Walking a fine line....client/Realtor

While speaking with my broker friend today I noticed something and I would like some opinions.

I was asking him if he would send me all his inspections if I got certified etc…and of course he said yes…100+ per year between him and his team. Anyway, that is another post :wink:

He was mentioning some of the things that made him stop using past HI’s…one of the things he mentioned was that an HI killed a sale for him. Was an older home from 1898 and had outdated wiring. Apparently the HI told the client…buyer…that the wiring all needed to be replaced as it was dangerous and someone would likely be hurt. At that point I realized what a fine line HI’s walk. You are hired by the client (buyer) on the recommendation of your contact (realtor) and you have to make them both happy.

How do you tell the truth, but not make the realtor mad? If it is a situation that the client(buyer) should know about and it kills the sale…perhaps the contact (realtor) will not send you any more inspections?


Is it the way you word your report and speak with the client (buyer) that will prevent this situation?

Thanks in advance.

Telling the truth makes the Realtor mad? Oh, my.
I don’t think I would want to deal with this person.

But that’s just me…

I’m really not interested in what someone ***wants ***to hear,
I’m more interested in my own integrity, and that should be
enough for the Realtor or the buyer.

I have known buyers who wanted a “soft” report so they
would feel better about the house, but after we had a long
“heart-to-heart” they understood. I found some serious
issues, but they still bought the house because I “educated”
them about how to handle the situation. They felt better,
I felt better and the Realtor came to realize the difference
and has since referred me. Some of them, anyway.

I agree with you. Sometimes, the HI is the buyer’s only true representative in the process. We have an obligation to 1. The Truth, and 2. Our Client. I believe that education is a part of our responsibility to our client, and like to use the term “perspective” when discussing any issue or problem. I have found that my clients aren’t necessarily scared of repairs, they just want to know about them so they won’t be surprised by them.
So my “Philosophy” is- Tell the truth as you see it, and offer an explanation and/or a solution so the client has the facts and the “tools” to make an educated decision.

Your first and only duty is to provide an honest, comprehensive report to the person (usually the buyer) that has retained your services. If a realtor is upset at your honesty, maybe they should look a little closer at what was found versus what was disclosed by the vendor. Like us HI’s, the real estate people have to overcome liability issues as well.
ju8st my thoughts

We for me I don’t care what the realtor thinks I work for my client and only my client so if the realtor don’t like it too bad. Most of my business come’s from referrals from my past clients.

I guess I expected that tons of referrals would come from realtors…creating this problem. Of course a problem needs to be reported…that is a given.


Who says you have to make them both happy? Your duty is to your client. If a Realtor cannot appreciate that the odd deal is going to fly south based on your objective opinion, then perhaps they should not be selling real estate. Good realtors appreciate good inspections/inspectors, it is a good reflection on the Realtors reputation.

The way I see it, anyway.

Raymond Wand
Alton, ON

First: how old is the electrical wiring?:shock:

Second: If it is truly wiring from 1898 then it probably needs to be replaced.

Now if the only info the HI gave is, old dangerous wiring someone is likely to be hurt, then in my opinion the information was not presented professionaly.

There is not enough information about how old the wiring is (1970’s AL?) (K&B) for me to judge if what was said was correct.

Third: HI’s rarely kill the deal, many time Realtors have no sales skills and can not Close the deal. In example. All of the homes in my neighborhood are plumbed with polybutylene piping. Many people freak out when they hear PB piping. They are just pipes, they can be replaced, plumbers have to eat:) .
To completely replumb a house in my neighborhood costs between $4,000 to $6,000. At todays prices that number represents less thatn 1% of the sales price. Many Realtors are either too stupid/lazy and/or too greedy to figure where that 1% could come from to make the deal work. Duh;)

Home Inspectors do have to choose their words carefully. But as others stated our duty is to the home buyer, period.

I don’t think it’s hard at all to keep everyone happy. There obviously will be people that I can’t keep happy for whatever reason. I personally don’t like working with the top agents because they have been in business so long, have so much experience, and have a comfort level that they don’t want to have disturbed. Nevertheless, sometimes my Clients find me on the Internet and go against their Realtor’s recommendations. So be it.

However, I do believe keeping people happy comes from how one acts, how one talks, and how one writes. For example, here’s four statements about the same house:

“There are lots of problems here. Some of them can kill you, so let’s go over them.”

“Let’s go over some major problems with you.”

“Let’s go over some problems with you.”

“Let’s go over some items with you.”

Which one would a Realtor prefer?
Probably the bottom one.
Which one would I prefer if I were a Client?
The bottom one because I want to decide what risk level I will take. In many cases, I have a greater chance of getting killed each time I get into my car and take off down the street. I want to decide what will kill me. I want to decide what major problems are.

So other than that top one, are we really saying anything different?
I don’t think so, but it’s all in how we say it, along with those vocal inflections and that body language.

I even title my defect section “Areas of Concern” because that’s what they are, areas of concern. Granted, some of them can kill someone, but that’s really neither here nor there if you educate your Clients. And I’ve found the best way to educate them is to provide examples.

Additionally, all the “items” in my report state the problem, state typical causes of the problem, state typical/some/worst-case results of ignoring the problem, state ways to resolve the problem, and state my recommendation.

When I’m consistent in using that format, I never get any questions from anyone. When my proofreading fails me, and a report gets out with an item not in that format, inevitably I get a call with a question. And guess which item the question is about? Yep, you guessed it.

Also don’t forget to educate your Realtor:

“I don’t know of any home inspector who killed a deal. Some might not have as much tact as others, but the person who killed the deal was the seller for not taking care of the property or hiring incompetent nincompoops to do repair work. All the home inspector did was document that deferred maintenance and those idiotic home repairs. And don’t forget, Mr. Realtor, your Client still needs a house, just not that one. So no deal has been killed as long as you have your Client’s needs at heart.”

There is very good advice, that I don’t remember exactly who it came from, but it was “HI’s don’t kill deals, the house committed suicide.” If it was put as “the house had outdated wiring which would hurt or kill someone” then there are different ways of putting it that are not sugar coating or any thing like that. I don’t sugar coat ANYTHING; but I have been known to put things in perspective.

The feedback I get from some agents is some inspectors nit pick. They sweat the small stuff and not the big stuff.

Raymond Wand
Alton, ON

Which is why I came up with my LIST, BASIC, STANDARD, PREMIUM, and TECH inspections.

Now they (Clients, Realtors on behalf of Clients, etc.) can tell me what they want me to sweat and what they don’t want me to sweat.

My LIST is no nitpicking for sellers.
My BASIC is no nitpicking for buyers.
My STANDARD is nitpicking for everyone.
My PREMIUM is nitpicking for the superrich.
My TECH is nitpicking by a bunch of licensed professionals (plumbers, electricians, roofers, etc.).

Thats why its important to know your client. Figureratively speaking of course. :wink:

Raymond Wand
Alton, ON


Last year when I initiated the different inspection levels, I added a question to my information-gathering protocol: “Are you going to live in the property?” (if a Client) or “Do you know what the buyer is going to do with the property?” (if a Realtor).

If the answer is, “He’s going to gut and renovate,” then I’m going to try to sell him my BASIC inspection. I have no great desire to take money for the sheer joy of taking money, so if my BASIC inspection serves my Client better, and less expensively, than my STANDARD inspection, then I’ll offer it to him and let him decide. Invariably, investors choose my BASIC inspection.

I only send one inspector to BASIC inspections, and since they are not that much less expensive than my STANDARD inspection, where I send two inspectors, I actually make more money doing two BASIC inspections than I do one STANDARD inspection. And the reports are much, much easier to write. And two inspection reports have the possibility of eight people seeing them (Client, Client’s Realtor, seller, seller’s Realtor) rather than just four people for one report.

It was a win-win-win-win year in 2005.

RR loyal fan first time caller. I have noticed one or two of your posts where you failed to mention your 5 inspection levels, was that in error?:wink:

He IS a great realtor…the HI did kill that particular deal…he wouldn’t finish the inspection as he said the wiring was so deficient that he didnt’ think the rest of the house mattered…he said the electricity would come down the pole and ultimately kill someone! :open_mouth:

This same inspector stuck a 12 inch screwdriver INTO the siding…buried it 6 inches deep, took a picture and brought it back to the realtor’s office…wow!

My point is:
As HI we are not perceived to be EXPERTS in all the different aspects of a home and it’s systems correct? When we see a defect such as this shouldn’t we recommend that an EXPERT in that field check it? Isn’t that the job of a HI…to find concerns and report them…not to tell the buyer they are going to die?

I realize this is an extreme example…but it reminds me of my other business…I would do warranty work for this large landscape company…they would install sprinkler systems…and quite frankly do a piss poor job most of the time…but it wouldn’t kill anyone…and it was average and would work fine it would just need repairs sooner…sort of like a KIA vs a Lincoln…anyway I would go do the warranty work for the landscaper, but ultimately for the client…I would tell them that these things happen…his guys must have missed this one…the part must have been defective…or whatever, not lies…but I would never tell them how crappy the system may have been to make myself look like the hero…and ultimately lose the landscapers work. Does this make sense?

Thanks for listening and responding…go take a look at my education thread…I need help there too…

Take care.

The reality is that many referrals DO come from realtors, and there are ways to make even the most nervous realtor feel better about your inspection.

One thing I try to do “bond” a little while I review the contract with the client prior to the inspection. I always ask if I may share their report with their Realtor (mentioning the Realtor by name) “since they are representing your interests and gettimg them the info quickly is important.”

This shows the Realtor that I am reinforcing their relationship with their client and that I value their time and appreciate the work they do for the client.

Then I mention, somewhere in the course of covering the items in t the contract and what we will be doing, that Mr./Ms. Realtor wants them to be happy with the home the buy. My job is to tell you (buyer) the current condition of this house and answer any questions, no matter how small, you may have about the home so that you are comfortable with and confident in the decision you are making.

This again re-inforces that the Realtor wants them to find the right home and represents their interests, and puts my job in perspective for them. It also suggests that if I spend some time on minor items, that I am educating and helping their client become more confident about the home.

Finally, I mention that they (the buyers) are my clients and I am not allowed to answer or respond to questions without their consent. Then I quickly add that Mr./Ms. Realtor has likely seen thousands of homes, and been through dozens of inspections (bouquet to the Realtor) and may have a good point or question as we inspect, that you may not think to ask or that I may not think to mention. Their (realtor’s) experience can be a great asset, and - if it’s ok with you - I think it makes sense to make this a team effort.

I vary it alot depending on the feel I get from the client and realtor, but almost always I touch on all those issues and try to reinforce the relationship with the Realtor and the trust they place in him/her to find the buyers a good home. I have found it lightens up even the most critical realtor (at least a little).


If you can provide me with the link, I’ll edit those couple of posts to correct that failing. Darn margaritas. :smiley: :wink:


I manage my Client’s expectations by telling them that I am a generalist home inspector. What that means to them is that I know something about everything but everything about nothing. That gets a chuckle, breaks the ice, and lets them know that I ain’t no expert, so if I find certain problems, I will recommend that they consult such experts.

Occasionally I have to use the doctor analogy, but rarely.