Does your home inspector see you as a client or a commodity? That may depend on who you choose as your home inspector. There is a trend in the industry to commoditize home inspection clients.

Buying a home? Congratulations! That puts you in one of the world’s most sought-after consumer groups. After all, as a new home buyer, you are likely to be purchasing all manner of goods and services in the weeks and months after you sign that contract. Every company who wants to sell goods or services to homeowners wants to know who you are and how to contact you to sell their wares. Marketing data aggregators and list sellers want to oblige them by selling them your information as many times and for as much money as they can get. Their challenge is how to get your information as cheaply as possible and how to get past the “Do not call” register legal barrier. They need a trusted insider to get the data and secure permission for the hordes of salespeople to start calling you. Well, they have one – Your Home Inspector.

A growing and disturbing industry trend is for companies to enlist your home inspector to make your personal information and possibly details of the home you are buying available to them to exploit and sell directly or indirectly. They use your home inspector to secure permission to contact you, despite you being listed on the Do-Not-Call registry, through the home inspector’s contract with you. Your personal information and potentially details of your new home can be made available to anyone wanting to market goods and services to you or exploit data about you and your home from alarm monitoring companies, to your insurance carrier. Some home “service” brokering companies may share or sell your information to multiple bidders in the same category.

All it takes to turn a home inspection client into a commodity is a home inspector willing to trade you for a few freebies or kickbacks. Some of these freebies are dressed up to look like wonderful “free” service enhancements for you, the consumer, while some others enure only to the inspector in the form of free services, software, etc. These “free” service enhancements are typically dressed up by the data marketer to be plastered all over the home inspector’s website. These gimmicks are often presented as free appliance recall checking, free utility subscription services, free sewer backup guarantees, free short-term home warranties, etc. the list goes on. Some inspector websites hardly even mention the home inspection itself or the qualifications of the inspector amidst all of the promotion of “free” stuff that only costs you your privacy. One thing you can be sure of is that there’s a lot of money to be made through the offering of these “free” promotions. If these “free” things are important to you, that’s well and good, just be aware of what the real price is for these add-ons.

Data about consumers, mined through the cooperation of their home inspectors is so valuable and profitable that we are seeing national corporations buying up small, niche technology companies that originated as service providers to the home inspection industry in order to obtain direct access to the massive amounts of data collected by home inspectors and use it for data mining and sales to service marketing companies. Most of these inspection industry service providers have become cloud-based over the last few years, providing a readily accessible repository of terabytes of data for the new company owners and investors. This has recently occurred with some of the most widely used inspection client scheduling, inspection reporting, and home service companies. These national companies aren’t buying these small businesses for the revenue that they will generate by selling services to home inspectors, in fact, we’re starting to see them waiving fees to participating home inspection companies in exchange for data. They’re buying these small inspection service companies to gain access to the immensely valuable data about home buying consumers and sometimes the homes themselves.

What to look for in your home inspector. Most inspectors who engage in the practice are readily recognizable by their websites and any other form of advertising. They are generally dominated by all of the “FREE! FREE! FREE!” stuff that comes along when you hire them. You might find precious little on the website that actually relates to the home inspection service that you actually need, but you certainly will find the “free” stuff. The second, more subtle way to tell is by looking carefully at the service agreement that the inspector presents for you to sign. In order for you to have value as a marketing target (i.e., a saleable commodity) the data brokers must get your permission for marketers to contact you. They also must get past any confidentiality and disclosure standards imposed by some states. These will be embedded in the pre-inspection agreement that you will be required to sign. Read it carefully. Look for clauses that address payments from third parties/compensation by others; clauses that grant third-parties permission to contact you; clauses that grant third-parties permission to receive and use information about you and your inspection. These are all big red flags for consumers who want to exercise control over the dissemination of their personal information.

Fortunately for you, the consumer, you have a choice. Not all home inspection companies engage in the practice of peddling client data. There are still many companies who will not trade or sell your personal information, who believe that your personal information belongs to you and that when you entrust it to them, they have an obligation to respect your privacy. We believe that you have the right to be treated as a client and not a commodity.

Protect yourself. Make sure that you get what you are paying for when ordering a home inspection and make sure that you know what you are paying for what you get. “Free” is almost never really free. If the “free” tchotchkes are important to you and worth the price of your personal information, you have that option through other companies which offer this. If you value the quality of the inspection itself and your privacy over “free” baubles, you have that option available to you through us and other companies who respect your privacy. We do not participate in these schemes. You won’t find freebies plastered all over our website. If you want to trade your personal information for services of dubious value, we figure you can do that better yourself. We believe that when you entrust us with your personal information, you have the right to know with certainty, how your personal information will be treated.

At HomeCert, we strive to provide you with the best, most through, highest value home inspection available. Our mission is to provide you with the information that you need about your prospective home to make an informed purchase decision. We never strive to be the cheapest, fastest or have the most gimmicks and freebies. We don’t sell or trade your information and we do not receive payment or incentives from third parties. We market value, the actual return on your home inspection investment. Most of our Houston home inspections return savings that significantly exceed the cost of the inspection – that’s better than free! We are up-front about what our inspections will cost and how you will pay for the service. We have no secret, insidious deals to sell your data to subsidize our fees. Our reputation and the trust that our clients place in us are our most closely protected assets. We would never trade that for gimmicks and freebies.

We hope that you will be an informed and discerning consumer when you select your home inspection provider.