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My association has said in no uncertain terms, that I must not provide cost estimates of any type. At a recent association conference there was a report writing seminar with the following recommended summary phrases:

1.Buried Oil Tanks
“Inspect for buried oil tank before subject removal as tank and contaminated soil can be very expensive to
remove. Obtain documentation etc......
2) Poly-B Piping
“There have been failures of earlier polybutylene piping plastic fittings. Now there have been documented
cases of the piping material itself failing. Possible insurance issue as some companies may require replacement
of Poly-B water supply lines. Replacement can be costly.”
3) Aluminum wiring - solid conductors
“Have licensed electrical contractor inspect all solid aluminum connections. Possible fire/safety and insurance
issue. This may be expensive depending on the required work”.
4) Knob-n-Tube Wiring
“Given the age of the home there may be knob-n-tube wiring. Have licensed electrical contractor determine if
any knob-n-tube wiring is currently in use in the home. Possible insurance issue and may be expensive to repair
or rewire”.

9) Vermiculite Insulation
“Vermiculite insulation noted in the attic which may contain asbestos. Have tested for asbestos before subject
removal. The removal of asbestos must follow WorkSafe protocols and can be very expensive.”

 

Can be very expensive,

can be costly

may be expensive

Can be very expensive

If I make these kind of statements the very first thing my clients will ask is how much, and they will not accept me saying I am not allowed to provide any kind of cost estimates. I have just told them its going to be expensive. I don't think they want to hear really, really, really  expensive.

Personally I thinks all of the above phrases are in fact " cost estimates " and should be avoided.

Any feedback would be appreciated.    Thanks

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Post the exact language in the standards that specifically prohibits cost projections.  Does it state "not required to" or prohibit?  Are these standards recognized/enforced by any state law?

Testing vermiculite for asbestos is completely useless and wasting the homeowners money.  There is no correlation between any test results and the actual presence/absence/amount of asbestos fibers in the vermiculite.

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Associations can interpret their rules in any way they wish.  Practically, it's that interpretation that matters.

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The next time they have a report writing seminar, ask them to try to find an instructor for whom English is not a second language and who doesn't advocate writing in pidgin. 

As for the estimates, I'd also like to see the part of the association standard that prohibits it. If your instructors have this much trouble writing clearly, perhaps they also have trouble reading clearly. The two frequently go together. 

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1 hour ago, Bill Kibbel said:

Post the exact language in the standards that specifically prohibits cost projections.  Does it state "not required to" or prohibit?  Are these standards recognized/enforced by any state law?

Testing vermiculite for asbestos is completely useless and wasting the homeowners money.  There is no correlation between any test results and the actual presence/absence/amount of asbestos fibers in the vermiculite.

We have a PIP Professional insurance Plan for our e&O  that states

5. Members shall not repair any condition found during an inspection or give cost
estimates.
 
And "apparently" the government licensing has agreed  as well.
 

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Approximating costs is not the same thing as bidding on a job. Not even close. 

How many times have you heard a realtor say, "it just needs a little paint and trim"? Are you aware that casing, base, crown and a fresh coat of paint for a 12×14 room is around $1000 in materials? How many first time buyers do you think are? I didn't pull that out of thin air, that's what I spent on my daughter's bedroom last summer. 

I work for my client. If he needs a number he gets one, but I often find it more helpful to describe a scope of work. They have even less of an idea what goes into the remedy than they do of the costs, and the sharp ones will begin to tally their own expectations. And no, that is not "designing" a repair.

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If you get quotes for a given repair job, you'll find they range enormously from one contractor to another.  If, as an inspector, you give an estimate to a client, and that client does end up hiring a contractor that charges more than your estimate, an attorney won't have any trouble translating that discrepancy into damage you've done to his client.  The client will likely ignore small discrepancies but might well get emotional and complain about larger ones, the ones in the thousands of dollars.  That's when you get the call, and that's when your E&O kicks out on account of that estimate you gave.  Not a pretty picture.

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The west foundation wall  is bowed inward 2-1/2 inches at it's center.  

The sump pump worked when I lifted the float.

The central support beam is energized with 120 VAC.

Without descriptive text to inform the client about the topic in each of the sentences, the client hasn't been informed of anything. 

Of course you should say things like, "that'll be expensive".  Tom Raymond says, "spendy". 

 

 

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3 minutes ago, Chad Fabry said:

The west foundation wall  is bowed inward 2-1/2 inches at it's center.  

The sump pump worked when I lifted the float.

The central support beam is energized with 120 VAC.

Without descriptive text to inform the client about the topic in each of the sentences, the client hasn't been informed of anything. 

Of course you should say things like, "that'll be expensive".  Tom Raymond says, "spendy". 

 

 

That's fine, as long as it isn't a number, or even a range.

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57 minutes ago, Tom Raymond said:

What's e&o? I don't let insurance dictate my level of service. 

It's more of a disservice when there's no way you can know even approximately how much the client's future chosen contractor will charge.

I choose my words carefully when I write something up, why would I throw that to the wind trying to guess what it's gonna cost to fix it?  It doesn't extend my service, it degrades it.

Each to his own.

Edited by Marc

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31 minutes ago, Marc said:

That's fine, as long as it isn't a number, or even a range.

I don't often disagree with you, but in this case, I do. I tell clients general price ranges.

I'm pretty confident about price ranges for most common issues from HVAC through roofing. I suppose you could be coy when your client asks, "how much will that water heater cost?". I choose to just tell them.

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I also give general ranges.  I really do try to get it "right", but sometimes miss the total by hundreds or thousands of dollars.  For example - the house has a negative grade.  I report it.  I tell them it can be a week end project for you or it could be 8-900 dollars.  they get a landscape artist and it costs 4,000 dollars.  But, they had more done than my minimalist estimate.   I and other inspectors in my company have never had serious blowback from giving estimates.   My least favorite is water heaters.  Around here they can be from 800 to 4000 on any given day.

 

If I really don't know the price range of a furnace, I should brush up on my inspector skill set. 

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People who have never owned a home are unaware of the costs of upkeep, repair and replacement. But by provincial legislation  "The home inspector or the home inspection business is not allowed to give you an estimate of the cost of any repair or improvement identified by the home inspection." (Quote from government "consumer tip sheet").

We, are however, able to provide a comprehensive cost guide. There are good repair cost guides available from our national inspection organiation, provincially, and of couse, from the inter-web.  I often share one with clients who desire it. Its important that when I say the shingles need replacement, they understand I'm not talking about $1000, nor am  talking about $25,000 (unless the house is big enough, and I AM talking about $25,000).

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Spendy

Costly 

Expensive 

There goes your vacation plans

Your kid was probably going to drop out of college anyway 

Whatever it takes to convey the gravity of the situation. 

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On 1/28/2019 at 6:56 PM, mbraid said:

 

Personally I thinks all of the above phrases are in fact " cost estimates " and should be avoided.

2

Well, I agree that all of those things are "cost estimates," but I also think it's critical that we provide a customer with some notion of the expense associated with these repairs. As you said, the first thing that they ask is, "how much?" The fact that everyone asks the same thing tells you something about what our customers need from us. 

If I don't know what something will cost, I say so. If I have a good idea of what it'll cost, I also say so. People have always appreciated this and no one has ever expressed the least dissatisfaction with my honest opinions. 

I'm still waiting to see the hard & fast legal requirement that forbids providing this information. No, the insurance company doesn't get to dictate it. Where's the enforcible law? If it's important, shouldn't it be easy to find? 

 

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I'm with Jim. 

If I know an approximate, I'll tell them. 

If I don't, I'll tell them I don't and to get a contractor to give them some estimates.

People are hiring us for advice and guidance about their home.  Why wouldn't we provide all we can.

Granted, some inspectors can't provide any advice or guidance other than

"Recommend a ___________ further evaluate ______________."

But still take their money.

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13 hours ago, Jim Katen said:

...

I'm still waiting to see the hard & fast legal requirement that forbids providing this information. No, the insurance company doesn't get to dictate it. Where's the enforcible law? If it's important, shouldn't it be easy to find? 

 

I don't think it exists anywhere, but I wouldn't rest my laurels on a hard and fast legal requirement.  If a client of mine loses the benefit of 300K worth of E&O that I paid for, that's putting them at risk.  I'm not saying I'd put my clients at risk, I'm saying if the rule were applied uniformly a great many HI clients would definitely be put at risk, with no one to turn to if the their inspector were to screw up big time.

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I provide ballpark estimates at my client's request. Some people truly do not know if replacing a water heater costs $800 or $8000.  I used to include estimates in the report but the headaches I got from this (from sellers and RE agent) made the practice not worth it. I now e-mail estimates after the inspection with this disclaimer:  

Estimates provided for repairs are based on a limited visual inspection. The actual costs to correct problems may be more or less depending upon a more detailed professional analysis. Mike Lamb and Inspection Connection, Inc. is an inspection and consulting service only. I do not provide repairs of any kind or recommend contractors.

Edited by Mike Lamb

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I too have heard many sketchy things from supposed mentors at association events over the years.  I know when to be skeptical.  The problem is that some of the new guys don't.   I'll speak out if I think the result will be a positive influence.   

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