Being a good inspector is only half the job. Tailoring the inspection to the clients’ needs is also very important.
Assessing the clients’ needs and abilities to make sure the inspection is tailored to those needs is a serious job. Many of my inspections have been for first time homeowners. Much of the time these people are brand new to living on their own as many are only in their early twenties. When doing an inspection for this type of client I try to take into account what type of client I am dealing with. Of course I have no idea if they are “home smart” or just mad at mom and dad and want to get their own place. During the inspection I try to ascertain some details about the clients’ needs and abilities so I can try at least to explain what they may face once they buy the home. I never advise the client on what decision to make but laying out the details about the home in a meaningful way is the job of the inspector in my opinion.
Without even asking I usually assume that they are going to pull out all the stops just to make the purchase. The banks and the realtor should be working on their behalf as well to help get them started out right. The last thing I want is for this young person to buy a home and find out it is a money pit. My mom had an expression when I was growing up, “when poverty comes in the window, love goes out the door”. This is often the reality for a lot of young unsuspecting couples that buy a “fixer upper” home. They have no idea what needs to be done or what could and likely will go wrong once they move in. For some the challenge is an adventure, for others it is a nightmare.
I am sad to say that from time to time my inspection findings results in the clients crying. Crying about what you’re liking thinking. Crying because they were in love with the “idea” of owing this home and I helped them to see what that love affair might be like once they are married to it. I believe the job of the inspector is to listen to their client and try to understand the clients’ abilities both to make repairs if and when necessary and to finance these renovations. Just this week I had a 23 year old (the same age as my son) tell me that she was relying on my advice to make sure she was not buying a bad home. WOW, it sunk home once again how important it is for me to do my best to be thorough and uncover as much of the potential issues as I can about the home in the short time I am in it. Of course we all over look some things but keeping the focus on the clients’ needs helps to bring clarity to the task at hand.
On another recent inspection I had a client who was intending to buy a rental property. This person (I am trying to be vague as this is a real situation) had received approval for the purchase and was excited about the return on investment once the home was rented. I discovered a lot of problems that needed immediate attention and a few that could wait. By asking a few questions I was able to determine that any of the work that was required would need to be hired out to contractors as this person did not have any repair ability to do their own work. Furthermore the “person” told me that they were totally maxed out just to get financing and would have NO money for renovations. What looked like a solid, too good to be true deal, was in fact a whole mess of renovation contracts that would be sure to be very costly. This person asked me to advise them on the purchase, I declined. Instead I directed them back to their realtor who, if they are earning their fees will help their client work through the process. I always say, “every home has a buyer, but not every home is the right home for you.” So the moral of the story is to take the time to ask the hard questions and make sure you are comfortable with the answers before you sign on the dotted line, because when you own it, you own it.
This type of talk is often what makes me unpopular with some folk in our business. Many people feel the inspector has no right to interfere with “the deal”. In some respects I agree that the inspector’s job is to remain unbiased and simply offer an opinion on the condition of the home, but as I explained in the last few issues I have come to understand that people are relying on my expertise.
Recently I have noticed a new intensity in the interest in home inspections. This has been good for my business of course but it has also meant that most home inspectors are booked at least a week or two in advance. The new trend I am noticing is that this process of buying a home in our area at least, is very rushed and stressful. I have heard that many home purchasers are being told they need to drop the home inspection condition or they will not be able meet the conditions of the contract on time. First of all if you are in this situation, I recommend that you refuse to waive this condition as you may be making a big mistake. It is kind of like going to the dentist and asking him to pull your sore tooth and telling him not to bother checking the x-rays to find out which one needs to be pulled.
If your “deal” is going to fall through unless you sign off on your good judgment then you need to consider a couple of things. First of all you could lose the home to another buyer – not likely going to happen but it’s possible. Secondly you need to ask the realtor why the removal of conditions is set so close to the signing of the offer to purchase. They know there could be a week or two wait to get an inspector or an appraiser for that matter. Take your time, Take your time, do I need to say it again, take your time and get it right. Buying a $300,000.00 – $400,000.00 home must not be rushed! Even if you do not hire me, find a friend or contractor to help you make an informed choice. Good luck out there!