Speaking Like a Pro
By Mike Casey
Professional phrases for common situations:
Newbie: “This is stupid,” or “Geez, will you look at this!”
Pro: “For increased safety, we recommend…” Or “For optimum performance we recommend…”
Newbie: Instead of the “Code Word” say:
Pro: “Not serviceable, nonstandard, substandard, unconventional, inadequate, temporary.”
Newbie: “It’s old.”
Pro: “The component is nearing the end of its useful life and may require repair or replacement at any time.” If the component is really old say, “The component is beyond its expected useful life and may require replacement at any time.”
Newbie: “It’s toast.”
Pro: “The component is at the end of its useful life and is in need of replacement.
Newbie: “I found many problems with this house.”
Pro: “There are some conditions requiring attention in this house.” Or if there are several (or numerous) serious items (safety and/or high cost) say, “I found several items requiring attention in this house, some of which I would consider significant safety (or cost) conditions.”
Newbie: “That looks like a homeowner repair to me.”
Pro: “This appears to be a temporary repair and I recommend…” (When you say ‘homeowner’ you have just assigned responsibility.
Newbie: “The builder should have…”
Pro: “This component may not perform as intended.” Or “The installation does not appear to conform to minimum standards.” When you say ‘the builder should have’ you have just assigned responsibility.
Newbie: “That’s illegal.”
Pro: “It appears not to be serviceable, not standard, etc.” (Only municipal deputized Code inspectors acting in their official capacity can make a determination if something is legal.)
Newbie: “It’s grand-fathered.”
Pro: There is no such category in any zoning ordinance. Typically it’s called “existing nonconforming.” However, only the municipality can make that determination. Recommend consulting with them.
Newbie: “There’s a bunch of stuff wrong here.”
Pro: “There are too many conditions noted needing correction to catalog in my report. I recommend evaluation by a licensed ____ and correction as necessary to assure the system is safe and performing as intended.”
When clients/agents Ask
– “Do you think I can do that myself?”
Pro: “You know your capabilities better than I do, you should decide for yourself.”
– “Should I buy this house?” or “Would you buy the house?”
Pro: “You are going to live here. You and your family need to make the choice based on the information you obtain from me, as well as all the other factors you feel are important in making this decision.”
– “I’ve been shopping around – are you better than ____ inspector?” (Usually over the phone.)
Pro: “_____ is a good inspector, my qualifications are similar and my company’s inspections cover…..” (Change the subject from other inspector. Don’t fall into the negative marketing trap.)
– “Does the seller have to fix that?”
Pro: “No, everything in real estate is negotiable and I recommend you discuss this with your real estate agent.”
– “But was it ‘to code’ when the house was built?”
Pro: “We are not doing a code inspection, however, the current standards are our guide for safety recommendations. My recommendations are whether to increase safety or performance of the component, not whether it is up to code.”
– “But a contractor was just here and said everything was fine and to code.”
Pro: “Professionals are entitled to their opinions. Based on my training and experience I feel…You are entitled to a second opinion, just ask for it in writing, on professional letterhead, like my report.”
* When encountering an item about which a determination is not possible:
Pro: “Inquire with the seller regarding the performance of the cooling system (an example) during hot weather.” (Good comment for the winter) Or “Inquire with the seller regarding the history (if any) of water intrusion frequency and intensity during wet weather in the basement.” (Good comment when water stains noted at base of basement walls.)
* A component is shut down and not operational when you are there:
Newbie: “Not tested.”
Pro: “I recommend having the component activated by a licensed professional and repaired if necessary.” (It might be shut down because it is not working.) Recommend a safety check as well if it’s a fuel-burning appliance.
* You are not quite sure what is wrong with an item but it looks questionable:
Newbie: (God only knows.)
Pro: “The _____ is installed in an unconventional manner. I recommend evaluation and repair if necessary by a licensed _____.”
* You’re asked: “Can I go up on the roof with you?”
Newbie: “Sure but be careful!”
Pro: “It is our company policy and a condition of our insurance carrier that only the inspector use the ladder.”
* A seller is following you around fixing things as you note them, then trying to convince you to change your report.
Pro: “I write things down only once. Also, just because I write something down does not mean you have to do anything. You might as well relax and wait until you get the response to the home inspection from the buyer.”
Michael Casey is Vice President of Education for ITA and Managing Director of Inspection Training Associates’ Manassas , Virginia facility. Michael is a past president of the California Real Estate Inspection Association (CREIA) (1994/1995) and of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) (2002). Mike has performed over 8,000 home inspections in the last eighteen years.