By Bud Coburn
Every part of the inspection process is handled assuming the worst — that there will be problems resulting in legal action — so it is important to adhere to a process that will help protect the inspector if he has to go to court.
Upon receiving the call, the inspector should ask key questions and use the answers to fill out a booking sheet. Inspectors seldom see the home they will inspect before arriving for the actual inspection, so it is important to develop as clear an idea as possible of its size and condition in order to estimate the length of time it will take to inspect the home, and to charge accordingly.
The booking sheet typically includes the following information:
- booking date;
- client’s name;
- property’s address;
- size of home: ______ square feet/meters;
- year built;
- general condition;
- ancillary inspections;
- inspection fee;
- date of inspection;
- utilities on/off;
- animals on property;
- occupants at home; and
- directions to property.
Booking Schedule Explanation
1. The inspection is typically performed anywhere from one day to three weeks after the date on which the inspection is scheduled, and it’s a good idea to keep an accurate record of that date.
2. This is the name that will appear in the Inspection contract.
3. The property may be located outside the area served by the inspector, or the inspector may charge travel time to perform inspections that involve significant travel time.
4. Home size is the primary basis for determining inspection fees.
5. If a home is exceptionally old, it may require more time or special skills to inspect.
6. Homes in exceptionally poor condition often take longer to inspect and fees need to reflect this. Foreclosures are often in poor condition. Very expensive homes carry higher liability. If a solid gold doorknob is inoperable and needs replacement and you miss that, you may be asked to pay for replacement. So, you would take plenty of time with this type of home and would charge accordingly. These homes are out there!
7. In addition to the General Home Inspection, other types of inspections may be requested. Some common types of ancillary inspections for which inspectors might charge extra include private water well/bore equipment, yield and water quality, septic systems, wood-destroying insects, security systems, etc. Home inspectors with the proper qualifications can perform some of these. Inspectors who are not qualified will sometimes charge a fee for arranging for the services of a qualified contractor.
8. Inspection fees are set by each individual inspector according to the method that each thinks is best. The fee for inspecting a home is usually based on the amount of time estimated for the General Home Inspection, the quality of the home, the complexity of the home systems, and those factors mentioned in numbers 3 through 7 above.
Payment is due at the inspection before the report is supplied. Clients who are unhappy with what the report has to say about the home may refuse to pay. “No payment at the inspection, no report supplied” is the universal practice.
9. Recording the date makes for easy reference.
10. When the seller is absent for an extended period, or when a home is in foreclosure, the utilities are sometimes turned off. For inspection purposes, the utilities should all be on. When scheduling the inspection, the inspector should confirm that they are on, and if they are off, request that a qualified contractor turn them on for the inspection. Inspectors should never activate a system that has been shut down, since this transfers liability to the inspector, mainly related to flooding and fire.
With the water off, leaks may not be detectable, and plumbing traps/bends may be empty and may allow sewer gas into the home. With electricity or gas off, the inspector may not be able to determine the functionality of key systems or components. If an inspector is forced to inspect a home at which some utilities are shut off, it is important to ensure that the client understands that the inspection was limited. It should be mentioned both verbally and in the inspection report. The inspector should recommend that any affected systems be inspected once the utility has been turned on.
11. The animals of concern are those that bite people, mainly dogs. If upon inquiry an inspector is told that there will be a dog on the property, the inspector should request that the dog be removed or restricted to an area away from the home so that the inspector can move about freely without having to worry about coming into contact with the dog. Do not believe anyone who tells you that a dog will not bite. You’ll read more about this in the Safety Course.
The other concern is that the occupant will leave a dog or cat in the home that will rocket past your legs and disappear down the street the moment you open the door.
12. Most inspectors request that the occupants leave the home for the duration of the inspection. The occupant may be a renter who resents the intrusion and the inconvenience of having to find another home once the sales transaction is successfully completed, or a seller who wants to argue the inspector’s findings during the inspection. Sellers have a right to have their agent present, but the inspector should be free to perform the inspection without interference. Inspectors should be civil but firm in insisting on compliance. Under no circumstances should an inspector tolerate harassment from anyone during the inspection. It sets a bad precedent.
Inspection Booking Process
After filling out the booking sheet and agreeing on a fee, the inspector should ask whether the client is familiar with the inspection process, and try to ensure that the client understands the limitations of a general home inspection.
Some clients, especially first-time home buyers who think that inspectors are experts in every home system, may be disappointed when an inspector recommends further evaluation by a specialist. Inspectors want to avoid disappointing clients, so in addition to a verbal explanation, inspectors should refer the client to the information on the inspector’s website that has InterNACHI’s Standards of Practice, which clearly defines what an inspector is and is not required to inspect.
Before performing an inspection, the inspector should have an agreement signed by the client, which also states what is and is not included in the inspection.