The problem with home inspections is that it is too easy to chase a purchaser away over even minor discoveries.

The wrong word. The wrong phrase. A misinterpreted glance. The tone of voice.

A purchaser is like a deer. In the woods a snap of a twig, the crunch of leaves, anything can spook him. And so it is with the home inspection. I have heard stories of purchasers spooked out of a perfectly good home over a dripping tap or a non-functional G.F.C.I. outlet. And it was all because of the way the information was presented by the inspector. It is called perspective. Perspective allows the inspector to present his findings in a manner that informs the purchaser without alarming him.

Asbestos, poly-b pipe, eureaformaldihide insulation, vermiculite and so many more can legitimately kill a home purchase even when found in minor amounts. But even major 'infestations' when presented in perspective and with reasonable solutions do not have to doom a purchase.

The problem with home inspections is that it is too easy to chase a purchaser away over even minor discoveries.  And completely unnecessary.

Comments (12)

Quad Cities My RealTeam (Mel Foster Co.)
Keith Allen Allborty - Davenport, IA

The greatest I've had is a outside water spicket upside down the buyer thought it would cost hundreds to fix, they almost backed out because of that. 

Jan 26, 2009 01:12 PM
Sarah Rummage
Benchmark Realty LLC, Nashville TN 615.516.5233 - Nashville, TN
Love Being Realtors® in the Nashville TN Area!

You are correct, George.  I truly want a buyer to know about all the serious defects of a home so that they can know if they can live with the warts on this house. But please use common sense with the buyers in talking about the most important issues.

I had an inspector tell a buyer that there was some fungus under the house.  The house smelled clean and fresh inside, no hint of musty smell, and I was surprised to hear it, even though I am certainly no fungus expert. I asked the inspector if he finds this situation very often.  He said 'oh, in about 9 out of 10 houses.'   But that buyer walked, simply because of the inspector's tone of voice. I'd say the buyer's chances are very good for finding the same situation in the next house he buys, and the next, and the next.

Jan 26, 2009 01:14 PM
Charles Buell
Charles Buell Inspections Inc. - Seattle, WA
Seattle Home Inspector

Add to that the fact that many buyers back out of deals for reasons other than the ones they say has to the inspection---many times we are just a convienient scapegoat.

Jan 26, 2009 01:16 PM
Paul F. Stillwaggon Warren NJ
Weichert Realtors - Warren, NJ
NJ Estates Real Estate Group, Weichert Realtors

I just left a Inspection on a new 1.5 million dollar 5500 sf home from a top local builder that started at 9:30 in the morning and did not finish until 4:00 in the afternoon. We have negotiated the price back and forth for almost 2 weeks & his attorney played games with attorney review  We are still not out of it. I let them have there inspection, even though I postponed it a few days and this is what I get.

Jan 26, 2009 01:18 PM
Nate Rowe
Oakstone Properties, Homes in Richmond VA - Richmond, VA
Realtor, Homes in Richmond VA

I hear you loud and clear.  Some home inspectors really do not know how to talk with people.  It sounds like you do.

Jan 26, 2009 01:20 PM
Jack Gilleland
Home Inspection and Investor Services, Clayton - Clayton, OH

George, good post.  Coming up with the right home inspector is a huge decision for the buyer.  Many times this decision is played down by the others involved in the homes purchase.  The potential home buyer needs to be comfortable with their inspector.  He should be able to put them at ease and let them know the seriousness of the issues that he finds.  Overstating an issue can be as damaging as understating.  We have to remember that these people are looking for their dream and it is not our job to destroy it.  On the other hand it is not our job to protect them from the truth.

Jan 26, 2009 01:22 PM
John Rocco
Pillar To Post Home Inspection - Milwaukee, WI

Yes your right. That is why you should refer your clients to Pillar To Post because we are professional and we are trained how to talk and explain situations. These contractors who become home inspectors like Joe the but-crack plumber have been scaring people all there career it is second nature to them. Scare and sell, scare and sell and they don't know anything else. It is these same people who give inspections and inspectors a bad rap. Just think about it.

Jan 26, 2009 01:28 PM
Jack Feldmann
Clayton Inspection Service, Inc. - Knoxville, TN

After almost 20 years doing inspections, I can honestly say I have never KILLED a house sale. There have been a few that committed suicide right before my eyes though.

George, you are very right that the wrong tone of voice, or term can scare someone. And we should be careful of that. Giving our clients an honest evaluation of the conditions found is what we owe them. If it means they end up not buying the house, then so be it.

Recently I have seen way too many advertisements from home inspectors that say they will not scare the Realtors clients, or mess up the deal, or say BAD WORDS about the house. Those ads make me sick. We owe it to our clients to do the best job we can for them, and accurately describe what we find. NOT sugar coat it to make the deal go through.

Granted there is a fine line between presenting facts about a house, and scaring them to death. We all have to walk that tightrope. But there isn't really a easy way to tell someone that there is a serious foundation problem, or half of the floor joists are rotted through. It's really hard to ignore those plumbing leaks, or the fact that when you flush the toilet on the first floor, the shower stops running on the second floor. Some times, you don't even have to say anything, they can see it for themselves.

When I hear comments like, "that's always been like that", "never had a problem with that wiring yet", "I bet the house next door is just like that" I just cringe. The electrical panel that has double taps and melted wires may not have caught the house on fire yet, but it might. Just because two other houses have cut floor joists under the bath tub, does not mean it is OK - it only means THEY have a problem too.

Don't get me wrong, we need to put into perspective what is wrong, and not exaggerate the conditions. We are there to report, we are not there to panic someone. Frankly, I don't have a dog in the fight as to if my client buys the house or not. I get paid the same if I find 300 things wrong, or 3. heck, I even get paid if I find NOTHING wrong. In fact, the less I find, the less writing I have to do, the less time I will be at the house, and the less nasty comments I will hear. 

But if I ignore something, just to make the deal go through, I might be spending all that saved time in a court room defending myself. I'll just keep doing the best job I can, and call a spade a spade, and let the cards fall where they may. I won't call it "an old beat up, rusty, obsolete spade that will probably fall apart tomorrow" though - just a spade.

Jan 26, 2009 01:44 PM

I couldn't agree more Jack.

I find that the houses that have large and visible faults are the easiest to deal with. As you said, it is hard to present the rotted floor joists, water in the basement or missing shingles as a positive feature !!

It is the house that has the numerous little faults. An inoperative G.F.C.I. - a couple of fogged windows - light switches and outlets that do not work - a missing bathroom fan and other faults that can be handled by the average handy man. It is situations like this where one minor fault after another can add up in the mind of the purchaser and the general perception of the house becomes very negative and the purchaser walks. In such a case it is up to the inspector to make sure that the purchaser knows that these faults are minor and easily dealt with.

I am not suggesting that the inspector should become a cheer leader. However the inspector owes it to his client to make sure that the client knows the difference between major and minor faults and to put those faults into perspective.

Jan 26, 2009 02:18 PM
Quad Cities My RealTeam (Mel Foster Co.)
Keith Allen Allborty - Davenport, IA

That guy wrote a book jeez.

Jan 27, 2009 06:35 AM

Well, look on the bright side. We won't have to wait for the movie!! (  just kidding Jack!)

Jan 27, 2009 12:01 PM
Not a real person
San Diego, CA

I have met a few home inspectors at the CREIA/ASHI dinner meetings whom I'm pretty sure have no idea what a bedside manner is.

Feb 23, 2009 01:23 PM