Very nicely dressed, heels, hair done, fresh make-up, in complete control of her dignity while stooped over a hose faucet, the real estate agent makes the third and finally successful try at cracking the new weekly secret code to open the lockbox. “There we go,” she says. Key in hand and with a barely noticeable skirt adjustment, she unlocks the front door and shouts a quick announcement into the house, “Hello, REALTOR.” Having made sure the residence is clear of occupants, while maintaining a perfect smile, she holds the door open for everybody to file in. First, Mrs. Homebuyer. Then, Mr. Homebuyer. And, then, the Home Inspector.
Gathered in the dining room, introductions are formalized with a business card exchange, and the inspector gives a little speech, “Blah, blah, blah, please sign my inspection contract here,” and he is ordained to begin his work. With an “I’ll let you know if I find anything,” he heads back out the front door to begin his inspection on the outside.
He’s not one of the agent’s regular home inspectors. The buyers took the unsolicited and uninformed advice of a friend, probably someone who has never bought a home before. “You can’t trust the realiter to pick your home inspector. Her commission is on the line. You want to go out and find a real deal killer for yourself.”
A quick Google search and three prospects were chosen based on the pictures and color coordination of their websites. The first call goes directly to a mostly indiscernible voicemail (he calls back three weeks later and wants to know if you still need a home inspection); the second guy sounds like you caught him in the middle of something important, but indicates that he might be able to get to it in a couple of weeks (this is the guy they really wanted but didn’t know it); the third, “Hello, how can I help you?”
It’s a relief. Discouragement was beginning to set in after the first two attempts. Content to be successful in just finding an inspector who can do the inspection in time, he’s hired.
Seems like a nice enough guy, polite, well-spoken, clean jeans and a nice shirt, not too “constructiony.”
And, what luck. His fee is lower than what the real estate agent estimated.
The buyers and the agent, after giggling and laughing over some casual small talk, settle into some serious paper signing at the kitchen counter. Barely five minutes pass, and the front door swings open and the home inspector stomps in. He interrupts in a very authoritative tone, “I need to show you all something.” He turns, and like a locomotive pulling a freight train, he retraces his tracks back out the left-open front door, everyone in tow.
His new deliberate tone and demeanor create a sudden shift in the overall mood. What was controlled excitement just a moment ago is now, “Uh oh.”
He stops at what seems to be a predetermined spot on the front lawn about eight feet from the front of the house. Subconsciously understanding the queue, everyone forms a semicircle alongside the inspector.
After a quick glance to see that everyone is paying attention, he slowly raises his right arm. All eyes follow as his index finger locks in position pointing towards a planter. A bush, some untrimmed grass, there is a pause, a very distinct moment of silence, as if the birds even stopped chirping.
It’s the hose faucet, the very same hose faucet the real estate agent was stooped over retrieving the key. The lockbox, with its jaw-like door hanging open, was frozen in a startled expression as if to say, “Why’s everybody staring at me!”
For a moment, everyone in their own way flashes back to high school. “Are there any questions?” the teacher asks. For fear of looking dumb, nobody in class asks the one question that everybody has.
The inspector, sensing the puzzlement of his audience, gives a short nod in the direction of the hose faucet. Everybody begins to bend forward, eyes squint, looking right past the slow drip from the hose faucet, trying to see something that might be important, might be what he’s so concerned about.
“That hose faucet is defective. It’s dripping.”
The mood of the buyers and the agent swings again, from “uh oh” to disbelief, disbelief in the inspector’s disbelief. Is it not so believable that a hose faucet would drip?
There is another moment of silence, again distinct, but different from the previous. This moment is different because the question that everyone has, but dare not ask, would not reveal their own lack of understanding, but would make apparent the home inspector’s inexperience. “Is he serious?”
It takes a minute or two for the buyers and the agent to convince the home inspector that they “do understand” the seriousness of this discovered condition, but the disbelief continues through the entire inspection, disbelief in peeling paint, disbelief in a loose doorknob, disbelief in untrimmed foliage. The disbelief becomes so great that half way through the inspection he could have announced that the house was on fire and it would have been met with yawns. Yes, disbelief.
In an interesting and ironic twist, the roof that the sellers had already disclosed needed replacement gets barely a humph out of the inspector.
The buyers fully understand that the biggest defect in the process is the home inspector himself, and after all the drama, the transaction just feels tainted and untrustworthy. They can’t bring themselves to continue with the purchase. They truly found themselves a “deal killer.”
Next time around, the agent doesn’t even give the buyers the option to choose a home inspector. She just calls the buyers and tells them when to show up for the inspection, and they do.