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  1. #1

    Default Verbal Debrief? - How much to tell them.

    For those of us that do not print on site and deliver an electronic version of the report later, how much detail is / should be given in the verbal debriefing at the site after the inspection?

    I have only had this happen a couple of times but when I've been too detailed in the debriefing, it essentially creates a situation where they don't really need the physical report. I have been stiffed a couple of times.

    Since this is the only way to assure payment, does one purposely limit the verbal details and stress that there is a lot more to talk about but that is all in the report?

    If they "drive a camel", watch your ass!

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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Verbal Debrief? - How much to tell them.

    IMO, verbal details is good, it helps the client have a better understand with your findings, your problem is you need to collect your fee and have a signed agreement before you give up any information and or report.


  3. #3
    Garry Blankenship's Avatar
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    Default Re: Verbal Debrief? - How much to tell them.

    Quote Originally Posted by Gary Rowden View Post
    IMO, verbal details is good, it helps the client have a better understand with your findings, your problem is you need to collect your fee and have a signed agreement before you give up any information and or report.
    I concur w/ Gary on verbal details. This is an opportunity to say things that you may not want in your report for liability reasons. Instrument readings for example can be discussed w/o liability, but once you report a specific number a lawyer could be in a position to ask you about your credentials to use "that" instrument, it's calibration and proof of it's calibration, etc. ). You can tell the client your meter showed only 90 volts in the shop, but in your report "voltage appeared to be low" and defer it to a licensed pro.


  4. #4
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    Default Re: Verbal Debrief? - How much to tell them.

    Most of the time my inspections are performed with the client present. At the end of the inspection the report is complete, but I don't print the report on site. Generally I'll email it within an hour of completion. At the end of the inspection I go over the summary of the report right on my computer.

    I've done over 4500 inspections and only once had someone decide not to pay as they "already had all the information". I said ok, packed up my stuff and left. I sent an email to their agent explaining the situation and told them I'd be submitting the bill to a collection agency the next day.

    The agent knew that this would screw up his sale and commission so he drove to my house that evening with a personal check from his own account.

    MinnesotaHomeInspectors.com
    Minnesota Home Inspectors LLC
    ASHI #242887 mnradontesting.com

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Verbal Debrief? - How much to tell them.

    I like to give my clients a verbal summary of what I have found after the inspection. That way, I can show them the items while we are both there and it gives them a better understanding. If they are not there, I send a brief summary via email the same day.
    Of course, I usually get my Pre-Inspection Agreement returned with the payment prior to the start of the inspection so payment worries are not an issue. In thoses cases where payment is not made at the inspection, I have not had a problem being paid.


  6. #6
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    Default Re: Verbal Debrief? - How much to tell them.

    They have to sign my contract before the inspection starts. Most pay at that time. I don't usually ask for payment until after the inspection.

    Contractual obligation. I don't send the report until I recieve payment. I don't delay payment until closing. Had several requests this week. I agreed as along as they wrote a check and I held the check until closing. If they never close, I cash the check.

    The market is changing and I might start taking credit card numbers to ensure payment.

    "The Code is not a peak to reach but a foundation to build from."

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Verbal Debrief? - How much to tell them.

    I always give them a good debrief but then end with that I reserve the right to add more information later.

    I take a lot of pictures during the inspection and many times I will end up seeing something in the picture that I may not see during the inspection. I can stick my camera where my head will not go, or where I do not want to put it

    The big picture is painted before I leave.

    I have only been stiffed once and it was from a re-inspection.

    Don Hester
    NCW Home Inspections, LLC
    Wa. St. Licensed H I #647, WSDA #80050, http://www.ncwhomeinspections.com

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Verbal Debrief? - How much to tell them.

    I, almost always, give a debrief at the end of the inspection. I typically spend at least 30 mins and don't go over every little detail but cover those issues I consider to be of most concern and/or costly to repair. Depending upon the condition of the property, the written report is either available at that time, or the latest the next day. I encourage my clients to go over the report (and my comments) with their realtor. If there are items which may be subject to further negotiation and the written report requires additional detail, I'll write an adendum. On occasion(s) clients have 'forgotten' their check-book, in which case the witten report is then 'not available' until payment is received but I have never been stiffed for payment.

    I find verbally addressing items allows for greater explanation, usually in a manner more easily understoood by the client, far better than even the most descriptive sentence or two, with or without photographs. It also brings a more personal atmosphere into the transaction and not 'just another report'. But if inter-personal skills are not your strong point you may do yourself more harm than good.


  9. #9
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    Default Re: Verbal Debrief? - How much to tell them.

    I go over my findings and I also make a big point in telling everyone that I take a large number of photos that I will review and that sometimes I see something in a photo that I will add to the report.

    I have never had a problem getting paid by just telling folks what I found after the inspection. They still need the written report if they have any intention of getting out of the contract or asking for things to be repaired.

    Scott Patterson, ACI
    Spring Hill, TN
    www.traceinspections.com

  10. #10
    Stephen G's Avatar
    Stephen G Guest

    Default Re: Verbal Debrief? - How much to tell them.

    Read below, me too

    Quote Originally Posted by Bruce Ramsey View Post
    They have to sign my contract before the inspection starts. Most pay at that time. I don't usually ask for payment until after the inspection.

    Contractual obligation. I don't send the report until I recieve payment.
    .



  11. #11
    Ted Menelly's Avatar
    Ted Menelly Guest

    Default Re: Verbal Debrief? - How much to tell them.

    I tell my clients everything, always. I don't hold back because they do not sign this or that.

    Mnay clients that I may not even meet due to the out of area position I have send me a check. I have already given the details, emailed a PDF of the report, sent one to their agent if they want.

    Never have a problem.

    I have been stiffed by one woman in the entire time doing this job. I have never been sued due to verbal exchange.

    I trust everyone.....that I deal with. That is key because I just will not deal with folks that give off the wrong signals. Reading the public my entire life and have learned early on the feel from particular folks.


  12. #12
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    Default Re: Verbal Debrief? - How much to tell them.

    An interesting question and one I've given a bit of thought to over the years. I feel out each client and try to determine how much info they need at the end of the inspection. I don't like to say too much because I do not fully formulate my own opinions of the house until I sit down with the photos and write my narrative. That's another reason I would never provide a full on-site report. Maybe my mind isn't quite as quick as some but I need a little time to ruminate on the various systems in the home and how they interact with one another. Sometimes I leave a house thinking, 'that wasn't so bad' and then download the photos, write the report and think, 'that's a dog!'. I don't want to give my clients any false assurances or negative feelings about the house until the data is fully processed in my rapidly aging frontal cortex. I try to keep the verbal to a minimum unless the clients are really interested and unless they are folks who like to listen more than they like to talk.

    Dan Cullen
    www.domicileconsulting.com
    Chicago IL

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Verbal Debrief? - How much to tell them.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bruce Ramsey View Post
    They have to sign my contract before the inspection starts. Most pay at that time. I don't usually ask for payment until after the inspection.

    Contractual obligation. I don't send the report until I recieve payment. I don't delay payment until closing. Had several requests this week. I agreed as along as they wrote a check and I held the check until closing. If they never close, I cash the check.

    The market is changing and I might start taking credit card numbers to ensure payment.
    Bruce, take it form an old fool; a person who can't afford to pay you for the inspection at the time of the inspection, has a credit card that is worthless when the deal falls through. Ask me how I know .

    Just noticed the age of the thread. Guessing you may have already discovered how this works.

    Last edited by Vern Heiler; 07-14-2012 at 07:36 PM. Reason: Old thread.
    The beatings will continue until morale has improved. mgt.

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Verbal Debrief? - How much to tell them.

    An old thread but something very much on point as to what I encountered over the past few days and shows the value of proper communication.

    A friend of mine is selling her home (built 2007) and I have been making a few repairs based on what the seller agreed to do for potential buyers. Following an accepted offer and subsequent inspection the buyers insisted that the WH have a third earthquake strap installed, based on the inspection report and inspector's recommendations.

    The WH is located in a corner and has two appropriately installed and compliant straps. One approx. 12" from the top of the tank and one just above the controls at approx. 24" from the bottom. No further strapping is required. However, according to the buyers the written report refers to a third strap being necessary and insist on its installation. Even to the pont of delaying closing. I reviewed the report which stated, "Water Heater -earthquake strapping necessary and a third from top and bottom." (Not necessarily a true statement . The top strap is within 1/3 and the lower strap slightly more than 1/3 from the bottom but just above the controls). Nevertheless the buyers are insisting the report means THREE straps should be installed. I asked the agent if he or the buyers had ever spoken to their inspector regarding the content of the report and neither had and used the written report as their only means of communication. They were suitably advised but response still pending....

    Valuable lesson on wording, report content, interpretation and lack of communication.


  15. #15
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    Default Re: Verbal Debrief? - How much to tell them.

    Client is always in attendance, so they see and hear first hand what I am seeing which they should be aware of. Hence I really do not debrief the client.

    Report is sent within 24 hours, I collect my fee upon completion of inspection.

    No summary is included with report.

    Never been stiffed for my fee since 1991.


  16. #16
    Darrel Hood's Avatar
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    Default Re: Verbal Debrief? - How much to tell them.

    If the clients are present, I give a complete briefing. It usually takes ten minutes or less. I have never been stiffed, but a few folks have required varying degrees of "gentle reminders". A couple have needed letters from my lawyer. I have never had to go to small claims court.


  17. #17
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    Default Re: Verbal Debrief? - How much to tell them.

    I agreed to collect at closing. He didn't close. I didn't get paid. Never again.

    A client complained that I did not include two specific photos in her report. She quickly closed that checking accountant. I'm going through the DA at the moment.

    Two clients asked what I thought was a silly question: "Will you do a walk-thru with us at the end of the inspection?" I said of course. They both explained that the last inspectors they spoke to said they don't do walk-thrus!

    One Realtor stopped referring me because she felt I scared away her buyer because of what I said during the walk-thru. I explained that the buyer misunderstood and they both should read my report more carefully. The Realtor said, "Its not what is written in the report that counts but what you say in person." Go figure.


  18. #18
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    Default Re: Verbal Debrief? - How much to tell them.

    I always mention to make sure to look over the report as there may be items that I forgot to mention that I remember once I go through my notes and look over all the pictures.

    I couldn't imagine holding back just for the rare instance described. I've held back before when the buyers go nuts with every word I say. I figure they can freak out w/o me standing there and then email/call for "counseling".


  19. #19
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    Default Re: Verbal Debrief? - How much to tell them.

    Walkthrough, tell them everything they need to know, about 45 minutes. All the important items get pointed out.
    Payment is due at the end of the walkthrough.

    I prefer 2 1/2 hrs alone in an average good house, 3 hrs for a big job. I flip through all my pics and catch anything I've skipped, then I can devote an hour to the client, go around the exterior, downstairs, upstairs, kitchen last, here's the report, here's the invoice, Yes, I can do a CC, any questions? Good luck and call me anytime if you need help with any of it. Nobody calls.

    John Kogel, RHI, BC HI Lic #47455
    www.allsafehome.ca

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Verbal Debrief? - How much to tell them.

    Dan, I am like you. I get home, review the inspection and start writing and the picture may change.

    I take lots of photos and sometimes I will be able to piece together an issue when I get home and look at each area again.

    Don Hester
    NCW Home Inspections, LLC
    Wa. St. Licensed H I #647, WSDA #80050, http://www.ncwhomeinspections.com

  21. #21
    John Remark's Avatar
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    Default Re: Verbal Debrief? - How much to tell them.

    This is an interesting thread-- I have been recommending my clients to bring three things to an inspection:

    1) Pre-Inspection agreement to be signed
    2) Sample report- To make sure the client has a better understanding about what they are buying and the framework it will be placed in
    3) a copy of the Standards and Practice

    The idea is that by giving the client the standards it allows for a more complete understanding what the Inspector is doing, what the inspector is not doing and allows for a circular flow of information (read Q and A from the clients as to what and why). This gives the report more meaning when they read it and also manages the clients expectations about what the inspector is doing with the ultimate goal of making the client happier and more likely to refer and less likely to have a complaint.

    I have been reading the replies and many of you prefer not to have the client literally with you during the inspection but at the house at the time of inspection.

    Am I reading this correctly?
    Do you guys agree about what I am recommending to my clients?


  22. #22
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    Default Re: Verbal Debrief? - How much to tell them.

    1. I always insist my clients be present. If they cannot be, I charge more for the inspection.

    2. I do not provide a hard copy of the SOP. It is on my website if they wish to check.

    3. A sample report can be found on my website if they wish to take a look see.


  23. #23
    Russel Ray's Avatar
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    Default Re: Verbal Debrief? - How much to tell them.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dana Bostick View Post
    For those of us that do not print on site and deliver an electronic version of the report later, how much detail is / should be given in the verbal debriefing at the site after the inspection?

    I have only had this happen a couple of times but when I've been too detailed in the debriefing, it essentially creates a situation where they don't really need the physical report. I have been stiffed a couple of times.

    Since this is the only way to assure payment, does one purposely limit the verbal details and stress that there is a lot more to talk about but that is all in the report?

    If they "drive a camel", watch your ass!
    I don't do the inspection until payment is in hand, in my bank account, or in my PayPal account.


  24. #24
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    Default Re: Verbal Debrief? - How much to tell them.

    Some interesting takes here. I have yet to have somebody tell me they don't need the report after going through the inspection and I've never felt that giving them too much info was a bad thing. Some buyers' idea of a recap is different from others. Some just want to have a recap of the moist significant items and others want to talk about the loose wall outlet, the caulk seals above the tub, etc.

    I do everything at the end of the inspection.....contract and payment. I feel if you take care of people and are personable and they know you're working hard for them, they'll be less likely to try and screw you.

    "It takes a big man to cry. It takes an even bigger man to laugh at that man". - Jack Handey

  25. #25
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    Default Re: Verbal Debrief? - How much to tell them.

    You guys remember the rabbit scene in "Fatal Attraction"? That's what I'm waiting for with one of my recent clients.

    I made an excellent impression on this home buyer at a home buyer class a year and a half ago because she kept my card and called me up about two months ago for her home inspection. Everything went well until she received her report which according to her was missing two photos. I explained that I didn't feel those two were absolutely necessary especially since she was at the walk-thru. She wasn't pleased with my explanations. She quickly pulled her money from her account and bounced my $420 check. I shot back with legal action. She made the check good within a week but being vindictive, she turned around and filed an official complaint with TREC.

    In her long and rambling complaint she stated that I was of low moral character, a liar and that I put her through a bait and switch scam. The crazy part about her complaint is that she sent copies of everything that I supposedly didn't give her. Her other statement was that I didn't climb the roof or entered the attic. That's ok because I got plenty of photos to prove that I did.

    All this just goes to show that nothing is ever a slam dunk in the pot. Now I'm just waiting for the rabbit stew.


  26. #26
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    Default Re: Verbal Debrief? - How much to tell them.

    Quote Originally Posted by John Remark View Post
    This is an interesting thread-- I have been recommending my clients to bring three things to an inspection:

    1) Pre-Inspection agreement to be signed
    2) Sample report- To make sure the client has a better understanding about what they are buying and the framework it will be placed in
    3) a copy of the Standards and Practice

    The idea is that by giving the client the standards it allows for a more complete understanding what the Inspector is doing, what the inspector is not doing and allows for a circular flow of information (read Q and A from the clients as to what and why). This gives the report more meaning when they read it and also manages the clients expectations about what the inspector is doing with the ultimate goal of making the client happier and more likely to refer and less likely to have a complaint.

    I have been reading the replies and many of you prefer not to have the client literally with you during the inspection but at the house at the time of inspection.

    Am I reading this correctly?
    Do you guys agree about what I am recommending to my clients?
    Have you ever read an SoP that covers the inspection?

    Most are so convoluted that they are very difficult to understand. Heck most inspectors do not even understand them so expecting the consumer to understand them n a few minutes is asking a tad too much I think.

    SoP are the basic minimum that the inspection should be done under. If a good inspector follows them to the letter you will get a crappy inspection. SoP's were/are generally written to protect the inspector and not the consumer.

    I do not agree with the Sample Report idea. What good is a sanitized sample report? Every single house is different and will have their own customized report. Providing a perfect sanitized report will just confuse the situation. I understand the idea of giving them the picture of what the report will look like but after 17 or so years at this gig I just feel it is not needed. All folks really care about is what is wrong with the house and not the fluff and fodder that is found in so many reports.

    I agree with the inspection agreement part. I will not do an inspection without it. My agreement spells out what I will not be inspecting and what I can and not do during an inspection.

    I give this to my clients: ASHI Client Bill of Rights | The ASHI Reporter | Inspection News & Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors

    Last edited by Scott Patterson; 09-03-2012 at 10:19 AM.
    Scott Patterson, ACI
    Spring Hill, TN
    www.traceinspections.com

  27. #27
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    Default Re: Verbal Debrief? - How much to tell them.

    In her long and rambling complaint she stated that I was of low moral character, a liar and that I put her through a bait and switch scam.
    She mistook you for the broker?

    Texas Inspector
    http://www.texasinspector.com
    What the plainspoken man lacks in subtlety, he makes up in clarity.

  28. #28
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    Default Re: Verbal Debrief? - How much to tell them.

    I recommend that clients be present, but some cannot be due to other responsibilities such as work, being out of state/country, kids, etc. That's OK. Inspection agreements are signed via the Internet prior to the date of the inspection. The SOP is available online and is referenced in the inspection agreement. Besides, like Scott says, an SOP amounts to a lot of balderdash written by inspectors pretending to be bureaucrats while vying for the favors of the state board or commission in order to fulfill an often not-so-hidden agenda; not an easy, edifying, or gratifying read.

    I offer my tape measures to the clients at the inspection if they wish to go measure for drapes, refrigerators, whatever, then ask them to let me do my job. I offer them my hard hat an earplugs if the agents or sellers are present. Once I have made my observations and drawn my conclusions we talk. Then I field their questions.

    The only three things I ask of my clients is their full attention when I am speaking with them, their time to read the report and payment of my fee. They have enough other stuff to contend with during the sale/purchase of a house and all that this entails.

    Texas Inspector
    http://www.texasinspector.com
    What the plainspoken man lacks in subtlety, he makes up in clarity.

  29. #29
    John Remark's Avatar
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    Default Re: Verbal Debrief? - How much to tell them.

    @ Scott-

    Yes, I have read the SOP... for the Associations and most states (that have their own). I understand that they are... difficult to read. That makes it even more important to give it to them while you are there, so you can clear up any points of confusion. Please remember, I do not look at this from a HI Technical perspective, I look at it from an E and O viewpoint.

    There are certain reasons why a HI gets into trouble with their clients. The most frequent is not meeting/exceeding the expectations of the client. I am not saying that they are reasonable expectations. By making sure that what you are delivering and what they expect you to deliver is the same (or as close as you can make it) the HI is relieved of many of the frivolous complaints that can occur.

    Since all inspections (and the pre-inspection agreement) are predicated on the SoP that you are inspecting to, it seems reasonable to make sure the client has it and to answer any questions that they have about it. This is more important because the way the standards are written, it is hard for the layman to read.

    If a home inspector does not understand the SoP... Beam me up Scotty, we have a different and much more serious problem. I, as an insurance guy and as a client, think it is reasonable to expect the professional I am hiring to have at least a passing knowledge of what they are doing. Actually, I expect them to have an intimate knowledge of the standards that they are performing to. To expect otherwise is a failure of the profession and of the HI.

    The reason for the sample report is that there is not a national standard for reports. Customers moving from a different state may have different expectations on what a report should look like. The standards may be different, the technology used by the last inspector may have been different... Each home inspector creates a report in a different manner: Hand written, punch list, check list, narrative, computer generated... Making sure the client knows what they are buying ahead of time lessons confusion and makes sure that what you are delivering and what they are buying are the same... before anyone has invested time or money.

    From my perspective, the work product that you are generating is the report, not the inspection itself. The more professional the presentation the greater the weight and validity the report has (it is more believable). If it is more believable, the better off the HI is.

    In my own experience running a HI E and O program, a HI that generates a hand written report is 6x more likely to have a complaint/claim than the HI that takes the same information and puts it into a computer generated report (even just a word document).

    My job is to help my clients create reasonable best business practices that will generate fewer claims while not making it impossible to do business. Making sure your clients know what and how you are generating your work product seems reasonable to me AND will assist the HI in long run... by creating more referrals because their clients are happier and delivered reports that met (and hopefully exceeded) their expectations.

    I am going to read over the ASHI BoR.. but not all my clients are ASHI members. Going through the 3 step process i outlined is something that I can uniformly recommend to my clients that can/does work regardless of association affiliation.


  30. #30
    Eric Shuman's Avatar
    Eric Shuman Guest

    Default Re: Verbal Debrief? - How much to tell them.

    I do a verbal run-down when the client is present. Not a lot of details on everything but kind of a summary of issues found. I always tell them that the written report is the official report and that they should read the entire document regardless of what was discussed verbally. I, too, may start writing the report and realize I did not touch upon something verbally (usually overlooked in my notes).

    A word of caution about verbal versus written. A couple of years ago I remember reading in TREC's newsletter that an inspector had gotten in trouble for saying one thing verbally and putting something else in the report. There were no detalis as to what was said/written. Make sure your report matches what you tell your clients.

    I had an inspection a while back with a hail damaged roof. The damage was not everywhere, mainly one side. I told my client verbally that the seller's insurance might cover the damage and that I could not determine if the roof was totaled. Somehow the client turned this around in his head that the roof was totalled and that the seller would have their insurance company replace the roof, which the seller said was not going to happen. My report stated likely hail damage and extent of repairs needed unknown, or something to that extent. The client called me threatening BBC complaint, legal action, etc.

    Nothing ever came of it and as it turned out, the seller had made a hail claim and cashed the check. The client eventually called and apologized saying the seller had lied about several key things including the roof.

    Just goes to show that what you say verbally can have unintended interpretations.


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