How a Home Inspector Uses Technology to Break Bad News
January 18, 2018 |
Typically, home sellers say they want a simple, straightforward home inspector’s report. But, if that simple home inspection report has bad news, they will have more questions and expect solid documentation. The mark of a professional home inspector, as opposed to someone who leaves a trail of unhappy clients behind, is science-based technology. This keeps opinions at bay and the bad news in perspective.
Science in Service
No home seller wants to hear your “opinion” as a home inspector. Especially for example, if the gas-fired hot water heater may be leaking small amounts of gas at startup. Using the tools of technology, and the premises of science, you have real evidence to back up your professional opinion. Instead of getting into an argument built around your personalities, you and the seller can confront the hard, empirical evidence together.
Science provides the basic research that leads to technology designed to help us in everyday matters. For instance, the microwave oven that speeds cooking or the microwave tester whose light demonstrates that the magnetron is working. The home inspector who carries such a tester will likely get no argument from a homeowner when the device provides evidence of the oven’s failure.
“I Have Bad News”
The home inspector’s job is exhilarating and always interesting. But it also often pits you, alone, against two homeowners and their real estate agent. When you have an arsenal of technology at your side, you are leveling the playing field.
Most home sellers are not keen on hearing they may face thousands of dollars in repairs to bring their home up to salable condition. Even if it means keeping a buyer’s interest. Thus, you, as the home inspector, need more than just your highly trained, educated opinion. You also have to show convincing evidence in a cool, calm, professional manner.
Breaking bad news about foundations, roofs, insulation, plumbing or electrical work is always going to be challenging. Your report must balance brevity with accuracy. You are doing a disservice to the home sellers if you sugarcoat bad news or delay informing them of major inadequacies in their homes. But, you also want to retain them as happy clients and build referrals. You can best serve your clients by being brief and backing your words with evidence from your array of tools.
In describing the problem, avoid words that seem to assign blame. As an inspector, you do not know if the current sellers had the house built, inherited it or bought it as an investment property. You cannot know the level of care they, or others before them, put into the house.
For example, in showing an image from an infrared camera indicating a damp ceiling below an upstairs stall shower, decide for yourself which caption would be more professional:
- “Due to owner negligence, a minor leak from the shower pan has caused major deterioration of floor joists, necessitating substantial replacement and repair.”
- “Infrared camera imagery indicates a high probability of a water leak from the second-floor shower’s drain pan; attention needed.”
No home seller, seeing the infrared camera’s thermal image and the second caption, can get justifiably upset with the home inspector or the report.
Think beyond the essential hand tools a well-educated, professional home inspector carries. Building your business means devoting greater financial resources to better equipment. Investing in more sophisticated technological tools will help make stronger reports. These hi-tech tools will help build a scientific, unemotional case for your inspection report:
- A gas leak detector — Avoid depending entirely on your nose to detect the Mercaptan added to natural gas; again, the homeowner is left to argue with your tool, not with you.
- An infrared camera — Able to detect temperature changes, it sees beyond human sight. This takes opinion and guesswork out of tracking water and air leaks, as well as finding overheating electrical and mechanical systems.
- A pin-probe moisture meter — Provide the homeowner with precise, decimal-place values for the moisture in structural timbers, concrete, drywall and anywhere else moisture is suspected to be a problem; a superior model will allow contact and non-contact readings.
- A combustion flue gas analyzer — Accurately assessing the performance of a furnace, wood stove, gas burner or oil-fired boiler is challenging to the most experienced home inspectors; using technology that provides fast, accurate readings takes the guesswork (and homeowner challenge) out of the equation.
Establish your credentials early on with each home seller. Present a highly professional appearance by using software scheduling tools. These allow customers to schedule their inspection times during hours convenient to them (and you). Consider a program like PlaceFull or Gigabook.
Using software in the field presents you as completely in command of the science and technology at your disposal. This increases your efficiency while boosting your professionalism to the home sellers. Some suggested products include:
Many other existing software programs allow on-site collection of data, report preparation, and documentation of findings. Avoid getting into clashes with homeowners by providing them the concise, precise data they need to realize your findings are accurate.
To achieve success as a modern, tech-savvy home inspector, you first need a solid foundation in the skills needed to inspect a home. Start your career with home inspection courses from Hondros College. A flexible schedule and meaningful work is right around the corner. Contact us today and see how successful you can be!