For the most part, home inspecting is solitary work. Customers hire you to perform a job, and then you prepare a report for them to review afterward. But customers also ask questions. Sometimes, there are a lot of questions. How you respond can ease a customer’s mind and help protect you from liability.
The potential is there for a left-field question that nobody could have predicted. But these are some of the most common that you can expect to hear:
#1: Did the House Pass the Inspection?
You know that home inspections are not a pass or fail situation, but the majority of home buyers do not. And in some cases, real estate agents perpetuate the misconception by announcing that a house passed.
Home buyers are usually anxious to learn about the condition of the house, and can’t wait to get the home inspection report. In some cases, the report will determine whether or not the buyer proceeds with the purchase at all. Explaining up front that you inspect and then report the existing condition of a house, and that you don’t grade it, can help avoid a lot of confusion.
#2: How Much Will This Cost to Repair?
If you inspect a house, you should know how much it would cost to make a repair, right? Well, at least from your customers’ perspective that seems like a reasonable expectation. Many buyers look to inspectors for guidance, but of course you can’t make those repairs or report on what they might cost.
Your customers should understand that it’s unethical for you to advise on repair costs, to make repairs, and in many cases to even recommend a contractor to do the repair work. Unless, of course, you live in a state where it’s permissible. Helping them understand the importance of separating the inspection from repairs can prevent a complaint against your work.
#3: Will My Roof Last Another Year?
Ranking as high as how much repairs cost are questions about how much life is left in a roof, appliance, septic system or anything else that comes up marginal on your inspection. But unfortunately, most inspectors don’t have a crystal ball.
Assigning an expiration date to anything that you inspect opens you up to liability. If you say the roof should last another year but it springs a leak in a month, the buyer will want to know why. Where defects are discovered, you should let your customers know that further assessment by an expert in that system is the best course of action.
#4: Can I Attend the Inspection?
This question is tricky. Some home inspectors love it when the buyer is present. That way, the details that are discovered can be explained on the spot. If you inspect 5 more homes before a customer decides to call with questions, your memory about that house might have faded. With the customer present, there’s a greater opportunity for understanding.
On the other hand, some home inspectors prefer to work solo. A customer on-site can really slow you down, especially if they stop your work to ask questions about practically everything. This is a judgment call. If you’d rather work alone, be sure to make that clear up front. Just be aware that the National Association of Realtors® advises customers that they should be allowed at an inspection.
#5: How Much Experience do You Have?
For a seasoned home inspector, questions about experience and time in the industry aren’t a problem at all. For a new inspector, they can strike terror in the heart. The last thing that you want to do is look like a novice. But honesty is always the best policy. Even one of the most stringent agencies – HUD – explains to prospective buyers that new inspectors can be highly qualified.
You might have a prospective customer who backs out and moves on to another, more experienced inspector if you explain that you’re relatively new. But every customer won’t ask, and eventually you’ll have the experience that you want. In the meantime, you could get creative and offer a money-back guarantee on your work if the customer isn’t satisfied.
Questions are a sign of interest, and few people are more interested in a house than the ones who are considering buying it. It’s logical for customers to have questions, and sometimes a lot of them.
How you respond can ease a troubled mind, and it can keep you out of hot water. Whatever happens, remember that you’re not the first inspector to hear any question that comes up, and you certainly won’t be the last.
Ready to start on your journey to a rewarding career in home inspecting? ICA School has the educational program that you need. Enroll now and learn at your own pace, night or day.