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Did I cross the line?


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This is a message to a client that I recently did and inspection for. I'm wondering if it was wrong for me to advise her to negotiate the price of the house, or if some of my other comments were out of order.

She and her family are regular clients of mine and she has referred work to me. I do not believe it is the job of an HI to advise a client to buy or not, but I do believe it is the HI's responsibility to make them aware of what they are buying.

OK guys, tear me up.

Hi Elena,

I received your message, I'm happy you contacted me. To tell you the truth, I was concerned that you were upset because it seems that I keep finding all of these problems with the houses that you wish to buy. But, that is what you hired me to do and I assure you that what I reported really does exist.

I will be glad to go over your punch list. I will add a few things to it and comment on some of the things you have already included. I have a feeling many of the items that you request will not be granted. I realize that you love the house, and I really don't blame you. Just realize that the house needs quite a bit of work, quite a bit of re-work. This house can be wonderful, so long as you realize what you are getting into and are able and willing to do what it takes. If not, it could be your worst nightmare...

I have a house that was in the same condition... more or less... than the one you are looking at. I would like to show it to you so you can get an idea of what it takes to REALLY fix a house and not just hide things with band-aids.

Remember, It's one thing to fix up a house good enough to sell, it's another thing to fix it up good enough to be your home. Anyway,

I will prepare my comments, see what you can get him to do, see what you can do with the price of the house. Don't be scared, don't be bashful. The house needs a lot of work, it is a buyer's market.

Please keep my advice confidential. Use it to your advantage, but please keep it confidential.

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Steve in Illinois we are not allowed to use the term negotiate.Big trouble.

You come across as concerned for the client, but also sound as if you are defending yourself.

I have a little speech I love to use about how no place is perfect and I got the excerpt from Mike as a reprint from Carson Dunlop.

Though he gets bashed a little on this forum it is a good expectation piece.

I know you use Horizon so maybe Mike could do another reprint for us.

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I would not go as far as to say your comments were out of order. I will say you went beyond a line and you did not have to. You know that, otherwise you would not have posted the issue here. Its on your conscience. You put yourself outside of your own comfort zone.

Your comments are the kinds of things I would see myself saying to a family member but not a client.

In the end, from my standpoint, it's really hard for me to comment specifically without knowing all the nitty gritty details. What kind of problems? A bunch of little stuff, big stuff and so on.

I personally would leave the suggestions to negotiate up to the RE. That's their territory. Do the inspection, produce and deliver the report and be done with it. The rest is outside of your boundaries.

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I would have handled it differently. I would have probably called her and talked to her and asked her some questions. But that's me, that's my style to ask questions.

In her message to you it sounds like she was complaining that you keep finding too many things wrong. But so what, that's what she's paying you for like you said. I would not even have addressed that complaint. Instead I would try to inquire after the clients goals and focus discussions on that.

You said that you would be glad to go over her punch list. I assume that was her list of things she wanted to hit the owner up for. I have made that mistake before. Jim Katen told me to act like the owner doesn't exist - at least thats how I took it. Give your advice as if there is no seller or realtor. Then let the client use their own brain to make decisions in their negotiations. But as far as I am concern I try to act like the seller doesn't exist. If you act that way there's no reason to be concerned about keeping your conversation confidential.

Now I also have to credit Hausdok for repeatedly slapping me upside the head for considering sellers, realtors and the negotiation.

Chris, Oregon

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You can be sued for tortious interference in their business negotiation; gotta be careful about that stuff.

I might say something along those lines while talking to the customer, but there would be no way in blue blazes I'd put such comments in a discoverable document.

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Chris, she didn't complain, I didi feel a bit awkward though. This is the third inspection I did that was somehow connected to her. The thied house that serious fault was reported.

This house is a real dog. It appears to be a garage converted to a two bedroom house. Possible illegal sewer, water, electric. Brick house with wood patches covered in very sloppy EIFS. 4x4 posts holding up floors, collapsing cellar floors. New windows, old window, rotted windows.

But, the lot is very pretty.

Was everything I said wrong? Or, just the price of the house part? And even that, is it really wrong to tell a client with a house that has so many problems but still wants the house to negotiate?

Or was the only thing I did wrong was to put it in writing?

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Maybe it's just me, but I thought the message was a little soft and wishy-washy. Kinda, On the one hand, this... on the other hand, that. No ringing conclusion.

Speaking just for myself, I'm one of those guys who answers questions directly, with no regard for "stepping on toes," or "crossing lines," and with no milquetoasty have-it-both-ways language. If I wanted to use the word, "negotiate," I'd use it. If anybody complained, I'd go straight to the media. Nobody owns the word, "negotiate."

That said, I've told many a customer -- orally and in writing -- something like this: "It's just math. Find out what it'll cost to make the house like you want it. If you can afford that price, I can't think of a good reason not to buy the house. If you don't want to invest what it would cost to make the house like you want it, find another house where the math will work.

Another example: After hearing an abridged life story from the customers, I've told many a customer something like this: You're in over your head. There'll be months of dust and grit on the floor and in the beds. You won't have the time or energy to work 9 - 5 jobs and then come home and work on the house until bedtime. There will be family discord. The kids will be bothered by the constant upheaval. And then the clincher: "If you were my baby sister, you'd have to kill me before I'd let you buy this house."

This is pretty simple stuff: Decide on a short, straight answer, then serve it up. I mean, really, what can they do to ya?

WJ

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I received your message, I'm happy you contacted me. To tell you the truth, I was concerned that you were upset because it seems that I keep finding all of these problems with the houses that you wish to buy. But, that is what you hired me to do and I assure you that what I reported really does exist.

I will be glad to go over your punch list. I will add a few things to it and comment on some of the things you have already included. I have a feeling many of the items that you request will not be granted. I realize that you love the house, and I really don't blame you. Just realize that the house needs quite a bit of work and , quite a bit of re-work. This house can be wonderful, so long as you realize what you are getting into and are able and willing to do what it takes. If not, it could be your worst nightmare...

I have a house that was in the same condition... more or less... than the one you are looking at. I would like to show it to you so you can get an idea of what it takes to REALLY fix a house and not just hide things with band-aids.

Remember, It's one thing to fix up a house good enough to sell, it's another thing to fix it up good enough to be your home. Anyway,

I will prepare my comments, see what you can get him to do, see what you can do with the price of the house. Don't be scared, don't be bashful. The house needs a lot of work, it is a buyer's market.

Please keep my advice confidential. Use it to your advantage, but please keep it confidential.

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Kurt and Walter are saying the exact same thing. I am saying you crossed the line and everything you wrote was inappropriate.

You were right to be concerned. You are an inspector. You should not even care about price etc.

I always get this comment into the first five minutes of an inspection "I don't give a rip if you buy this house or not." "I am not living here, can't afford it/etc and am not making any mortgage payments".

Walter gave you some good advice, adapt it to your style. Kurt and Chad are both right.

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Right? I'm not sure.

I'm just being scared. I've been sued for tortious interference; the suit went away after everyone cooled off, but it cost me some money.

I agree w/Walter, but having been that person and been sued, I'm not so inspired to put this stuff in writing anymore.

I think it's best to simply say the obvious stuff.

"The house is a mess. It will cost a lot of money to fix it. Have a contractor take a look @ this house & have them tell you what it will cost to repair."

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Being a disclosing kind of guy, I should probably add this: I don't worry much about lawsuits. I have an arrangement with an excellent lawyer. If I get sued, she'll represent me, and it'll cost me little or nothing.

In return, I do all of her "widows and orphans" cases for free.

It's just our little effort to be instruments of karmic justice...

WJ

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I have never worried about being sued. Actually have "dared" dozens of folks to do just that.

I see this type of communication, in the form of reports, nearly every day. If you take the other side of the issue as an advocate for a potential plaintiff you could rip those comments apart.

I have been where Steve is on this issue and have to admit doing the same thing. I was wrong but likely will do it again.

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Originally posted by SonOfSwamp

Being a disclosing kind of guy, I should probably add this: I don't worry much about lawsuits. I have an arrangement with an excellent lawyer. If I get sued, she'll represent me, and it'll cost me little or nothing.

In return, I do all of her "widows and orphans" cases for free.

It's just our little effort to be instruments of karmic justice...

WJ

Dudely, if I had Jean as my attorney, I'd feel invincible. As it is, to get the sort of representation that Jean gets you, it'd cost me about $450 an hour.

I'm in w/Les & Walter; I just do it a little sneakier, I think, 'cuz I've been sauteed by being too obvious.

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Originally posted by kurt

Originally posted by SonOfSwamp

Being a disclosing kind of guy, I should probably add this: I don't worry much about lawsuits. I have an arrangement with an excellent lawyer. If I get sued, she'll represent me, and it'll cost me little or nothing.

In return, I do all of her "widows and orphans" cases for free.

It's just our little effort to be instruments of karmic justice...

WJ

Dudely, if I had Jean as my attorney, I'd feel invincible. As it is, to get the sort of representation that Jean gets you, it'd cost me about $450 an hour.

I'm in w/Les & Walter; I just do it a little sneakier, I think, 'cuz I've been sauteed by being too obvious.

I hear you. With Jean as my mouthpiece and shield, I'm pretty well armored. And I have -- or at least had, when I did HI jobs every day -- another advantage. Just about every customer for the last 10 years has been a column reader and a fan. They already know how I think, what I think, my kid's batting average and my dog's peculiar habits. Before they ever see me, they've made up their mind that I'm going to do right by them. So, I didn't get neurotics, paranoids or other psychologically-challenged types.

It could be that I had the smoothest run ever in the HI biz.

WJ

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It is not our job to baby sit our clients. It is our job to tell them what we saw in their prospective purchase. It is our job to explain what we saw and to give them some idea what it is going to cost to get it somewhat right.

When I'm done with the inspection I am done with the client. If the client needs me they know my number and my email. Move on.

Captain

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Originally posted by allspec33351

It is not our job to baby sit our clients. It is our job to tell them what we saw in their prospective purchase. It is our job to explain what we saw and to give them some idea what it is going to cost to get it somewhat right.

When I'm done with the inspection I am done with the client. If the client needs me they know my number and my email. Move on.

Captain

In the micro-business backwater of HI work, some of us mule-headed HIs make up our own minds what "our job" is. My little two-man company had (and still has) this guideline: Do for the customer what you'd do for your own mama if she were buying the house. Over a 20-year run, our mission has included answering dumb questions, dishing out a little how-to advice, as well as the occasional marriage counseling and correction of errant children. And (gasp) me telling a few busybody reeltors: "You're not on the team. Get lost. But first, what's your broker's name?"

Not that there's anything wrong with doing things another way.

WJ

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Ok, I admit I started a bit wishy washy, I was in uncharted waters. This is the third inspection I've done that is somehow connected to these people. After the inspection, I met with her husband... they could not attend the real thing, she was busy giving birth. He appeared like a child buying his first car. No matter what was wrong... he wanted it.

Now, that is ok with me, so long as I have made the condition of the house clear.

And, I do feel somewhat responsible for the well being of my clients. I am not nor have I ever been a "gimme the check-goodbye type of person. They hired me to do something for them that they didn't know how to do themselves.

I like the way Chad shortened my letter. Except for the punchlist part. If I present an inspection to a client, and they would like me to make sure that they understand it and have absorbed it, I'll do it.

I'm happy to hear WJ's opinion. I know he has spent a great deal of time protecting folks. To tell you the truth, I wanted to say, "the house is a dog, if you want to buy the property and tear it down and rebuild, ok, otherwise run away, you are in over your head.

I will be more careful in the future... before I click "send". I am concerned about lawsuits, so I try to do a good job and make sure I can back up what I say. But, I do not shiver and shake and not report what I see out of fear of a lawsuit. (I can always call Walter to bail me out)

I also no longer solicit RE agents for work... at all. I refuse to be indebted to anyone other than my client. It may take longer to build up the clientelle, but I prefer the reputation of telling it like it is and screw who don't like it.

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Thank you Les,

To tell you the truth, I was a bit squeemish at first, but it went the way I thought it would. Some said it was wrong and unprofessional, some were afraid of lawsuits, and some were ready to spit in the eye of the devil.

I think I wanted to hear it all, and decide how I would deal with a similar situation in t he future.

I will always report how I see it. As far as suggesting working on the price, if I have a client that wants a property and there are problems with it, I don't think there is anything wrong with me reccomending they negotiate it out. Perhaps I should not have put it in writing. Not for legal reasons, but I think I would be embarassed if the seller read my comment... but even if he did, bottom line is, so what? I would rather him know I suggested that, and not that they walk.

Ok, I'm there to inspect, that's it. But after three inspections with them, I do have somewhat of a relationship. I find it had to turn my back on them if they ask. Especially, this is the type of house that could destroy them... really.

Truth is, the seller is somewhat of a sheister. Like someone who puts sawdust in a transmission, so the cars runs good enough to sell. If you were a mechanic and a customer brought you a car to check out, would you tell it like it is? You don't have to answer that, I've read enough of your comments to know "you ain't no scairty cat".

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