What to Tell Your Clients When You See Foundation Water White Marks
It’s never good news for property owners when water enters the picture. Telltale signs on concrete and wood can indicate water seeping into the foundation of the house. You are there to provide information on the safety of a home.
You understand how a hairline cement crack in a foundation is the point of least resistance that can lead to basement leaks or floods, larger wall cracks, and even bowing or buckling walls. But to the homeowner, that crack looks like nothing to them. Or, they misinterpret the signal as only a crack rather than a moisture intrusion problem. They don’t understand that ironically, eventually it will lead to a structural problem.
But, that homeowner is your client. They deserve full disclosure about the impending consequences of foundation water damage.
Often you can back up your concern with other evidence.
- A wall bowing outwards
- A wall pulling loose from fasteners
- A damp and soft wall
- A high moisture meter reading
With small evidence, though, sometimes it’s hard to convince your client about the urgency of remedial action.
Put Your Client First
Your client depends on your experience and expertise to deliver objective observations. Your job is to report what you see. But, unlike you, your client has an emotional investment in your findings. A seller wants to get the most value for the home, and a buyer wants a sound and safe home.
A client who attends your inspection demonstrates that emotional investment. They want to be there to know first-hand what you see. When you discover a flaw like a cement crack with water seepage and possible foundation work you need to know how to stay calm, because your client may react emotionally.
What was just another inspection in your eyes, can turn into fear and concern for your client.
Knowing how to deliver bad news professionally will keep you both on an even keel and allow you to become a star in your client’s eyes.
Delivering Bad News
Your mindset and how you frame information can set the conversation on the right track to a positive outcome. Keeping your client in a receptive mode is key to helping them hear and understand problems. From a slow leak in the kitchen to foundation weakness how you deliver your findings will save you from client grief.
Research at Harvard Business Review explains that people are more willing to accept bad news from someone who is reliable and has good intentions. You are a winner here. Your inspection business is based on your experience and expertise and your dedication to providing objective observations.
You have all the relevant information for your client. Your images highlight your findings and your knowledge gives you the opportunity to present your findings in a professional manner. You communicate the finding in clear language and explain necessary repairs and remediation.
Clarify, Listen, and Explain
When your client asks questions, listen. Rephrase their questions so they feel you understand their concerns. Explain any details that seem unclear. You’ll help your client understand the standards and why repairs and remediation will improve the home’s safety.
Demonstrate to your client that you know this is bad news. Acknowledging their concerns goes a long way in building trust. You build trust in your professionalism, trust in your findings, and trust in your recommendations.
The Value You Add as an Inspector
When you discover damage that can lead to a big problem like imminent foundation structural damage, your explanation of what lies in the future is the value you bring to your client.
Your interpretation of the visual finding, helps your client understand what lies ahead. And, your recommendations like elevating the pad and sump pump installation let your client know the next steps.
When you share your expertise, you reassure your client on how to remediate the issue. Adding that value builds trust. Your expertise goes far beyond a check mark on your written report.
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Published in the American Society of Home Inspectors ASHI Reporter, September 2020 issue.