Home Inspection: When Perception Becomes Reality
By Jerry McCarthy, CREIA Fellow
the majority of cases the client’s perception of professionalism is the
key ingredient for the success of a practicing home inspector. Here’s
how you can increase your success by being more “professional.”
homebuyer’s initial perception of their home inspector usually sets the
tone for the inspector’s ensuing performance. Studies have shown that
upon the initial meeting between those who are about to perform a
service and their clients, it usually takes less than two minutes for
the clients to form an opinion as to whether or not they feel confident
in the service person’s 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
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Was the inspector on time for the appointment? I was taught early on that if you didn’t arrive at least ten minutes early, you are late. I have found this to be generally true of many successful old-timers who have shared with me that they always arrive early to their inspections. This allows them the time to check the lay of the land, get set up, alert the property owners (contain their pets) and perhaps even complete their roof and chimney inspections before the arrival of their clients. Never leave your ladder up after you have inspected the roof, especially when your clients have brought their kids along.
It’s important that you put the homeowner at ease and always treat them with great respect even when they act defensive 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.
When I find my client’s attention wandering I tell them, “Look, I’ll proceed with my inspection but every now and then we need to have a short private meeting so I can bring you up to speed on what I have found.” At the end of each meeting I would always say, “What I just told you will be in my written report so when you read it, it will be familiar to you. If you have any additional concerns about it please call me.” I always encouraged my clients to ask questions and try to make them feel part of the inspection process. “Do you have any young children?” I always inquire, not to be nosey but to see if I have to emphasize occupant safety hazards that particularly applied to small children.
Of course no inspection goes on very long before the question arises, “How much will that cost to fix or replace?” The best answer is, “I don’t know.” Anyone who quotes prices, even “ballpark” prices is asking for real trouble. You tell them a new roof should cost about $5,000 and later you get a call that their roof cost is double that figure. They will want to know when are you sending your check for the balance. Remember, the only valid estimate for work is in written form called a “contractual bid,” submitted by a qualified person who is going to perform the work. Qualified in inspection industry lingo means: state licensed. By the same token, never recommend contractors by name as you are opening the litigation gate for a frivolous referral. Encourage your client’s agent to assume that responsibility.
Don’t accept refreshments and don’t sit down. You’re not exactly a welcome guest. Keep everything on a totally professional level because that is what you must be perceived to be, a professional at all times to all parties involved in the transfer of property. They are not your friends nor do they want to be. You are a facilitator of information of which much may be negative. Maintain a professional attitude at all times. Never become unnerved and blow a positive perception it took you four hours or more to establish. A final word about what has become oh so common in our current society- “perception” often becomes most folk’s reality.
About the Author
Reprinted with permission
from the California Real Estate Inspection Association (CREIA),
800-848-7342 for more information about the non-profit association.
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