It's never good news for property owners when water enters the picture. Telltale signs on concrete and wood can indicate water seeping into the foundation of the house. You, the home inspector, are there to provide information on the safety of the home.
An inspector understands how a hairline cement crack in a foundation is the point of least resistance that can lead to basement leaks or floods, larger wall cracks and even bowing or buckling walls. But to a homeowner, that same crack might not signal a moisture intrusion problem or a structural problem down the road.
It is up to the inspector to provide full disclosure about the impending consequences of foundation water damage.
Back up your concerns with evidence such as the following:
- Wall bowing outward
- Wall pulling loose from fasteners
- Damp and soft wall
- High moisture meter reading
Even with this evidence, however, it might be challenging to convince your client about the urgency of remedial action.
Put Your Client First
Your client depends on your experience and expertise to deliver objective observations. Your job is to report what you see. But, unlike you, your client has an emotional investment in your findings. A seller wants to get the most value for the home, and a buyer wants a sound and safe home.
The client who attends your inspection demonstrates that emotional investment. They want to be there to know firsthand what you see. When you discover and report a flaw like a cement crack with water seepage and possible foundation work, you should be prepared to stay calm because your client may react emotionally.
What is just another inspection item in your view might cause fear and concern for your client.
Knowing how to deliver bad news professionally will keep you and your client on an even emotional keel, and it might even allow you to become a star in your client's view.
Delivering Bad News
Your mindset and how you frame information can set the conversation on the right track to a positive outcome. Keeping your client in a receptive mode is key to helping them hear and understand problems. Whether the issue is a slow leak in the kitchen or a foundation weakness, how you deliver your findings is critically important.
1. Professional Demeanor
Jean-Francois Manzoni, author of "A Better Way to Deliver Bad News," published in the Harvard Business Review, cited research explaining that people are more willing to accept bad news from someone who is reliable and has good intentions. You are a winner here. Your inspection business is based on your experience and expertise and your dedication to providing objective observations.
2. Fair Delivery
You have all the relevant information for your client. Your images highlight your findings and your knowledge gives you the opportunity to present your findings in a professional manner. You communicate the finding in clear language, and explain necessary repairs and remediation.
3. Clarify, Listen and Explain
When your client asks questions, listen. Rephrase their questions so they can see that you understand their concerns. Explain any details that seem unclear. You'll help your client understand the standards, and why repairs and remediation will improve the home's safety.
4. Show Support
Demonstrate to your client that you know this is bad news. Acknowledging their concerns goes a long way in building trust. There is value in building trust in your professionalism because it can help your client trust your findings and your recommendations.
The Value You Add as an Inspector
When you discover damage that can lead to a big problem such as imminent foundation structural damage, the way you explain what lies in the future is a value you bring to your client.
Your interpretation of the visual finding helps your client understand what lies ahead. And your recommendations, like elevating the pad and sump pump installation, let your client know the next steps.
When you share your expertise, you reassure your client about how to remediate the issue, which also can build trust. Your expertise goes far beyond a check mark on your written report.