This is a guest post by Preston Guyton, Managing Partner at CRG Companies, Inc.
Tedious onsite home inspections -- involving several hours of investigation and analysis, ladder-climbing, bending, stretching and poking around in basements, attics and mechanical rooms -- are being transformed by technology. And the results are transforming the business.
Not only has the legwork become faster and more efficient, but modern reporting is now more complete and more standardized, thanks to technology.
Just as the broad field of real estate benefits from standardized listing forms and contracts, available software makes the business of home inspection more comprehensive and less subject to individual expertise. Because the goal of a pre-purchase home inspection is to identify potential problem areas, a format with specific guidelines provides a kind of "road map" for assessment. It has great potential to offer a broader view of property condition.
Logistically, inspectors now have the ability to carry a single tablet rather than a satchel full of notes, forms, clipboard, camera, flashlight, measuring tape and other tools. While some of those other tools are still needed, technology has streamlined the inspection process. It is theoretically possible to compile, certify, save and transmit written reports almost instantaneously; the time savings alone is an enormous advantage.
Whether or not reports to the buyer, homeowner and real estate agent are generated automatically, the task of writing the report is faster and more efficient compared to the "old days." With digital notes and backup photos stored in one place, the report may be generated easily by the actual inspector, or raw information can easily be plugged into a standardized format in an office setting. Available software caters to varied preferences, and can help buyers and inspectors alike.
Although experienced home inspectors have an uncanny ability to detect potential home problems, technology offers a "step up," when it's most needed. It's difficult to "see" mold and mildew behind walls, to detect a leaky pipe before there's any evidence of water, to know when an air duct is blocked. But thermal imaging cameras, remote temperature sensors, wireless humidity gauges, air-flow monitors and a host of other gadgets and devices help a home inspector find the hidden secrets of your home.
Combined with air quality assessments and inspections by other experts for such things as radon or termites, today's home buyer is able to put aside many pre-purchase qualms.
While they may not currently be buzzing over the roofs and under the eaves of most homes on the market, some tech-savvy home inspectors point to the potential of drone inspections as the wave of the future. Ask any inspector: Climbing up that ladder to look at the shingles is not usually a favorite part of the job. Small drones equipped with cameras, in the hands of a trained operator, can survey a roof surface quickly and without risk to either the roof or the inspector. A filmed visual record is an added advantage.
Real estate buying and selling is not apt to become exact science any time in the near future. There will always be an emotional element involved. But emerging technology that makes decision-making easier is worth embracing. Most home inspectors are doing just that.
At present, there is no indication that homes of the future will be inspected by robot, or that home inspection technology is waiting in the wings that might assess a home's condition by attaching the structure to a monitor of some kind.
In 30 years, the realm of home inspectors has changed dramatically. But, at its heart, it is still a personalized service performed by an individual, even though new technology makes it easier.