Everyone wants to be good at their profession. As a home inspector, it’s not enough to be the best at detecting defects in a home. No matter what you find, if you are not using effective communication with your clients, you are not doing a complete job.
Luckily, with these tips, you can be a great home inspector and communicator.
Effective Communication in Agreement and Inspection Reports
The pre-inspection agreement is usually the first piece of communication from you to the client. An effective agreement should define the scope of the inspection for the client, identify the standards of practice being used and alert the client to specific legal defenses the inspector will rely on in the event of a claim.
The home inspection report should:
- Disclose systems and components that were inspected
- Disclose systems and components not inspected and why
- Disclose any defects that were found and the significance of the findings
- Provide recommendations where appropriate to have a problem inspected by a qualified professional, tradesperson and/or service technician
Uniformity of communication between the pre-inspection agreement and the inspection report is critical. Confusion arises, and can be followed by a claim, when there are differences between the scope and standards identified by the agreement and the communication of the problems in the report.
If your legal responsibility to your client is described by the agreement, then the service you provide is judged under that standard. Strive to match your home inspection report with the contract terms you made with your client. This will eliminate any argument later.
When communicating defects or issues, an inspector should ensure the term is defined within the body of the report. Some inspectors prefer to define other system and component issues that are not considered “defective”, like the “maintenance, monitoring and other recommendations” categories.
If an inspector uses similar definitions to describe a defect and something that needs monitoring, plaintiffs may testify that they were confused. They might claim they did not know items marked as defect needed to be addressed prior to closing of title. Try to make definitions as clear as possible.
Many inspectors utilize some form of defect summary in the body of report, usually at the beginning. The summary should include instruction to the client that anything listed in the summary is something that must be addressed prior to closing of title or expiration of the inspection contingency under an agreement of sale.
Effective Communication in Documentation Procedures
Always document your inspections. Verbal communication creates difficulties because they generally fall into the “he said she said” category of statements. It becomes a credibility battle between the inspector and the client, if something goes awry.
Consider implementing these documentation practices to your inspection process:
- Take audio or video recordings of the entire inspection and save it should a claim arise.
- Hold a conference with your client while still at the property to explain your findings.
- Reiterate that information and communication will be in the home inspection report and ensure that it is.
Take the time to review how you communicate with your clients. Review your pre-inspection agreement and a sample inspection report. Are they consistent? Are the language and definitions uniform? Does the information in your inspection report match the verbal representations you made during the inspection.
Taking these small steps can help you be more effective communicator and can prevent a professional liability claim in the future.