What I'm Seeing Now

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The Home Inspector Hippocratic Oath

During home inspections we OFTEN come up against a small problem that can be easily fixed.  And sometimes the buyer tries to jump in to fix it on the spot, thinking it will help the inspection process.

I ALWAYS HAVE TO CAUTION PEOPLE AGAINST TRYING TO REPAIR SOMETHING DURING A HOME INSPECTION.

Why?  Because if they break it instead of fixing it, that gives an opening for it to be said that everything in the house was fine until "that home inspector" broke it to create something to write into his report.

Do you think I am kidding?

I AM NOT!

Sellers have tried that to minimize or eliminate any claim the buyer may have against a house that needs repair.  The home inspection has lost its value.

I have seen it happen!

It's at the point of attempting a repair that I have to mention THE HOME INSPECTOR HIPPOCRATIC OATH.

The original Hippocratic Oath has changed much over the years.  Originally it said things like, "I will prescribe regimens for the benefit of the sick according to my ability and judgment; I will keep them from harm and injustice."  It prohibited prescribing a lethal drug, performing an abortion or even using a knife for any reason unless absolutely necessary to save the patient, including the treatment of slaves.

Like I said, it has changed much over the years.

But THE HOME INSPECTOR HIPPOCRATIC OATH should never change.  If I was king of the home inspectors the oath would be real simple.

"Rule #1 - Don't break anything.  Rule #2 - Pay real close attention to Rule #1."

That's it!  Could it be longer?  Sure!  But why?  Could I add more?  Sure!  But why?

My recommendation:   During a home inspection pay real close attention to THE HOME INSPECTOR HIPPOCRATIC OATH!  Doing so will pay dividends in the end!

 

 

 

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560

www.jaymarinspect.com


Comment balloon 39 commentsJay Markanich • January 16 2011 05:30AM

Comments

Hi Jay, we have enough to worry about. If we break something we need to fix it. But who fixes it. We cannot work on a home we inspect, but if it is a non-paying repair it's o.k..

Clint McKie

Desert Sun Inspections

Posted by Clint Mckie, Desert Sun Home, Comm. Inspection 1-575-706-5586 (Desert Sun Home, commercial Inspections) over 8 years ago

I have never broken anything Clint.  My clients have on occasion, but not in my presence.  Once a client knocked over an antique spinning wheel onto a hard wood floor and it shattered into a million pieces.  They claimed they didn't touch it.  I was downstairs at the time and ended up paying to have it fixed, and that was twice the value of the inspection!  But being paid to do a repair, or not paid to do it, is not the point!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

Jay, Kinda sorta like, the roof never leaked until YOUR inspector walked on it...

Posted by TeamCHI - Complete Home Inspections, Inc., Home Inspectons - Nashville, TN area - 615.661.029 (Complete Home Inspections, Inc.) over 8 years ago

Michael - I heard once that a roofer followed my inspection and said that the ridge vent wasn't attached properly and that I HAD TORN IT OFF!  I never did find out the name of that joker...  still wish I had.  I bet he was related to the seller!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

Good Morning Jay

Thanks for the post. The oath is a good idea. have a great day.

Posted by Patrick White, Driven to bring New Yorkers home (Home Driven Realty, Inc) over 8 years ago

Jay, Unfortunately not all your peers prescribe to the same philosophy.  We have had damaged items and personal effects after inspections.  Now whether it was the inspector or the buyer we'll never know for sure since we weren't there.  And that damage to a certain point would be okay if someone 'fessed up and offered to correct, but not doing so and the seller finding out the hard way really causes some hard feelings.

Posted by Liz and Bill Spear, RE/MAX Elite Warren County OH (Cincinnati/Dayton) (RE/MAX Elite 513.520.5305 www.LizTour.com) over 8 years ago

Jay,

I'd like to suggest an addendum to the Oath. "Pay close attention to your home inspector." If your clients were upstairs breaking spinning wheels while you were downstairs doing your job, they were missing out on the opportunity to get what  they were paying for - an intimate and immediate knowledge of their new investment given by a professional. Here is the opportunity to ask questions, take notes and learn.

Posted by John McCarthy, Realtor - Seacoast NH (Bean Group Portsmouth NH) over 8 years ago

Thank you once again Jay for insight that never had crossed my mind before. I guess we really have much more honest people here in general because I've never heard of blaming the inspector for anything before.

Posted by Bob "RealMan" Timm, Owner of Ward Co. Notary Services, retired Realtor (Ward County Notary Services) over 8 years ago

Good morning Jay.  Interesting post.

Posted by Kenneth Cole, NYS Licensed Real Estate Salesperson (Weichert Realtors Appleseed Group, 2043 Richmond Ave. S.I.N.Y. 10314. office phone 718-698-9797, Appleseedhomes.com -) over 8 years ago

I've only had one time when in an inspector attempted to move a piece of furniture to get to the electric panel that there was minimal damage.  Since we always have cameras handy photos were taken.  I guess you know what comes next.  The owner suggested the piece of furniture was "destroyed" and needed x dollars for replacement.  When the photos were shown that there was a small chip on the backside of a leg and they were offered a small amount for repair not another word was heard. 

Posted by Cindy Jones, Pentagon, Fort Belvoir & Quantico Real Estate News (Integrity Real Estate Group) over 8 years ago

Oh, yes, I see what you're saying.  We've been accused a few times of "stealing" stuff...including that thing underneath dishwasher which of course turned up in the customer's basement a few days later (not sure what the value of stealing that would have been).  We were also accused of stealing some electronics.  Thankfully I happened to have the before pictures showing whatever they were talking about wasn't even there when we arrived.  Again, it turned up.  People are very quick to blame.

Posted by Debbie Gartner, The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers (The Flooring Girl) over 8 years ago

I have never broken anything during an inspection and do not fix anything. I have had a real estate agent or two that get their hands dirty because they don't wasnt this or that little thing in the report. Or the best one, turn on the water in the house. I very strongly warn against anyone doing that unless checking with the listing agent first. Even then there should be extreme caution taken when opening the valve. I have watched four or five agents do this over the years (against my advice) and the floods that followed.

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) over 8 years ago

I like  that oath. . short, sweet and to the point!

Posted by Fernando Herboso - Broker for Maxus Realty Group, 301-246-0001 Serving Maryland, DC and Northern VA (Maxus Realty Group - Broker 301-246-0001) over 8 years ago

Good oath and should be followed by all. 

Posted by Tony Morganti, CRS, ABR, SRES - Cuyahoga Falls, Stow (RE/MAX Crossroads in Cuyahoga Falls and Stow, Ohio) over 8 years ago

Jay wait, I really want to understand and follow the home inspector's oath so can you elaborate on #2 for me. :)

Posted by Suesan Jenifer Therriault, "Inspecting every purchase as if it were my own". (JTHIS-Professional Home Inspection Team) over 8 years ago

I always use the thoughts on a sign at a County Park in Michigan. It reads "take nothing but pictures and leave nothing but footprints". Leave it like you find it folks, you can fix it after it's yours. Another great post Jay.

Posted by Randy Ostrander, Real Estate Broker, Serving Big Rapids and West Central MI (Lake and Lodge Realty LLC ) over 8 years ago

It is often the unattended buyer that causes damage during the home inspection.  I have witnessed wall-to-wall carpeting pulled up to check conditions of floors, furniture moved and inoperable windows pried open. 

Another time a gentleman from a country where all the homes are constructed of masonry repeatedly banged on the walls until a large shelf of glass figures fell to the floor. 

My motto "Is leave it like you found it".

Posted by Glen Fisher (National Property Inspections of Southern New Jersey, LLC) over 8 years ago

I twice have had faucets that would not turn off. I had to shut water off under the sink. Once a garage door would not close again. And once a client came to the attic and stepped on the hatch cover. I ended up replacing that.

Posted by Steven L. Smith, Bellingham WA Home Inspector (King of the House Home Inspection, Inc.) over 8 years ago

It is hard to break things that are already broken---or would they just be "broker"

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 8 years ago

Jay,

Our standard contract makes the Buyer responsible for any damages.  They must have known that some buyers just love to get their hands into things...

Posted by Mike Jaquish, 919-880-2769 Cary, NC, Real Estate (Realty Arts) over 8 years ago

Jay - It's interesting how home inspections have evolved over the past couple of decades.  Once it was common to have an "inspector" offer to make certain repairs--never a good idea--and now it's not acceptable to recommend contractors.  Home inspections have become a true "profession," and everyone benefits.

Posted by John Mulkey, Housing Guru (TheHousingGuru.com) over 8 years ago

Patrick - you're welcome, and also welcome to stop by again.

When no one fesses up, Bliz, I simply offer to take care of it.  But I hear way AFTER the inspection that a problem happened!

Thanks Valerie.  Sometimes it is the simple stuff that is overlooked!

John - in that instance, I was in one room setting up my ladder to go into the attic and they decided to wander into another room to have a second look...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

Bob - once my client and I brought our little ones to the inspection, complete with electronics, books and puzzles, because our baby sitting fell through, and they stayed in the kitchen the entire inspection.  The sellers accused them of going into the basement and stealing other toys!  Didn't happen!

Well, Ken, it was inspired by a circumstance!

Cindy - once a washing machine knob simply came off in my hands.  The buyers and agent watched it and we all agreed it was like that prior.  Later I got a "bill" from the seller for $859 to pay him back for having the knob fixed!  Needless to say, I didn't pay it.  Wow, $859??

Debbie - people for the most part are very honest, but you have to watch your back!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

Jim - once the water company came to turn the water on.  I said they might want to wait until the agent arrived so we could be inside to make sure all was well.  The water was turned on, it stopped appropriately, but during the half hour waiting for the agent, a toilet service line exploded and that was enough water inside exterior walls and on hardwood floors on two levels to cause what I was told was $22K in damage!  Guess who was NOT responsible!  The water company.

Now, had I turned that water on...

Thanks, Fernando.  It is!

Tony - it does seem easy to follow!

Sue - sure, immediate consideration!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

Randy - that's what I say to my Scouts - leave the campsite cleaner than when you found it!

Wow, Glen - woulda, coulda, shoulda!

Steve - the motto also speaks to where you allow clients to go and not go!

Charlie - which is why I don't like brokers to attend the inspection!     ;>)

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

That is an interesting contract clause Mike.  Does that clause apply to Santa?

John - I remember those days.  Now we are advised not to do anything, even lighting pilot lights!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

The inspector I used to use has an assistant.  He was doing an inspection on my personal residence and broke the stopper on the new tub.  He denied it, and it's why that's my former inspector.

Posted by Virginia Gardner, Realtor, Charlottesville, Serving Central Virginia (Roy Wheeler Realty Co.) over 8 years ago

Well, Virginia, I'm sorry to hear that!  Come on north!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

Good point. My dad is really big on that one - he hates touching anything in a home.  

This summer I found a loose screw on a ground clamps and figured it would be easier to tighten the screw than to mention the loose clamp in my report, and the clamp broken when I tightened it.

There went 45 minutes out of my day to drive to the hardware store for a new ground clamp after I was done with the inspection.  

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) over 8 years ago

Jay, More often than not when something like that comes up, as the listing agents we fix it if it's reasonable.  We don't want to rock the boat or burn bridges at that crucial point!  One of the interesting things we did, replace a candy cane basket that was broken!  Luckily, had seen a Food Network show on the making of them so found the place and ordered a replacement.  If you could have seen the Mrs. face when we brought it over!  Totally made her day :)

Posted by Liz and Bill Spear, RE/MAX Elite Warren County OH (Cincinnati/Dayton) (RE/MAX Elite 513.520.5305 www.LizTour.com) over 8 years ago

I'm with you Reubs.  Every time I want to be a Good Samaritan, it seems, something goes wrong!

Good job Bliz!  Not an super important thing to replace, but really classy!  Her decorations were back!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

Glad to hear you say it is your preference that the Agents stay away -- that has been my position for many long years now.  I once had a Buyer "suggest" (2 years after his purchase) that I had not paid enough attention to what was going on during the Home Inspection, therefore he was going to file a complaint against me unless . . . $$$$$$$$

He lived in a neighboring state, did not attend the Inspection -- the Seller's Agent was not available to let the Inspector into the property, therefore I unlocked the door and sat at the kitchen table doing paperwork the entire time.  Needless to say, the words "Pound Sand" came rushing out.  Great post!

Posted by Tish Lloyd, Broker - Wilmington NC and Surrounding Beaches (BlueCoast Realty Corporation) over 8 years ago

Tish - I'd say that boy was out of line!  It isn't your job to do anything during an inspection - and the list generated thereafter is the buyer's purview as well!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

"Rule #1 - Don't break anything.  Rule #2 - Pay real close attention to Rule #1."

Great advice. Also, I have a rule for myself. It's kind of like the principle of being in the outdoors: "Leave no trace."

In other words, everything must be put back in the same place. Adjust temperature settings on thermostats and water heaters. Turn off lights before leaving, etc.

Posted by Hank Spinnler, Atlanta Home Inspector (Harmony Home Inspection Services of GA) over 8 years ago

I am of that same school Hank!  I sometimes tease my buyers telling them it is there responsibility to see all the things that I change that must go back to where we found them!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

Jay, I especially like rule #2! That is just good advice no matter how you look at it. I always enjoyed seeing a customer's face as we started to tear apart their kitchen for a remodel.......priceless.

Posted by Sam Fischer over 8 years ago

Sam - demolition is fun!  But unless the customer participates, they do get a bit freaked.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

what are the sellers doing at a home inspection unless it is a pre-inspection which here is not "usual an customary" and just raises suspicion that Uncle Joe was the inspector...

Posted by Sally K. & David L. Hanson, WI Realtors - Luxury - Divorce (EXP Realty 414-525-0563) over 8 years ago

S&D - unfortunately sometimes the sellers insist on being present during the home inspection.  When they are and they begin to insert themselves, I have to take over and tell them to leave us alone.  We'll let them know if we have questions I say.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

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