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If the client asks if you're an engineer or an architect, just educate them about this common misconception. By telling them the facts, you'll earn their respect for being so up-front and honest.

Tell the client that it's highly recommended that they attend the inspection. This will enable them to see firsthand all of the different aspects of the house you'll be evaluating. Having the client attend the inspection also helps to eliminate questions, phone calls and problems later. Tell them that it's also recommended that they arrange the inspection at a time when the owner of the house you'll be inspecting will be home. The reason for this is that there are many questions you need to ask the owner of the house directly. As an "A to Z Home Inspector" you need to ask these questions to obtain some information to help you with the home inspection. I'll explain more about this later.

Sometimes you'll book jobs to inspect vacant houses. Some houses are left vacant when being sold for a number of different reasons. The homeowner could have died and it's an estate sale; the owner may have been relocated by his company for a new job position; the owner may be away for a long vacation; it could be a bank foreclosure sale, etc. If the subject property is vacant, then there are important items to be aware of. Often, vacant houses will have the utilities turned off. You should notify the client of this when booking the job. I've arrived at houses many times to do a home inspection or appraisal and the utilities were turned off. This limits what you can evaluate. For example, without electricity you can't check the outlets and switches; without gas or oil you can't test the boiler/furnace or water heater; without the water supply turned on you can't test the plumbing pressure and drainage. There's another aspect to be aware of with vacant houses. If the property is located in cold weather areas, then the heating system must be kept on all winter or else the water pipes must be winterized. This protects the pipes from water freezing, expanding and cracking the pipes.

Pre-inspection contracts are starting to gain support among many inspection companies. The purpose of these is to have the client sign a contract before the inspection. The contract is designed so that the client will understand what the inspection involves and what the limitations of it are.

There are inspection companies that offer some of the home warranty programs that are on the market. Home warranty programs offer the home buyer a type of insurance policy. The buyer obtains the insurance so that if they buy the house and something breaks down or there's a problem, they may be reimbursed for any expenses. This is different than Errors and Omissions insurance. E and O insurance covers the home inspector. Home warranty insurance covers the home buyer. If you're going to offer a warranty policy to your clients, then make sure that you read the fine print and that you understand them completely. Sometimes these policies are very limited in their coverage protection, so you and your client need to know up front what your client will be getting for their money.

Many of these home warranty policies only offer the client a depreciated value reimbursement for any claims. They also do not cover certain aspects of the house and the coverage period is limited to about 12 months after the client moves in. This means that if the client buys the house and the boiler needs replacing in 14 months, then the policy will not cover this expense. Also, when a claim is paid it's usually depreciated. This is similar to auto insurance. When an insurance adjuster "totals " a used car after an accident, the insurance company only pays you the book value of that car. They don't buy you a new car! Basically it's up to you. Some people feel it's a selling point to offer their clients a warranty policy. It's pretty much a judgment call from your own perspective. So look into the warranty policies in your area and decide if there's one for you. But whatever you decide, make sure you read the fine print so your client doesn't think he's getting "full blanket" insurance coverage.

There are some seller disclosure forms that have come out for home sellers to sign when they're marketing their house. You will come across some people who try to convince home buyers that they don't need to get the house inspected. They tell the home buyers that an inspection isn't needed because of a seller disclosure form and/or a warranty program.

The seller disclosure forms are very limited because the seller of a home knows nothing bout home inspections. The seller can only tell the home buyer if things are working up to their standards, which may be different from the buyer's standards. For example, the seller may have no problem living in a house with low water pressure or an occasional water problem in the basement. However, your client who is the home buyer, has totally different needs and standards that they're looking for in their purchase. This can't be evaluated properly by a seller disclosure. Also, let's say the seller disclosure states that the roof has no water leaks. This could be a true statement. Maybe the roof isn't leaking now. But what if that roof is 20 years old and it's going to need replacing within a year? The seller knows nothing about roofs. So how can the seller tell a buyer that there's no need to worry about the roof. These are the reasons why a home inspection is still needed, even if there are a seller disclosure form and a warranty program for the house.

It's very important that your client understands the severe limitations of the home warranty programs and the seller disclosure forms. Your client has a right to know this information. So don't let any Realtors, sellers or other third parties try to convince them that they don't need to get the house inspected.

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