By Alan Carson
Realtors know how stressful buying a home can be. The process can seem confusing and complex, especially for first-time buyers.
A home inspector’s goal is to reduce anxiety, not add to it. The home inspection and report should provide clarity and reassurance.
The best way to make the inspection a positive experience is to properly set the stage so your clients have the right expectations every step along the way.
Before the inspection
You can help manage client expectations early by repeating the phrase, “No home is perfect!”. We say this a lot as inspectors, and it’s always true.
A home doesn’t “pass” or “fail” an inspection. There will always be improvements recommended in an inspection report. That is to be expected.
Encourage your client to attend the inspection. A home inspection is a practical course in homeownership. This is especially true for first-time buyers, who gain lots of insights they won’t find anywhere else.
Don’t exaggerate what a home inspection is. While an inspection adds great value in a short time, there will be things that go undetected for several reasons.
Some issues are not visible, some are intermittent, and some are not picked up in a representative sample. Inspectors typically test one electrical outlet and operate one window per room, for example.
Clients should allow 2.5 hours for a typical home inspection, and they don’t have to take notes (that’s what the report is for).
The inspection is an opportunity for homebuyers to learn from an unbiased, third-party expert about the condition of their property.
During the inspection
Encourage your clients to participate in the inspection. Your client will likely come to the home inspection with lots of questions, and a good home inspector will be there with experience-based answers.
Home inspectors are impartial: they don’t sell home improvements, and they don’t sugar-coat or exaggerate the condition of the property.
Prepare your client for the report. Remind them that there will be improvements recommended. Good home inspectors not only give recommendations for upgrades; they also provide ballpark costs and timelines for repairs.
This professional opinion is invaluable to homebuyers. Homebuyers can use this information to make informed decisions about their new home and build a home improvement game plan with logical priorities.
After the inspection
A home inspection report should be uncluttered. The issues specific to the home should be separated from general maintenance advice that applies to all homes.
A poorly done inspection or badly written report can overwhelm and alarm clients. As with many things, simple is better. Good inspectors know that a well-organized, easy-to-read report is critical.
When a homebuyer becomes a homeowner, they don’t suddenly become an expert in home maintenance. They will forget things from the inspection, but they are in luck! Remind your clients to refer to their inspection report and to call on the home inspector for help and advice.
Speaking of advice: A great home inspection provides value well after the event. The inspector can help answer questions, address concerns, and evaluate contractor quotes.
Our goal is to protect your clients’ largest financial and lifestyle investment and keep their families safe, warm, dry, and happy!
Homeowners should create a home maintenance and improvement plan, targeting areas based on importance first. There are some one-time things like changing locks and some regular things like cleaning gutters.
Again, the home inspector can help set priorities and discuss how best to execute the plan. For each step of the homeownership journey, a home inspector is the key to moving forward with confidence.
A home inspection should be a source of comfort for homebuyers. Agents can help by setting reasonable expectations in advance. No home is perfect, and there will be areas of improvement discovered during an inspection. Good inspectors will give their unbiased insights with balance and perspective.
Homebuyers (especially first-timers) should use the experience as a learning opportunity. The more engaged they are, the more they will learn!
By setting the right expectations, you will help your client get the best value from their home inspection and feel much better about their new home.
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Gil Strachan is a professional home inspector, representing Electrospec Home Inspection Services in east-central Ontario since 1994.
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