I have learned not to enter a property without an agent present. I have learned not to be alone with a client during a home inspection without the agent present. During the home inspection, I prefer to have the agent walking around with us and not sitting in the kitchen catching up on text messages.
Because I have learned that some sellers are desperate enough to do anything to sell the house. In my experience they have gone so far as to try to booby trap my inspection, and lay land mines for me to step on.
There is only one way I can protect myself. Witnesses.
This is my experience in just the last 18 months:
~~ When testing the washing machine the knob simply came off in my hand. Everyone saw it. That wasn't the only appliance broken in the house. The seller placed the knob like that for me to "break," said I had broken it, and that I probably broke all the other things in the house too, so the inspection report was not valid. My client's agent said no and described the experience. The seller went so far as to mail me a receipt for the "repair," for $480! He could buy a new washer for that. I ignored the receipt and did not hear further.
~~ I turned on another washer and we all went upstairs to check it out. Coming back down for my ladder I found the middle level flooded and flooding! Before turning on washers I always check behind to see if the connections are properly made. Only then do I turn it on. This leak was coming from inside and underneath the machine. It flooded the basement too. My client's agent called the other agent, who let this slip, "Oh no! He said he would have that fixed before the inspection!" My position was that I am there to test things. The seller harassed me for two weeks, to no avail, and let it drop. Turns out this had happened before.
~~ Arriving at the house to the buyers anxiously waiting for me in the driveway, they pointed out the chimney on the house, leaning and separated from the house about 6" at the top. We discussed the possible reasons and I put it on the report. I received an angry phone call that night from the seller saying I had gone onto the roof, pushed they chimney over with my legs, "so you would have something to put on the report! I'm suing your A$$!" I said, "Sir, I am strong, but not that strong. Good luck with your lawsuit."
~~ A recent roof repair revealed a carefully finished drywall repair with just joint compound, and a lot of primer and paint. From the attic I could see loads of a "moldy" substance. A basement room similarly smelled very moldy, and I could see a horizontal foundation crack leading from the furnace room toward the direction of that room. There was a similar amount of primer and paint used there. It was noted on the report. My clients bolted. That evening an irate seller called me, said I "cost [him] $350,000," and that he was coming to my house to "let [me] have it!" I told him he didn't want to deal with me and that if he shows up his rights are left in his car. I then immediately called the police to tell them of the threat and told them that in self defense I would use "protective force." (That gave me a phone record of two calls in a row.) The seller never showed up. Good thing!
~~ Some sellers had moving boxes carefully arranged along a concrete block basement wall. That was witnessed and noted on the report. My clients moved in to see a gaping, horizontal foundation crack right where the boxes were. Not good! They called me and an engineer. The sellers said that must have opened up after the inspection. Yeah, right... We said no, and that the crack had been "artfully concealed," which is the legal phraseology for such circumstances. The sellers ended up paying for wall reinforcement (the case didn't get further than that) and my clients were VERY upset, not even wanting the house.
My recommendation: Sometimes people are not honest. Be present with your favorite home inspector during the inspection. You don't want anyone stepping in it.