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  1. #1
    Brian E Kelly's Avatar
    Brian E Kelly Guest

    Question Clients with tunnel vision

    I just did an inspection that I could not write fast enough. From the first step out of my van I could see at least ten items that were bad enough for me to walk. The roof had more waves then the ocean not to mention the so called flashings or lack of. As I got into the house I found more things that I could not even believe. Not a floor was level, the basement had more water intrusion and termite damage then I have ever seen. And yet the client is still going to buy the house for her daughter. I could not show or explain enough of my findings to make her budge from her decision to buy the house.
    I know it is not my job to make tell the customer to buy or not, only to present all my findings and give her the information to make the decision but where do you draw the line? I did all I could not to scream at the top of my lungs "RUN !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
    My question is how else should I explain it the my client that this house is crap and not worth any amount of money?

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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Clients with tunnel vision

    Tell them to RUN.

    If it was on fire, you'd holler fire wouldn't you? You wouldn't say I just smell some smoke.

    I'm getting paid to look after the clients best interest and I have no problem telling them that maybe this house is not for them and lets look elsewhere.


  3. #3
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    Default Re: Clients with tunnel vision

    Quote Originally Posted by Brian E Kelly View Post
    "RUN !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
    this house is crap and not worth any amount of money?
    Brian,

    You did what you could. Short of the above.I'm sure we all have had similar thoughts.

    If only I knew Why People do what they do move over Berkshire Buffett.

    It Might have Choked Artie But it ain't gone'a choke Stymie! Our Gang " The Pooch " (1932)
    Billy J. Stephens HI Service Memphis TN.

  4. #4
    David Banks's Avatar
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    Default Re: Clients with tunnel vision

    I have had clients that seem to be hell bent on the house no matter what.
    They almost seem to get irritated the more you find.
    I guess we have to figure by the time they hire a HI they have their heart set on the house.


  5. #5
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    Default Re: Clients with tunnel vision

    Quote Originally Posted by Rick Hurst View Post
    Tell them to RUN.

    If it was on fire, you'd holler fire wouldn't you? You wouldn't say I just smell some smoke.

    I'm getting paid to look after the clients best interest and I have no problem telling them that maybe this house is not for them and lets look elsewhere.
    I don't know Texas law but that would be a bad idea in Wisconsin..


    RL 134.04 Contents of a home inspection report. (partial)

    (3) A home inspector may not report in writing or verbally
    on any of the following:
    (a) The market value or marketability of a property.
    (b) Whether a property should be purchased.


  6. #6
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    Default Re: Clients with tunnel vision

    walk them to the picture window in the living room. Ask them what they see parked outside. " why thats my car" they say. " My advice to you is to get in your car, drive away , and never come back. Works well. Tried and true.
    Never had to deal with that broker again either. Two birds ,one stone. good day


  7. #7
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    Default Re: Clients with tunnel vision

    I don't know Texas law but that would be a bad idea in Wisconsin..


    RL 134.04 Contents of a home inspection report. (partial)

    (3) A home inspector may not report in writing or verbally
    on any of the following:
    (a) The market value or marketability of a property.
    (b) Whether a property should be purchased.
    It sounds like your realtors wrote you HI laws there, too.

    Jim Luttrall
    www.MrInspector.net
    Dallas, Texas

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Clients with tunnel vision

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Luttrall View Post
    It sounds like your realtors wrote you HI laws there, too.

    Dido for Tennessee.

    It Might have Choked Artie But it ain't gone'a choke Stymie! Our Gang " The Pooch " (1932)
    Billy J. Stephens HI Service Memphis TN.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Clients with tunnel vision

    I got this from Walter Jowers years ago and used it many times since then.

    Tell them if they were your son/daughter/mother/father/brother/sister they would only buy this house over your dead body. They WILL get exactly what you mean.

    I had many, many people hire me because they knew they could ask that question (should I buy this house) and I'd give them an answer they could easily figure out (yes, sometimes it was the old 'Well, only you can make that decision, but, with all that this house needs, *I* *WOULD WANT* *A BUNCH OF MONEY BACK* if I was going to buy this house.').

    I've even had some tell me 'I've been told that I can trust what you say when you answer this question - *Would you let your daughter buy this house?*' In several cases, my answer was 'No.' or 'Only over my dead body.'

    There was one case where the guy wanted to buy it so much that he asked 'Can I live here while the work is done?'

    My response to that was to read him what I had written in my report "Remove the roof covering, remove the roof structure, remove the 2nd floor so you can see the blue sky above from the 1st floor, and, while you are at it, remove the walls so the foundation can be rebuilt, after which you can put it all back together.", then I asked him "What part of 'until you can see the blue sky above' do you not understand?"

    His response was "But, CAN I LIVE THERE while doing that work?"

    My response was "You just don't get the 'until you can see the blue sky above' part, do you. Live here in what, a tent? I doubt that the city of Miami Beach would allow that."

    I used that 'remove blah-blah-blah until you can see the blue sky above' comment several times, everyone else "got it".

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Clients with tunnel vision

    To me the question isn't really how big of a crap hole the house is but more how big of a hole compared to their expectations.

    To just tell someone to 'run' is a bad idea... we never know the circumstances surrounding the transaction... maybe there's a $10,000 allowance for a new roof. Maybe everyone is aware of the huge foundation failure and an engineer has already looked at it and is working up a bid that will be paid by the sellers.

    True, most of the time the things I describe aren't the case but you can sure look bad if/when they are. In a perfect world you'd get some background on the house but this is usually reliant of the realtor to 'fill you in'..... I hate to count on them to save my butt.

    Also true in most instances it's as the OP describes and you unfortunately have to be the bearer of bad news when you have a young pregnant couple standing in the yard.... I just really try to feel them out to see what they're expecting the house to be before I really start hammering it.

    The longer I do this it's almost easier when the place is a total dump... You just take it one system at a time. If/when they're all trashed the report is really pretty easy... a couple 'example' pics of each system and some pretty pointed recommendations.

    The hardest houses seem to be the ones that look pretty good on the surface but get worse as you dig. Those are the ones that are really hard to explain. Looks good on the outside but.... is a dump at heart.


  11. #11
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    Default Re: Clients with tunnel vision

    Only on rare occasions do I advise a client whether they should or should not buy a property. An exception may be a young, single woman buying her first home that turns out to have major structural, electrical, plumbing and furnace problems. In that case I may try to encourage her not to make the purchase but I do it in a way like Jerry explained. I may say something like, "If you were my sister I wouldn't let you buy this house." They usually get the message and the Realtor cannot claim that I told the buyer to walk.

    That said, I almost never give an opinion as to whether a buyer should complete a purchase. I don't know the value of real estate and I don't know what terms the seller has agreed to. For every property there is a price that is fair. Even a POS like Brian described has a price that is reasonable (as long as the price reflects the actual condition of the property and the cost of needed repairs). Some buyers look for properties that are in poor condition so they can buy the cheap, make the needed repairs and sell for a profit. (Flipping has become not as attractive lately with the housing slump.)

    Who am I to say that a person should not buy a house because the foundation is cracked, the floors are all out of level, the roof is wavy, the galvanized steel plumbing should be replaced, the FPE panel should be replaced, the furnace is toast and the roof is shot? That may be what they are looking for. Admittedly, this may not be the right property for that young, single woman buying her first home or a CPA that doesn't know which end of a screw driver to hold (and in cases like this I may hint around) but my job is to inspect and report and let the client decide what to do with assistance from their Realtor. (Isn't that part of why the agents make the Big Bucks?)

    "Baseball is like church. Many attend but few understand." Leo Durocher
    Bruce Breedlove
    www.avaloninspection.com

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Clients with tunnel vision

    There is an agent who calls me about every 6-8 weeks. Every time it is an investor selling a rental to another invester. 50's-60's ranch houses that have been rentals for at least a decade but often several decades. Low end rentals. Damaged rentals, death trap rentals.

    Last one, the foundation was literally cracked every other mortar joint all the way around the house. The foundation under the front door had settled 3-4 inches on the lock side of the jam. Burn marks on the outside of the furnace, 3 buckets in the attic under water stained sheating, several missing ceiling light fixtures with exposed wiring dangleing from 7' ceilings, 60 amp panel with only 25 and 30 amp time delay fuses, 30 amp panel that with 1/4" of joint compound over the entire cover and painted to match wall. Inside 30 amp panel, exposed wires touching panel. 6 ft x 4 ft water stain on ceiling underneath attic HVAC with a bath towel in the drip pan. In the backyard was a brand new detached two car garage.

    I document and include photos of defects in the report. Agent keeps calling me, investors keep using me.

    Pictures of a typical pier and the mechanicals in the crawl space.

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  13. #13
    Gary Smith's Avatar
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    Default Re: Clients with tunnel vision

    Report what you see.

    You are hired to see and report your findings on the conditions of the home. Giving advice on whether or not to buy is not part of your job.

    Bad idea.

    Look at the obvious. It's a bad home, (whatever that is?) you tell them not to buy it, they walk, and go somewhere else. No brainer, I wouldn't put my dog in that house...your done and you collect your fee and they thank you for holding their hand.

    Look at the not-so-obvious. It's an ok home. Sort-a marginal...(what ever that definition should be) and you say "Yes, this home I must say just barely passes your list of "I can't allow you to buy this home" criteria.

    So they buy it on your recommendation to buy it. Now (because your human) you miss something. Something large enough that they have you to mend it for them - since you told them point blank that this home was the one they should buy. (after all, you definatly would direct them to the window or to their car or wherever you feel you could get their attention to tell them to walk)

    Where do you draw the line? One too many items on your list? Will you tell them to walk after say...3 items, 4? or is your number 12?

    What list of issues do you bring forward that sends you to grab your client by the hand (or throat) and "get their attention"?

    Giving Purchasing Advice: Bad Idea.


  14. #14
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    Default Re: Clients with tunnel vision

    The closest I get to what could possibly be considered house purchase advice is this. During some inspections when the findings are particularly bad and the dollar figures are escalating by the minute, I will tell my client that we do not need to complete the entire inspection if they feel the house is not the one for them and in return, I will knock some money off the inspection fee. Some take me up on the offer, some opt to forge ahead and complete the inspection. Either way, I feel that I have indirectly told them the house is a money pit and given them an out.


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    Default Re: Clients with tunnel vision

    Quote Originally Posted by Nick Ostrowski View Post
    The closest I get to what could possibly be considered house purchase advice is this. During some inspections when the findings are particularly bad and the dollar figures are escalating by the minute, I will tell my client that we do not need to complete the entire inspection if they feel the house is not the one for them and in return, I will knock some money off the inspection fee. Some take me up on the offer, some opt to forge ahead and complete the inspection. Either way, I feel that I have indirectly told them the house is a money pit and given them an out.
    I do the exactly the same.

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

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Clients with tunnel vision

    I feel that I have indirectly told them the house is a money pit
    It's the "wild wild west" with respect to the broad spectrum of opinions that stray from the original reason we are hired.

    This is one of the reason's (there are many) that ASTM is looking at creating a standard home inspection report. Even then there will be those who will stray from the reason we are hired. Property condition reporting.

    Value is not a consideration and should remain so.

    Gary Smith


  17. #17
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    Default Re: Clients with tunnel vision

    Had a inspection this morning that I had been there for 15 min. before the client walked up.

    First thing after introductions, he asked me if I'd seen any thing of concern as of yet. I mentioned that the home had 2 termite tunnels on the exterior of the foundation I noticed as I was walking up to the house.

    He pulled out his checkbook and asked me what was my fee for the inspection. I quoted him the fee we had discussed when we booked the call, not knowing he had heard enough already (termites) and was ready to end the inspection. After asking him if he was ready for me to stop the inspection, he told me yes. I told him then I would reduce his fee. He said no that it was not my fault and should be entitled to my full fee since I couldn't just rush out and make up the difference elsewhere. Decent guy I thought.

    After I spent a few minutes discussing the biology habits of termites and treatment, I asked the client if the termites had not been mentioned would he still be interested in the home. Sure he said, I just don't want to walk into a home with a termite infestation right off the bat.

    No matter how hard I tried to convince him that the termite issue could be easily taken care of, he wouldn't even consider the place.

    I think as inspectors, we can sometimes feel out that some people are really asking us to tell them not to buy the home so they can have a way out.

    Sometimes we see a female wanting the home more than the husband or vice versus, and the littlest thing wrong will be the opportunity for the one who really wants out to make the decision to not take the property.

    rick


  18. #18
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    Default Re: Clients with tunnel vision

    Quote Originally Posted by Gary Smith View Post
    It's the "wild wild west" with respect to the broad spectrum of opinions that stray from the original reason we are hired.

    Even then there will be those who will stray from the reason we are hired. Property condition reporting.

    Value is not a consideration and should remain so.

    Gary Smith
    Gary,

    You are correct to a point.
    If it's a safety issue EVERY THING STOPS!

    In a perfect world the Seller will disclose everything.
    The Buyer will only pursue property they may afford.
    The Realtor will be looking out for the clients best interest.
    The Appraiser will access a true property value.
    The Loan originator will not pad the loan application.
    The closing Attorney will not add or omit to the original agreement.
    The Mortgage company will not market predatory loans or non disclosed add ons.
    The Property Tax clerk will appraise by value not municipality's desired level of spending
    The trades will do their jobs fairly and correctly.
    The Lawyers will apply the Laws in a fair and equitable manner.
    The Home Inspector will not be sued for issues beyond His/Her responsibility.


    A Think Tank generated one size fits all form for Home Inspectors will not address just
    these and many other variables in the process.

    A generic Would You buy this house is not a comment on the value of the property.
    I don't know what the asking price is. As an honest personal opinion I would or would
    not buy this property.Don't or do like layout,color,style number of bedrooms.

    Would or would not like to repair the list of defects observed thats the buyers decision to make.Everybody's different.

    I like Bruce B.s canned response NO I already own a house.

    It Might have Choked Artie But it ain't gone'a choke Stymie! Our Gang " The Pooch " (1932)
    Billy J. Stephens HI Service Memphis TN.

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Clients with tunnel vision

    The sad truth to all of this is that many times the home inspector is the only party in the transaction that is really a third party and does not impact them if it does not close. The agents for the most part are concerned with their commissions and not the condition of the home. Yes, this does not hold true for all real estate agents, but a good percentage based on my experience in this profession.

    Telling your client that the house is a POS and that it will be very costly to repair is not giving real estate advice, in my opinion. I'm not telling them not to buy it I'm jut telling them the truth about the home they have made an offer on.

    Let everyone cut their losses upfront and find another home to make an offer on.

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

  20. #20
    Gary Smith's Avatar
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    Default Re: Clients with tunnel vision

    The most important aspect of what we do in this profession is communicate. When we make determinations about what we see we do so from not only the facts which are obvious (the light does not come on when i throw the switch) but we have the opportunity to comment on the color of the light switch, wheather it's dirty or clean, if it's cracked, and/or a long list of issues we use to communicate the facts.

    When we take the facts about an issue and mix with that our personal convictions we begin to transform the facts into philosophical ideas based on our own convictions.

    When we begin to introduce our own "personal values" we project those values in a manor that transforms the reporting of facts into subjective, philosophical ideas. We begin to delute the facts into emotion.

    When we include emotions in our fact finding we are no longer held to what we see but how we feel about what we see based on our own personal experiance about the issue...and that is where the door is pushed wide open and "mis-communication" steps in. Because I will not feel the same about what I see as another inspector will. Or a home owner. Or the agent. Or anyone else. We all will see the issues from a completly different set of "values".

    Commenting about wheather or not someone should make a purchase is not why you were hired, the facts become clouded by the inspector's convictions, and the report is transformed from factual to emotional.

    That's dangerous...


  21. #21
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    Default Re: Clients with tunnel vision

    Quote Originally Posted by Gary Smith View Post
    Commenting about wheather or not someone should make a purchase is not why you were hired, the facts become clouded by the inspector's convictions, and the report is transformed from factual to emotional.
    It is when they ask as our personal opinion on whether we would, or would let a family member, 'buy this house'.

    Having the courage and conviction of your opinions to be able to honestly answer that question is just another part of being a good home inspector.

    While they are asking for 'advice on whether they should buy it or not', they are asking 'your opinion on whether you would buy it or not or allow a family member to buy it' - you need to be able to recognize the difference between those those.

    You are not giving 'real estate advice' (as some would say), you are giving 'your opinion' (that's what they hired you for) on whether it is bad enough that you would not buy it or let your mother/father/son/daughter/sister/brother buy it.

    It is a legitimate question and deserves an answer. Whether than answer is wrapped up in humor (as in 'over my dead body') or just flat out saying 'MOM ... RUN!'.

    There ARE proper ways to answer that question.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  22. #22
    Gary Smith's Avatar
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    Default Re: Clients with tunnel vision

    Good point Jerry, but that notion assumes that I have a family member and can relate to that idea...

    or would/could comment on this home being my own? (maybe I am from wealth and would not/could not live in a home I inspect for any amount of money/condition/etc.)

    I'm saying that there are just too many varibles out there to elude that it's appropriate to inject our own personal opinions into making comments about something that's factual in nature.

    It's too subjective... Beauty in the eyes of the beholder.

    And if you move to issues of safety, have you also mentioned (after telling mom to run) the issues to the owner? Have you given him/her your ideas about wheather or not he/she will ever sell "this money pit" or get something fixed cause you know dang well there is no way that any inspector will ever, ever give this house a passing grade. Maybe if he paid you for that opinion? I doubt he/she is interested in what you have to say about how you "feel".

    Agree to Disagree...


  23. #23
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    Default Re: Clients with tunnel vision

    Gary said "Good point Jerry, but that notion assumes that I have a family member and can relate to that idea".

    First of all, everyone has a mother and father. True, they may have passed on. I think that just about everyone has a significant other, or someone that they consider a close (or not so close) friend. Even if they are so socially vacant they don't have someone that fits those categories now, then they should be able to at least remember when they did have someone they cared about in their life. If someone can't "relate" to that idea or concept, then they have some serious problems. I think the idea or concept is: you care enough for someone that you wouldn't want them to enter into a bad situation without knowing important information.

    This can relate to buying a POS house or sending money to some poor guy that has his billions tied up and needs your help. I can't imagine any of us would stand by and let someone we cared about write a check to some internet scam artist.

    As far as the ASTM being the end all of inspection standards, and better yet a "Standard Inspection Form", I can just say get real.

    I have many clients that go on and on about how I "saved" them from making a huge mistake. I don't pull the mother/father/daughter, etc card often, but if I am asked directly if I would buy the house, or would let a relative/friend buy the house, I give my opinion. I also tell them that there are many variables in the transaction, but they all relate to money. If the house is selling for market value, but needs $15K in repair, they are now paying $15k ABOVE market value. If the house is selling for $10K below MV, and it needs $15K in repair - well do the math.

    And that is really what it's all about, the math. Well, the math, AND if they have the cash to do those repairs. Before I tell them to run from a house, I ask a few questions - then give my opinion.
    JF


  24. #24
    Gary Smith's Avatar
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    Default Re: Clients with tunnel vision

    I like what was said earlier in a post...or did I hear it from someone else...

    Would I buy this house?

    "No, I don't think so. I already have a house."

    I just try to stay unbiased and keep my personal opinions to myself. If that tends to sound uncaring or cold...then that might be the price I pay for staying un-involved in an area of the choice to purchase or not purchase.

    Now if I am asked about cost to repair (because I have strong background in construction) I feel comfortable about making comments on that topic. That usually is enough information about the home and it's cost that the client can begin to do some simple math.

    I just try to keep my emotions out it...heck, there is usually enough emotion in buying a home anyway. But for me to boldly say, "Pick up your clipboard and find the shortest distance out of this neighborhood", I won't do that.

    The good thing about the Jackson, MS metro, and anywhere there are a number of choices for inspectors, I am sure there are those who will openly give advice on another's purchase decisions. And those reputations will be known in the community, just as finding an inspector who choses to keep those kind of comments to him/herself.


  25. #25
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    Default Re: Clients with tunnel vision

    Quote Originally Posted by Gary Smith View Post
    Beauty in the eyes of the beholder.
    Not talking "beauty" here, talking "crap", which is the only reason they ask you.

    If the house were "beautiful" instead of "crap", they don't ask you that. They only ask you when they are feeling that the "crap" *is getting too deep for them* and they want to know what you think.

    If the "crap" is not too deep for you, and you can explain it so they are comfortable with the level of "crap" they are going to buy, just make sure you did not 'oversell' them on that crap, otherwise, they may come back to you and say 'you said ... '.

    Be honest with them, if they are thinking it is "crap" and they are asking you your opinion, be honest with them, just don't start 'Realtor smooze' to push the deal that they are obviously already having second thoughts about.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  26. #26
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    Default Re: Clients with tunnel vision

    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Feldmann View Post
    I also tell them that there are many variables in the transaction, but they all relate to money. If the house is selling for market value, but needs $15K in repair, they are now paying $15k ABOVE market value. If the house is selling for $10K below MV, and it needs $15K in repair - well do the math.
    That's the same way I would relate it to them.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  27. #27
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    Default Re: Clients with tunnel vision

    Quote Originally Posted by Gary Smith View Post
    I like what was said earlier in a post...or did I hear it from someone else...

    Would I buy this house?

    "No, I don't think so. I already have a house."

    Now if I am asked about cost to repair (because I have strong background in construction) I feel comfortable about making comments on that topic. That usually is enough information about the home and it's cost that the client can begin to do some simple math.
    I quoted Mr. Bruce B. from an earlier thread: No I already own a House(Go Rockies) plug for Mr. Bruce B.


    Please be careful Ladies and Gentlemen as materials and cost of business cost change. To avoid the you said cost should be in $xxx Range. We fixed the long list on your Report and cost $xxxx24 cents!! What do YOU intend to do about it Mr. Inspector?


    It Might have Choked Artie But it ain't gone'a choke Stymie! Our Gang " The Pooch " (1932)
    Billy J. Stephens HI Service Memphis TN.

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