JULES FALCONE STARTED DOING HOME inspections in 1972, and began mentoring in 1977, a few years after launching his home inspection business and training his brother. “Back then, there were no training programs, no online resources, and the importance of a home inspection was not yet understood or fully appreciated like it is now,” Jules says. “To train my brothers and then future employees and more than 100 other inspectors, I had to learn every detail about homes and performing accurate, in-depth inspections. I created a loose-leaf folder, running about 500 pages, so that I could record instructions and information for myself and as part of training other inspectors. I would tab sections as each related to the system in a home.”
Today, almost 40 years later, Jules is president of Jules Falcone & Associates/ Inspection Pros, Media, PA, which employs three home inspectors.
“By the mid-1990s, we understood the importance of training and many educational resources and opportunities became available.” Jules’ loose-leaf book has also evolved into several published works, courses, presentations, articles and media coverage.
As one of the first 60 ASHI charter members, he has served on several national committees and the national Board of Directors. He has also served as President of the Tri-State Chapter and received the John Cox Award for a member who contributes the most at the chapter level.
Jules’ inspection and mentoring experience and success has, of course, influenced his approach to home inspection, serving as a mentor and offering advice on choosing a mentor.
> Problem-Solving, Added Value, Communication & Character
“My role as an inspector is finding problems, maybe ones that others might not see, and then explaining, in-depth, how they should be solved,” Jules explains. “This information is included in my report and the buyer, seller or realtor decides how they want to follow up, but at least I’ve given them information on the best solution. This approach adds value to my inspection and reinforces my reputation, which is critical. I don’t want to compete on price, only on my knowledge.”
However, Jules adds, “Character is the most significant factor in home inspection and your people skills are critical. Yes, you’re not only responding to a buyer, seller or realtor’s goals and perspectives during an inspection, but you have to acknowledge and communicate with family members and friends and anyone else present at the inspection. I stress the issue of character when mentoring. And when we’re hiring for our company, candidates go through four separate interviews. We observe their body language, patience, answers to off-beat questions and general attitude toward others.
“I can teach people about home inspections, but I cannot teach them how to be nice and deal with others. That’s why I would recommend all of my inspectors because all are stars and have character as well as professional knowledge.”
Jules explains that a home inspector’s reputation also includes appearance and dress code. “This means everything – shoes, clothes, personal appearance, clean and organized auto and truck. The minute a client sits down on the passenger seat, the tone is set and becomes part of your character. Home inspection is a great profession and we want to reflect this in every way.”
> Mentoring – a Learning Experience
“Our parents taught us that integrity and character are important in every area of life and places we go. I also remember that when I was 28 years old, I knew that I had to become a problem-solver, which meant continuous learning and being receptive to new approaches.
“This included being ready for questions and answers and developing them for home inspectors and for clients. When someone asks ‘how much will this cost and what will it include?’ I give an example and then give a price range depending on their goals and needs. The cost explains the extent of the problem.” Jules also reminds us that, when a home inspector saves clients money, now or in the future, it adds to the inspector’s value.
Did Jules have a mentor? “No, it was too early in the 1970s. For the first five years as a home inspector, I had to train myself. But my dad was a great mentor when I worked with him in the carpentry business. While home inspection and carpentry are entirely different, there are common denominators in terms of professionalism.”
However, Jules did learn more about writing reports after inspections. “ASHI’s Standard of Practice is an important starting point. Then, write a report that is easy to read, defines the problems and inspector feedback, and includes necessary disclaimers. Don’t make it overwhelming. Keep it short but substantive. And, don’t use more than 20 to 30 photos, not 100, to define and illustrate the issues.”
> Choosing a Mentor
If you’re considering a mentor for yourself (or becoming one), Jules suggests that you ask a prospective mentor these questions:
• How many years of home inspection experience do you have?
• What is your mentoring history?
• What is my responsibility as a mentee?
• How do I prepare myself to be mentored?
• Will there be limitations to the number of questions I can ask when being mentored?
• Will you teach me how to work with buyers, sellers and realtors?
• How will we work together in the mentoring process?
Mentoring can be a mutually rewarding experience for both mentor and mentee at any stage of your career. Consider the possibilities and your potential.