Recently, I was doing some writing for a website, creating some FAQ’s about the home inspection process. This particular FAQ was intended to explain to potential home buyers the importance of getting a copy of the Standards of Practice that their home inspector adheres to during their inspection process; that this document explains to them exactly what the home inspector is going to do. And then I wrote out this sentence: If you know ahead of time exactly what you are paying your home inspector to do, there is much less chance of a misunderstanding later.
Upon rereading, the thing that struck me about this statement was the importance of this sentence in our home inspection careers. By making a slight modification to the sentence, it can easily become a mantra for home inspectors everywhere: If your customer knows ahead of time exactly what they are paying you to do, there is much less chance of a misunderstanding later.
Unfortunately, this flies in the face of the standard operating procedure of most home inspectors. As humans, we are programmed to try to get the most value while extending the least amount of effort. This reasoning tends to make (some of) us lazy, unintentionally easing us into bad habits. Habits that could come back to haunt us if we ever end up in court.
Fortunately, making changes to our bad habits can be accomplished by intentionally starting new habits. Start by sending each of your clients the SOP/COE at least one day prior to their inspection. The same goes for your inspection contract. Providing this information before the inspection gives the client a chance to review your standards and contract ahead of time. This can help someone with unreasonable ideas about what a home inspection involves either adjust their expectations, address them with you or find someone else to attempt to fulfill their unreasonable expectations. Often upheld in the courts is the idea that if a client is not given an opportunity to read the SOP and contract prior to seeing them for first time at the actual inspection, they are considered to have ‘signed under duress.’ This can undermine the enforcement of your contract, seriously damaging your ability to defend yourself, and your report, in a court of law.
Another good habit to start is getting your home inspection contracts signed prior to the inspection. Again, giving your client an opportunity to change their mind (time to decide whether or not to contract with your company to provide a service) is imperative to defending yourself in court. Showing a judge that the client had plenty of time to find another home inspector if they did not like your terms will go a long way towards proving that you were looking out for the client’s best interest (by offering them information ahead of time). The worst thing that can happen is that they argue they had no choice other than signing the contract, because they were under a time crunch with their real estate inspection period. Eliminate this argument before they can make it by providing them with your contract and Standards ahead of time.
Remember: If your customer knows ahead of time exactly what they are paying you to do, there is much less chance of a misunderstanding later. Do yourself and your client a favor: make sure they know what they are paying for. A small investment of time on your part, emailing the SOP and contract to your clients ahead of time, can save you enormous headaches later. Unfortunately, there will be times when even this effort is not enough to stop a determined, unhappy client with dollar signs in their eyes and an attorney on retainer. But, by documenting the fact that you gave them time to read your Standards and contract prior to the actual inspection, you make it more likely that a court case will be judged on the actual inspection report rather than decided (in the client’s favor) on a technicality.
Give them the information and time to decide whether you are right for them. It will make your clients happier, which makes your life easier. And its the right thing to do.
Please Share with Friends!
I thoroughly enjoy creating these posts for you, the reader. Please take a moment to comment, letting me know what you think about the topic, and passing along any of your knowledge to our community. Please feel free to get in touch with me, letting me know if you have any specific topics that you would like to see covered on the site. And please feel free to share this content with your friends. The more people that we can help in their careers, the better!