The Hungry Home Inspector by P Nathan Thornberry :: Why Some Inspectors are Always Hungry for More While Others Just Go Hungry

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The Hungry Home Inspector

Why Some Inspectors Are Always Hungry For More
While Others Just Go Hungry


Chapter 11

Agent Haters

If you can't beat them, beat them.


If it weren’t for my grandfather’s love of the great American steak, I would not be here today.

It may seem like a strange statement, but Don Thornberry’s Steak Place was a legendary restaurant in Carmel, Indiana. To this day I still run into people who ate there almost weekly and got personal visits at their table from Don.

After running the most profitable Bonanza restaurant in the country, my grandfather opened an independent steak house right on the main road running through Carmel. It was a noticeable feature in the landscape, and as a good supporter of the community, he sponsored things like the Carmel High School yearbook, even though his oldest son and very decent grill worker, Phil (my father), went to a private high school in Indianapolis.

I’m not sure if it was the location of the restaurant or one of the advertisements that drove a girl named Patty to go and apply, but she did, and that steak house is where she met Phil, and even though they were only in high school at the time, they eventually  married and had me at a relatively young age.

I eat steak almost every day religiously.

Probably not the best choice for my body or longevity, but everything good that ever happened to me started with a steak as far as I’m concerned.

Including an incredible real estate career for Don.

My grandfather later became a real estate agent and worked with a couple of big firms, ultimately at two of the largest Re/Max franchises in the state.

The relationships he had made as a proprietor in the restaurant business and his incredible negotiation skills led him to eventually get a couple of enormous builder contracts. To this day he’s got one of the highest all-time sales records in the entire industry. Out of the 1.5 million active real estate agents in the country today, you might find a handful who sell the volume of real estate he did each year, and he kept it up for decades.

I was lucky enough to be the eldest of the grandchildren by a long shot, and as such I probably had more time with Grandpa Don before he died than my brothers or cousins did, which I will be eternally grateful for.

He was a pilot, a boater, an entrepreneur many times over, and probably had the highest level of integrity of anyone I’ve ever met.

“Don’t do anything you wouldn’t want on the front page of the newspaper the next day,” he would tell me.

When you sell as much real estate as he did, you have the pleasure of interacting with pretty much anybody selling homes in the area. Spending days with him over the summers, I would be in his home office as he was dealing with the latest issue standing between his seller or buyer and the closing of a deal. Most of the time, all parties were civil and easy to deal with. Occasionally, there were fireworks as one of the parties redefined “crazy.”

Being there from the start of a transaction to the very end, witnessing tens of millions of dollars in transactions in a single summer season (with occasional breaks for a matinee and McDonald’s), you begin to understand what agents truly deal with.

The ignorant views of some inspectors who seem to think that many agents in the profession would just as soon sweep a structural issue under the rug and let their clients deal with the consequences later just aren’t true.

Since those summers, between our one-year warranties, 90-Day Warranties, RecallChek reports, Radon Protection Plans, Termite Protection Plans, and other services we offer, I’ve been on some level involved in around $300 Billion in real estate transactions in every state and province/territory- more than any single inspector, mortgage broker, title company, or insurance agency throughout the U.S. and Canada- and throughout those transactions and that more than 13 years of experience I can tell you with absolute  certainty that an insanely high percentage of real estate agents treat every single deal as if they were buying the house for themselves.

Those are the facts, whether you want to accept them or not is up to you.

Public opinion is on my side here as well. In a Gallup poll in 2011, when respondents were asked if the ethical standards of people in a number of different fields were very high, high, average, low, or very low, 70% of respondents gave real estate agents average or above. In fact, they ranked higher than attorneys. They were ranked higher than stockbrokers. They were ranked higher than insurance salesmen, senators, governors, labor union leaders, and business executives.

Let’s do a little math here to assess the value of the opinion of an inspector in the category of “Agent Hater.”  One of those inspectors who chooses to take the path of most resistance on a daily basis and be at war with the agents who refer better than 80% of the inspection business that happens throughout North America.

Let’s say the inspector is average, which might be a generous assumption considering his disdain for the best referral source in the home inspection business, but let’s say he does in fact book and complete 200 inspections annually.

Let’s say 50% of those homes, once again being generous, had a significant structural issue, the kind agents supposedly don’t want to hear anything about.

That’s 100 inspections.

Let’s now say that half of those, 50 inspections in total, had a buyer’s agent present at them that actually approached the inspector in the way it gets told on forums and at chapter meetings, usually starting with, “You won’t believe what this agent said to me...”

Fifty inspections.

Let's say they’re in a market like Indianapolis with 20,000 transactions that happen every year. That comes out to 1⁄4 of 1%.

If you made 1⁄4 of 1% on a stock, would you get on the phone and start telling all your friends about it? Would you assume your stockbroker was a genius and invest your entire retirement fund with him and tell him to go to town?

Or maybe it’s better to ask it this way, if you lost 1⁄4 of 1% on a stock that your stockbroker had suggested, would you make sure everyone knew how bad he was and howno one should ever talk to him ever?

This phenomenon in the home inspection industry of small-time inspectors demonizing the entire real estate industry over their random, exceptional situations is unlike anything you’ll find in any other industry.  What’s more likely going on is that these  inspectors who seem to run into a real estate agent who hates them everywhere they turn, probably didn’t have the finesse they needed when they first got into the business. As a result, they had some bad experiences and have been fighting the war ever since.

It’s sad really.

If this sounds like you, I am truly and sincerely sorry. I want to help you and I hope to accomplish this in two paragraphs.

In my experience, the bigger the inspection company, the less disdain and mistrust they have for real estate agents, which is good news for you. This means that the more transactions you do, the smaller the sampling of over-aggressive agents you might run into.  That’s hope for the future right there.

Regardless, let’s say that agents truly do have it in for inspectors. They are your referral source. Put on a smile, play nice, and learn to get along with them. If that doesn’t work, find an agent willing to let you shadow him for a week. After a week of living in their  shoes, I promise you will have a better understanding of where they are coming from.

That is truly the key: Understanding. 

It goes both ways. If you accept an education from an agent about what they deal with every day, they’ll look forward to hearing the same from you. We’re all on the same team, making sure the transaction is completed with accuracy and on fair terms for all parties.

If you are truly a good inspector, and you feel that any buyer in your marketplace would be well-served by having you as their home inspector, then stop being a hypocrite and do what it takes to represent more buyers.  That means understanding the real estate business in its entirety, not just what you want to see in your little bubble.

If you have someone in your market that is the stereotypical “Agent Hater,” take full advantage of that.

They are doing your marketing for you every time they open their mouths. Some of them even have Websites telling one-sided stories of unethical agents. Agents in your area deserve to know who the “deal killers” are, and the pitch goes something like this;

“I’m a home inspector, but I’m also a part of your team and we’re working for the same people with the same goal in mind. Not every home I inspect is perfect, in fact almost none of them are, but there’s almost nothing that can’t be fixed and I find it easier to approach issues both major and minor calmly and professionally.  Unfortunately, there are some in my profession who see things differently and pretty much start the relationship with your client in an alarmist made, at times even attempting to distance your  client from their advisor in the transaction, you. I’m here to understand how I can do my job well while at the same time making your job easier, and I look forward to being a part of your team.”

Make no mistake about it. Don Thornberry wanted the inspection company to find anything that they should.  Give him a problem, he’ll fix it. Like most agents, he will give you the opportunity to borrow his clients for a few hours if you have a solid reputation, but  return them with undue anxiety and fear over a perfectly repairable issue, and you won’t be hearing from any of his clients ever again.

A thorough inspection does not equate to an inspection that agents don’t like, as much as some inspectors would like you to think is the case. An inspector with the personality and charm of sandpaper is what agents don’t like, and if they don’t like you that’s why. Fix it.