For Sale – The Privacy of Home Buyers in the USA and Canada

Most home shoppers who see a “For Sale” sign in the front yard of a home they are considering to purchase are not aware that more than just the house is being sold.  In some cases, their own privacy and personal information is on the market the moment that they begin the buying process — whether they end up buying the home or not.

Buyers considering the purchase of a new home will often hire a home inspector to examine the home for them and report its condition.  If you are considering the purchase of a new home and are looking to hire a home inspector, consider the inspector’s commitment to your privacy in addition to his other qualifications.

There are home inspectors who will offer lower fees to their clients as an incentive to hire them — and then sell private information about the home buyer (or the home) to third parties willing to pay them for this information, to make up for the lower fee.  Usually, the home buyer is unaware that the home inspector is gaining from the sale of his private information.  Nor is the home buyer aware as to whom or how many third parties their private information is being provided to.

If your home inspector is offering a variety of “free” add-on services in addition to his report of the condition of your home, chances are good that your private information (and information about your home) is being provided to an unnamed third-party.

Contractors who sell and install home alarm systems, for example, consider home inspectors to be a valuable resource for new customer leads and will reward them with cash and other incentives to provide them with the names, phone numbers, and addresses of new home buyers.   Sometimes the home inspector will sell their clients’ private information directly to a contractor but may also sell the information to “lead brokers” who sell the information to a variety of contractors and service providers.

Rarely are home buyers informed by their home inspectors that he is profiting from the sale of their private information or to whom the information is being sold.  At least one lead broker forbids home inspectors who provide him with private data about their clients from revealing anything concerning the inspector’s contract with the lead broker to the homeowner which includes his “compensation” arrangements.

Many clients of home inspectors, some who are on state-sponsored “Do Not Call” lists are unaware how the telemarketers calling them came to get their name while some are even more surprised to find door-to-door solicitors knowing to ask for them by name shortly after moving into their new home.

Not all home inspectors engage in this practice, and consumers should ask an inspector they consider hiring whether he or she sells private information about his or her clients.  Added services that require personal information or client registration such as “free” short-term warranties or “free” product recall research are important red flags that should be explored.

If you hire a home inspector who will provide your information to any third-party for any reason, it is wise to have the inspector provide you with the third party’s name, address, telephone number and other identifying factors to ensure that you can contact them should you receive harassing or unwanted solicitations as a result — and to trace any other parties to whom that party may have provided your information to, when necessary.

In this age of private information gathering by government agencies and computer hackers, consumers should protect their private information from being bought, sold and re-sold among various parties unknown to them.  The purchase of a new home is no exception.

Copyright James H. Bushart 2013

8 responses

  1. Pingback: Great Article on Client's Breach of Privacy - InterNACHI Inspection Forum

  2. Hello Jim,

    it is unfortunate that many Home Inspectors believe that offering these “Free” gimmicks and selling their client’s personal information is an immediate fast track to success. There have been many Bulletin Board threads regarding these questionable practices and the theme/concept seems to be the same every time. That is “Get the consumers money quick and fast now so the Inspector can become “successful”, and damned be the consumer who loses on these gimmicks!”.

    I do not see these questionable practices ever disappearing so consumers do need to be made aware and educated about them. Keep writing these articles as every one helps educate the consumers!

    “Knowledge is power, but sharing knowledge brings peace!!”

    • Thanks, Manny. One of these lead brokers who deals in personal information from home buying clients of home inspectors is ranting on one of these message boards right now. He finds this article “libelous” and has chosen to respond with false accusations about me and my business — for doing nothing more than to point out that this particular business practice exists.

      He is doing everything he can to divert attention away from the fact that he is in the business of collecting personal information about home buyers from home inspectors while accusing me of all types of things. You would think that he would at least attempt to address the real issue in at least one of his posts instead of swinging blindly at me.

      I must have hit a nerve.

      In any event, the public has a right to know who their personal information is being passed on to, for what purpose and for what type of compensation. Knowledge is power. Educating the home buyers is the first step.

      Thank you for your comment and Merry Christmas.

  3. Hello Jim,

    Thank you for your well written and informative article. We have shared it on our Facebook page. We believe that homebuyers should know when the person that they have entrusted with their personal information and that they have invited into their prospective home responds by selling or trading their information to third party party sales lead brokers.

    We find the surreptitious trading of client information to be a gross violation of the trust that the client placed in the home inspector. It’s a practice that we find reprehensible and one that we would not engage in.

    • Thank you for your comment, Chuck.

      I have heard from some home inspectors who are in full agreement that this is a reprehensible practice and are speaking with their state legislators to see if their licensing laws can be modified to include a prohibition to this type of conduct.

      Most real estate agents we have spoken with, once learning of this practice, support putting an end to it as well.

  4. Sounds good to me to prevent any kind of action that makes this spread like a wild fire. I know of one vendor up here that proudly displays the Recall check and I for one will not allow people to not see the real reason behind this vendor.
    If he was truly a Home Inspector his a s s would be kicked to the moon.

  5. Pingback: For Sale – The Privacy of Home Buyers in the USA and Canada | floridahomeinspections

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