A B.C. home inspectors association is raising concerns over one of their colleagues, who they say is pushing boundaries by offering inspections meant to benefit sellers over potential buyers.
The Home Inspectors Association of BC (HIABC) has filed a complaint with Consumer Protection BC against David Asselin, an inspector working in Metro Vancouver who offers “pre-listing home inspections” that he says can be used as an incentive in a sale.
While the pre-inspections themselves aren’t illegal, the association’s president says the way he’s marketing those inspections raises questions about his conduct.
“The buyer comes in and thinks he’s done this inspection fairly and honestly and accurately, but the reality is, his concern is selling the house,” Bob Hamm told Global News.
In videos posted to YouTube, Asselin promises to “overload” the pre-inspection report with positive items about the home, while moving anything that might be negative to the bottom of the report.
“When they get to the negative, it’s not so discouraging anymore,” Asselin says in one video that shows him presenting his service to a group of realtors.
What’s more, Asselin claims in that same video buyers will skip their own home inspection “75 per cent of the time” if they see a pre-inspection has been conducted.
That allows realtors to sell their properties faster, Asselin says. He further promotes his service by saying he doesn’t get paid until the home sells.
For Hamm, that pledge raises concerns that Asselin doesn’t have buyers’ best interests at heart.
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“He isn’t going to get paid unless it sells, so that raises the question: is he going to want to downplay serious issues to ensure he gets his money later?” Hamm asked.
In an interview, Asselin denied he’s “burying” any information, and that everything found in the home is listed in the report whether it’s positive or negative.
“It’s all over the place,” he said about the negative information, which he said often discourages buyers from making a purchase if it’s put at the top of a report.
“Buyers have really appreciated the fact that we don’t only report on the deficiencies, we report on all the positives as well,” he added.
Selling himself to buyers
Asselin also points out all his reports include a disclaimer that buyers should always hire their own home inspector.
But Hamm with the HIABC also points out Asselin promises to review the report with buyers at a reduced fee, treating the service as a separate inspection for the other side.
“The buyer isn’t getting a proper understanding through him doing that,” Hamm said, calling it an example of dual agency that should be outlawed among home inspectors.
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Dual agency is illegal in B.C. for real estate agents, who are barred from working for both the buyer and the seller in a single transaction.
No such rules exist under provincial law for home inspectors, but Hamm says inspectors have generally worked on behalf of the buyer.
Asselin has since said he will no longer offer his services to buyers when completing pre-inspection reports for sellers or realtors. He would not say whether that was his own decision or an order from Consumer Protection BC.
Support from realtors
Another YouTube video posted by Asselin shows him working with current Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver president Ashley Smith at a home that has already been pre-inspected.
“Anything we can do to get the buyer to make an offer with less hesitation is a good thing,” Smith says in the video. “It also allows us to know we’re not going to get any surprises after an accepted offer.”
She also speaks positively about the buyer hiring Asselin to review the pre-inspection report rather than conduct their own inspection.
“We love that,” she says.
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The video has since been deleted from Asselin’s YouTube page.
In an interview, Smith said she’s happy to see people get “creative” with their services as the real estate market in Vancouver continues to change, including anything that reduces lengthy renegotiating after a sale.
But she admitted the buyer may not agree with her assessment in the video that working with Asselin after he already did an inspection for the seller was a “good thing.”
“Fair enough, and in that particular circumstance, the buyer didn’t proceed with that purchase,” Smith said. “They were well aware that they could contract their own inspector, and opted not to.”
Smith also said in that interview that if she were representing the buyer in that circumstance, she would recommend her client conduct their own inspection.
“I would always urge buyers to do their due diligence and make sure they know all the information they can about a property,” she said.
More oversight needed
The HIABC does not oversee home inspectors in the province. That’s the responsibility of Consumer Protection BC, which requires home inspectors to be licenced and complete 50 hours of inspections with an approved trainer.
Inspectors are not required to become a member of the HIABC. Asselin himself is not a member of the organization.
In a statement, Consumer Protection BC said it is aware of the complaint and is investigating, adding they take the allegations seriously.
They wouldn’t say whether they asked Asselin to stop marketing himself to buyers as well as pointing to the ongoing investigation.
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“We often find that licensees may make inadvertent missteps related to law that can be easily and quickly corrected with education and awareness,” Consumer Protection BC said.
“However, our decision makers have the authority and expertise to choose the tool most appropriate for the situation to ultimately correct non-compliant behaviour.”
Hamm says Consumer Protection BC has been slow to confront ethical questions, and is hopeful his complaint will lead to better oversight — both from them and his own association.
“Our hands are tied, because if we try to discipline our members, they just go independent,” he said. “This guy isn’t even a member. So we need more power here.”