A home inspector can get a bad reputation as The Bearer of Bad News, The Deal Killer, or The Boogeyman. But delivering bad news is all about, well... delivery. In this episode, Rose & Brad discuss tone and tact; interview a Northern Virginia Top Selling Realtor about communication between Inspectors and buyers; and drink the nastiest Inspector BOD (Beverage of the Day) to be featured on the show.
Special thanks to our guest, Kristin Francis, of the Kristin Francis Team w/ Keller Williams Metro Center.
For the most recent episodes visit the podcast show page on Spotify or iTunes. To reach out to Rose and Brad email them at firstname.lastname@example.org and don't forget to follow them on Facebook for live broadcasts and behind the scenes details.
- Episode Transcription - Intro: Welcome to inspection connection, the podcast by inspectors for inspectors.
Brad Lowery: Welcome back in everybody. It's another episode of Inspection Connection. I'm Brad Lowery. Once again here with...
Rose Buckley: Rose Buckley. How's everything going with you, Brad?
BL: It has been a week, a super busy week. And so anytime that we get to take a pause on the week, record some awesome content for our amazing listeners, and drink inspector beverages of the day, I am stoked.
RB: Listen, I'm kind of stoked about today's too, because I got to choose it. Not to say I'm excited about it, per se. But I'm excited to see your face when we try it.
BL: Yeah, yeah. So if you guys watch the Facebook Live, we did a little facebook live teaser on this. It looks disgusting. Like, it doesn't look that bad. Like color wise, it looks golden and kind of ambery a little honey-ish. But it oh my gosh, okay, Rose, tell them what's in it, first of all.
RB: So the reason that this... a little bit of a story behind this... is that today, what we're going to be talking about is delivering bad news to clients. And we have clients all the time, who may visit up to 30 to 50 houses until they find the one that they really like they put an offer in on it, in most instances, and now here comes the inspector and I always tell my clients, "I kind of feel like a Boogeyman. Really, because I'm telling you everything that's wrong with the house."
BL: Who hates us worst, though, is it sellers or buyers?
RB: Oh, it depends. Mostly sellers, because they have to fix a lot of things. But sometimes buyers are not very happy with it. They're happy because we, you know, save them from getting into a money pit in certain circumstances or so they know what they're getting into.
RB: But yeah, that's an interesting question. So because I tell my clients all the time that I feel like the boogeyman, I kind of make that joke just to kind of break the ice a little bit. I found a drink that's actually called the boogeyman and...
BL: THE Boogeyman.
RB: Yeah and we've we made this drink...
BL: There's no boogies in it?
RB: No, there's no boogies, no. But we made this drink maybe 20 minutes ago, we've just kind of been staring at it. [laughing] And we so you want to tell them why... because you mixed it, I gave you the ingredients... and you mixed it.
BL: So you make a recipe called for Mountain Dew which I used to, throw back Mountain Dews by the liter during college.
BL: That was my drink of choice. That and coffee. That's how I got through school, and then you start to get closer to 30 in the metabolism just drops right off a cliff. And I stopped drinking soda maybe three or four years ago. Drinking it all the time, you know. And now anytime I have a soda it's like "Oh, I have no idea why I used to drink this". You know?
RB: It's just so full of sugar.
RB: It always makes me feel sluggish...that I stopped drinking it too.
BL: I'm all for drinking sugary things. You give me a milkshake, I will drink a large one. I don't know what it is about that versus like soda but I feel...I just feel gross drinking it. So I stopped drinking it a long time ago. So here we go, there's Mountain Dew in here, but there's also... it called for brandy, which I did not have. So as a solution to not having brandy we mixed a little bit of dark rum with whiskey... and it sounds disgusting. So Mountain Dew, whiskey...
RB: Did you just choke a little bit like in anticipation of trying this? [laughing]
BL: I am not looking forward to drinking this at all.
RB: Well, you know we can't always have like a super fruity or fun delicious drink. Sometimes we got to try something new. So we're trying something different. It's called the boogeyman.
RB: Mountain Dew, rum and whiskey...
BL: Let's do this. You guys listening live were drinking a Boogeyman...
RB: Oh god...Oh, no, no.
RB: But you know what? I'm dedicated to our listeners so I'm going to keep drinking it.
BL: I'm going to have a second sip just to go with a second opinion.
RB: It's almost like the first time you taste like wasabi or something like that. It's just like, oh, wow, that's a lot. And then you kind of go in for a second one just because you're not 100% sure.
BL: That's awful. No. That's why I stopped drinking Mountain Dew.
RB: Wow, I guess that kind of goes into how our clients feel like the faces we're making right now. The clients, our clients, when we give them bad news, obviously that's part of our job. And we give them bad news when we find defects in the house. And this is their dream home and this is... this must be what it feels like to be on that end of the spectrum.
BL: Bad news is we asked you guys to try this drink with us. Good news is take our official recommendation, just don't make it. No.
RB: Don't waste your time.
BL: Don't waste your good bourbon or your good rum.
RB: Well you didn't, you got out the cheap stuff.
BL: Yeah, I did. Yeah, I was not going to be putting my Jefferson's Ocean in this. I was not going to be putting my Bowman's single barrel and there's no way. No, we went with some cheapo Knob Creek. Put that in there.
RB: Listen, nothing wrong with the Knob Creek.
BL: No, no.
RB: I like it, but...
BL: Look, it does make a good old fashioned.
RB: It does. We're open for sponsorships...
BL: That's right.
RB: So if you want to be sponsors Knob Creek... [laughing]
BL: So let's give this a little bit of a sophisticated take. Okay, like if you read wine reviews or like bourbon...
RB: Are we going to talk about notes here? With Mountain Dew?
BL: So the palate is first of all...college. It tastes like a little bit like college. Where it's like you never drank anything good when you were actually in college, you didn't have the money to.
RB: It tastes like what a hangover on a Sunday morning feels like in college. That's what it tastes like.
BL: Yeah. Sickeningly sweet.
RB: It doesn't even smell good.
BL: Smell the nose of this beverage here. And to me it...
RB: You're getting too fancy for me here...we're drinking Mountain Dew.
BL: That Smells Like Teen Spirit.
RB: Oh... aye, dad joke.
BL: I don't know where I was going with that. Yeah, that's a reference. And just adds that it makes you kind of smack a little bit like, "Oh, no." And then you feel like you just need to brush your teeth and wash your mouth out.
RB: Yeah, I didn't bring my toothbrush though.
BL: That's fine. Yeah, we're going to find something else to drink. But anyway, jumping into the subject.
RB: We've got a great show today. So we're going to talk about, obviously, a big part of our job. How we deliver bad news to our clients. Because there are a lot of different takes on this, there are a lot of different methods and a lot of different things that people do and we're going to discuss that. We also have a really cool interview that we're going to be doing. Can you describe a little bit of that because you set it up?
BL: Yeah. So, we're going to be talking to Kristin Francis from the Kristin Francis team. She's an awesome realtor up in Northern Virginia. Works around Arlington, DC, Northern Virginia. I think some of Maryland. She has a rehabbing side of her business as well not for alcoholics or anything like that you know. It's for like remodeling homes. You know, she helps her buyers...
RB: Like flippers.
BL: Yeah, she helps her buyers find fixer uppers. And then...
RB: Oh, that mountain dews hitting you hard, isn't it?
BL: Yeah, you know, it's lightweight like that. So no, she helps her buyers find fixer uppers. That's why there's like four F's in that sentence. That's why it's so hard to say. She helps her buyers find fixer uppers, and then helps them save money by getting into the home of their dreams by fixing it up. So she goes all HGTV with them. Awesome lady, but I've done so many inspections with her, she knows how I deliver my presentation to buyers. So she's seen me in homes that are horrible or worse than...worse than what the buyer may have originally thought when they saw it. And that's again, that's the whole reason they bring us in as home inspectors. They want to make sure the roofs not about to fall out on their heads. But you have to pull it off in a way that is educational, informative. And yet no agent really wants you to scare off their buyers either.
RB: There's a delicate balance there.
BL: There really is. Yeah, our job is not to sell the house, it's just to explain about the house. So since we've worked together so much, I want to get her take on what works for home inspectors what she needs from home inspectors in the way of presentation in the way of education in the way of information. But we'll get to that in just a little bit. But first off Rose, I want to ask you when you've got hard information about a house when you've got horrible news to deliver to a client, how do you go about it?
RB: Well, we've all been in those situations, right? And that's really our job, our job is to really educate our clients on it. On the house that they're hoping to move their family into. And for me, reading the room is really important.
BL: For sure.
RB: I'm still going to tell them the information and no matter who I'm talking to my report will be the same. But delivering the information to someone who is extremely nervous, versus someone who doesn't seem to really care all that much. The delivery is quite different. So if I go into a situation...I'll tell you a story. Once I had a client, she was single mother, and she had, I think four kids and they ranged in age from like two years old to 17 years old. And you could tell that she was just, you know, at her wit's end, she was going through so much. And not only going through the divorce and trying to afford this house on her own, but she found a beautiful house that was built in the 1800s. And when I arrived, just to kind of bring it back...my report that I gave to her was over 100 pages long. That's how many things were wrong with this house. And some of them were major structural issues, and it was going to cost over $80,000 to make the house livable for a family.
RB: It was...it was one of those really bad, you know, investment property kind of things. But she wanted to move her family into it. And, you know, I always tell my clients, "Let me focus on inspecting and writing the report very quickly. And I'll come get you and show you everything that I find. I don't want to be distracted by talking with you while I'm inspecting." And so I came upstairs after maybe 45 minutes in the basement. Truthfully, I lost track of time, it could have been more than that. Honestly, I was down there for so long. I came up and she was on the phone. And so I patiently waited for her to to get off the phone. But apparently her situation was even worse because she got off the phone with the lender and they lost her only records of her taxes to prove income. And she didn't have a backup copy. And she immediately just started bawling her eyes out. So she not only was going through the stress of a divorce, raising children, finding a house, moving everything, and not knowing if she could afford this house to begin with. And then she got this bad news from the lender. And I thought to myself, "Oh, I don't want to tell her all these bad things I just found" but you know...
BL: Oh my gosh. But, you still have to do your job. And yeah, this complicates things so much more all of a sudden.
RB: Exactly. So, I took a much softer approach with her. And I said, "Listen, you see this house, you see the condition of this house." You know, after she calmed down for a few minutes, I kind of went into it, I said, "You have been in this house a few times, you've come here with your agent before having the home inspection and putting the offer in and you've seen a few things. You're not, you know, you're not stupid, obviously. And you know, things need to be fixed. But there are some things that make this home, for certain reasons, unlivable for your children. And keep in mind, everything is going to be fixable. Everything you can fix, everything can be fixed." And you know, the agent didn't jump in, I wish that she had. But I said you, "I don't know what your contract looks like. But often people can negotiate these things. So you might be able to get the seller to help you with some of these things." Then that's when the agent kind of took the cue and she jumped in. Which was wonderful because that's not for me to give them advice on.
RB: But just because of my experience with real estate, I know that that's a common practice. And so I let the agent take it from there. But I still deliver the information, she still got a comprehensive, thorough report. But I had to give her a hug because she was falling apart. And that's an extreme example. But there are many clients who are Nervous Nellies, and we have to be a little bit softer with our approach to things with them.
BL: Yeah. So it sounds like some of the things that you did right there, at least the way that I see it...First of all, you noticed a big change in the situation. You were able to empathize with the client, and then adapt your tone. Just do your job, but then just consider their perspective as well. Because, again, we're not just dealing with houses, we're dealing with humans, right? And there's so many reasons behind why someone's moving or where they're coming from. And so that's, that's awesome. And I think that they, at least for the agent, I'm sure the agent totally appreciated you taking the tone and the tact that you did, in delivering that bad news to the buyer. But you do have some inspectors, though, that they're like a sledgehammer in the way that they deliver some information. I'm not bad mouthing anybody, but I had a home inspection before where I was not the only inspector on site. And I could tell that this other seasoned, very seasoned, very knowledgeable inspector, he was one of those types were literally everything is a big deal to him. Every little thing is a major thing. And hills are mountains. You know, mole hills are mountains. And it's...Again, that guy if he delivered in his form and his way to the client that you had to deal with there, I can't imagine what that would have done to her.
RB: And sometimes people are in situations where they don't have the option. I don't think she had any other option. The reason that she bought this house that was clearly... anyone who could walk in the house and be like, "Wow, there's mold on the walls." There was clearly a lot of work to be done. She was in a situation where she didn't really have another choice. And so having that empathy with her, went a really long way. But then you also get those clients who are more concerned with the color that they're going to paint the walls and where they're going to put the furniture. I think we've all seen them. And I come upstairs and I'm like, "Well, you know, I found a couple of things downstairs" and I bring them downstairs and show them. And I say, "You see this? This crack? This shows significant water, hydrostatic pressure, pushing in. It's a horizontal crack and there's movement and you're going to have to have structural experts come in here and evaluate this and it's going to be a few thousand dollars to fix minimum." And they'll be like, "Okay." And then they go back to talking about what color the living room will be.
BL: We're going to paint it a gray.
RB: Yeah, exactly. And part of me kind of thinks, "Did I really emphasize how serious this problem is for them? Or do they really just not care that much?" It's kind of strange when I can't read people like that. It's really strange.
BL: Yeah, those are also the types that go and lean up on like the middle load bearing wall in the house and go, "We just want to knock this wall out right here. How much do you think its going to cost to do that?" Lots of money.. A LOT of money. "Oh, really? Is it?" And then my follow up question to that is, "You like watching HGTV, don't you?" And they're like, "Yeah, yeah! Property Brothers is my favorite."
RB: Are you going to put some shiplap up?
BL: Yeah that's it, "Shiplap everywhere!" Yeah, yeah, like yep, I could see that one coming a mile away.
RB: Now, what about you? How do you approach different kinds of clients and your approach to them?
BL: Well, I think it comes down to personality which you pointed out with, with the poor buyer that you had to deal with. And I hope she's doing great now, by the way. If you're listening to this podcast, I hope that you are happy in your new home and finding success and so much joy in a really weird year here, this year. But yeah, personalities is kind of the big thing. And I've got three that came to mind when we were talking about this show. Number one is the happy hopeful homebuyer. Those are my favorite. And by and large, those are the ones that I deal with more than anything. You know, especially I work with a lot of first time homebuyers. They're young...a couple that I had the other day, they're a great example of this: They were so overjoyed to have cabinets, just because they were coming from an apartment that had next to none, you know.
RB: "Cabinets?...I want to buy it right now!" [laughing]
BL: Yea, right? Like, "This is amazing! I don't care that microwave needs to be replaced. I don't care that that dishwasher needs to be replaced. We're going to have a new dishwasher!" You know, they're just so happy. And so when I explain things to them, a lot of times they might be on the more financially restricted side, as far as, what they can do if they're moving into a house. So they come in overjoyed. And I say, "Hey, here's a problem that I've found here. And this is, you know, in my report, I have action items and consideration items. And this would definitely fall under an action item. This is going to be $500 or more to repair and replace." And there you can see kind of the crest fallenness start to set in a little bit. I'm like, "But it can be fixed, right?" And I like to point that out. Like my job is to let the house speak for itself, for sure. My job is to point out issues where they are and be honest and forthright about how serious they are. But if they are fixable items, I like to point out that out too, that's good caveat as well. And say, here's how much it would cost, here's how easily it could be fixed, if it could be fixed easily. Then you start to see them perk up a little bit like "Oh okay, yeah, that's cool. So this can be taken care of." And by and large you and I know that the majority of things that we find on Home Inspections end up being fixable items, right?
BL: Now, if those big, hairy, scary monsters are there, okay, you got to deal with it. And you have to break it as you know, honestly, and gently, I guess as you can, but you still have to say that that's there. But, again, reading these happy homebuyers I'm not here to have them quit the deal because of a pop up stopper that's defective. You know what I'm saying?
BL: And I've seen guys go in where they're like, "Oh, huh, yep...that sink." And I'm like, "It's a frickin pop up stopper! Like, that's a fixable part, you know." So that's the happy hopeful homebuyer. The other ones that I see is the loadout the report guy. And this is the complete opposite side of the spectrum for me. The super serious type, they show up in the power suit, power tie.
RB: So they won't have any dad jokes...on hand?
BL: No dad jokes, no they frown upon the dad jokes. Immediately robs you of any validity, you know, and then, I ha-..., I don't hate them. They're customers, that's a strong word. I shouldn't say it that way. But I have to not be myself with those customers. Because I have to be more straight laced, I have to be extremely serious. And I'm a fun guy. But these guys are... They're matter of fact, their time is money. They want to be in out just the facts, please. And sometimes they're a little bit more...you can see they start to nitpick, you know. They're going to go "I'm really concerned about this, this hairline crack over a doorway here." Basic settlement. "Well, does that mean that the house is going to fall in?" You can start to see that they're a little bit more fearful, they're much more serious. And my general tact with that personality type is I'm going to be loading out the report a little bit more.
RB: Are you afraid that they're going to come back and have a claim against you?
BL: They can. I mean, I have good errors and omissions insurance for a reason. But if I can prevent that, I'd rather. So I will be, not that I'm not prudent on other inspections, but I'll be a little stronger in my verbiage when I'm writing that report. Just because this is a different personality type. I have to take a completely different approach with that person. And yeah, it can be a little bit more "CYA" dealing with that kind of a guy or that kind of a girl. But again, reading the room, dealing with that personality. So now, have you ever had to walk away on a home inspection before because someone was super litigious?
RB: I was close to it. But no, I have never walked away. The only time I walked away from a home inspection was the... What I talked about in, I think it was Episode Two, where it was the crack house. That was the only inspection I walked away from but not because of a particular client's behavior or anything.
BL: Yeah, this only happened to me one time and I'm not patting myself on the back here, but over 1000 homes, one time this has happened. The guy showed up to the inspection. He was a complete Nervous Nellie and he walks out like...
RB: Was he like shaking?
BL: Honestly. Yeah. And he walks up to the kitchen, he said, "So I read your contract and I want to know if there's any leeway here for me to sue you if you miss something?"
RB: He opened with that?
BL: Just yeah, that was his lead in. And I said...
RB: Run! [laughing]
BL: I said, "Yes sir. There's a section in our contract here that talks about going to an arbitrator first if there's an issue." Right? And again, "Hey, I take responsibility if I miss something. But if you were to file a formal claim, we would go to an arbitrator."
RB: See, your response was much better than mine would have been. I would have been like, "Excuse me?"
BL: Well, it got worse. Yeah, it got worse, because he went, "Okay. Yeah, but what if I want to sue you?" And I said, "You mean, like, take me to small claims court?" "No, no, what if I want to sue you?" And I said, "Sir, I don't know that I'm very comfortable doing this job. If you're simply looking for a reason to sue me for any problems that you might find in this house. And every house has a problem."
BL: And he kept going and just beating down that trail. So I found his agent, she had just gotten here a little bit later than we did. I said, "I'm sorry, to walk out on this inspection, but I can't work with your client." And so in this situation here, if they're going to be litigious, looking to come after me for literally anything right off the bat.
RB: Right. Yeah. And when I talk to my clients, I open and say, "The home inspection process is very similar to getting a physical from your family doctor. I'm a generalist, there are home inspectors out there who have prior history with other trades. They might be an electrician or contractor or something like that. But in general, home inspectors are generalist, and so I'm going to give the house a physical today. And I'm going to report on the findings, I can't do any destructive testing. And there are limitations."
RB: And so the way that I would approach that is explain that to him. I would have opened with that. And if somebody ever said that, to me, I would be like, "Well, would you go to your family doctor, and get a physical, general physical, and then go back and sue them, because they didn't know that you had like two cancer cells in your liver, when there were no signs of it?"
RB: There are things that may be hidden, we may not be able to see any signs of it until 10 or 12 years down the road. And on the day of inspection, that is what we report on. It's a snapshot of the home on the day of inspection. Just like your physical is with your family doctor on the day of inspection. And if there are no outward signs there, we have limitations, and we have insurance for that reason. But you have to be within reason. Some people are way too litigious. And that's terrifying for people in our industry, for sure.
BL: And here's the way that I think you can really tell if you communicated properly. If you explain the issues with the home, and really read your audience, read your buyers properly, paid attention to their personality type, and communicated effectively to them the way that they needed to hear it. I've had buyers cancel a contract, because of the home inspection, his option to void. Yeah, I found the big issue.
RB: We've all "killed" deals.
BL: But they call you back for the next one.
BL: Because they said, "Thank you so much for telling me. Thank you. I'm so glad you caught that. We loved working with you, though. We would love to have you back out for the next one." That's an encouragement to me when I hear that because then it's like, "Okay, I wasn't a complete jerk about the house." Right?
RB: Yeah. Now I... it's funny you say that because it just popped into my mind. I had a story. I worked with a couple... Where I live in Frederick there's a large deaf population. So I was working with this deaf couple, and they just got married not long before, and they were pregnant. And the woman was very, very nervous. She was a Nervous Nellie. So it was an older house. We went through a couple of things. And she was very concerned about the lead paint that I had found on the outdoor shed. And I said, "Well, you know, as long as you don't touch that shed, don't go near that shed everything else doesn't appear to be..."
BL: Don't lick the paint.
RB: Yeah, yeah. And so I kind of calmed her down. But she walked away still a little bit nervous, "Oh, well, there's lead paint on the property." Later, I had done one of my Facebook videos at that property. It was a unique enough property that there was another home inspector that saw my video. And it was so unique. He reached out to me, he sent me a Facebook message. And he said, "I need to talk to you now."
BL: Oh, wow.
RB: And so I called him. We had a nice little conversation. He said, "Was that this property?" And he gave me the address. And I said, "Yes." And he said, "I recognized it from your video. Let me tell you, that I did an inspection on that house and the deal fell through a week or two prior." And he said, "You need to know why." His client that he worked for that was under contract previously worked for an environmental law firm. And she just, I don't know, she was a clerk or whatnot. But she in her law firm asked her friends in the law firm, "Hey, here's the address of the house I'm going to buy. Can you run it through our records and see if there's anything environmentally wrong on the property?" It turns out that it was within less than, I think it was less than a mile, of a nuclear dump site.
BL: Oh, wow. Okay.
RB: Yeah. And that from that nuclear dump site...there is nuclear waste found within a kilometer of that area.
BL: Actual nuclear waste?
RB: Actual nuclear waste.
BL: Nuclear as George Debbie would say.
RB: Yeah, like Homer Simpson, nuclear. So, she dropped out for that reason. She was like, "I don't want to live in a house that has, you know, nuclear waste near in the front yard."
BL: Yea who wants to be glowing by the time they're 50.
RB: Yeah. And I said, "From the front door?" He actually put me in contact with his client, I got the information. And I passed the information on to the real estate agent, because I said, "Listen, this is outside of the scope of the home inspection. But here's information that has been passed on to me, and I feel like you need to know it." And so she shared it with her client, and obviously, the client being so nervous about health issues, and being pregnant and such, she ended up getting out of that contract. And, you know, I don't want to see people walk away from their dream homes. But I read the room, I knew she was nervous. And I knew that this would be a deal breaker. And it was fair for her to know that. And I said, "Here is the information, look into it more. I didn't test it for nuclear waste." I don't know if the home is...
BL: You don't have a Geiger meter that you take with you? [laughing]
RB: No, I don't. But that was one thing that was major bad news. And, of course, it was a day or two later because the delay and the other person reaching out to me. But they were so thankful. And I ended up doing their other home inspection for them. Because they were like, so thankful that they were able to back out of that other deal. And it turns out that I don't know if they did any testing or anything like that. But the listing agent knew about it and never disclosed it.
RB: Which will be problematic.
BL: Yeah, for sure. So what you're saying, though, is that the nuclear poisoning conveyed with the house?
BL: That's great.
BL: That's it, that's a great feature.
RB: I can't confirm. But yeah, suspected, right?
BL: Do you have five fingers now? You weren't there long enough?
RB: No, I'm good to go.
RB: Yeah, I got five fingers on each hand.
BL: Okay, good.
BL: Awesome. That's perfect. So anyway, we did an interview with an agent, one of my best agents as well, that we want to get into because we work with buyers, but we also work with agents. And agents have a very unique perspective. Real Estate Agents that is, not secret agents, not FBI agent.
RB: Oh, yeah.
BL: But real estate agents, they have a unique perspective on home inspectors, because these are their buyers that they are in charge of. That they are shepherding through this home buying process. So hearing what agents need from a home inspector when it comes to delivering bad news. That's something that's going to be really important for all of us in the field to pay attention to. And Kristen was just an excellent person to speak to this. So we've got an interview with her that we'd like to share with you guys briefly. So we're doing an episode today on... what are we doing it on?
RB: So it's on delivering bad news to clients. Because, you know, we talked throughout the episode about how we deliver bad news. It's our job technically, to give bad news to our clients. And we want to do that in a respectful way that allows us to be productive and allows people to move forward in the transaction. So we wanted to get your experience as someone who's been in real estate for a long time, kind of on a different plain than we are.
BL: And especially since you and I have worked together for so long, and you've seen my presentation style. And you've seen all the presentation styles that don't work. I'm not asking for pats on the back, but you can certainly do that. I just want to hear from you (as an agent), what do you need from a home inspector in handling clients when there's bad news?
Kristin Francis That is, yeah, I have definitely run the gamut. And I've seen it all. And that's why I work with you so closely, Brad, because you know how to deliver the education and the relevant information with important context. So they can get the education and make their decision based on that, but not get emotionally entangled. A lot of home inspectors will come in with "CYA" language, I don't know if I can say that on a podcast what that really means, but...
BL: Cover your ass? Yeah you can say it on the podcast.
KF: "Cover Your Ass", yes.
RB: Yeah, we've said much worse. [laughing]
KF: So you know, and it's more about them as inspectors and covering their own liability than it really is about providing the value to the client. I have had people void contracts. There was a center support post on a fence, not a fence, I'm sorry. A deck, like a screened in patio. And the center support wasn't properly supported. I don't think it had a footer on it. And so it was sagging a little bit. And the inspector made the buyers absolutely flip their lids and void the contract. They didn't even ask us to repair it. They thought that the whole house was going to fall down. Because this inspector said, "I suggest you get a structural engineer out here." And just language like that, that's inflammatory is unnecessary. If Brad was there, he would have said, "Listen, this is easily fixable and here's the fix, it has this many zeros attached to it, generally speaking, and here's why it's important." And, you know, we like to say from real estate perspective, that the home inspection is not an opportunity to figure out how to make the house perfect, and as if it were brand new. But to look for material items that impact the actual value of the home that we can't see with our own pedestrianized walking in. And so giving them that information up front in partnership with the home inspector produces, I think, the best outcome. Because then we don't have a bunch of people with their panties in a twist, because they think that the whole house is going to fall down over a center support on a screened in porch, or windows that stick shut. You know, there's a lot of really easy explanations. And I learned something new at each home inspection, but the delivery is important. And plus Brad tells jokes, so it sets them as ease.
BL: I've got some jokes, I don't have as many jokes as you.
KF: I didn't say they were good ones, I just said that you have them.
BL: Right. [laughing]
BL: I've never seen as successful an agent get away with some of the humor that I hear you get away with. But I think that's why you're so successful.
KF: I will just say that it's really important to enunciate when we're describing the difference between a new renovation home and a lipstick on a pig, as we call it. Lipstick on a pig, or like a really nicely done renovation is to pay attention to detail. And again, this is one of those things that they may or may not be worried about. It may look very pretty, but they may have done it wrong. And it's very important to pronounce the 'L' when you're talking about sloppy caulking on a shower. There was dead silence when I said that quick, more quickly than I should have, and I didn't enunciate. I never met this guy before and I picked him up at the airport. We went to go look at the first house and I was pointing out this caulking job that was not good. And I said, "Look at that sloppy caulk."
KF: it was silence and then...
BL: He couldn't even process that.
KF: and then I heard him crack.
BL: Oh, that's awesome. So yeah, plenty of stories that we could totally share about that. Or maybe that we shouldn't share. I don't know.
KF: Probably shouldn't share. [laughing]
BL: Yeah probably shouldn't, for sure. Okay, another thing though. So when we're delivering bad news, one thing that we've talked about is managing different personalities, because you have to convey. You can convey the same issue three different ways to three different people, depending on the type of person that they are. So what's one thing that you have really mastered in handling multiple personalities when you're dealing with issues in house?
KF: So reading the room, we get to know the client before the inspector does and so it's really helpful. I will call Brad and say, "Hey, this person is a Nervous Nellie, this person has read every single line of every single contract. We've had 62,000 emails go back and forth about small things." So then Brad knows who he should be prepared for, and how best to mirror and match that client. So you know, if they're a data person, they're going to want to understand the why and the how and the zeros behind the issue. If they have a personality, more like me, where we just want to understand in broad strokes, is this a big deal is this not a big deal, then that's it. We just want those nuggets of information and move on. If we're data oriented customers, and we're going to need to know exactly the why and the how behind the issue. And I think that for those data oriented personalities, it's the fear of the unknown. So the more color you can bring to the conversation, the better they're going to feel. And then they need time to process that. So like give them the information, move on to the next piece of the inspection, and then circle back to it.
BL: Sure, sure that's really good.
RB: Just asking your opinion that we've talked about how many home inspectors kind of see the real estate agent as almost like an enemy, unfortunately. Like we're not working for you, we're working for a client. Which is, obviously the case, but we do have to build a relationship with you because we want you to refer us. So do you have any people that you work with that will not work with a certain inspector or only works with a particular inspector because they're easy? They won't confront the big issues. Do you run into that in your real estate career with other real estate agents?
KF: Because the agents won't confront the big issues or because the inspectors won't?
RB: They choose an inspector specifically because they make the report shorter and they don't mention the crack in the foundation and that makes the entire process easier for them. We run into that, occasionally.
BL: Oh yeah, they'd rather sweep things under the rug.
KF: I've definitely heard of agents trying to bury it. I think that I find more often, there's a certain generation of realtors, right? There's those that came before us. And there's the new ones. And they're people like me who are in the thick of their career, and probably the highest volume. And some people pride themselves, I think it's a real personality type, on finding the inspector who can take five hours to inspect a condo. I don't know what you could possibly do in a condo for five hours?
BL: Literally nothing. Yeah, there's no way.
KF: And yeah, and they will document every nook and cranny of the home which again, you know, is that really providing the value to the client or not? And then there are the smarmy agents who will absolutely hide material defects. They'll say, "Hey, Mr. Inspector, don't actually tell me that that's a problem. Because if I knew about it, then I have to disclose it." Because they're so desperate for a sale that they don't want anything to get in the way of their buyer finally buying the house. Which again, is not something that anyone would advocate for. But yeah, of course, there's folks out there that do it. I've literally seen everything and the five hour inspectors, please do not do that to us. We have other things that we need to do with our life. And there's no reason for five hours in an inspection unless it's like 7000 square feet.
BL: Sure, sure. So if you were to sum it all up in a nutshell, what is the biggest thing that you need from your home inspectors when it comes to handling your clients?
KF: I need my home inspector to be my partner in educating my client. That is the entire purpose. They are hiring professionals to give our professional opinion on whether this is a good investment or not, and how it's going to perform for them over the long run. So I need my inspector to communicate to my client in a way that they need to hear the information to best absorb, process and make their educated decision.
BL: That's perfect. Awesome.
RB: That's what we like to hear.
BL: Absolutely. Well, thank you so much, Kristen, for coming on the show. Isn't she amazing?
RB: She was so awesome. And for those of you listening, obviously, this is a podcast. And I have the bad habit of every once in a while, shaking my head yes to agree with you. And I'm like, "Oh, the listeners can't hear me agree, I have to be better with that." But you didn't get to see her. She has the coolest hair. It's like short and spiky and it's blue. It's so cool. She's a cool chick.
BL: Yeah, she's been doing this for a long time. And in a crazy market up here in Northern Virginia and DC. So thank you, Kristen for coming on. And we will totally have her on again in the future.
RB: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah. So another thing that I wanted to talk about quickly, because this is, a good chunk of people in our industry. Is that there are people who believe that it's not my job to read the room, and I am here to present the information. I'm going to do it the same way, exactly the same way, to every single person, and it's not my job to read them and change my demeanor for them. Now, you and I, Brad, we both obviously change our demeanor. We've already talked about that. And that's something that, you know, Kristen was saying in our interview with her. But how do you feel about people who say, "I'm here to deliver the information, not necessarily like a robot, but I'm going to do it the same way every single time. I'm not going to change it, change up my presentation to them." What do you think about that?
BL: I think it's a skill that's worth acquiring. If you're going to stick around in the industry for a long time, and some of these guys have, and again we're not here to bad mouth, anybody. But I do think it would be very beneficial if there was a course that was taught at the next ASHI convention or something on delivery, on communicating or good communication skills, or how to be attentive, how to read a room, and how to adapt accordingly with your clients because it's a very helpful skill. And it's one that's more, I think, in a proper setting, in a business world sense. Especially, if you've ever worked in like retail or in sales or anything like that. But again, we're not just contractors, and a lot of us, you know, we come from backgrounds, whether it be construction or building or electricians or plumbers, and we're tradesmen and tradeswomen. But again, this is a different world, we're dealing with humans, not just with houses. I think that's the big thing that I like to emphasize. So it's a skill worth acquiring and we all have things that we need to improve on. That might be something that's worth evaluating and how you go about performing your inspection.
RB: Absolutely. I mean, we are in the people business, we're working with people who are going through something very emotional, moving, they're uprooting their families and it's a very emotional decision for them. And we're dealing with that in real estate a lot. And I think it's really important to have that customer service mindset, no matter whether you're in the trades or you're in retail or wherever. We expect a certain level if you're dealing face to face with a client. If I go to McDonald's, I expect them to have a level of "Hello, ma'am, good morning." Or something like that, and greet me, there's a level of professionalism. And I don't want to be greeted by a robot all the time, it's nice to have a little bit of tailored and personalization to it as well.
BL: For sure.
RB: Now, I've also run into an inspector or two, not as often, thankfully, but in my opinion, I should say. But I have had a couple of people tell me, "I want to scare the crap out of my clients, because that's my job. I want them to leave scared. If they're not leaving the inspections scared out of their minds, then I didn't do my job."
BL: Someone actually said that to you?
RB: Like two or three inspectors have told me that over a period of time.
BL: Oh my gosh. I've got nothing to say to that.
BL: Yeah, I'll get your clients eventually. Seriously, yeah, if that's going to be your business approach, and you're in my market, they're probably going to call me after. I mean, you're not going to keep your agent base very well, that way.
RB: I guess it's, you know, and I actually did speak with an agent once who, in marketing with them, I said, "Hey, I know you have an inspector that you work with, I respect that. But if they're ever not available, I would ask you to consider using me." And in talking with them about what they like about that inspector, because I say I am still fairly new, I'm going into my fifth year as an inspector, I want to learn how I can improve and be better, like, what is it you look for an inspector. And somebody said, "I want them to scare the shit out of my client."
RB: And that shocked me. And I said, "Wow, can you tell me why? Because, you know, I have a delivery that I use." And they said to me, "It kind of covers my ass really. Because if I take my client through the wringer with the inspection, and they know everything that they need to know." Obviously, you do with most inspections. But "If they get scared, and continue on with the process, and they end up buying the house, and I know that they really did want the house to begin with. And they can't come back and complain to me, because they chose at that point, even though they were scared. They still chose to move forward with the transaction. And I need that set peace of mind in the back of my mind to know that I didn't put them in a house they truly didn't want to be in. That if they walked away from the inspection, scared and still went through with it. I can wash my hands of the fact that they truly did want this inspection after all." It's kind of like a test for them. For the agent.
BL: That's a unique perspective.
RB: Yeah I thought so.
BL: Yeah, I can't say l've heard that one before...yet. Yeah, that's definitely a unique perspective, though. So we've heard some unique perspectives. We've had some unique beverages. And this is kind of been a unique episode. So we want to thank you guys for listening and always tuning in the way that you do. But we want to hear from you guys too, because I know that you guys and you girls have some stories that might blow ours out of the water. So how do you go about delivering bad news to your clients? So send an email to us at email@example.com or you can even connect with us over on our Facebook page as well.
BL: I'm on Instagram @inspectiondude.
RB: Yeah, you tried to match.
BL: Pretty much, but it works. So thank you so much guys for listening. We are out for this episode and we will see you next time here on Inspection Connection.