Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

How we use Horizon at Carson Dunlop - The Scheduler and the Daily Map

Friday, March 20th, 2009

Lots of people ask me, “How does Carson Dunlop use Horizon?” The answer is long because we use it many ways, and because we built it to meet our needs. We improve it regularly based on input from our customers, including our people who use Horizon every day.

 

In the office

Let me start with some of the ways we use Horizon in the office. We use 3 separate Horizon companies to manage our two home inspection businesses and our energy auditing business. Our people who book our appointments have 3 Horizon companies open on their computer all the time.

 

That may of interest to some, but most of you probably have only one company to worry about. Let’s look at things that way.

 

Our default screen is the Today view of the scheduler. That’s where see at a glance what openings we have. If we are fully booked today and tomorrow, the default is the day after tomorrow. Some wonder why we don’t use the Week view as the default screen. The reason is simple - we want to book inspections as soon as we can. An opening left unfilled at the end of today can never be recovered.  It is lost forever. An opening for the day after tomorrow may be filled tomorrow.

 

Besides, clients and agents want quick response, and we work hard to fill our schedule to give great customer service. We also use the Daily Map with the Scheduler to see where people are geographically. We like to minimize travel time and with several inspectors in the field, we try to make their lives efficient while taking good care of customers.

 

Next time we’ll look at booking an inspection.

Licensing Home Inspectors - The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Saturday, March 14th, 2009

Canada’s first licensing requirement for home inspectors has recently emerged in British Columbia. More than half of the states in the USA have some form of licensing for home inspectors. Is this licensing of home inspectors a good thing? In my opinion, Yes and No, but mostly No .

Let’s look at what we’re trying to accomplish with licensing. At the highest level, the argument for licensing is consumer protection. At a less noble level, some would say that licensing is a revenue source for government, a competitive edge for some practitioners or a political tool for empire builders.

Let’s stay at the high level. Consumers deserve protection from illegal and unfair business practices. That includes protection from paying for services delivered by unqualified practitioners. Three questions come to mind -

1. Are consumers being adequately protected now?

2. If not, who should provide the protection?

3. Does government licensing work?

1. Are consumers being adequately protected now?

There is no doubt that there are some consumers who are unhappy with their home inspection results. On the other hand, there is no doubt that there are some consumers are unhappy with virtually every product and service available. Are the numbers large enough to warrant licensing or some other type of regulation? We have not seen evidence of that in our market. In our discussion with provincial regulators, they have not indicated a level of consumer concern that would warrant licensing.

When it comes to unhappy clients, home inspection is particularly troublesome, because in our experience over 30 years, many dissatisfied customers had unrealistic expectations of their home inspector. One might argue that this is a communication failing on the part of the inspector - it is up to the inspector to define his or her scope of work. However, this is probably not a performance failing that suggests the need for regulation.

Who should provide the protection?

On the second question about who should provide the protection, there is a strong argument to say that if the profession can regulate itself, that frees the government from the burden of immersing itself an arena in which it has no expertise. Self-regulation has been a good solution in many professions. Does it fall to the home inspection profession to keep its house in order? That makes a lot of sense to me.

Coming back to consumer protection, if home inspectors are adequately insured for their errors and omissions, perhaps that is all that is required.

In Canada, a strong national certification program has been established, with a credible National Occupational Standards document created through a defendable, collaborative process.

3. Does government licensing work?

In some cases licensing probably works just fine. In other cases, we have seen licensing be little more than a fee that generates revenue for government. We have seen weak licensing that floods the market with unqualified practitioners. We have seen overly restrictive licensing that reduces the supply of home inspectors available for consumers. We have seen significant and sometimes dishonest posturing by groups with different interests as licensing is considered. We have seen the clumsy introduction of licensing, and many governments struggle with the issue of grandfathering. We have seen licensing that provides entitlement and opportunity for various market segments with respect to education and training, insurance and so on. In short, it is difficult to get licensing right.

With the possible exception of Texas, we have never seen licensing that provides what we consider a key element in education and certification. That is the concept of internship or apprenticeship. In our opinion, education delivered by classroom or distance education, including online, is essential and can be very good. However, there is no substitute for experience and practice. Every other profession - doctors, lawyers, engineers, architects, accountants etc. have some form of internship. Building trades have apprenticeships. Why would home inspection not have something similar?

Summary

Looking at this, my impression is that there is not a strong immediate need for additional consumer protection in the professional home inspection world, and the argument for licensing is not compelling. Secondly, there are tools and a good foundation in place for meaningful self-regulation. Responsible work within the profession could provide reliable consumer protection at no cost to government or taxpayers. Improvements could be made, and if a strong self-regulatory model were in place, that would reduce the risk for the profession, consumers and government of costly and potentially ineffective licensing.

This is a call to the profession to build such a model. In Canada, the National Certification Authority is a great building block, but there is more work needed. When it comes to licensing, as my colleagues in British Columbia have told me throughout the process, “Be careful what you wish for.”