You might be saying to yourself, "OK, now this author has really gone over the deep end. He's talking about the emotional state of real estate appraisal clients." Well, let me give you a few war stories that show you the reality of this situation. These are two of the clients that consist of the less than one percent that have ever called me to complain about my services. I think you'll see why I feel that I was right in both cases and the home inspection clients were misled by lying contractors.
A client of mine had moved into a house that I had inspected for her. She called to say that she had replaced the water heater and the oil burner for the boiler. She told me the price she paid for the repairs and I immediately knew that she had been cheated by a dishonest contractor. I asked her why the contractor said the repairs were needed and if she had gotten any other estimates, before hiring this guy. The contractor told her that the oil burner and the water heater were unrepairable and both had to be replaced. She then said that she didn't get any other estimates for the repairs and this contractor was the only person who evaluated the damage. I then told the client to check the written inspection report and let me know what it said about these two items. The water heater was only three years old and was operating fine at the time of the inspection. The oil burner was also operating properly at the time of the inspection. Both items were covered under a warranty and service contract with the manufacturer and oil delivery company. My client ended up realizing that these items didn't need to be replaced at all. On top of that, this immoral contractor charged her more than twice what she should have paid, even if they did need to be replaced! Since this guy was such a crooked contractor, I am positive that these items may only have needed a minor repair or tune-up in the first place. However, the client was told that it was my fault by the contractor. She didn't find out the truth until it was too late and the money was spent on the repairs.
(This next story is a real beauty). Another client of mine called me after they moved into their new home. They had a contractor come in to give them a price quote to remove the old carpets and install new carpeting. This contractor found some damage underneath the existing carpet in a corner and one other small area. The hardwood floor underneath had buckled in two places. The contractor had only lifted the one corner of the carpet and he told the client, "Didn't your home inspector see this damage underneath the carpet? This entire hardwood floor and carpet are going to cost you $5,000 to replace. Your home inspector should have seen this." Not surprisingly, my client was angry about not being told of this damage before closing on the house. Fortunately, the client called me up before he let this blockhead, that calls himself a floor contractor, replace the hardwood floor. When I saw the damage in person, I could not believe anyone would have told my client that I was negligent. My client and I, both confirmed that the corner where the damage was found had been buried in boxes, toys and furniture at the time of the inspection. We also both confirmed, that the other damaged area was covered with a large couch at the time of the inspection. Impressions from the furniture were still visible in the carpets surrounding the damaged areas. Therefore, it became very clear to both of us that the seller intentionally made sure we didn't see the damage at the time of the inspection.
I was angry that the seller was such a crook and that he would stoop so low and hide damage on purpose. However, what really annoyed me, was the ignorance of the floor contractor! When I finally looked at the damaged area underneath the corner of the carpet, I realized that the contractor had no right to accuse me of being negligent. The damaged area could be easily repaired by replacing a few of the buckled boards. It didn't even matter if the wood matched exactly or not. The client had told the contractor they wanted to cover the floor with a new carpet anyway. Luckily the client had taken my advice and called a second contractor to give them an estimate. While I was there, the second floor contractor came by the house. His price quote was a $500 repair job, not a $5,000 repair!
You should have a statement in all of the written reports that you send out to warn your clients about this type of situation. Let them know that some contractors will try to blame the appraiser and/or the home inspector. These contractors will then grossly overcharge the client for repairs that may never have been needed in the first place. Tell your clients to call you before hey have any repairs done which they believe you should have identified during the on-site inspection. If they call you before the repairs are done, both you and they will have a chance to clear up the situation before it's too late.
You also want to warn your clients if you find out that the seller or any third parties have intentionally lied about some aspect of the subject property. I've had this happen on a few occasions and it should immediately raise a red flag in your mind about the property and that person's integrity. If you catch someone lying about some aspect of the property, then there probably will be other hidden problems. There could be damaged areas or something that's not visible which can create a problem after your client moves-in. If this happens to you, then make sure that you and your client verify as much information as possible, before they sign contracts.
There's a very important point that you need to remember. If you get an angry phone call from a client who complains that you missed something during your inspection: Don't jump down their throat and tell them they're crazy! You have to stay calm and be very reasonable and diplomatic when you deal with an angry or hostile person. Don't make the mistake of telling the client that he's insane if he thinks you should have seen damage that was hidden at the time of the inspection. By yelling back at the client, all you will succeed in doing is getting him even more furious at you. Just calmly tell the client that you want to come by the house to see the problem in person. This is for your benefit as well as the client's benefit. By seeing the damage in person, it will enable you to help solve the problem before they make any unnecessary or overpriced repairs.
Your client can get angry and all pumped up because they're looking at a very large repair bill. Moreover, the contractor is blaming you for not seeing the problem. As a result, the client is told by the contractor that you should pay for the repair. An angry client is concentrating on what repairs you didn't tell them about, before they bought the property. You have to make them realize how much you did tell them about, before they bought the property. As an "A to Z Appraiser": your on-site inspection lasted up to several hours; you used more than the minimum three sales comparables; you checked all records at town hall; you warned them about radon; you told them to get estimates and further evaluations for some items; you sent them a narrative and informative written report; etc. Would they have gotten that much information if they hired another appraiser in the area? How much risk did you help them eliminate? How much money did you save them? How much more thorough and professional was your appraisal, as compared to the competition? Would any homeowner, including them, allow an appraiser to come into their house and rip up the carpets, move the furniture, and open up the walls, floors and ceilings?
As long as you're logical and reasonable, the client will understand that you didn't cheat them. Your client will be complaining because they're ignorant not because you're negligent. There's a big difference between the two. The client is ignorant because they don't know the Standards in the industry for performing an appraisal. When they're annoyed, they might not stop, take a step back, and think about the situation in a logical fashion. The client might not realize that an appraiser can't pull up carpets, or move furniture, or open up walls, floors and ceilings. You have to look at the situation from their perspective. The client is looking at a big repair bill and they think it's your fault. Once you explain the limits of an on-site inspection and ask the client questions, (like the ones mentioned above), your client will understand that you haven't been negligent. After that your client will gradually calm down and recognize that you're the best appraiser in the area that they could have hired. Therefore, if you didn't see the damage, or if it wasn't visible, then no other appraiser would have identified the problem either.
A client of this limited mentality cannot comprehend that an appraiser doesn't travel on a magic carpet with a wand, emerald slippers, and Aladdin's lamp.
Now, let's say that after you calmly explain all of this logic and reason, your client is still angry with you for missing something that you clearly had no way of identifying. If this is the situation, then I hate to have to clue you in. But you're dealing with a basket case! You have to tell this type of client that they need to call Clark Kent "Superman" for their next real estate appraisal. This is the type of person that I've been warning you about to CYA in all of your written reports. A client of this limited mentality cannot comprehend that an appraiser doesn't travel on a magic carpet with a wand, emerald slippers, and Aladdin's lamp. So bite your tongue, say your prayers, and try not to lose your patience with a person like that.