This year, as the American Society of Home inspectors looks forward to celebrating its 40th Anniversary in 2016, we asked four ASHI members – founders and early members – to discuss their considerable home inspection experience before and after ASHI was established. While they are all proud home inspectors, each offers unique and rewarding approaches and inspiring perspectives
Ronald J. Passaro
ASHI Charter Member #1
Founder and First President
“When I started my business in 1975 the term ‘home inspection’ did not seem to exist. I was a home builder and inspected my homes and other homes if asked. I didn’t know any home inspectors, an association did not exist, there were no standards and the real estate field was not welcoming,” recalls Ronald J. Passaro, first President of ASHI, founder of Res-I-Tec, Inc. home inspection company based in Danbury, CT, and founder of the American Society of Home Inspectors.
To find and meet other home or building inspectors, Ron began by having his young daughter Donna look in the phone books (you remember those) for any other home inspectors she could find. They were invited to a meeting, and “It started with six to ten of us who met two or three times in my office in Stamford, CT. Then, as more inspectors joined us, we moved our meeting venue to White Plains, NY, always adding new inspectors and talking about forming a professional association.”
One of the first things that had to be established was to identify what qualified one as a home inspector. “(Remember there were no books, schools or exchange of knowledge at that time.) That was accomplished by combining formal education with life experiences. Another document we needed was a Code of Ethics, which would protect the consumers who would trust in our services. We also began work on a Standard of Practice and establishing most of the committees that were needed to form a professional group. At this point in time, there was no other avenue to further our home inspection education, so we did this among ourselves by sharing knowledge with each other at each meeting. Still doing it today.
“The first name we gave for our group was the Tri-State Organization of Home Inspectors. Realizing that name was too limiting, it then became the American Society of Home Inspectors. We were operating on a shoestring budget and when we ran out of money, each of the directors put up $500 to keep ASHI afloat. We were functioning for about two years when we heard that there was another group out of Rutgers University trying to form a group of home inspectors. The officers from the ASHI group went to the meeting at Rutgers and were able to convince the new group to join forces with us, which they did.
At the Rutgers meeting we met Dr. Joe McNeil and Ken Austin who later went on to form the Housemaster franchise. We all knew and realized we needed a professional national standard of practice that could be followed by all home inspectors if we were to be recognized as a professional organization.”
Because the enthusiastic and dedicated growing group of home inspectors knew they needed direction about creating an association and standard of practice, Dr. McNeil organized arrangements with Rutgers to hold ASHI's first national conference in 1976. It was held at Rutgers University School of Engineering, which could accommodate 100 attendees. “There we were, 100 people meeting other home inspectors for the first time in our lives. It was an incredible experience. The purpose of this meeting was to collect data from the home inspectors to incorporate into the Standard of Practice.
John Heyn was selected as Chair of the Standards Committee, which included 12 other members who met once a month in New York City. In 1977, the group returned to Rutgers to introduce to the world the first Standard of Practice and Ethics for Home inspectors, and it is still basically the same.”
Because home inspectors worked all over the country, the founders knew they needed local chapters. The Metropolitan New York chapter was established before ASHI officially became an association. Chapters quickly formed around the country, starting with the New England and Connecticut chapters. “Inspectors who had operated in a vacuum and felt as alone as I did and had no one to consult with could now discuss home inspection challenges with other ASHI inspectors, and benefit from ASHI educational resources, books, standards and other opportunities.”ASHI Membership & Public Awareness Increases Now that ASHI was established and home inspectors were communicating with each other, “we had to increase awareness of home inspections and their importance. After all, as we know, our house is the largest investment we will make in our life.
“Caveat Emptor, Let the Buyer Beware” should remind us of the importance of a home inspection, particularly back then, when realtors representing homesellers did not suggest or encourage inspections. Relatives would contact me about looking at a house before they bought it, but most people didn’t think of it.
“Today, because of home inspections, the United States housing stock has improved. Prior to home Inspections, once a home was inspected by the local building code inspector, it was never looked at again by a professional. In many locations, not even this minimal code inspection was performed.
Earlier in my career, I would frequently find conditions that could be classified as life-threatening, particularly when it came to combustion-type equipment. Now, for the most part, homes do get looked at by a professional home inspector during the real estate sale process. This is not for compliance to the local building code, as this would not apply to most of the homes we look at, but to the home inspector standard.
“ASHI members, however, have their own inspection guidelines, codes and Standard of Practice: Is a system performing its intended function safely?”We’re looking forward to celebrating ASHI’s 40th anniversary and as we grow, it continues to be an extraordinary experience … knowing other home inspectors.
ASHI Charter Member #5
Second President of ASHI
“I started my home building and contracting business in the 1960s. Young friends buying their first house would ask me for advice on its construction. Their feedback encouraged me, in 1968, to launch John J. Heyn Associates to serve the Baltimore and Washington, D.C., areas. I charged $35 for an inspection and soon raised it to $55 after a client said it was the best $35 he had ever spent.” (See the brochure on Page 6.)
John marketed his home inspection business with a brochure – Buying a Home? We Inspect Everything – and through advertising. His ran his first ad in 1968 – “Be Sure Before You Buy” – in the Baltimore Sun. A Wall Street Journal article featured him in an article: “The high risks inherent in buying home mean business for some new firms.”
“When I started to advertise, realtors mostly offered critical comments. But, when one realtor suggested that her daughter and son-in-law get a home inspection, I knew I was on the right track. My business grew steadily – much to my mother-in-law’s surprise!”
By the early 1970s, John’s company became the National Home Inspection Service, a franchise in 16 cities. His new, more visible company and John’s proximity to Washington, D.C., also led to interesting and national challenges in home inspection … even before ASHI was established.
For example, in 1971, Ralph Nader, early in his career as a consumer advocate, asked John to perform home inspections for him and his parents. Then, in 1973, John was asked to testify during a Hearing, for the proposed Truth-In-Housing Act that would require home inspections of every house being sold.
“The Bill was initiated by U.S. senator Philip Hart fro Michigan, to address issues of full disclosure, and I was asked to testify because of my home inspection experience and ownership of a franchise. After the hearing and before the vote, senator Hart died and the Bill didn’t pass.”
John did have success with what became known as the “Heyn Clause” by realtors in the Baltimore–Washington area. It was inserted into the sales contracts that “the sale was contingent upon a home inspection report satisfactory to the buyer or all deposits were to be refunded.”Time for ASHI
Ron Passaro had seen the Wall Street Journal article about John’s home inspection services. When Ron was searching for other home inspectors in 1976 he contacted John to help set up a national association of home inspectors.
“I went to the first meetings at Rutgers University where we discussed formation of an association. By 1976, ASHI was established, and Ron and the other home inspectors asked me to serve as Chair of the Standards Committee to develop Standard of Practice and Ethics. It took a year to develop the SoP and introduce it to ASHI members. “I then became ASHI’s second President, after Ron Passaro, serving in 1978 and 1979.
While John Heyn sold the National Home Inspection Service in 1991, he stays on top of home inspections. “Because the cost of housing has increased substantially, and new systems have evolved, home inspections are even more critical now. So is ASHI, its Standards and its ongoing educational activities and resources.”
ASHI Member #32
2012 ASHI President
“I’m proud to be a Charter Member of ASHI. I’m also proud of my father, Milton Goldstein, who is the oldest home inspector in the United States He will turn 100 this year and continues to inspire me,” Marvin Goldstein explains. “While my dad earned a degree in Engineering in 1937 during the Great Depression, he always received requests for home inspections. This led him to establish Building Inspection Service (BISCO) in 1938. BISCO is the oldest home inspection company in the United States.
“After I graduated from Pennsylvania State University (PSU) in 1965 and attended two years of law school and taught for two years, Dad asked me to join him as a home inspector in 1970. There was a new requirement that all FHA-insured single-family properties would have to be inspected by an experienced inspector. His reasoning was that FHA offered a new home inspection opportunity with great career potential. How did I qualify as an experienced inspector? Well, I accompanied my father on approximately 50 home inspections and consulted with him thereafter whenever I had technical questions.“I understood my future, and home inspection became my passion.” I was hooked!”
When interest rates moved up and the home inspection business slowed down in 1973, Marv went to HUD’s repossessed property division and asked, “Do you need home inspection services?” This started an inspection relationship with HUD that has lasted now for over 40 years. He found out about a fraudulent practice with these FHA-repossessed houses. Marv discovered, that in almost 100 out of 200 houses, either the specified rehab work hadn’t been done, was only partially completed or hadn’t been done as specified.
This new relationship with HUD led to Marv being asked to accompany a HUD inspector in 1973 to a house with a serious lead-based paint problem that had poisoned the baby of the new owners. This experience so troubled Marv that he studied the problem, borrowed one of the first portable X-Ray fluorescent analyzers from Princeton Gamma Tech and inspected for free about 100 vacant FHA-repossessed properties to learn the extent of the problem. Again, to make a long story short, this led to Marv testifying before a congressional committee along with the HUD Secretary, about the extent of the lead-based paint poisoning problem and the need to ban the sale of lead-based paint starting in 1978. President Nixon threatened to veto that legislation. But when it was approved by Congress with large majorities and faced with impeachment, Nixon signed the legislation. This resulted in BISCO obtaining its first $1,000,000-plus HUD inspection contract.Ronald Passaro and ASHI Call When Ron Passaro called Marv about meeting to discuss a new professional society for home inspectors, Marv asked the other inspectors in the Philadelphia area to join this effort to create a new profession. “Given my passion for home inspections, my dad’s history and experience, and the fact that, in 1976, the home inspection industry needed more public awareness and development of industry standards, I was enthusiastic. What happened next was no less than the creation of the American Society of Home inspectors (ASHI).
“I would like to especially recognize Professor Dr. Joe McNeil, who was like a general guiding us through the creation of our Code of Ethics and Standard of Practice at our initial meeting in 1976.
“Since then, I’ve been to every InspectionWorld® (IW) except one in Boston. I very much look forward to attending ASHI IW in San Diego for our 40th anniversary. I was, honored to be elected by you and served as your President in 2012.
“I would like to express my deep gratitude for all that ASHI has brought into both my professional and personal life. I highly recommend ASHI to all inspectors for the professional status (its testing, experience and ethical requirements) it brings to your career, and the many peers and mentors you will meet who bring important information and great friendship into your life. ASHI raises the bar of the entire inspection profession!”
ASHI Member #288
1998 ASHI President
“I will never stop working. Although I sold my home inspection company about ten years ago and now focus on real estate, I’m a home inspector at heart and appreciative of my rewarding ASHI experience.”
In 1981, after teaching “shop” at a high school in New Jersey, John realized that this wasn’t the right career for him. He had always been interested in housing and construction, and had been involved in bath and kitchen remodeling during nights and weekends. “Around that time, I had a conversation with Ken Austin, who started one of the first home inspection franchises, AMC House Master of America, in Bound Brook, NJ. He suggested that I go on a few ride-alongs with some of his inspectors. I met his partner, Joe McNeill, fell in love with home inspections and the rest, as they say, is history.”
However, after visiting parents in North Carolina, John and his wife, Karen, realized they wanted to live in a warmer climate. In 1982, they moved to the Raleigh- Durham area and he joined ASHI. After working for another home inspection company, John established his own company, Carolina Home Inspection Associates, in 1983. He also helped launch the North Carolina ASHI Chapter in the mid ‘80s, then known as the Atlantic Coast Chapter. This began the era of volunteering on the state and national level.
“Two years later, I started a second company that focused on homebuilding, John J. Palczuk Builders. I ran both companies for the next 25+ years. Both professions fit so well together and provided a great deal of challenge. I truly feel I had quite a blessed career.”ASHI Responds to “Pioneers” with Professional Standards
“As home inspectors and pioneers in a new industry, it was both rewarding and scary at the same time. I had a thirst to learn more, and we all valued ASHI’s Standard and Code of Ethics, educational activities and goals, and local chapter connections. When the pressure from the state of North Carolina in the early ’90s to license home inspectors started, we decided we needed to be an integral part of the process. Another ASHI member, Steve Smallman, and I volunteered to help author the legislation to license home inspectors in North Carolina. We were determined that the North Carolina licensing law would include the ASHI Standards and Code of Ethics. Most states since have adopted ASHI Standards or a variation thereof.”
John is a firm believer in mentoring because it helped him learn so much in the early years. “There weren’t any home inspection schools available in the very early years of the profession, so we really had to lean on each other. Everybody had a strength and weakness, so you would help them and they would help you. That’s what made ASHI so special for me. Every day, I would learn something new and that was just fascinating .”
He also volunteered for Habitat for Humanity, as well as coaching and fund raising at the YMCA.
In addition to serving as ASHI President and other local chapter posts, John’s involvement in ASHI includes:
Ironman Award: During his term as President, John established the Ironman Award, which recognizes a member who has labored quietly in the background, with great dedication, giving of his or her time, energy, talent and determination to ASHI over a long period of time with little recognition.
Monahan Award: John received the Monahan Award in 2000. It is ASHI's most prestigious honor, and recognizes an ASHI Member who is dedicated to its goals and ideals as stated in the Code of Ethics and who, as a member, has rendered outstanding contributions of time, talent and expertise to the Society for a minimum of five years.“The lifelong friendships that I developed are the benefit of membership that goes well beyond words. I am thankful for these friends and experiences every day of my life and smile as I fondly think of those who are no longer with us.”