Dear Monty: Real estate agent hassles home inspector
By Richard Montgomery
Reader Question: I am a home inspector. I work with an agent who is always pressuring me to “take it easy.” I refuse to lower my standards, but I’m concerned about him finding a replacement. How would you suggest I approach this?
Monty’s Answer: The situation you describe may be a very delicate matter, and no matter what you decide, it may not be the right solution. In many respects, this is a primary challenge of being in business. No one likes to lose a good customer, but sometimes, we lose customers for reasons beyond our control.
A short story
When I was a rookie real estate agent, a local lender used a lawyer that nit-picked every title and found tiny flaws that sometimes jeopardized a sale and created extra work. The experienced agents in town steered their business to other lenders. I learned to do the same.
Then, I bought my first house. Suddenly, I wanted to ensure there were no flaws in the title. I took my mortgage to that lender because I knew the lawyer would not miss anything. From that day forward, I added that bank to my provider list.
This story bears similarities to your situation. I was worried about my income because of a good lawyer; your inspector is concerned about his income because of a good inspector.
Here are some options
- Ignore him. 95% of the things we worry about never happen, and he may just be worrying out loud when inspection time rolls around.
- Ask him to have a conversation with you over a cup of coffee. Tell him you want to discuss his concern about your thoroughness when conducting an inspection. Tell him you value the professional relationship the two of you share. The goal of the meeting is for you to seek to understand his thinking. Only when you more closely examine the “take it easy” suggestion can you get a better sense of an approach to take with him. The principle here is: Seek first to understand – then be understood.
One question you may want to ask him is if he were to buy another home, would he want you to inspect it? You could also share why a proper inspection makes him look good, and a not-so-good inspection makes him look bad.
- Assuming you believe the agent is an efficient agent (because you witness him working with his clients when they attend the inspection), put him on the top of your recommended real estate agent list.
- Ask yourself; Are you too picky? Is the agent trying to tell you in a nice way that some of your observations are above and beyond what is required by law? Every state laws and inspection regulations are different. What does the law or administrative rule say that sets consumer expectations? In most states, the inspection clause in the purchase contracts refers to material defects. For example, in Wisconsin, the word “defect” is defined in the purchase agreement. It states:
DEFECT: “Defect” means a condition that would have a significant adverse effect on the value of the Property; that would significantly impair the health or safety of future occupants of the Property; or that if not repaired, removed or replaced would significantly shorten or adversely affect the expected normal life of the premises.
Have you seen his contract? In many states, the seller has the ” right to cure.” In others the “ right to cure ” is negotiated; and in others, no mention of it. If there is no seller’s “right to cure,” a defect may give the buyer an escape route. This information may be helpful in understanding why the agent is saying “take it easy.”
Has the agent ever seen your contract? What does it say you will do for your customer? My experience is most inspectors have differences in their contract offerings, which is one reason why a consumer should compare inspectors. Does he understand your unique selling proposition? It could be that once the agent knows your side of the equation, he may come to appreciate it.
Customers may want more than what the state expects in the definition of defects. They will sometimes use the inspection as a bargaining chip. You can be ” damned if you do and damned if you don’t ” in the inspection business.
Every state is different, so a bit of reading and conversation on your part may lead to reaching a satisfactory arrangement between the two of you.
“Richard Montgomery gives no nonsense real estate advice to readers most pressing questions. He is a real estate industry veteran who has championed industry reform for over a quarter century. Send him questions at DearMonty.com.”