2. Inspection - process and reports (copyright 2009)

Safety:

Purpose of Inspection

Inspection Scope, Limitations and Standards

Inspection Agreement

Inspection Process

Inspection Report

Performing a professional inspection

Real estate agents and others who may impact inspections

Safety:

Introduction - Ladder safety - Roof safety - Crawlspace safety - Stairway safety - Door, windows, and hatchway, (scuttle) safety - Critter safety, (Michigan including bugs, birds, etc.)

Introduction:

Entire books can be written regarding safety.  You should not do anything or go anywhere that is unsafe. For procedures that you normally perform but now cannot because of safety, just document the facts why it is unsafe and that you you cannot do it.  This is a typical inspection disclaimer and it should be in writing. See inspection scope and limitations section for further details.

Some of the safe things to do:

    Always think and say out loud, "Safety first, safety always", and keep your tetanus shot current.

    All inspection attendees need to follow your lead. Clients will do stupid things, Kids will do even more.... Some homeowners are criminal in their negligence for safety and maintenance. Expect the unexpected.

    Before you enter any room or area, stop and say to yourself, or better say it out loud, so everyone can hear, "Safety first, Safety Always"

    Look before you leap/step.      Be prepared.    Don't tempt fate.  Critters sting and bite.  Don't touch mold!!!

    Don' t step in water    Don' t step or reach into holes.   Don't touch, use or operate obviously broken items.    Inspect and test any equipment before use.    Don't touch electrical components while touching metal, plumbing, or earth, (touch with back of hand, only).  

   Continue to look both ways, (or better yet, in all directions) as you cross or traverse an area.    

        Some of the protective tools and equipment inspectors use:

    Look first:

        before you proceed - don't go where it is unsafe and also protect all others at the inspection.

    Look up:

            avoid hitting your head, especially into roof shingle nails sticking through the roof sheathing in attics

            Avoid electrical wires 

             Avoid hitting your head or poking  an eye out on wall hooks, cabinets, ductwork, beams, garage doors, etc.

    Look down

             avoid trip and falls, dog dropping, holes, pits, poorly constructed stairs and porches, tripping hazards, etc.

    Do not touch the unknown:

            Metal attached to electrical system, or metal siding, the shock can kill you.  (6 milivolts across your heart stops your heart. You die shortly.

            Stains and spots (mold and chemicals cause much illness and poisoning through skin absorption.

    Touch safely:

            Assume the worst. Always approach to touch potentially electrified items with a voltage tester and determine if electrified..  For areas where a voltage tester will not identify voltage, attempt to touch the item with the back of your right hand, such as metal fences, gates, and covers of the electrical panels. Your heart is on the left and the "electrical poke" will electrocute your muscle to contract and pull your arm away from the source. If you grab hold of an electrified item, your hand muscles will contract and you will not be able to let go and get free, (oops). If your hair stands up as you approach metal items it is sign that it is electrified and dangerous. Agricultural fences can run for miles and can become electrified. Metal house siding likewise can become electrified.

    Always wear rubber or other electrical insulating shoes throughout the inspection.  When you open an electrical panel, stand between the open panel and your client. Clients are sometimes touchy-feely and will kill themselves. I'm told most electrocutions in industry are from the system's neutral conductors, not the dangerous hot conductor!  Do not touch someone who is being electrocuted. Instead, turn off the power if possible, and call for help. Only then can you  knock the person off the connection with a non-conducting pole but only do so if you can remain safe and out of the electrical circuit.  (Many people cannot keep such presence of mind if someone is being electrocuted, drowning, suffocated or poisoned, and multiple saviors get injured themselves.)

Ladder safety:

            2007 USA: 160 deaths, 170.000 injuries per Consumer Product Safety Commission. 

    One person on a ladder at a time.  Read the ladder's extensive warnings and instructions,. Abide by them. 

    Avoid hitting electrical wires with your ladder (fiberglass ladders are better insulated against electricity, but always look up) 

    Will you be letting your client or others climb your ladder?  Do they have heels on their shoes to prevent their foot from sliding forward through the rung? Do they weigh more than the ladder is rated for? Is the ladder pitched 75 degrees, (1 in 4 vertical slope). Is the ladder on stable ground and high enough to allow safely climbing off and on at the top?  Is it secured properly?  Will the ladder crush the gutter it is resting against?

    One of the most dangerous ladders are the attic pull down stairways. Many times the hinges are broken, the stringer wood is split, or the frame and connection are loose, broke or poorly connected. The stair ends are many times not cut to sit flush on the floor and thus climbers weight has stressed and split the wood along the wood grain. Watch out!!!

    Do not set a ladder on an unsafe surface such as soft soil, wet wood, etc. as it will kick out and fall. They say it is best to ride a ladder down than to jump off it!

    Unattended ladders that are set up-right are considered an attractive nuisance and children may climb or play with them to your dismay.

Roof safety:

    If the roof surface looks too uneven, sunken on a home that probably does not have the 1/2" thick roof sheathing, (eg. 1975 and earlier roof structures) Look in the attic for sheathing damage before climbing onto the roof. Always try to walk atop a rafter or truss top cord so as to lessen the likeliness of falling through.

    Never climb onto a roof alone without others nearby for emergencies, (and who can enjoy and witness any stupidity). Note: many inspectors violate this rule and climb the roof before anyone else arrives to the inspection!  Real estate agents seem to think this is a good idea to get the inspection started. WRONG.

    One person on a ladder at a time.  Read the ladder's extensive warnings and abide by them. 

     Will you be letting your client or others attending your inspection climb onto the roof?  Do they have adequate shoes to prevent slipping? Do they have the sense and ability to stay safe?  I've had an ex-U.S. Marine nearly fall off and knock down the ladder!  I had the last person unexpectedly climb up to join the rest us on the roof and knock down the ladder. <{ :-o).  Carry matches to draw straws who will jump to reset the ladder.

    Never walk backwards on a roof - no matter how big the raccoon is.

    Always walk up-ward toward the roof peak and try to walk on the roof structural supports. These supports, (roof rafters and trusses) can many times be located from the ground as slight vertical ridges spaced every 16 inches to 24 inches apart on the roof surface.  Between them the roof sheathing material sags slightly from gravity. If you walk between these supports the roof will be more bouncy and you could step and fall through if the roof sheathing is rotted.  This happens often on the North and Northwest sides of roofs, but can happen anywhere.

    Do not climb onto high pitch roof slopes you do not feel comfortable to traverse up and down. It's embarrassing to get stuck like a cat up the tree. Scream and shout or carry your cell phone.

    Do not climb onto too cold or icy, frosted or black iced roof surfaces as your weight may break the shingle or you may  r i d e ...d o w n.  Ask me how I know! Some shingle manufacturers say stay off the roof below 40 degrees F, but you see roofers shingling on frozen roof decks often.

    Do not climb onto brittle roof material such as clay tiles, slate, and old, worn, cupped and curled and brittle roof shingles, etc. You will break them.

    Do not climb onto the hot sun heated slopes of a roof in summer. Your weight and friction may tear the roof material. One inspector slid and fell as the neighbors watched. 

    Always walk the front of the roof ridge so as not to step and fall through hidden vent holes typically located on the back side. Many roofers do not   adequately plug or patch. (see web home page for a photograph of a typical shingled over hole the roofers supposedly missed!  Happens often! Look for sagging shingles drooping over a hole in the roof sheathing.)

    Do not walk along the bottom edge of a roof especially on the North and Northwest sides since these area rot and the roof sheathing may have reduced the strength. I know of a chimney brick mason who fell through.

    Do not push or lean on the chimney . I know one that fell over as the home owner watched the inspector lean!!! Though defective, the inspector paid for the rebuild. Luckily, it just missed the vehicles.

    Remember that it is always easier to climb up a roof than climb back down.  :-)

    Do not step on or into a roof valley, (the junction of two or more roof planes), as you may tear and cause a roof leak).

    Do not step on the roof ridge, (the top junction of two or more roof planes), as you may tear and cause a roof leak).

Crawlspace safety:

    Do not go into wet crawlspaces as the environment is unhealthy. Electrocution and respiratory problems may ensue. The joke is to tie a climbing rope to your ankle before you go in so your client can drag your carcass out after you stop talking.  Turn off the building electricity for safety as you will be grounded as you roll and crawl under the building. Carry a working voltage tester and test all metal and wires encountered. Wear your jumpsuit, gloves, goggles and mask when entering, however, don't scare your client or the referring real estate agent when doing so. 

    Always knock before you enter a crawlspace. The inhabitants need time to hide. Shine a powerful light to look for eyeballs staring back. The light should remain on to persuade black widow and brown recluse spiders to run and hid. Watch out for critters, broken glass, rusted nails, etc..  Remember, you do not have to do anything you consider dangerous in an inspection. Some inspectors disclaim and refuse to enter crawlspaces that have less than 3 foot of height.

Stairway safety:

    Always be alert that the top of a stairway may be unsafe and the stairways may give out. 

    Look at the stair treads and determine that they appear firmly attached to the stringers. Many pull away from the stringers and only the nails are holding the tread!!!

    Be prepared to have a hidden broken stair tread when traversing the flight.

    Too steep of a stair is called a ladder. See ladder safety above.

Door, windows  and hatchway, (scuttle) safety:

    Always assume the door, cabinet door, windows and hatchway covers that you will open will fall. This is especially true for dishwashers doors. 

    For garage overhead doors, inspect all the wheels, tracks, hinges, cables, springs and panels of any overhead door to determine if the components appear safe and if it will be safe to manually test open the door. Manually open overhead doors first before using a powered opener to verify it is safe. If the door cannot be easily lifted the system is jammed or more likely the spring is broken. Do not then use the power opener to open the door. Any further damage or problems will be your fault. Inspect the opener and its connections to the door before operating. Do not operate any power opener that has loose or damaged connection to the door, or is attached to a damaged door.  Test the safety reverse light beam feature of the door to determine that the door will reverse to full open position. Some inspectors test that the door will also reverse to full open position when hitting an obstruction at mid or at the bottom of its travel. I have had three doors crumble or be damaged during such testing. Be careful if you decide to perform this type of test.

    Be prepared to prevent the attic scuttle lid being opened when accessing an attic from falling into a crevasse and damage the ceiling below.

    Propping open a hatchway lid to the crawlspace or a window sash using a stick can be dangerous.

    Do not break any florescent or CF light bulb when attempting to open or enter an attic or crawlspace.

    Always verify that the door you are test closing will not lock you and everyone else in or out of the room. You do not want to learn how to hang drop from a second floor window onto a concrete driveway. Also avoid getting locked out of the building { :-(

    Always hold the upper window sash while unlocking and opening the lower window sash of a double hung window.

    Never operate a damaged window, window sash, or a sash with a cracked or broken window pane.

    Never test lock a keyed interior door without first testing that the key is available and the key works.

Critter safety, (Michigan including bugs, birds, snakes, the homeless and other humans, etc, ):

    Always assume a critter is behind or beneath everything. They live in chimneys, crawlspaces, empty houses, behind siding, etc

    Knock and make noise before entering anywhere.  Use a lot of light to cause critters to run and hide. Most of them do not like us and would rather hide or get out.  Don't corner a critter!!! A trapped squirrel will jump and break any nearby window or bite you if they are rabid.

    Raccoons like to live in the fireplaces and smoke shelves in empty houses. Coons use the masonry chimney as the entry tunnel to their den. So be careful when openning the glass doors to the firebox or the damper atop the fire box.

    If bitten by a brown recluse spider, (a.k.a. violin, fiddle or backdoor spider) go immediately to the hospital.  Don't wait. Forget staying for your inspection fee, etc. Go, go, go.  It will hurt like hell and you will need skin grafts.

    If bitten by a black widow spider go immediately to the hospital.  Don't wait. Forget staying for your inspection fee, etc. Go, go, go.

    If bitter by a Mississauga rattler (Michigan rattle snake) go immediately to the hospital.  Don't wait. Forget staying for your inspection fee, etc. Go, go, go.

    If bitten by any known or unknown, or rabid vermin, if possible and safe, have others try to contain the critter for later observation. I would go immediately to the hospital.  Don't wait. Forget staying for your inspection fee, etc. Go, go, go.  Houses are visited and lived in by critters all the time.

    Always have your allergy medication on hand. Know what substances and critters you are allergic to. wear your medical warning bracelet.

    The homeless many times will temporarily reside in empty buildings. Shout out "The Police" if you must enter and give them time to escape. In some neighborhoods, real estate agents, home buyers and inspectors will lock the entry doors to the house you are in for safety to prevent strangers from coming in during the inspection. Just don't get locked out.

   

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Purpose of Inspection

    The simplest purpose for an inspection report: Are the items being inspected performing their intended function?  If an item still performs its function it is okay. It will not be negatively mentioned in the inspection report.  Inspectors using such a narrowly defined purpose can control and minimize the number of negative inspection findings - their client may not know that many potential problems exist. If an item still barely works but performs its' intended function, it is reported as functional.  Therefore old, barely functioning, unsafe and worn items can still be reported as functional.  Additionally, if the inspector disclaims reporting on any one item less than a significant but arbitrary set dollar amount, say $1,000, fewer negatively reported items would be found. For example, five damaged windows each requiring $700 to repair or replace would not be reported under a $1,000 item threshold because each window is less than  $1,000 to repair or replace. A leaking water faucet, heater, piping, etc. would likewise not necessarily be negatively reported as each is under the arbitrary threshold.  Such inspections can usually be performed in less than an hour as opposed to two to four hours for a thorough inspection of a typical home.. 

    Some home inspectors subscribe to a more thorough purpose, that of making a judgment not only to whether an item is not functioning properly, but also whether an item is significantly deficient, unsafe or are at or near the end of its service life. Again if the inspector disclaims reporting on any one item less than an  arbitrary dollar threshold many items can remain unreported.

Defining "intended function, not functioning properly, or are significantly deficient, unsafe or near the end of the item's service life" is at the discretion of the inspector. Hopefully the inspector is professional.  This is where clients must rely on the inspector's past reputation or gamble with the unknown.  The real estate agent's moral dilemma is whether to recommend a soft inspection and inspector, or to recommend a more thorough inspection and inspector to their clients.

A past Detroit News/Free Press article reports,: "What to expect from a home inspection ... the report will include an evaluation of the condition of (components) ... is like having a physical checkup. If problems or symptoms are found, the inspector will refer you to the appropriate specialist or tradesperson for further evaluation.

What an inspection is not:

the inspector is a generalist 

not typically an expert in each area of 

the inspector is 

does not comment on design, adequacy, capacity or efficiency of any item in the house.

 

 

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Inspection Scope, Limitations and Standards:

    What do you exactly inspect, (the scope)?  You decide your own scope unless your State has already set some legal requirements for licensed home inspectors. The scope is a basic component of your marketing plan. You then tell your potential clients what you will be looking at at their inspection, for what purpose, and also what you will and will not look at or report to them.  Your clients should have no surprises as to what you inspect and did not inspect at their inspection.

    Be aware that you will have limitations that prevent you from doing all you say you do.  Limitations are such things as, the inspector cannot see some item or condition because of physical limitations or safety concerns such as too high to see, or the item is locked or too dangerous to open, or entry or operation was not feasible at the time of the inspection and why, etc.. Many times stored items block reaching or viewing a component or accessing it's condition.   The home owner may also deny entry to inspect something in your scope. You and your client are invited guests and visitors to the property.  You cannot violate the homeowner demands.  There are many, many potential limitations to any inspection and you will need to make your client fully aware of these since clients think you can and will do every thing, and more! Some think you can see through walls! (20% think you are great. 80% think you are average or possibly a simpleton or worse.)

    The major professional organizations such as ASHI, (American Society of Home Inspectors, www.ASHI.org), the professions largest association lists out the minimum scope of their member's inspections.   You decide whether to include or exclude specific building components or activities such as refusing to climb too high of walls or onto certain roofs, or not inspecting swimming pools, etc..  Your scope will need to be somewhat in line with those of  your competition so you can stay competitive.  Competitors are always consciously or unconsciously gunning to take your business and referral sources away and scope and limitations is one way.

    The following are some of the typical areas that can be included in the inspection scope: Structure, foundation, building exterior, roofing, plumbing, electrical, heating, air-conditioning, building interior, ventilation, insulation, fireplaces, chimneys, spas, swimming pools, attached buildings, detached buildings, pest infestation, radon gas measurement, pest inspection.  Each of these areas may be excluded or further defined. Look at your competition's brochures and advertising to see how they advertise. Collect inspection reports and information from friends and relatives who had past inspections to see what and how their inspector reported findings. (Also ask what they thought about their inspector and why.)

    Standards are the rules or principles to which you compare what you find at an inspection. Again you can decide what standards of practice you will create and adhere to.  The current professional associations have skewed their standards of practice to mostly reiterate the inspection scope of their membership.  They also include some additional and almost meaningless reporting requirements as filler to appear more professional, such as describing building components. These associations leave tremendous discretion as to the importance of any inspection observation to the individual inspector.  Therefore inspector reports of the same set of conditions can differ greatly. Buyer beware.  (One client had two inspection firms independently inspect the same home to assure avoiding inspection errors and surprises. The inspection findings were initially thought by him to differ only slightly, and he preferred the showmanship of the softer and more positive sounding inspection performed by a franchise firm with deluxe marketing material and reporting method.  However, he later grew to prefer and admire the accuracy and insightfulness of the less flashy inspection as predicted problems developed within the year that were omitted from the softer yet more positive inspection and report.)

    The inspector association's want to allow maximum inspector discretion under their standards to keep their membership happy. Loose Standards allow inspectors freedom to vary their inspections from very thorough and critically hard inspection reporting to soft and approving inspection reporting. This allows many inspectors to freely appease their sources of referrals with potentially softer inspection findings. The majority of the inspectors have always been closely aligned with meeting the referring real estate agents needs. Most inspectors get a significant portion of their business though repeat real estate agent referrals. All inspectors have to walk the gray line of serving their clients yet trying to maintain a lucrative referral partnerships with real estate agents. Some inspectors have ethically sold out to real estate brokerages to receive the exclusive referral rights to the brokerage clients. These inspectors report only the most grievous inspection findings that cannot be omitted by their one sided inspection agreement. Some inspectors actually work for the brokerage or the broker's concierge services, or are married to an agent or broker.

    As an inspector, you create and adhere to your selected standards of practice. Being consistent helps protect you from claims of deviating and making omissions from your own standards and scope.  At one extreme, some inspectors only report individual conditions exceeding some large dollar amount such as $1,000.  Others will detail every inspection finding big or small. They may accumulate smaller findings into larger findings. However, all inspectors will indicate in their inspection agreement that small, hidden and latent defects may be missed or are omitted from the inspection report and findings.  

    All inspectors disclaim inspecting to determine compliance to building code. Inspections are not meant to find compliance to code. The inspector is not certified by the State or the jurisdiction of the municipality where the property is located. Inspectors know that building code changes over time, and only applies to new construction or new remodeling of an existing building.  Code and code interpretation  varies from governmental location to location, and even varies between local code inspector interpretations. It is therefore impossible for a home inspector to determine compliance to code. The conditions of an existing home "grand father in since the property would have met code at the time of construction and therefore does not have to be brought up to current codes. Only when the system or area is updated or replaced will the code need to be met.

 

 

 The scope of any other services is at the discretion of the inspector.  

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Inspection Agreement:

    With regard to scope and limitations, your clients will think you do everything, and more. They unrealistically assume you assure and insure all; That you have no limitations and that you have x-ray vision and see through walls, etc. You need to spell out exactly what you do and what you do not do in writing in your inspection agreement.  Your agreement contains the rules of engagement for your inspection. The agreement will detail or point to: 1) the scope of your inspection, 2) the purpose of the inspection, 3) the general limitations of the inspection, 4) specific limitations and disclaimers occurring at the inspection, 5) and the further actions of all parties to the inspection as well as usage of the report and the process to follow in the event of dissatisfaction with the inspection and the report.

    Your attorney will be help you once you first obtain many of the scope and limitation clauses used by your competition. Your attorney will not completely know the inspection profession or how you perform your inspections, but will be very helpful in preparing a legally defensible inspection agreement and report method.  To help draft the most appropriate agreement and report, you need to educate and communicate to your attorney your inspection process and standards.  However, no agreement is "bullet proof" to protect you from all disgruntled clients who are likely wanting to sue you.  

    Search the internet to find various inspector agreements. Many attorneys instruct their clients to maintain a copy of their inspection agreement on the internet so that potentially disgruntled clients cannot claim they were surprised by the agreement contents and restrictions; Disgruntled clients can not say they only first saw the agreement at the time of the inspection if you informed them that the agreement is on to internet for all to see.  Some times the potential has to first e-mail the their agreement and authorization prior to the inspection. Disgruntled clients will not be able to say they were under duress due to time constraints in finding a professional. Plan ahead for contingencies.

    The inspection agreement must be read and signed by your client. Many insurance companies require that it be signed before the inspection begins. Some argue the inspection begins with the first contact accepting to hire the inspector. Others believe the inspection begins when the inspector arrives. others when all the inspection observations are made and the reporting begins. State laws may dictate some requirements.

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Inspection Process:

    Develop and follow your system to assure completing your inspection scope. You will need to faithfully follow your process and procedures. With experience your process and procedures will become second nature to you. Your process and procedures will differ from those of other inspectors as there are many ways to perform an inspection to cover the same scope.  Inspection process and procedures vary from inspector to inspector, and area to area. The best practices used by various inspectors has not been codified.  If they were, you would use them as your minimum procedures in serving your clients. The following are some general practices along with some of the reasoning behind them.  Let me know which you believe should be included in the best practices of the profession.

    Potential clients need to contact you. They or their real estate agent may telephone, fax, e-mail, or text message you, to interview you, or shop price and availability.  If cannot contact you, or you do not respond immediately, you typically loose the sale unless they know you or really want you to do the inspection. Only then will they leave you a message. All others go elsewhere with their inspection needs.

    Sell your services. Determine if the potential client must still be sold on your services, and stop selling once the sale is made or risk sounding desperate, arrogant, etc. and kill the sale.  Many sales and communication books are available to help you sell and close the deal. Sales can be tougher when not face to face with the client, such as over telephone, e-mail, etc. since you have only vocal opr written clues as to how to pitch and close the sale.

    Schedule the time and place to meet as well as any other pertinent arrangements such as payment methods, emergency contingencies, etc.

    Arrive at the inspection on time and remember  Safety first, safety always. Many real estate agents think inspectors should arrive early and start the inspection.  I personally think this creates double work unless the client will not be attending the inspection.  If the inspector prefers minimal communication with the client, starting the inspection may not be a hindrance. 

    If the client or you are running late, call them immediately if you will be running late, but wait to contact them only after they are somewhat late. At times the initial scheduling facts get distorted and they may believe the inspection was scheduled to start later. Many inspectors contact the client the day or night before the scheduled inspection to assure the client intends to show on time.  Some real estate agents are always late and they expect you to inspect the exterior of the property first without them.  This may be unreasonable in many instances. Real estate agents may also call to give you the lock box number code so that you can access the key to unlock the building. This is normally only done if the agent trusts you and it is likely the building is empty.  You run the risks with this added resposibility.

    At the property, meet and greet any owner or owner's agent, etc. to break the ice. Get permission to start looking around along with learning about any limitations or restrictions, such as ,"don't shut off grandma's respirator electrical circuit!", or "Don't let our attack dog out of the garage!", or "the garage door falls. Watchout!".  Inspections can be stressful to the home seller so try to keep them calm. Reiterate your professionalism and how long your inspection will probably take.  Overcome their outrage, disgust, etc. and reassure them that you are fair, careful, and not going to damage things. Also, try to sell them on your services and professionalism if they or their friends are also shopping for a home.

    While waiting for your client's arrival, start to set up to inspect and start making observations and taking notes, photos, etc..  After greeting your client and breaking the ice, then go through the inspection agreement.  

    You decide how much to communicate to your client. Some inspectors say very little to their client so that only the most important findings are communicated and then recorded in the report.  Some inspectors prefer that the client does not follow along with them on the inspection. Others prefer or mandate that the client follow. Some inspectors talk continually with their clients knowing full well that much of the information will be lost or mis-understood, but that the written report will reiterate the important information.

    The order in which you perform your inspection is directly related to the circumstances you find at the time of the inspection such as, did the client show? Does your client have a dozen friends and relatives along, all who need a tour of the great new house before you can talk to your client?  Is it raining too hard to inspect the outdoors first? Is the selling family and their pets still at home?  Is there a sick person or a rabid animal in a bedroom? Can the sick person's room be inspected?  Does your client need to leave early? You will have to roll with the punches as many things can occur at an inspection to ruin your normal routine, but you need to meet your inspection scope.

    Document what you think is needed to be recorded in your paperwork, such as date, weather, temperature, names of attendees, the name of the agents, etc.

    Develop your quality control system to help you avoid missing anything important in the inspection. Reciting your scope helps keep you focused. Following your inspection standards is mandatory. Look twice at everything so that you do not miss anything. Take, follow and follow-up on your notes. Follow-up on evidence from other areas of the inspection to determine cause and severity of conditions. You do not want to miss following up on evidence such as a water spot on ceiling below when inspecting for the potential source of water at the roof flashing, shingles, plumbing, rooms, or attic above. 

    Develop your safety system to help you keep everyone safe at the inspection. Children can drown in the whirlpool tub you fill, or drown in the pool when someone leaves the gate open. Expect the unexpected. Go through the building at the beginning for a safety check and at the end to determine everything is set back to the way you found it.

    Communicate your findings to your client. Talk and write your report. What you say and what you write should be the same with regard to seriousness of the conditions found, eg. saying something is okay, but writing it is bad.

    Follow-up for feedback and further sales. Develop you marketing program to maximize your return on investment of time and money.

My preferred inspection routine.

    Introduce myself to and chit chat with the client, homeowners, agents, and everyone else. 

    Learn of anyone's concerns.

    Have the client read and sign in agreement the inspection contract, (i.e. the inspection agreement). Meantime do something the client would find boring or a waste of their time.

    Operate those items that need to be verified or operated early in the inspection process, such as the dishwasher, the HVAC blower fan and ductwork, the air conditioner or furnace, (per season), etc. Always verify that the HVAC system operates before taking off the access covers. This gives you evidence of prior problems and helps prevents you from being blamed for any failure. Always look and inspect for safe operation the garage door, (3 have fallen on me), microwave, dishwasher, laundry machines, oven, etc. before you operate.  People sometimes hide or store things that may be damaged by operation.

    When entering any room or area, always say aloud, "Safety first, safety always". Check for danger. If safe, recite your inspection scope.  Mine is, "HVAC, electrical, plumbing, foundation, structure, floors, walls, ceilings, roof, attic, exterior". This will remind you to inspect all the components of the various systems when you enter the room or area for the first time. Try not to go back into a room or area later again as it slows you down.  The exception is the basement which I try to go to first and then again later to look for water leaks that may develop after I tested the plumbing throughout the building above.

 

        Since evidence of potential problems indicate the you also further look in other areas, e.g ceiling water stain indicates a potential plumbing, roof or flashing leak somewhere above, you will need to write your self notes so that you do not forget to look for a cause when your at or on the roof or plumbing locations above.

        Before you complete the inspection, you must go completely through you  notes and make sure you clear each note so that you know you did not miss further inspecting the problem. You write your inspection report from you completed notes.

        What you tell your client at during the inspection must be exactly the same as your notes.  You cannot say bad things and then write good things, or vice-a-versa in the written report

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Inspection Report:

    The purpose of the inspection is to report to the client what you found regarding the condition of the property. Verbal reports are not recommended as the clients memory or your selection of words may cause miscommunication and error.

    Inspection report systems can be purchased from many sources. Some reports are preprinted - fill out the blanks, others are computer generated immediately at the end of the inspection or prepared afterward and mailed or Fedexed. 

Who gets the report?

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Real estate agents and others who may impact inspections

    Real estate agents and their brokers play a significant part in real estate transactions. An inspector's client is usually utilizing an agent. r

    Real estate agents are licensed in the state of Michigan are working for the home seller unless they have a "buyers agreement" where they work exclusively for the home buyer. They may be dual agents supposedly working for both parties, but many see a potential conflict of interest. Also a potential conflict of interest arises when both the buyer's agent and the seller's agent work for the same broker. The agent working with your inspection client buying a home may therefore actually be working for the home seller.  As an inspector, I always try to determine if the agent is a buyer's agent with a buyers agreement with my client.  If not, I try to limit the information to that agent to only the information my client wants them to know. (not always easy to do!).  Agents working for the seller or the seller themselves may bird dog you and your client throughout the inspection trying to mitigate findings, etc.  Work out an arrangement with your client to overcome this situation and discuss the inspection findings in private.

    Real estate agents make their living by getting a commission on the sale of property. The agent working for the seller and the agent working with the buyer splits up to 6% of the sale price as their commissions. Commissions are negotiable and are up to 10% on vacant property.  Agents have to share their commission with their broker and pay the broker fees and rent, and pay for all their own insurance all other costs.  Agents are independent business persons, not employees. In good times the average agents gets commission on 13 sales per year.  Recently the US government identified real estate agent as being in one of the ten worst jobs in America. Note that some agents are very successful and rich while most are much poorer.

    Real estate agents reflect society in general. Some are the best people I have ever met. Others are Q@#*#2!!*   They all hope their client's home inspection turns out well and the home sale proceeds without a hitch.

    Insurance companies may obtain the inspection report from you client.  The insurance company may contact you regarding the report and want further information that may or may not aid your client. Determine how you should respond to protect your client. I always tell clients to not let any insurance company or any future buyer of the property know you had an inspection.  Why? Because I cannot think of anything good that could come from it. Sadly only bad has occurred. 

     While on an inspection you may meet other inspectors who work for the municipality you are inspecting in. They can be building code officials who are inspecting the same property that your client may be purchasing. Watch what they do. Do not try to contradict anything they say.  They are the legal authority and it is best that they have their say.  However, if you can point out conditions that the code official can have remedied to the benefit of your client, then your client is better served.  Watch out that additional problems are not thereby created, things like delays or creating negative seller and buyer relations. Use your best judgment. Remember, "the road to hell is paved with good intentions" :-( 

    Another group of inspectors you may encounter are the municipality home sale ordinance inspectors. Many cities require sellers to obtain a city occupancy permit and inspection.  This allows the city to have sellers or buyers to upgrade to meet some property standard. Many times the findings of the inspection must be corrected by the seller before the property can sell. However, some cities allow the buyer to make the corrections instead of the seller within a specific time period, like 6 months.  Your client should know about these requirements. 

    Watch what any inspectors do in their inspection.  Your inspection should have included inspecting and testing and finding the same conditions so that you do not look bad in everyone's eyes. If the city's report is available at the inspection, (its usually a public record), read it. You can then explain why your findings differ, and why it was worthwhile for your client to hire you and your expanded scope.  Do not compete with these inspectors at the inspection to see who can find the most.  Too many minor findings may negatively affect your client and delay the sale.  Be aware that some of these city inspectors, (can be retired firemen, police, etc.), are required to find problems as their city treasurer expects home sellers, (traitor and turn coats abandoning their town), to fail all inspections and ultimately lose any posted bond ($1,500 in one town). 

    FHA (federal housing authority) appraisers do a small amount of inspecting for safety while appraising the property.  They sometimes feel they have to find something that needs correction before the mortgage money is allowed.  The safe method is to put up and shut up in their presence.  They can only cause problems and offer no gain.  Be pleasant and professional. (:-)[<

    Appraisers for the mortgage bank may be on site at the time of the inspection. Nothing can be gained by giving them any negative information. Protect your client and say or answer nothing unless your client approves. {:-)

 

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