Column: Inspectors can't 'show' a home
When I'm inspecting a home, I'm "in charge" of that home. I take that responsibility very seriously, especially in occupied homes (often the owners are not home). Most of my inspections in the last year are vacant, which might be why I'm getting more "looky-loos" lately. This is my term for people who stop at a home I'm inspecting and ask to see the home.
I politely tell them I'm not a real estate agent and cannot show them the home. I've had them ask if they could just look around, since the home is vacant. I politely tell them they cannot. If they are persistent, I will politely tell them there are 1,000 or so real estate agents in town, and I'm sure they can find one who will show them the home.
Recently, some looky-loos are getting a little more aggressive. More than once I've heard "the home's vacant, we're just going to look around for a minute." I explain that I cannot legally let them in the home. If they break something, I would be responsible. If they fall and get hurt, the owner could be liable. My insurance does not cover strangers that are in the home.
This seems to satisfy most people. But not all. Last week I had someone insist he was going to look around, even after I told him he couldn't. I explained about my insurance, and asked him again to leave the home. He said he would, as soon as he finished looking at the home. He told me I better mind my own business and just go about my
job. I told him that right now this house is "my business." I told him to take his time, since he was trespassing and I was going to call the police and give them his license plate number. He called me some names that would not make it
past the editor, and stormed out
of the home. He stopped in the
driveway and loudly informed
me that I would never be doing
a home inspection for him. I
smiled and told him that was the first thing we agreed on.
Which brings me to a related topic I get asked about frequently - having the clients attend the inspection. My policy is to have the buyers meet me at the end of the inspection. I will spend as much time with them as needed, but only after my inspection (I don't mind if they come a little early to a vacant home to measure or
take pictures). I have several reasons for this. The first is that I always leave a home exactly as I find it. If I flip a lightswitch and nothing happens, I put the lightswitch back where it was. This switch may control an exterior motion detector light, or an
outlet with a timer plugged into
it. I leave window coverings as
they are. If blinds are partially
closed, I actually note exactly where they are and put them back in the exact same position after inspecting the window.
I can't be with buyers during my inspection. They are not going to go on the roof or in the attic and crawlspace with me. If they are in the home, they may be flipping switches or opening blinds, so I want to make sure I have inspected everything first so I know where everything was.
I was inspecting a home in Chino Valley in 1993, and the buyers arrived while I was on the roof. They were in a minivan with more people inside than it could legally hold. They had their relatives, friends, relatives' friends, hitchhikers, and even two dogs with them. Before I could get off the roof, they walked through the muddy front yard and into the home. I was there for two hours after they left cleaning mud off the floors. It was while I was on my hands and knees cleaning the floor with paper towels that I decided from then on, buyers will come at the end of the inspection.
There is another reason for having the buyers come after
I've inspected the home: I don't start talking until I'm done. The attic and crawlspace (under the home, if there is one) are the last places I go. These are a major part of the inspection, and often the more significant findings
are in these areas.
When I first started inspecting homes, I had the buyers attend the entire inspection. Once I was standing in the side yard with a buyer looking at some moisture damage to the eave. Right above this was a wood-sided chimney. I told the buyer that I rarely see saddles to divert roof water around chimneys in our area, and that often the chimney flashing is not properly installed. I even drew a couple of rough pictures showing what I was talking about. When I went on the roof the chimney flashing was perfect. When I went in the attic (remember, this is the last place I go), I found a water line for an evaporative cooler that had been removed. The water line was pushed over near the eave and was dripping. I got out of the attic and told my client to forget the pictures and everything I said about the chimney. I explained that the roof flashing was perfect and there was a dripping water line in the attic.
When a client orders an inspection I explain that I will not start talking until I've been in, out, up, down, over, under and all around. Until then, I may not know what caused that stain or why there's a water valve in the bedroom closet. If they insist on coming early, I ask them if they drive a minivan....