This blog post was written by Charles Buell, a Seattle, WA, Home Inspector. This was a great post worth sharing.
As long as I have been an inspector, and longer than any of the inspectors that I know have been inspecting, there has been the notion that home inspectors have to act a certain way so as to “not blow the deal.”
I have known for a long time that there is really no way to adequately predict what will freak out a buyer.
I know of no easy way to say: “There are rodents in the attic.” Sure some inspectors have better people skills than others—-but still it can happen where the inspector inadvertently freaks out the buyer. The inspector does not have to come out of the attic running and screaming: “There are rats in the attic and it is disgusting and smells really, really, bad—-and I stepped on one and squashed it all over the place!” Often the accusation of “blowing the deal” is less extreme and would likely not have been an issue had the buyer been better prepared about what buying and owning a home is all about beforehand.
Agents do sometimes counsel inspectors to discuss things without hysteria, to keep reports short, to only report on “serious issues,” and to not nit-pick. That said, can the inspector really afford to listen to any of this? Is it really in the best interest of the buyer, the agent, or the inspector to “pretend” to know what is important or not important to the buyer? Doesn’t it make more sense to simply report: “IT ALL”—-and let the buyer decide what is important to them?
This is where it becomes imperative that the agent, and the inspector, adequately prepare the buyer for what to expect (and not expect) in terms of the inspection.
Most of the whining about inspections that I hear is due to lack of information—-not because of too much information. If the buyer is not given enough information before the inspection, almost anything can be too much information after the inspection.
I think both agents and inspectors are too often inadequately trained in how to prepare the buyer for what is coming.
Sometimes there is not enough time, due to short contingency periods, or other “pressures” to get the inspection done “yesterday” or get the report back “yesterday.” I realize that most agents don’t even think this is their job. It is these very agents that seem to think the inspector has gone over the top and blown the deal—–when the buyer is ready to jump ship. This is exacerbated in today’s market where there is not another deal around the next corner when the deal goes south.
It becomes easy to blame the inspector for not handling the inspection properly; and often, the agent could have done more themselves to improve the likelihood of an outcome they would have found more favorable.
The inspector must focus on telling the full story of the house. This means that “ultimately” the inspector cannot afford to focus on whether the sale goes through or not—-or what particular information is necessary or not. To do so would color what they are there to do—-to inspect the house and provide the best possible information without bias or prejudice—-and I like to think that most do so without acting like a bull in a china closet—–the same way most agents only want what is best for their buyer.
I have come up with a way to eliminate this whole ugly phenomenon—-that nasty point where the buyer panics because they come face to face with the reality that the house they have fallen in love with was a mistake. They have kissed the frog and it has NOT turned into the prince—-and now someone is going to “pay.” This is where a good Pre-Purchase Marriage Counselor could help—-to have a Pre-Listing inspection done on the house. Buyers and their agents would then know the vast majority of stuff even before they called for their own inspection and the number of surprises would go WAY down. They would have a way better idea whether this house was in fact the Prince or not.
Of course I have to think that the reason this does not happen is because so much of the business of selling real estate seems a little like an “Ostrich with its head in the sand.” Somehow there is the notion that the inspector is just not going to find anything wrong with the “Prince.” This is evidenced in the all too common phrase that inspectors hear: “The house is perfect, you won’t find anything wrong.”
It may seem innocuous, but this sort of statement places considerable pressure on the inspector. What is the buyer to think of their agent if there are in fact many things wrong with the house?