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Help a new guy out with his ignorance.

The phone rings and there is a potential client on the other end. You convince them to hire you. You need to collect some preliminary information about the job. What are the most important questions you need to ask the client at this point?

Don't be to basic. Start me from the very beginning. I know there are different opinions on what is important so let it all flow. Don't assume that your own little niche wont be helpful to others.

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I'm assuming that you are inquiring about what info is needed to give a price and book the appointment. Well, I don't know about the other guys out there, but my standard questions are: 1) age; 2) size; 3) slab or crawlspace foundation (we don't have basements here);

4) presence of any outbuildings that need inspection such as pool houses, shops, detached garages, etc. There can be other questions depending on the responses to these.

I also ask if the home is vacant. If so, I ask if all the utilities are on. I explain that if I get there and something is not on I can't inspect any function related to that system. A large number of people reply that the utilities must be on since the lights work. They have not checked water or gas. At that point, you politely explain that some sellers will turn off utilities such as gas and water -- particularly during the appropriate times of the year -- and it would be to their benefit to ENSURE that those utilities are on prior to the start of the inspection so that a thorough inspection can be done.

You might be amazed at the # of calls I get where the small time investment required just to make them aware that they should verify the presence of ALL utility services turns them into clients right then. Seems most inspectors around here quote a price without trying to make sure that when they get there they can perform a FULL inspection. With my approach, the brighter ones realize that you are looking out for their best interests, not yours.

I guess they view a shorter inspection as more $$ per hour for them.

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We have 2 girls who's primary function is to ask the following, many times a day:


E-mail address?

Inspection Address w/ nearest cross road or major intersection?

Type of building, age, price and/or square feet?

Any other buildings on the property that you would like inspected?

Is it occupied? If not, be sure all utilities & systems are on, or there will be a charge of 60% of the original inspection fee to return to reinspect.

Do you want us to arrange the termite inspection or radon test?

Do you have any specific concerns for the inspector?

We have your inspection scheduled at ___. Have your agent or attorney make the necessary contacts for us to have access to the property.

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Age, size, address, how many families (I guess that is size)...

I also ask how many stories, if possible I like to walk the roof and want to bring the right ladder. If it's a local house, I like to do a drive by, just to get a feel and really, once again to make sure I have the right ladder.

occupied... utilities on?

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Where abouts is it? I don't need an exact address. I know the pricey and non-pricey areas.

How many bedrooms and bathrooms? A lot of bathrooms means a big house. This has messed me up a few times where some really big old houses have only one or 1 1/2 baths. I stopped asking sq. footage because most people don't know.

Is it vacant? If vacant, are the utilities on? I let the buyer know that the less utilities, the more risk.

Is there a basement? Crawl spaces cost more. If a person says partial crawl, it's probably a split level which also costs more. That means at least 2 or 3 attics and a crawl (although split crawls are usually relatively decent to work in.)

Most of the time, if they don't tell me, I wait to until the inspection to ask where they got my name. It's important.

I tell them there will be an inspection agreemnet they have to sign which tells them what I inspect, what i don't, and my limits of liabilty. Get their email or fax and send it with a confirmation. Please respond that you recieved this!

If it helps this is my standard email:


Please reply that you recieved this and that the info (address, time, fee) above is correct. If you wish, I will send a copy of your inspection report to your attorney. So please provide any phone, fax or email info I might need.

I have attached a copy of the inspection agreement for you to read. I will bring a copy to the inspection for you to sign. It can also be viewed at my web site. .....

Mike Lamb 1-800-573-1113, 708-346-0708, 773-429-1230


You will receive a copy of the inspection report at the end of the inspection. Payment (check, money order or cash) is required at the end of the inspection. Checks should be made payable to:


Utilities and Appliances: All utilities need to be turned on. That means gas, water and electric. We can’t do a full inspection if they are not on. Your inspector is not allowed to light pilot lights or turn on any water valves that have been turned off. There may be a very good reason why they are off.

Access: We need access to the following places (some of these may not apply). Crawl spaces beneath the floor. Remove any objects (storage, carpeting, appliances) blocking the access. Attic spaces above ceilings. These are often located in closets. Remove any clothing or storage in the way. The inspector can usually work around the shelving.

Time: Inspections usually take 3 hours but sometimes longer. Although rare, some inspections may take 4 hours or more. Please appreciate that this is an extremely important part of the home buying process and the home inspector cannot be rushed.

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I ask them when they want it. If I can accommodate them, I set up the appointment. I don't need to know a lot of extraneous crap. Just their name, the square footage of the house, a cell phone number to reach either them or the agent that's opening the door, and the address. Knowing all that other crap won't help me one way or the other. If I need to learn anything else from them, I can ask them onsite.

OT - OF!!!


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