When a Home Inspector Misses Something

By Kenton Shepard, CMI
InterNACHI Director of Green Building
No, it’s not good to miss, but because they’re human, sooner or later every home inspector is going to miss something. But believe it or not, this can actually be turned into a good opportunity.
First, one of the measures of an inspector’s ability is the gravity of the miss. Did they miss a structural issue which was easily visible and will cost $15,000 to correct, or was it a saturated desiccant strip in a double-pane window which may be apparent only under certain conditions? The former is not the good opportunity.
The good opportunity is the chance to turn a negative circumstance into a positive opportunity.
Early in my inspection career, clients accused me of missing something (air conditioning performance) clearly disclaimed in my contract and in the NACHI Standards of Practice (SOP’s). At that point I decided to include each section of the SOP’s in the appropriate section of my Inspection Report.
As inspectors, we each need to do our best to ensure that before the inspection begins, the client has a realistic idea of what is and isn’t included. We need to educate our clients.
In addition to a brief verbal description of the inspection and its limitations, I refer new clients to a “New Clients” page on my web site which includes links to the InterNACHI Standards of Practice, Inspection Contract (also InterNACHI’s) and a “Systems Excluded” page detailing what’s not typically included as part of the General Home Inspection. This page mentions that I offer some of these exclusions as ancillary inspections and provides a link to my “Ancillary Inspection” page.
You want clients to read the contract. Clients are asked to read, then FAX or e-mail me signed copies of the Contract and Systems Excluded pages. InterNACHI’s website includes a feature which will allow clients to sign and return your Contract electronically. Requirements with respect to the Contract will vary by state.
There are times to simply admit one's mistake, make amends and get on with it. There are times to demonstrate why one hasn’t made a mistake, but graciously offer to make things right anyway, and convert the situation into a marketing opportunity. There are also times which require one to take a position and stand fast because there are a number of situations in which others involved in the transaction can be motivated to make the inspector the fall guy.
Which approach to use involves judgment, and that’s what it finally comes down to in home inspection. This is true not only in handling mistakes but in evaluating the limitless combinations of home systems and components and all the grey areas in which an inspector finds himself or herself forced to make a decision which they may be called upon to defend in court.
As an inspector, good judgment is one of your most important tools and it’s a skill which can be learned. Reading the InterNACHI message boards will help you sharpen this skill painlessly by allowing you to learn from the mistakes and experiences of other inspectors. In addition to education, the boards offer inspectors a chance to become part of a national inspection community which can offer opportunities and help provide support during the difficult times many inspectors face in breaking into the business.