Scaring Clients is Good TV but Bad Business for Home Inspectors: Communicate more Effectively

The most under rated skill of home inspectors is the ability to communicate. We have the task of going into a home, diagnosing any potential issues, and delivering this message to clients. More often then not, clients believe they have found a dream home only to be derailed by issues uncovered by a home inspection. The result, clients who are let down, a Realtor who is upset, and potentially a home owner that is angry at the results. That is 3 potential clients who will only remember a negative impression no matter how correct the home inspector was. Scaring a client does not reduce an inspector's liability, getting the client to read and understand a report will.  The following are how I deliver "bad news" to clients during my summary.

Don't Discount The Emotions:

When a home inspector does a home inspector it is merely factual. However, home owners, buyers and the Realtor have invested hours and hours getting the house ready for sale, viewings, getting pre- approvals, etc. As a home inspector I am late to the party. What seems merely as factual information to me could cause a lot of stress to my clients, and I have to take this into consideration.

Location:

When a home inspector delivers a summary to their clients location is imperative. I want the client to feel safe, comfortable and relaxed. Choose a location that is secluded, it allows the client to feel free to ask questions. It also allows for the client to feel more connected. Think of doctors, they don't bring patients out into a hallway and tell them they're terminally ill.

Start With A Positive:

The clients feel like they are making a good decision. If a home inspector starts a summary with something more positive it relaxes the client The client is more ready to listen and absorb information. If an inspector starts listing off issues the client will most likely be stuck on the first issue and will disregard the rest.

Use of Language:

Home inspectors are not media. Don't over sell the headline. It is important to communicate problems that will negatively impact the client. If the delivery is over dramatic the client will be focused on negativity instead of the actual problem. Obviously, if there is a loss of life situation or catastrophic failure communicate that, but keep in mind the cost of the repair and temper the language to fit the situation. Clients will absorb more information if they are not petrified with terror.

Body Language:

Avoid things like crossing your arms, putting your hands on your hips or pointing. I like to ensure that I am on level ground with my clients, so they don't feel like I am lecturing and encourages participation. I like to have an open posture that invites communication.

Have a Solution:

The best way to bring piece of mine to a client is to provide them with a solution. Cost of repair, maybe some references, talk about the process, and the success rate. It is easy to find problems, but if you also provide solutions you will seem knowledgeable, compassionate and helpful.

Rely on Help:

The average home inspection is 2 1/2 to 3 hours long. In that time, home inspectors are not only trying to complete an inspection, but also trying to get to know and endear themselves to the client. For the most part the client's Realtor is present. They have spent countless hours cultivating a relationship with your clients. Watch to see how the Realtor interacts with the client, because it will give you indicators on how the clients receive and process information. Work as a team with the Realtor to best service your mutual client. The end game, is to make sure the client is informed and comfortable with the purchase.

End with Something Positive:

Again, people are more likely to read the entire report if it is not a death warrant on the home. Find something positive to say about the home. Clients will be more engaged and more likely to ask questions if they are not over whelmed by negativity.

In summary, the message doesn't change. The information in the report should always be the same, but how it is communicated should change. The product we sell is information, so communicating "bad news" effectively will lead to more sales and less liability.  Less liability, because the clients will read the report and listen to the full summary.