Advising Clients When the Inspection Report Reveals Major Problems

Inspection report

The best way to build customer trust is through communication and avoiding opinion that could land you and her in hot water.

One of the biggest misconceptions that homebuyers have about home inspectors is that the inspection report is only the beginning. But inspectors don’t make judgment calls about how long a roof will last or where to find a good repair contractor for a broken HVAC unit.

That’s a perfect environment for a customer complaint, or worse – a lawsuit. So how do you handle a situation where the inspection reveals major problems? Very carefully.

Inspectors Don’t Have a Crystal Ball

While many homebuyers might have absolutely no background in homes or home systems at all, you’re viewed as an expert of everything that they don’t know. You must be, because you’re the one evaluating the house that they plan to buy.

That’s a precarious position for a home inspector to find himself in. In one way, of course you are the expert. You’ve been through training, and you probably have more than a few inspections under your belt. But unfortunately, you’re not exactly a mind reader. As if a house had a mind to begin with.

Inspectors can’t make an assessment on anything besides what’s visible at the time of the inspection. If it’s raining that day and water is pouring in through the roof, then it’s fairly obvious. But if the roof looks marginal, you have no way of knowing how long it will last before the dam will break, your customer’s belongings will be soaked, and he’ll be surly. The safest bet is avoiding predictive language, no matter how much it’s expected.

Inspection report

The only real way to know when a system will fail is if it happens in front of your eyes.

The Best Policy is Honesty on All Fronts

If you see a problem, then it’s your job to report it. But it’s also your job to explain to customers the limitations that you’re faced with. Part of the problem that customers have with inspectors is a lack of communication. They have expectations, but are never made aware of what an inspector can and can’t do.

Be honest with your customers up front, and they’ll be more likely to receive whatever news that you have to give with a little more grace and fewer sour words. The best time to have that talk is prior to the inspection, not afterward.

If the HVAC system is 30 years old and failing on practically every imaginable front, your customer deserves to know that. But he also needs to know that you can’t explain what it will cost to repair, or whether the system might last another year.

Offer Advice with Extreme Caution

In many states, home inspectors are prohibited from making any sort of assessment on how long a roof will stay in service before it requires replacement, or how expensive it will be to install a new water heater. But in some states, there are no such prohibitions.

If you live in an area where inspectors can offer advice to a customer, and if you feel comfortable enough in your knowledge about the system, then you can likely expand on your inspection with more than the bare facts. But if you don’t, the safest bet, and the kindest one for your customers, is to present the report, explain the condition of the home as it stands, and recommend further evaluation by a licensed contractor.

No inspector wants to report back that a house’s foundation is crumbling or that the septic system hasn’t been maintained in so many years that it’s unusable. But truth is truth, and that’s what your customers hire you for. It’s a slippery slope when you step outside the realm of reporting, and you should do so with a healthy measure of caution for yourself and consideration for your customer.

Are you ready to enter the world of home inspecting and embark on a new career? ICA School has one of the best programs available, and it’s all online. You can study at your own pace. Enroll now and start earning your certification tomorrow.

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