All Utilities Shut Off

Scheduled an inspection of a vacant home, as is our policy, we always ask the caller if utilities are on. We were assured by both the buyer and agent that all utilities were on. Upon arrival at the property and descending to the basement, the electric meter head was removed from the wall and the water and gas were shut off. Both agents were “surprised” to discover that everything was shut down. Looking for opinions regarding charging for the 2nd trip to this property after all utilities are back on. This is a 75 mile round trip inspection, did not collect any fee for the initial visit, although I am still in possesion of the payment, which I have not deposited. At this time, I think that I will refuse to return unless there is additional compensation included for the two trips. Opinions/suggestions will be appreciated.

There would have been a $150 (or whatever your time is worth) charge for the first visit then a full charge for the 2nd trip and only if the $150 had been paid by the Seller/Seller’s Agent beforehand. Cut an invoice and send it poste haste to the Seller’s agent. He will bitch and moan but will reluctantly pay it.

Now, I will say that I never look to the Buyer for compensation in these cases, he didn’t make a mistake, the Seller and Seller’s agent did. If, like you say in your case, the Buyer assured you the utilities were on then I would be more apt to look to him for the trip chage as well as the Seller. Let them split the fee.

I agree, it really was no fault of the buyer. Thanks.

I charge 50% minimum on reinspection. I think this amount for a return to do the initial inspection is justifiable. At least the cost of fuel (which I keep track of on a spreadsheet for each vehicle I use).

If you need to drop a big hint, it is the real estate agents responsibility to get the home inspector in the house and have the home prepared for inspection. If they’re not willing to do this for the large amount of money they make on their commission, then you should be raising your prices proportionately to meet or exceed that of the real state fees to conduct business.

I take a different approach to avoid the argument. Perform the inspection at full price. It will be much shorter since many systems and features can’t be properly inspected for lack of active services. Tell them to schedule a re-inspection when all utilities are on. You’ll make more money, avoid the drama and normally keep both buyer and agents as future clients.

Good Luck!

Great suggestion will

Will, I don’t quite understand the details of your suggestion but like I said, I will never penalize my client, the Buyer, for something the Seller and the Seller’s agent failed to do. Are you saying to charge the Buyer twice, once for the limited inspection and then again for the re-inspection? How would charging the Buyer twice keep him as a client?

I would say, yes… Charging the client twice is fair. The fact that you couldn’t inspect everything isn’t your fault either. Since the one client, is taking two inspection slots, then there should be a fee for both inspections. My time is valuable.

Granted, I wouldn’t charge as much for the second one as the first, but I would still charge (unless there was some other compelling reason that I decided not to.)

OK, this has been discussed numerous times on the board with little agreement. My position is that the Seller is required, by the Sales Contract in my state, to have the property available for inspection with all utilities on. I cannot see how penalizing my innocent client to the tune of several hundred dollars is the right thing to do nor how that will make him a loyal customer. If I were him, I’d be bad-mouthing me all over the place. This scenario has come up for me maybe 4-5 times in the past couple of years and the Sellers Agent has always paid my additional fee.

You’re not in a position to charge the realtor anything. Let the client, who BTW, has way more stroke with the realtor recapture any inspection fees they think appropriate.

And yes, perform the inspection at your normal booked rate. Then come back and perform a re-inspection at substantial cost, but less than the original inspection.

Good Luck!

Why not? They and/or the Seller have not abided by the Sales Contract. I can, and do, charge them when appropriate and they pay.

If the client bad mouths me for showing up on time, driving 150 miles round trip, I’m prepared to inspect the property and someone wants me to leave for free? I don’t need that client anymore…

I had a 10:00 AM inspection cancel on me this morning at 7:56 AM. Buyer’s remorse was the reason for cancellation.
I advised the client, I understand entirely, however since you’ve canceled within 24 hours of inspection a $175.00 cancellation fee will apply.

I send an email invoice within 10 minutes and about 1 hour later received a paypal payment for same.

I operate a reliable, ethical business concern, I expect to be treated fairly and honestly by all parties concerned. My time is how I earn a living. Next to my family, time is my most precious commodity.

Now that’s intersting Michael. You’re not part of the sales contract, are you? Not here in California for sure. The agent is also not the client, are they? Again, they’re not here in California.

That’s great that some agents have honered your invoice for services when the utilities are off. I deal with several agents who would immediately stop doing buisness with you if you charge anything back to them or even suggest it for that matter.

I still believe any and all charges associated with the subject property inspection belong to the client. They and they alone in my opinion should decide how those charges get distributed to any third parties.

Now, if the agent speaks up and volunteers to pay the fee, I have no problem with that, but to summarily send an invoice to the agent is questionable at best…

I’m not saying you nor I shouldn’t be compensated. I made a business decision several years ago to collect those fees from the Seller/Sellers agent and not my client. No more complicated than that really.

Here’s what the Seller/Sellers agent committed to, I hold them to it: Capture.JPG

I do not agree with performing an inspection without working utilities. When we quickly realized that every utility was off, I informed the agents (buyer was not present) that the seller would be responsible for my time that day, but I would return and complete the actual inspection at a later date for the normal fee. My intention is to bill for my time that day. Completing a very partial inspection would accomplish little, and possibly increase my liability.

One, If you have check in hand, I would cash it!!!

I would have inspected what I could have with utilities turned off, and noted why I could not inspect other items.

It is my view, that it is the seller and/or his agent that has the primary responsibility to have utilities on and the house available for inspection. After all, they are the ones in “control” of the property. Seller would have gotten utility notice of discontinued utilities hookup.

As to hitting up the buyer for the return costs, that’s a tough one, as he/she was probably unaware of the utilities being turned off.

If they (the realtors) want the deal to go forward, they should pay the additional costs of the inspection, it was, after all, their error.

I would have no problem in charging for a return visit, after all, I, in good faith, did show up, and time is money (and at gas prices, an unecessary expense). I would, also, assist the buyer in trying to recoup the cost from the responsible parties.

No intention of charging the buyer for two visits, only the second visit for the normal fee. Seller should pay for the aborted inspection. Once again, I don’t believe in partial inspections, unless it is a specific limited inspection. If for some reason I never returned to complete the full inspection, why should the unaware buyer pay in full for a very incomplete inspection. I suppose this debate couild go on for a long time, I do appreciate all input. Thanks.

It’s a whole new world out there John. I do bulk REO inspections for investors that might be buying anywhere from 25 to 200 homes in a given area. The utilities are never on nor are they going to be activated in the near future. The banks never activate the utilities anyway. They leave that up to the listing agent and or debt servicing company.

Sounds as though we all have different ways of doing business. It also sounds as though it’s working for each of us.

Good luck back there and continued success…

As I noted in my post, seller or the agents SHOULD be responsible for a unnecessary return visit. It is THEIR responsibility to make certain all systems are a go.

As to who should pay??? Think the buyer has all the cards in his hand, if the realtors are willing to lose a potential sale for a few hundred bucks out of their outragious commissions, so be it. So, let the buyer put the pressure on the realtors. If the realtors don’t pony up the money, then it becomes your option to collect or not collect from the buyer.

If you already had payment in hand, were already there, why not inspect what you could? At the very least, you would have shown a concerted effort, and you would have “earned” your fee.

If you make a mistake, should you pay? YES
If someone else makes a mistake, should they pay? YES

Time is money, and I chose not to lose either one!!!

Sounds like an oportunity for NACHI to me. Let’s come up with an agreement between the realtor and inspector, especially if you are working with the realtor for the first time. I have a new realtor information packet that I give to all realtors if they have never performed an inspection with me. It states various issues, such as utilities, fees, SOP, etc. They are professionals. They know about utilities. Is the realtor a good contact and professional? Charge them that way. I have charged different fees for different situations. You are all correct. I even have a “Before the inspection” page on my web site.