The Indie Inspector
Mike Lancop, owner, Buyer’s Edge Home Inspection
by Anh Chu
With his well-worn outback hat and rugged blue jeans, Mike Lancop has the look of a maverick. He has the track record, too. For his unusually rigorous approach to home inspections, the owner of High River-based Buyer’s Edge Home Inspection has been called the “deal killer” at realty offices, some of which have even blacklisted him. But in a currently unregulated industry, professional integrity is just as important as that ability to translate house-speak into the lay language of his clients. Lancop is the only home inspector in Alberta who belongs to the Independent Home Inspectors of North America (IHINA). He is also a registered home inspector with the Canadian Association of Home and Property Inspectors (CAHPI).
AV: How did you become a home inspector?
ML: I had built our house and become intensely interested in building; after that, I was hooked. I helped anyone I knew and I supplemented my income with what I had learned. I love helping people and getting paid for it, and working with houses. So I got to work taking courses. The courses take about two years to complete and you have to upgrade every year.
How did going independent affect business?
When I decided to go independent, business was flat for the next three years. Client referrals were building but realtor referrals dropped.
What does going independent mean?
IHINA members sign a pledge that we will not market to realtors.
Don’t all registered home inspectors adhere to a similar pledge?
That pledge says we are only to work for our client. The way I look at it, the referrals from realtors are a form of compensation, so I don’t like it. I have realtors who refer clients to me but they […] understand that I’m always going to do a “hard” inspection.
“Hard” inspection is a term I’ve come up with to differentiate inspection methods. A soft inspection would say, “The foundation is cracked and crumbling. This is typical for the neighbourhood. Repair as necessary.” As opposed to a hard inspection: “The foundation is cracked and crumbling. Replacement will be required within the next five years. Expect costs to exceed $30,000.”
Isn’t every inspector obligated to do that?
It depends on the experience of the inspector. My background is in building and renovating; another inspector might be an engineer or a plumber. Every inspector’s going to have a bit of a different take. We also get into a major problem that we have within the industry: a lot of home inspectors are trying to please realtors. Once you get into doing inspections for realtors, it’s difficult to get out because you lose too much business.
How will the government’s proposed licensing change things?
The proposed legislation doesn’t solve the problems with realtor friendliness. But it’ll take the guys who have little to no training and force them to get trained. That’ll be a good thing.
You’ve fixed problems for free that you missed during the inspection. Why?
What we do is based on trust, and if a home inspector is going to run away every time there’s a problem, then a home inspection’s not worth much. If we lose that trust, we don’t have an industry.
What’s the strangest house you’ve ever seen?
I’ve inspected over 3,000 houses, but the strangest was in my first year of inspecting and I got blacklisted in the town’s only two realty offices for it. Somebody had tried to renovate an old farmhouse and did a horrendous job. It was going to be a nightmare for my clients. The home was an L-shape to begin with, but they filled up the “L” to make it a rectangular building. The floor of this addition was supported with stacked up two-by-fours. A broker said to me, “You’ll never get work out of this office again. We lost a sale on that house.” I said, “Yeah, but it’s a piece of crap.” Things were slow after that.
Did that house ever sell?
Not to my clients. They bailed.