Imagine you are a first-time home buyer working with a real estate agent. Your agent is guiding you through the ocean of paperwork, contracts, deadlines and all of the costs associated with making it to the finish line and getting those keys in their hands. Once the contract has been signed and all of the deadlines have been agreed upon, your agent tells you that the next step is having the property inspected. Maybe your agent prefers to work with a particular home inspector or company and makes a recommendation or perhaps you do some online research and start calling around for pricing and availability. Either way, you found the right inspector with availability that matches up with yours. You arrive to the home you are getting really excited to get in the house, look around and see what your home inspector has to say about the condition of the property. Keeping yourself in the home buyer’s shoes, let’s look at what types of controllable issues can detract from the experience and severely limit your chances of getting a positive review, referral or from doing business with their real estate agent in the future.
First, and this will sound like a very straightforward task, but you need to show up on time. By on time, I mean early. Typically, the recommendation is that a home inspector arrive to the property 30 minutes prior to the scheduled appointment. This will allow a cushion for any traffic delays, issues finding the address (especially for new builds), flat tires or any of the thousands and thousands of reasons you can come up with. Best practice is to make sure not to park in the driveway and understand there are likely folks living in the home that may not have vacated prior to the start of the inspection. Typically, unless you are inspecting a vacant home and the agent and/or client(s) are not attending the inspection, it is advisable to wait until the real estate agent or client arrive to approach the home. In situations where your services were recommended by a real estate agent, it is extremely important to understand that your actions, conduct and professionalism are a direct reflection on the individual who recommended your services. Showing up late is certainly not setting a positive tone for the rest of the interaction or relationship. Again, it may sound like a very simple element, but the one of the easiest ways to effectively eliminate any chance of generating future business is to show up late.
Next, it is important to critically evaluate what appearance you are giving when meeting your clients. Did you take a shower before leaving the house? Are you wearing the appropriate clothing/shoes? Is your shirt wrinkled or is it freshly pressed and crisp? Are you wearing an identification badge? How many business cards do you have with you? In what type of condition is your vehicle and do you have company identifiers on the side (wrapped or magnets)? What does your tool kit look like and is it organized in professional fashion? Most of these (if they are issues at all) can be addressed by some self-evaluation and constructive criticism. With spring right around the corner, it would be a good idea to review each of these items and sit down with your tool kit to make sure everything is in good working order. Believe it or not, home inspectors do leave tools behind from time-to-time, gas meters stop working, flashlight batteries die, certain pressure gauges can crack or freeze, ladders become damaged, you may “temporarily” toss random items or small pieces of trash in your tool box or just toss tools back in randomly. The list goes on and on. The important part here is that the appearance of your tools can be equally as important as your personal appearance in terms of conveying confidence is your work. Think of it like this, who would you rather trust with the largest purchase of your life—the inspector who shows up with a random assortment of tools shoved in a toolbox or the inspector who arrives with a well-organized, fully functional array of tools? All else the same, I’m going with the inspector who appears to be organized, properly maintained set of tools. Periodically changing out your batteries, purchasing a replacement gas meter for the one that you’ve been using for the past 2 years and just making sure that all of your tools are in the proper location and are fully functional will not only help prevent unwanted surprises while on the job site, but can also prevent injuries (think about that ladder that was damaged you keep meaning to replace). Going through this exercise on a regular basis can also save you some money by helping to prevent tools being left behind. If they all go back in their assigned location in your toolbox or vehicle, you can quickly check at a glance to make sure you have everything before departing the property.
The third topic to discuss is how your review is conducted with your client and what your process for this looks like. A very common complaint from clients and agents is that the home inspector seemed to rush through the review or didn’t take what was perceived as enough time to adequately answer questions before departing the property. It is extremely important to be mindful of how you are interacting with your client and that you are making your best effort to address their questions as thoroughly as possible. You could perform the world’s best home inspection and catch every single defect in a home, however, if your client has the perception of being rushed out off the property you can bet the likelihood of getting any referral business, positive reviews or similar benefits has gone out the window. A related issue that comes up often during the review process involves fielding questions which would be better left to a trade professional. For example, the client asks, “How much is it going to cost to replace my furnace/water heater/air conditioner/etc.…”. Some home inspectors may have specific, industry related knowledge to provide an accurate assessment of the cost. That being said, the recommendation is to make sure they contact a qualified contractor to provide that information. As soon as you tell them it’ll be a certain dollar amount to repair or replace an item, and they get a quote for three times that amount, you can guess who is going to get the negative review and angry phone call. You want to be very deliberate in communicating this information as not to sound as if you are blowing their question off but wanting them to have the most accurate information possible so they can work with their agent on proceeding with their objections.
In summary, spring is the perfect time to do a self-assessment to make sure you can make the most out of every client interaction and make sure you, and the tools of your trade are in top working condition.