August, 2002
From the ASHI President.
Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors



Interviews Reveal Clients' Expectations

MICHAEL CASEY

As many of you may know, ASHI leadership is in the process of studying the ASHI Brand Inspection, specifically what should be included in an ASHI Inspection. The process includes interviewing real estate agents, brokers, builders and home inspection clients, both past and potential.

The interviews have been revealing. In addition to gathering information for the study, we’re learning referrals tend to go to inspectors who are perceived as professionals and as skilled communicators (read, get more business.) Sure, our technical  skills are important, but apparently if you can’t speak or write at a professional level, clients lose confidence in all your skills.

What the public demands

Today’s educated clients demand an inspector who greets them and others involved in the transaction in a professional manner. The professional inspector informs clients (and maybe sellers) about the sequence of the inspection, and provides them with a general overview of what is covered. Today’s clients aren’t looking for an inspector who has a defensive or aloof attitude; they want one who is able to explain the inspection findings. This usually means sitting down with the client (and many times the seller, agents, other family members) and talking with everyone to be sure they understand the findings and the magnitude of the conditions described. The inspector should remain neutral. A professional inspector is not an advocate. That’s the real estate agent’s or attorney’s job. The inspector is an impartial professional, rendering an opinion based upon education, training and professional judgment. We have a contractual duty to our clients to perform a diligent inspection, at minimum meeting the ASHI Standards of Practice.

Lack of communication causes complaints

I wasn’t surprised to learn from the interviews that professionalism is important to clients. I know about the numerous complaints received at ASHI Headquarters from our Membership’s clients, most of which could have been easily diffused if the inspector had been professional enough to return the client’s phone call. Many complaints are obviously due to the poor communication skills of the inspector.  

Focus on professionalism

How about we raise the professionalism of ASHI home inspectors by focusing on how to present ourselves as true professionals? We all concentrate on the technical aspects of this job. I suggest we also spend time developing our presentation style and addressing our weaknesses. I guarantee the more successful inspectors make their clients feel good about their service due to a professional demeanor. Doubting and questioning clients are usually responding to an inspector’s apparent lack of confidence. Too often what is lacking is the skill to effectively communicate.

Apparently some clients believe inspectors are too much the critic or too pessimistic, or are known for making inappropriate comments. The professional inspector discusses only issues related to his or her job. Our job is to present negative information — basically that is what we do. But we provide a positive service. Effectively communicating with clients and with each other will enhance the value of our service, and it will elevate our profession.

Take care, talk next month.