More, More, More. Giving More So You Get Less (Lawsuits)

I begin this post with a “quote” from a old Billy Idol song, about needing “more, more, more.” Obviously, he was singing about something different than the subject of this post, but it seems like an appropriate title for our discussion. As humans, we are programmed to always strive for more in everything we do. While this may lead us to excess, more can be a good thing when it comes to our home inspection careers.

don't use minimal information in your home inspection reports

This weekend I held a CE class at my office, and while we discussed many subjects that affect us in our daily jobs, I believe that the highlight of the 10 hour class was the presentation that was generously given by Cal Grevemberg. Cal runs a successful inspection business in south Louisiana (acadianahomeinspection.com), offers multiple inspection and professional services for his clients, holds multiple certifications and was instrumental in developing the foundation for the current inspection industry in Louisiana. 

The main focal point of his presentation was that inspectors need to be sure to do more than the minimum when performing inspections. It boils down to the old adage that more is better. When you take more pictures, when you include more information, when you go the extra mile while doing the inspection, you not only provide a better service for your client, you lessen the possibility that you will encounter problems (with that client) in the future. Cal stated that people typically don’t file lawsuits against people that they like.

Teaching Cal’s advice is something I that I always do when training new inspectors. I tell them that most our clients have no idea what a home inspection is, much less what happens behind the scene before we arrive to their new house for the actual inspection. They have no idea the training and continuing education we go through, the multiple insurance policies we retain, the plethora of tools that we purchase, the vehicle we maintain, the marketing and advertising we are constantly doing, and the list goes on…

They simply see us at the house for a brief period, and know that they are paying us a good bit of money for (what they perceive as) a minimal amount of work. They believe that the $400 check that they wrote to us is pure profit for their home inspector, and they quickly extrapolate that ($400 multiplied by 2 inspections a day, inspecting 30 days a month, 12 months a year) to a yearly profit of $288,000. Now, I don’t know about you, but if I can ever hit that mark, I will work for about 10 years, invest wisely and retire to a sunny beach somewhere, with sand between my toes and a frozen drink (with the obligatory mini-umbrella) in my hand. The point is that we are often perceived to be a cash cow, and if this happens, lawsuits will inevitably follow.

relaxing on the beach after a successful home inspection career

My advice to new inspectors is to do your job well, and try to make certain that the buyer observes you doing your job. Be sure that they see you when you exit the attic in the summer, drenched down to your underwear. Let them see all the spider webs in your hair when you exit the crawlspace. Be blatantly obvious while investigating all the various areas of their new home, making sure they see you and know what you’re doing.

It has been my experience that if the client sees you working hard for the money you charge, they are less likely to attempt to hold you financially responsible for (what they perceive as) your errors. If you develop rapport with your clients, questioning them about their concerns and actively listening to them, they are more likely to have some empathy for you when (in the future) they inevitably discover a problem with their house.

I can’t make any promises about what’s going to happen to their house in the future. I can’t tell you how long the HVAC system’s going to last. I can’t predict if they’ll ever have to deal with a flood. I don’t know if they’re ever going to be infested with termites. But I can promise one thing: that something’s going to go wrong with their house and they’ll have to spend money to fix it. That’s a guarantee.

I want them to remember how helpful I was when that happens, and have them reach out to me for my advice on how to deal with their issues. If we take the extra time to develop those customer relationships, and do a little more than we have to, we’ll often get the benefit of the doubt when something bad happens.

If we don’t, we’ll still get a phone call. But it’s likely to be from their attorney.

I welcome all feedback (both positive and negative) on this post.
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Thanks, Joe

pic of me, Joseph Cook Jr, home inspector

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