Are your clients alive and kicking?

Most of us can remember the movie “Vacation,” where Chevy Chase is much more interested in getting to Wally World than almost anything else along the way, as they drive across country. The scene where he spends less than 5 seconds taking in the Grand Canyon is epic.

Home inspections can be a bit like this scene from vacation.

Inspectors are so interested in getting to “Wally World” they minimize the importance of what happens along the way–ever ready to give up 5 seconds (or less) to any given scene—and then “move on.”

What “moving on” is often more about is, the inspector being concerned about moving on to the next inspection—the next stop on his way to Wally World (his own bank account). The inspector has simply lost touch with the client’s Wally World.

Without the “process” along the way, the client is left like grandma on the roof of the car and no longer with us by the time we get to our destination.

Inspectors can do so much more, but it takes time, knowledge and willingness.

When the inspector finds an issue, they can describe thoroughly what is going on, what it means to the big picture, what should be done about the problem and even who should make the repairs.

Sometimes this means the inspector will need to do research off site to provide the best level of information for the client. Researching manufacturer’s requirements, code requirements or other sources of “best practice” is often necessary with this approach.

The more experienced inspectors will even be able to describe possible options as to what those repairs might look like. This can help put things in perspective for the buyer. Otherwise the client might not grasp either how inconsequential the issue is or how serious the issue is. They may just conclude the issue is serious, triggering a flight and fight response. Knowledge is power and freedom.

This approach takes seeing their client as what is most important, so that ultimately when they do get to their destination, the client has the information and ammunition they need to proceed in a meaningful way.

And, they are still alive and kicking!

 

By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

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What is the home buyer’s due diligence period?

There seems to be a general misconception among some home buyers that the hiring of a home inspector is the completion of their due diligence, when in many respects it is just the beginning—or at best just part of the process.

The home inspector will expose the concerns, but often they will not be able to allay justifiable concerns related to those findings.

The problems arise when the buyer assumes that the inspector’s findings are enough. They make their decision to move forward with the purchase based on the inspector’s findings without following through on the various recommendations the inspector has made.

Admittedly, many of these things are probably of little consequence but others could result in the buyer taking possession with later regrets.

For example, getting the sewer scoped. It can be a very big expense to deal with problems with the drain between the house and the city sewer, and yet many buyers do not follow through on their inspector’s recommendation to have the sewer scoped. Some inspectors encourage their clients to get it done during the time of the inspection and sort of kill two birds with one stone in terms of time.

Other things that might need further evaluation outside the inspection include: property easements, clear title, neighbors, wood destroying insects, retaining walls/fences, trees, swimming pools, abandoned or used tanks (septic oil etc), wells, lead, asbestos, water quality testing, radon testing, conditions of the electrical system, conditions of the plumbing system, HVAC equipment issues, energy efficiency, indoor air quality, foundation/drainage issues, chimney issues, roof issues, window/cladding issues etc.

Basically anything that requires further evaluation, because it is either outside the scope of the inspection or outside the inspector’s areas of expertise, should be followed through with in order to do ones due diligence, but many merely see the inspection as completing that regardless the recommendation for further evaluation.

The bison in the china closet in all this is the enormous pressures present to “keep-the-ball-rolling” to closing. There simply is not enough time for a buyers to do their due diligence, so all parties to the transaction encourage seeing the property inspection as the final step in the process—the last big hurtle to vault over or limbo under.

In a seller’s market a lot of the blame for accepting shorter and shorter due diligence comes right back to the buyer—and of course their agent who support the idea as the only way the buyer has a chance of getting the house. Being more or less forced into this arrangement, it is only natural the buyer would expect perhaps a bit more of their home inspector than any home inspector can deliver.

It really is a no win situation for the buyer and they best find a home inspector that gets them as close as possible to all the pertinent information—and perhaps one that has the experience and is willing to guess a bit on their behalf.

You know the client has unreasonable expectations of the inspector when the inevitable question arises, “Would you buy this house?” It is actually quite a reasonable question in light of the position the buyer has been placed, it just does not have an answer unfortunately.

As a side note, and perhaps a topic for a post of its own, a buyer should never rely on an inspection report provided by a seller.  Use it as information on top of an inspection you procure on your own, but do not rely on it for your own due diligence.

Let the bison roam, and fix the yard afterwards.

Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

Who benefits from short inspection contingency periods?

I know I may be stepping into quick-sand with this question, but I am serious. All too often I see buyers forced to use inspectors they do not want to use, or in other ways not be able to do their due diligence because of very short of contingency periods.

I am busy enough that if the inspection contingency period is less than ten days, the chance of booking me goes way down. Now I typically have a list of other inspectors to help the buyer out when this occurs but they too are typically busy as well. What the client ends of with is an inspector capable of doing 3 and 4 inspections a day with the resultant mediocre report if not a mediocre inspection itself.

I am jealous of other parts of the country where I hear 10 and 12 day contingency periods are the norm while here 5 and 7 days is much more common.

It seems to me that in a rush to get the deal done, the only persons that benefit from this arrangement are the seller and the seller’s agent.

I know for a fact that many buyers feel there is considerable pressure to keep the ball rolling along, non-stop—at a pace that does not allow for second thoughts.

This freneticism is typically not present in commercial inspections–with 30 day contingency periods being common. Why the difference in Residential real estate sales? While I do not advocate 30 day contingency periods, a guaranteed 15 days sure would take the pressure off all parties and allow for a buyer’s due diligence.

Some might argue that I only care about this because I don’t want to lose the inspections—but the irony is that I am booked most of the time anyway, but it would allow for more clients who really want to book me a “chance” of getting me and would allow me to even-out my scheduling with far less cancellations.

Because of these short contingency periods, it is not uncommon for buyers or agents, who really want to use me, to call and “pencil me in” for a time slot in an “anticipated contingency window” only to have the deal not come together and leave me with time to blog–or an unneeded day off.

The real kicker is that the clients that wanted to use me, but whom I had to tell I was potentially booked, were also not best served.

Again it is business models that favor quick inspections with mediocre reports that are favored in this scenario. Neither of which benefits the consumer.

Short inspection contingency periods also affect, well inspections, septic system inspections, sewer scoping and even appraisals—let alone further evaluations by the professional trades that may be necessary.

Again, who really benefits from short contingency periods?

 

By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

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