I sat back-to-back inspections one day this week, roughly three hours each. As the negotiated inspection contingency periods on both properties are relatively short and my clients must furnish quick responses, time is of the essence. Having a great inspector on my team is crucial both to maintaining the contract schedule and instilling in my clients confidence they are making a well-informed decision.
I’ve collaborated with a lot of inspectors over the years, finally building relationships with a couple on whom I can absolutely count to provide a fair-minded, balanced thorough inspection report. The inspection contingency is where the contractual rubber meets the road in most instances. For the buyer, it provides an opportunity to really dig deep into the nuts and bolts of the property. A good result bolsters confidence, paving the way for a smooth close. A poor one leads to buyer dissatisfaction and potentially an exit from the contract. For the seller, a clean, reasonable response with manageable requests for modification offers peace of mind; gaining for them confidence a successful sale is at hand. The attitude and professionalism of the inspector in the three to four hours of client interaction can seal or kill the deal.
I look for many different qualities in an inspector:
· Qualifications – inspectors should have intimate knowledge of the construction process. Though generalists by trade, it’s important they understand all the systems in a home from foundation, framing, construction and roofing to electrical and plumbing, etc. This may seem simplistic, but the best I’ve worked with were builders at some point in their careers. Home inspections are one of those areas where I prefer not to work with newly qualified personnel. I want someone who can communicate complex technical issues in easily comprehensible lay-persons terms; a person who is experienced in managing what can be a highly emotional experience for my clients. Great qualifications to look for include membership in local inspection and licensing bodies, knowledge of or actual accreditation as a pest inspector, familiarity with the burgeoning “built green” list of criteria. The inspector with whom I work most these days is LEED (Leadership in Energy Efficient Design) accredited, sits on the state’s Building Commissioning Association board of directors, is a state licensed professional engineer and has ample knowledge in identifying pest intrusion and wood destroying organisms.
· Communication – I prefer inspection reports to be issued on-site at the time of the job in either hard or softcopy form. My preferred inspector with laptop, network card, digital camera and ancillary equipment in hand, generates the report real time. He takes comprehensive pictures of problem issues which are downloaded into an easy-to-comprehend report template, reviews the issues in detail, then e-mails the full report to all parties. Clients often have follow-up questions for which he remains readily available.
· Availability – Regardless the pace of the market, I want to work with an inspector who is responsive, available and able to turn around a report promptly.
· Thoroughness – For residential inspections, the obvious is the benchmark, inspect the entire structure. For condominiums, I expect the inspector not just to inspect the subject property from the paint in, but the general building as well, including features such as the roof, any common systems like communal water heaters, communal ingress and egress points and the like, the purpose of which is to insure the overall condition of the structure is sound and well maintained. A poorly maintained building implies a homeowners association or management entity not doing its due diligence.
What I don’t want in an inspector:
· Inspection Overkill – I recall an inspection conducted on behalf of a colleague’s clients for a 750 square foot, two bedroom, one bathroom home which took the better part of eight hours. Needless to say, this was excessive and presumably the product of the inspector’s concern for liability. The clients were so crossed eye by its conclusion, they walked from the deal.
· Insensitivity or an inability to sense the client’s state of mind – Too often, inspectors get wrapped up in the technicalities of their jobs. This can lead to information overload for the client. Worse yet, what may seem innocuous to the inspector can take on the appearances of disaster for the client.
· Subjectivity and Ego – If there are issues, I want the inspector to report them in a coherent, balanced manner, leaving ego and personal subjective opinion aside.
If you can find that rare combination in an inspector, knowledge and an ability to communicate clearly and concisely with empathy, you’ve struck gold.