I have recently been consumed with the world of podcasting. For the uninitiated, podcasts are digital recordings, often in a series, typically available for free on the internet. They can be listened to on your computer or on your smart phone. There are many different topics available to listen to, and many of them provide excellent quality content, all for free and on your personal time frame. I often listen to them while I am in the vehicle. Today, while driving to my morning inspection, I was listening to a podcast about recent advances in digital marketing. David Bain, of Digital Marketing Radio, was interviewing Brent Dykes, author of Web Analytics Action Hero. David asked him a question: What was the biggest mistake that Brent had made in his early career. And Brent’s reply, that he thought he should have put more trust in his gut instincts, got me thinking about how that answer relates to our job as home inspectors.
When training new home inspectors, I always tell them that the knowledge they gain from research and education are essential to their success in the inspection industry. And while this is true, most of what happens on an inspection, from your inspection process and data entry to your client interactions, will inevitably be guided by your experience. The accumulated knowledge that you obtain from practicing your craft, whether it is as a home inspector, a doctor or a baby sitter, is what ultimately determines success in your career. The old adage that ‘practice makes perfect’ certainly applies in our (home inspection) situation. The older inspectors in our area are fond of saying that a “newbie” is not truly a home inspector until they have done at least 300 inspections. And while that is certainly an arbitrary number and open for discussion, the general premise behind the number is without debate: experience is the best teacher.
Experience and education will certainly help anyone become a good home inspector. However, you will eventually find yourself in a situation where both of these teachers will not be enough to provide guidance. There are simply too many different things to be encountered during a home inspection for everyone to know everything. And it’s during these moments when trusting your gut instincts becomes paramount. Many inspectors dread the idea of appearing like they do not know something about a house, which may lead them to make definitive statements without the knowledge to justify their position. And while we are paid to be an authority on houses, and no one wants to appear that they are lacking in knowledge, the best course of action is to always tell the truth; to follow your gut. You will certainly be in a better position (in terms of liability) if you admit that you do not know something, or at least are not certain of a specific situation, than if you fabricate information to simply make yourself look better in the eyes of your client.
In my experience, it is always better to let your client know when you come across something that is unusual, and recommend an appropriate course of action. Honesty is always the best policy, as you will always be able to recall what you said when you tell the truth. When you fabricate a story to make it look like know everything, then you must remember what story you told which client, and eventually someone will catch you in a lie. While we always want to be seen as an authority, and want our clients to believe that we have all of the answers, it is invariably the best policy to admit when there is something that you are unsure of and recommend further evaluation. Show the client the area of concern, tell them that it is an unusual condition that you have not previously encountered, and direct them to an appropriate contractor to address the situation. Make your job easier by simply doing the right thing.
Always remember this quote from inspirational author Shannon L. Alder: “The important thing isn’t what other people think you are; it’s who you are.” Be honest.