A botched sale can be demoralizing for everyone involved. The property search process can be grueling, one the buyer and seller want completed quickly. Chicago-based agent Chris Miller recalls an incident where a home inspector noted a problem with a register at a condo in the city’s Logan Square neighborhood. There was no egress out of the room.
“That’s a $200 fix, DIY — 10 minutes to screw in some holes in a wall,” Miller said.
But that’s not how the buyer, whose mother accompanied the crew on the inspection, ended up seeing things. The register issue was enough to anger mom, who blew up the deal in front of Miller’s eyes. It became a cautionary tale for Miller. There were warning signs that this sale wasn’t a sure thing, but he never imagined an issue as small as a register costing him a deal.
The home inspection process can be a major part of any real estate deal, and a good inspector can’t make concessions just to ensure that the deal goes through.
“Good inspectors simply understand they work for the client,” said Claude McGavic, the executive director of the National Association of Home Inspectors. “They don’t have a legal responsibility to anybody else in the transaction.”
Honolulu-based agent Wayne Chi prepares his clients for the worst, which is why he rarely has transactions fall apart during the inspection period, he said. He suggests allowing inspectors privacy. Let them inspect the property by themselves, and then have the rest of the parties convene later to review the findings.
“Generally inspectors are there to do their job and get everything on the table, so it’s a great thing to see as many problems as possible,” Chi said. “No home, even new ones, will ever be 100% clean, if so, then I’d be concerned.”
Chi recommends building a strong rapport between agent and inspector. Good communication skills are essential because it’s often how the inspector’s report is worded that threatens a deal. Miller recalls an inspector finding a problem with a water main at a suburban Chicago home. The inspector stated it would cost $40,000 to fix. Turns out there was a less costly option at $3,000 that the inspector failed to mention. Chi also has run into those types of problems. The inspector should put any problems in the best-possible context.
“A good inspector will offer recommendations on possible repair options and experts to get a second look,” Chi said.
Inspectors may make mistakes, but McGavic offers simple advice: Fess up to any errors.
“The client is impressed when I’ve made admissions,” he said. “They trust me [and have] a newfound respect for the inspector who can admit to making a mistake.”