Generally speaking, the more you do something, the better you get at doing it. Who would think that there would be a downside to that? Well, there is, and the downside for longtime Home Inspectors is both surprising and surprisingly obvious.
As Home Inspectors, we work every day in a process that most people only go through a few times in their lives: buying a home. We are comfortable in a process that, for most people, is fraught with stress and raw nerves. We see deficiencies in homes every day, but it has no affect on us personally, because we have no skin in the game. While it’s important for Home Inspectors to keep their impartiality, our familiarity with the process makes it easy to forget what our clients need from us.
I once learned this lesson the hard way. We had scheduled a home inspection for a young couple that were first time home buyers. They were, what I like to call a “flight risk”. They were on a tight budget and were very nervous about the condition of the home and any potentially expensive problems that could arise after the sale.
The Realtor had told us that this couple wanted to attend the inspection from start to finish. Our mistake? Complacency. We arrived at the vacant house about 30 minutes early and our comfort with the process led us to an, “Oh, it’s no big deal if we get a little head start” attitude. I didn’t take the buyer’s needs seriously. And while the buyers didn’t make a big deal about it at the inspection, they were very upset. So much so that I got an email from their Realtor an hour later conveying not only their disappointment, but hers as well, seeing as she had been quite specific beforehand.
I replied to the Realtor with an epic mia culpa. We had dropped the ball. And while we had delivered a thorough home inspection and report, we had neglected what our client had needed just as much; an active and personal role in the inspection of their future home. They needed that experience to help allay their fears of buying a money pit. And no matter how much I apologized, I could now never give them what they had needed. We waived the inspection fee and again offered our written apology to the buyers. This helped us to salvage our relationship with both parties.
We truly do learn more from our mistakes than from our successes, and I learned a valuable lesson that day. Some people need more from their Home Inspector than cold, hard facts. Just like in any profession, customer service is crucial. Home Inspectors must remember that, unlike us, this is not an everyday occurrence for our buyers, and they are usually anything but comfortable with the home inspection process.
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