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What is a Home Inspection?
Nick Gromicko of InterNACHI says a lot of smart things…with exceptions of course.  XML
Forum Index » Legislation, Licensing, Ethics, and Legal Issues
Author Message

Joined: 06/17/2014 09:32 PM EDT
Messages: 5244
Location: Carmel, IN

While I’ve been friends with Nick Gromicko for years and there are many things more important than a word or a phrase or a symbol, sometimes I get asked the question – “Are you guys at war?!? Didn’t I just see you having dinner together/sharing a stage/promoting each other?”

Yes, we’re always at war in some way (mostly on a recreational level) and yes, you probably saw us grabbing a steak somewhere in North America. Are we buddies? Yes. Do we agree on everything? Nope. Does Nick say a lot of smart things? Sure- but he gets it wrong sometimes too and he’s smart enough that it’s often intentional and at times not necessarily for the good of the industry (Other than it being good for Nick which he interprets at times as being good for the industry, which may be true in some respects. Either of us getting hit by a bus would be at the very least an industry adjustment so I guess he’s right.)
For instance, when Nick Gromicko said in his book “Stacks” that there are “Dangers to calling yourself an expert,” this wasn’t written with any accuracy and it wasn’t meant to be because Nick knows and has acknowledged on many occasions to me personally that there are really very few “Dangers” out there in this industry – this section was specifically meant to market the word “Master” for $2500 and dissuade anyone that qualifies to use the word “Expert” to skip paying Nick $2500 – it was so transparent in fact that there was actually an advertisement for CMI immediately above this section which tells you about everything you need to know. He even acknowledges that Certified Inspection Experts deliver a better work product- after all, a Certified Master Inspector does not by definition deliver a “Certified Master Inspection” nor is that defined as anything outside of the barely legal minimum home inspection. A Certified Inspection Expert on the other hand has to give every single client at least one value added service (like a warranty, sewer plan, recall report, etc.) beyond doing a competent, quality inspection and give those clients a toll free number to call if they ever have an issue, which leads to true third party verification of quality. No other certification has that and the Certified Inspection Expert is absolutely the highest certification out there (read the requirements here: http://homeinspectionforum.net/posts/list/3284/TheHighestCertification,theCertifiedInspectionExpert(R)UpdatedRequirementsasof121716 ) - but let me be very clear:

I recommend that inspectors become Certified Master Inspectors. Here, I'll even link to the CMI site for you to sign up and I suggest you do. http://certifiedmasterinspector.org/

Yes, that’s right. I absolutely believe in it. I have sold more Certified Master Inspector logos than anyone on this earth outside of Nick Gromicko- and Nick has probably signed up more RecallChek and Inspector Services Group clients than anyone on this earth outside of myself and Mike Doerr. Nick absolutely believes in innovation and delivering more than a minimal inspection and knows we treat clients well. I absolutely believe in good marketing and candidly the 1000 hours of education/inspections requirement is really solid and Nick’s focus does tend to be in that space. I like it and respect it. The number of inspectors that are Certified Master Inspectors AND Certified Inspection Experts is staggering and based on the requirements of both (the focus on education for CMI and focus on quality work product in excess of bare minimums from CIE) an inspector that qualifies as both is absolutely without question the best choice for any consumer. Part of the reason we have so many in common is that the inspectors with money to invest in their businesses, the common sense to understand what both mean, and the true desire to be the best is a fairly exclusive group- the other part of it is that Nick and I have toured the country together for years.

Nonetheless, Nick has a fake issue with the word “Expert”, and he’s definitely spooking a few inspectors out there with his calls to beware of the [non-existent] liability boogie man (which is terrible for our industry) but he’s probably selling a few CMI memberships for $2500 along the way too. God bless him and God bless American Capitalism- but when it comes to this argument that using the Trademarked phrase “Certified Inspection Expert”, when you have met the qualifications for such, brings any risk to you as an inspector…it simply does not, has not, and will not, and Nick’s public statements are false by not only his own admissions to me but also some very simple logic in his writings where he made it transparent and obvious that what he was saying was intentionally untrue or misleading- you just have to look and actually read what he is saying and follow the links.

So let’s start with the only legal case cited in Nick’s ebook that he could find to try to twist and manipulate into something relevant to the Certified Inspection Expert Mark. Here’s a few facts about the case:

1. It was from 1985, over 30 years ago. Seriously? Couldn’t find anything after the internet was invented?
2. It was from the insurance industry, not the inspection industry. There’s nothing about a property defect in it and never in the history of the courts has this case been used as precedent for an inspection case.
3. The word “expert” was not utilized as a marketing term, it was simply stated as a fact that between the insured and their insurance agent, the insurance agent is the insurance “expert” being relied upon and anyone offering a service requiring specialized knowledge is by default holding themselves out at an “expert” (including inspectors by the way)…although this fact had nothing to do with the case nor was the word “expert” ever in question.
4. This case did not set any precedent with regards to the word “expert”, rather it is known in the insurance industry as one of the cases setting the precedent for the role of an insurance agent to be an agent of the insured.

Here’s what Nick said in the book (the only thing cited that wasn’t completely made up ramblings without citation or justification): “In European Bakers, Ltd. V Holman…an insurance agency held itself out as an expert in certain types of insurance matters. The court ruled that, by doing so, the agency imposed on itself a higher standard of care.”

What Nick has stated here is misleading at best. First of all, the insurance agent/agency did not hold themselves out to be experts by using the word “expert”, they simply were advising a client and selling a policy in a particular industry for their insurance needs and in doing so suggested (simply by offering the service) that they were an expert in the field…otherwise they shouldn’t be advising on insurance matters to this commercial bakery. They knew more than the client, they’re at an advantage, they are the “expert” that is being relied on. They didn’t even have to use the word, but they did owe a duty of care to the client to advise properly.

If anything, this case says two things:

1. If you offer a service, you are implying that you have expertise in doing it (which completely blows Nick’s arguments). In other words, if you offer residential inspections, you are holding yourself out as an “expert” in inspecting residences whether you like it or not…you just can’t use the word even if you feel like one or feel like a “master” because its trademarked.
2. When you do that service (whatever it may be), you better make sure the client is well-advised.

In other words this case was all about making sure you are advising a client well and know what the hell you’re doing. In that regard, it’s relevant to any industry one could say. If you want to read about the case to see for yourself go here: http://law.justia.com/cases/georgia/court-of-appeals/1985/70225.html

Of course, Nick ignores in his book and every posts he makes two very simple facts: The word "Master" and the word "Expert" can have similar connotations and neither were self-proclaimed (they were both bestowed upon the recipient by a third party and both are proper nouns/phrases and registered trademarks). In other words, this was all an irrelevant made up trick preying on inspectors and their lack of legal knowledge. Nick cleverly dances around certain issues and says half truths.

Here are three such inaccurate/misleading lines Nick likes to say right now to try to convince you not to utilize the CIE or Certified Inspection Expert Mark and instead spend $2500 on the word "Master":

Half Truth from Nick: “You can’t falsely claim to be an expert…”

On this one he is correct- just as you can’t falsely claim to be a “master”, and if you’re an inspector utilizing either term and you don’t meet the qualifications from the mark owners…you’re being deceptive and violating trademark law (something both Nick and I have acted upon). But he’s really telling half the story- because you can claim to be something you are whether that is a Certified Inspection Expert or a Certified Master Inspector or a Certified Goat Herding Magician. As long as you’re not being deceptive, you’re good, and the word “expert” doesn’t have some weird qualification out there as Nick sometimes alludes to that you won’t find anywhere other than in his own book with an irrelevant case citing. There are even companies that have it in their name (i.e. “ServiceExperts”) and many of them are very large corporations with very well-paid attorneys that will tell you that Nick’s take on this is dead wrong.
There are ways to violate the Deceptive Trade Practices Act in home inspection that Nick and I comment on regularly and try to get the word out to inspectors on- but neither CMI nor CIE have any remote chance of being one of them. Offering an unlawful and deceptive “warranty” from Kevin O’Malley/Warranty Management and HON is one way- where someone knowingly hands out a policy with deceptive coverage, no compliance, no money to back it, and deceive the client through deceptively similar logos to legitimate products that it is underwritten by a third party when it’s not. I suppose it’s also deceptive to sell such a program to home inspectors and you may find at some point that WM/HON is forced to hand every penny back they ever charged and make restitution to end users as we’ve heard a couple victims suggest they may be interested in pursuing- time will tell. What you won’t find is a CIE or CMI with a similar issue and if you ever did…I’m guessing Nick/Nathan respectively would show up with a lawyer to get rid of it and maintain their perfect record of not harming inspectors.

Factually Inaccurate from Nick: “The Trademark won’t get approved”

Nick said this back when we were seeking approval for the Certified Inspection Expert Mark and he was wrong. He didn’t care that he was wrong by the way- and he made a number of misrepresentations along the way intentionally. It’s all strategy and a great way to get you to pay for CMI- which may be his best-selling product yet.

Totally Bogus from Nick: “The Trademark is set for cancellation”

Nick said this on his forum recently and once again this is false. Nick filed with the USPTO a document that literally has zero factual basis to it and we will of course respond which is pretty much a formality at this point. Nick saying this Trademark is set for cancellation is the same thing as me saying that “InterNACHI is preparing for bankruptcy”. It has no factual basis today, but hey, something crazy could happen. Wouldn’t mean there wouldn’t be copywritten materials available for use by our great clients and it certainly wouldn’t mean there wouldn’t be appeals for decades, but crazy stuff can happen.

We never put our egos before the industry here at The Inspector Services Group and we don’t use scare tactics either.
We don’t care if our Certification is the best - as much as we try to make it the best out there. Someone else can come up with even higher standards. We would applaud them. We don’t care if we have the only Trademark or even one of them- so long as those using the mark are qualified and it is helping inspectors and consumers alike.

When we raise the bar, we raise the industry.
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This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 12/30/2016 05:36 PM EST

P. Nathan Thornberry
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