This story is excerpted from the
Working RE Magazine Home Inspector Edition
Business Basics: Upping Your Game
By Jerry McCarthy, CREIA Fellow
Exactly what is "professionalism?" Dictionaries define a professional person as "skillful, proficient, knowledgeable, prepared, talented, competent, and experienced." Or in other words, a master of their craft.
The perception of professionalism equates to confidence and without the client's confidence, the inspection process is over before it even begins. Home inspectors who exude confidence in their abilities earn the confidence of their clients and the agents who represent them. Confidence has its own particular odor that can be sensed by most people but one must be very careful because there is a very fine line between self-confidence and arrogance.
The homebuyer's initial perception of their home inspector usually sets the tone for the ensuing performance. Studies have shown that upon the initial meeting between you and your client, it usually takes less than two minutes for them to form an opinion as to whether or not they feel confident in your ability to do the job. It's really all about trust, which is vital in purchasing a home. Homebuyers are investing their life savings, in many cases, so their home inspector had better earn their trust.
It follows that the client's perception of their home inspector regarding his/her knowledge, experience, honesty and skill at detecting and reporting defects is tantamount to the inspector's success or failure in a highly competitive industry. Can we trust this person? Does he/she know what they are talking about? Will they find anything wrong and will they be thorough? These are the common concerns of most homebuyers when first meeting their inspector. Never lose sight of the fact that home buyers have already found the positive things they like about the home. They have opened escrow and now you're there to detect and disclose the negative things about their new home. In other words, your job is to help them make an informed purchasing decision.
The client's perception can occur almost immediately in that personal impressions are made by visual means such as the condition of the inspector's vehicle, personal appearance, dress, the assortment of tools they carry, their attitude, and most important, their communication skills. It doesn't matter how experienced or knowledgeable the inspector may be in construction technology or the building codes because without excellent communication skills, they're in the wrong profession.
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It’s important that you put the homeowner at ease and always treat them with great respect, even when they act defensively or have the manners of a goat. If they question you about any of your findings, assure them their agent will share a copy of your report with them. If they have any questions let them know they may call you. Remember, home sellers may become a future client. Also, they or the listing agent may call you anyway if the deal goes south. Then you will join the illustrious ranks of “Deal Killers Anonymous.” How many times have you heard the expression, “Please pardon my messy house?” We don’t care about the mess but we do need to get into the napping baby’s room and the owner’s “friendly” pit bull requires being properly secured.
If the seller
decides to join your little group and keeps chattering about what a
great house he/she is selling, stop and explain to them that you
prefer to be alone with your clients as you need their complete
attention. I used to say, “I cannot focus on performing a really
thorough inspection with distractions and you certainly wouldn’t want
me to miss anything, would you?” This generally did the trick
and if it didn’t, I went to plan B. “This inspection is a contractual
arrangement between my clients and me and the sharing of information
is privileged.” Or, in other words, get lost! Never assume
anything. The young lady accompanying an older gent may not be
his daughter but rather his newly minted trophy wife. Same sex couples
are now quite common homebuyers. Direct most of your explanations to
the wife because women usually make the purchasing decision.
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