further evaluation’ They neglect to add “before the transfer of sale of this property or before the close of Escrow” these are very important words. He didn’t make it sound important enough to do it immediately.  People don’t buy using their mental capacity. They buy using their emotions. Even if you tell them something is wrong, they argue with you. People are looking for you to let them know that they would make a wise decision by buying this house. I don’t like to discourage people, especially if they are renters, but I’m not their financial advisor either.”

When asked his opinion on how a client can find a qualified inspector, Mr. Farmer suggested, “Look for a CREIA or ASHI inspector. Talk to the inspector. Find out what their education and experience is. The last question a client should ask an inspector should be, ‘how much does it cost?’ But that is usually the first question. The sweetness of low price doesn’t last as long as the bitterness of poor quality. That applies to finding an inspector.

“If people just want the lowest price, and they say, ‘I have someone that’s $100 less’, my comment is, ‘Well, they know what they’re worth.’ If you have spent time and money on education, you have an investment in yourself that you need to recoup.

“Several years ago a survey was done of inspectors, to find out how much it costs to do business. When you  walk out the door and turn the key in your ignition, you have already spent $125.  One cost is E&O Insurance and then deductibles are $1,000 - $5,000 dollars before they will pay a dime. It depends on how much you want to pay up front.

“A lot of people coming into this business are thinking, ‘Wow! I can make $200 for a few hours work!” But there are overhead expenses: your vehicles, insurance, and phone bill. You don’t end up making as much as you think you would.”

Jim Farmer
Jim Farmer Legal Support and Professional Witness
Oxnard, CA