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Kaplan ITA's Monthly Inspection Tips - Free Electronic Newsletter

February, 2004
Practical, Professional Phrases for Common Situations
Issue #22

Dear Inspector,

This month I would like to go over some practical on-site phrases I have found useful. In this exercise I have used what I consider to be unprofessional language with what, in my experience, has worked much better. Have fun with the below.

Practical professional phrases for common situations:

RULE #1: Always write what you say and say what you write, be consistent!

Instead of saying "this is stupid," or "geez, look at this" say "for increased safety, we recommend:" or "for optimum performance we recommend:"

Use the following instead of the "Code" word, use: "Not serviceable, nonstandard, substandard, unconventional, inadequate, temporary"

When client asks "do you think I can do that myself" say: "You know your capabilities better than I do, you should decide for yourself"

Instead of saying "its old," say: "The component is nearing the end of its useful life and may require repair or replacement at any time." If the component is really old say: "The component is beyond its expected useful life and may require replacement at any time."

Instead of saying "its toast," say: "The component is at the end of its useful life and is in need of replacement"

When the client asks "should I buy this house?" or "would you buy the house?" say: "You are going to live here. You need to make this choice with your family based upon the information you obtain from me, as well as all the other factors you feel are important to making this decision."

When a client asks you (usually on the phone) "I've been shopping around; are you better than ____ inspector?" say: "_____ is a good inspector, my qualifications are similar and my company's inspections cover….." (change subject from other inspector, don't fall into the negative marketing trap)

When client/real estate agent asks: "but, was it to code when the house was built?" say: "we are not doing a code inspection, however, the current standards are our guide for safety recommendations. My recommendation provided is to increase safety or performance of the component, not to determine its 'code-ness'."

Instead of saying "I found many problems with this house" say: "there were some conditions requiring attention in this house" or if several serious items (safety and/or high cost) say: "I found several items requiring attention in this house, some of which I would consider significant safety (or cost) conditions."

When the owner/agent/whoever says "but a contractor was just here and said everything was fine and to code" say: "professionals are entitled to their opinions, and based upon my training and experience I feel…… You are entitled to a second opinion, just ask for it in writing, on professional letterhead, like my report"

When you see something that is impossible to determine if repaired or if performing, say: "inquire with the seller regarding the performance of the cooling system (an example) during hot weather," (good comment for the winter) or "inquire with the seller regarding the history (if any) of water intrusion frequency and intensity during wet weather in the basement." (good comment when water stains noted at base of basement walls)

Instead of saying "that looks like a homeowner repair to me" say: "this appears to be a temporary repair and I recommend ….." If you say "homeowner" you just allocated responsibility.

Instead of saying "the builder should of.." say: "this component may not perform as intended" or "the installation does not appear to conform to minimum standards." If you say "the builder should of" you allocated responsibility.

When asked by the client "does the seller have to fix that?" say: "No, everything in real estate is negotiable and I recommend you discuss this with your real estate agent."

Never ever say "that's illegal." Only municipal deputized Code inspectors acting in their municipal capacity can make a determination if something is legal. Say: "It appears to be not serviceable, not standard, etc."

Never say "It's grandfathered." There is no such category in any zoning ordinances. Usually it's "existing nonconforming" the municipality uses. However, only the municipality can make that determination. Recommend consulting with them.

If you are inspecting a system and notice many items requiring repairs, don't say "there's a bunch of stuff wrong here." Try: "There were too many conditions noted needing correction to catalog in my report. I recommend evaluation by a licensed ____ and correction as necessary to assure the system is safe and performing as intended."

If a component is shut down and not operational when you are there don't just write "not tested," recommend activate. Direct the client to have the component activated by a licensed professional AND repaired if necessary (might be shut down because it is not working). Recommend a safety check as well if it's a fuel burning appliance.

If you are looking at something and not quite sure what is wrong, but it looks questionable, try this: "The _____ is installed in an unconventional manner. I recommend evaluation and repair if necessary by a licensed _____."

Sometimes the seller will follow you around and start fixing things you are observing and verbalizing and then try to convince you to change your report. Try: "I write things down only once. Also, just because I write something down does not mean you have to do anything. You might as well relax and wait until you get the response to the home inspection from the buyer."

When asked : "Can I go up on the roof with you?" say: "It is our company policy, and a request from our insurance carrier, that only the inspector use the ladder."

There are many other situations we could think of and have some fun with. However, this is all I have room for today.

The phrases used in this inspection tip are provided for informational use only. Kaplan does not endorse the use of these phrases specifically.


We'll talk next month,

Mike Casey
Kaplan Professional Schools
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