“I’ve never, in more than 25 years, heard a home inspector say that before!”
Her eyes were narrowed, brow furrowed, and spine rigid. You had been sensing some sort of tension building. Mrs. Homebuyer was looking more and more dismayed, and at that moment her expression was as if you just told her that you ran over her cat. Mr. Homebuyer initially had a polite, curious demeanor, but his questions seemed to be getting more and more probing and almost testing in nature. This little explosion from the real estate agent had you questioning your very being. The last year-and-a-half of your life was flashing before your eyes.
During the last year-and-a-half, the planets aligned; it was almost a spiritual evolution, that moment when you allowed yourself to take seriously the prompting of several friends and family. “You would make a really good home inspector.” The idea started to hang in your mind and became a place of harmony. Was this the answer you had been looking for, that next step upward in life, a real opportunity to take control of your own destiny?
Taking that first real step, you were a little apprehensive. The idea of becoming a home inspector had really taken hold. After several days of contemplating the prospects of being your own boss, it was going to be a sizable disappointment if something should be revealed that would prohibit you from doing so. It would be a depressing return to the thoughts of the doldrums of your current job. What road blocks could pop up: impossible licensing requirements, long and expensive education and training, expensive equipment and advertising?
This step was your first step into the risk of entrepreneurship…
Google: “How to become a home inspector.”
Wow! Page after page of dot coms, dot nets, and dot orgs, not to mention the message boards. The paths to success were many. Amongst the infinite web pages you discovered these “Home Inspection Associations,” a regular alphabet soup of associations: ASHI, NAHI, NACHI, NSHI, CREIA, GAHI, TAREI . . .
A week later you were amongst potential future compatriots and competitors at a local chapter dinner meeting of a Major Home Inspection Association. It was all handshakes, smiles, and good advice—which home inspection school is more popular and the how-tos and where-fors of the home inspection business.
After a dinner date to console your wife about the nominal financial investment—and you’ll always have your old work to fall back on—you were knee deep in study guides, manuals, question sheets, and online tests.
After squeezing miles of building codes and business practices into your brain, you were ready: Website, business cards, ladder, flashlight and, most importantly and after long and serious research, the best home inspection report writing software money can buy was password protected on your computer in your very own Home Office.
Nametag from the home inspection association of which you were now a bonafide member hanging from your neck, you were standing in the driveway of your very first home inspection.
Those weren’t butterflies in your stomach, they were hawks. The study guides and classes repeated it over and over, “be there early.” So you were, maybe a little too early.
Unable to sleep the night before, you gave up trying, got out of bed, and went to your computer to stare at the same web page you had been staring at for the last three days since you had booked your first home inspection: the real estate web page with pictures of the house you were now going to inspect.
Over and over you opened and closed your inspection reporting software wishing you could start entering real information.
Standing in wait at the edge of the driveway, reality began to set in. Nothing you learned in correspondence school, on those message boards, or at association meetings was going to help you with the shivers you feel when you first hear the click-click of those high heels coming up the sidewalk from that freshly-leased BMW.
You extend your hand and your very first “hello” came with an audible tremor.
It was all on the line right at that moment. The home sellers were anxious to move, the home buyers were anxious to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the agent was anxious to close this transaction smoothly. Lenders and escrow officers had already assembled reams of documents for this one transaction. It was up to you. You told yourself to just do your job, just do what you had trained for. You had the skills, and it would all be over in a couple of hours.
A couple hours, that was the first glitch. You’d already been there three-and-a-half and you still had a ways to go. They were pacing; the REALTOR had her iPhone firmly grasped in her hand as if she were waiting to hear if a family member had died in a car crash.
The happiness of the engagement had been diminishing with each bit of data that you dispensed. This latest revelation sent the real estate agent and Mrs. Homebuyer over the edge. Mr. Homebuyer’s questions were very much cut and dry this time, very black and white.
Your studied and accredited position as advocate, as protector of the innocent, as help to home buyers and real estate agents alike, was a mirage.
More reality. Your studied and accredited position as advocate, as protector of the innocent, as help to home buyers and real estate agents alike, was a mirage. This was to be a simple, informative gathering to provide “peace of mind,” as stated in all of your marketing literature, to your clients. But, you were just figuring out that in spite of all your good intent, this real estate transaction, with all of its moving parts, was to be demolished, and you were the wrecking ball.
The surety and self-confidence you had felt after passing all of those exams and receiving the honor to adorn all of your marketing material, business cards, and website with the inspection association’s logo had been torn right out of your soul with one burst of emotion from a five foot six-inch always-dressed-as-if-it-was-a-Christmas-party real estate agent.
She knew you were new to the game. After seeing the melted confidence in your eyes after her little explosion, and with a hint of sympathy, she turned away and muttered, “I don’t even know what to do with that.”
Mr. Homebuyer knew. He gently gave his wife a rub on the back. The spousal communiqué was clear. We’ll find another house, honey.
Back in your truck, company logo and phone number emblazoned on both doors and the tailgate, and having spent twice the time you had estimated at the inspection, you were finally done and out-a-there. But you weren’t done. The real estate agent had followed you out of the house with one last question, “When can we expect the report? With all you’ve done I’m gonna need some extra time to get this straightened out.”
The dread continued to pour in during the drive home. Could you have said anything differently? What if you were wrong? What if you missed something? You thought about all of the disruption you just threw into the lives of the buyers, the sellers and their families, not to mention the agents, lenders, escrow officers, and all of their assistants.
Writing the report, something you had been really looking forward to, a place to be a little creative and to leave an impressionable mark on those who would read it, was mentally draining, re-living each and every moment of the inspection in horrible detail. Everybody who would read the report would have an indelible imprint of you and your logo, a reminder of the trauma you had just caused.
Welcome to the business of home inspection.