Reuben's Home Inspection Blog

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Home Inspection Agreements With Echosign

In November of 2009, a home inspector in North Vancouver was ordered to pay nearly $200,000 after a faulty home inspection.   I read about all of the mistakes that were made at this inspection, and the most important piece that I came away with was that the judge decided that the home inspector didn't give his client enough time to read the home inspection agreement, because the inspector had the client fill out the inspection agreement on-site, at the time of the home inspection.  You can read more about the story here.

That's the same procedure that we've always followed, and as far as I know, that's what most home inspectors do.... but to be proactive about this issue, we've changed our procedure.  Starting in January of this year, we began having our clients read and sign their home inspection agreements well in advance of the home inspection, and it's worked out quite well.

We signed up with Echosign, which give us the ability to email our clients a link to our inspection agreement, with can be viewed and completed online.  I've come up with nine great reasons to send out inspection agreements ahead of time with Echosign:

  • This reduces our liability.
  • It saves us time during the home inspection.
  • It gives our clients the opportunity to address any potential concerns with the inspection agreement well in advance of the inspection, rather than at the time of the inspection while everyone is already there.
  • It's green - no paper needed.
  • I can read my clients writing.  I used to get a lot of email addresses and phone numbers that I couldn't read.  That doesn't happen any more.  I know this is a small benefit, but I really do appreciate this.
  • We include a link to our web site in the email, so if our clients want to learn more about our company or about other services we offer, they now have the opportunity to do this.  This is especially helpful for the times when a third party, such as a real estate agent, arranges the inspection.
  • For clients that can't attend the inspection, this is way easier than emailing the agreement and having our clients fax it back or scan it and email it back after they fill it out and sign it.k
  • We include the date and time of the inspection as well as the cost of the inspection in our email - this definitely helps to eliminate any confusion.
  • Our tech-savvy customers love this service.  I've received a ton of positive feedback from them.

So why am I telling you about Echosign?  I think it's a cool service that most people don't know about.  If you have a need for electronic signature captures, check them out.  They even have several standard forms, such as I-9, W-4, and W-9.  There's a similar competing service called Docusign, but it costs about ten times as much, and the only benefit that they could provide was 'better customer service'... at least that's what they told me.

If you'd like to see how this works, you can view a sample home inspection agreement.

Reuben Saltzman, Structure Tech Home Inspections

        

Comment balloon 20 commentsReuben Saltzman • August 24 2010 06:15AM

Comments

This is an interesting risk management issue.  Thanks for posting!

Posted by Yvette Chisholm, Associate Broker - Rockville, MD 301-758-9500 (Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc.) almost 8 years ago

People should take as much time as they need to read a document they sign.    It is good to have paperwork out of the way before an appointment.

Posted by Alan Bruzee (Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc.) almost 8 years ago

I had not heard about Echosign. I'll check it out for use when an electronic signature is necessary.

Posted by Barbara Michaluk, Top Producing / Full Service REALTOR in Marylan (Weichert Realtors | Silver Spring, MD Phone Direct 240-506-2434) almost 8 years ago

Simply amazes me what a business owner can be sued for. I love the idea of Echosign but really think we need to address the frivolous law suits lurking under every rock.

Posted by Randy Ostrander, Real Estate Broker, Serving Big Rapids and West Central MI (Lake and Lodge Realty LLC ) almost 8 years ago

The home inspectors I deal with are only liable up to the amount of service charge.. .

Posted by Fernando Herboso - Broker for Maxus Realty Group, 301-246-0001 Serving Maryland, DC and Northern VA (Maxus Realty Group - Broker 301-246-0001) almost 8 years ago

Yvette - that's exactly why we changed our procedure.  It's all about managing risk.

Alan - I agree.  I've always felt that I gave my clients enough time in the past, too, but apparently this judge didn't agree with that.

Barbara - I've been very happy with this service.  It's a piece of cake.

Randy - yes yes yes.  I think it's totally ridiculous that a judge threw out the inspection agreement.  I would never sign something, then have the balls to come back and say "but I didn't read it..."  

Fernando - so was this inspector who lost the $200,000 lawsuit.  That's a key point in this story :)

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) almost 8 years ago

This is a wonderful idea.  Not necessarily forcing the autosign feature, but sending the agreement out in advance for the buyer's review is clearly a great idea. 

I, for one, pay attention to case law and this is a good case for home inspectors to consider. 

Agents too.

Posted by Lenn Harley, Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland (Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate) almost 8 years ago

Interesting but still unbelievable people would sue after signing...

Posted by Ellen Dittman, #1 Stop for NE FLA-JAX/OP 904.535.1199 (TEXT OK) r (Watson Realty Corp.) almost 8 years ago

Wow - this method seems to benefit you the home inspector and the buyer.  Good advice.

 

Laurie

Posted by Laurie C. Bailey-Gates, ABR, SFR (Robert Paul Properties) almost 8 years ago

Lenn - thanks.  If our clients don't fill out the agreement ahead of time, we have them sign a paper copy during the inspection... the old fashioned way.  At least our clients got a chance to read the agreement ahead of time if they wanted to. 

Ellen - yeah, it is unbelievable, isn't it?  I think that judge is a little out of control.

Laurie - agreed.  It's a good thing.

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) almost 8 years ago

Rueben,

That makes think (ouch). I usually try to send them my agreement prior to the inspection but "day of" signings is common. Now you got me thinking about that too. Only one catch, what if they don't use a computer? I have two in the last two weeks.

I may look into this though.

 

Thanks for the post.

 

Don

Posted by Donald Hester, NCW Home Inspections, LLC (NCW Home Inspections, LLC) almost 8 years ago

This sounds like a good idea. Thanks for the tip. I'm going to look into this.

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) almost 8 years ago

Don - I just had a client last week that didn't have a computer... what can you do?  I get about one client a year that doesn't have a computer, and they have to sign the agreement on site, the old fashioned way.  Oh well.  No big deal.

James - thanks.  It took a little while to tweak it to look just the way I wanted to, but hey, that's what December and January are for, right?

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) almost 8 years ago

Reuben, here we are required by our license to give the buyer a chance "ahead of time" to see the pre-inspection agreement-----sometimes it just isn't possible as in inspections that happen the same day they are booked.  On my contract they are required to initial a little box that says they were given a chance to read it ahead of time.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 8 years ago

Charles - wow do you send the agreements ahead of time? Email?

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) almost 8 years ago

Some times---usually I just tell them at the time we talk about the inspection on the phone.  I simply tell them my license requires that I give them advance notice to look at the Pre-Inspection agreement before the inspection and that they can find it on my website.  At which time I give them the link to the website----usually they go to it while we are talking :)  Seems to work pretty well----never had anyone not initial the box.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 8 years ago

If it were me, I know I wouldn't even bother to read it.  If I got a good referral, I'd just think to myself why bother?

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) almost 8 years ago

Oh, by the way, none of my clients ever read my inspection agreement.  The average time it takes for my clients to read and fill out the inspection agreement is 50 seconds, and there are quite a few fields to fill out.

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) almost 8 years ago

Reuben, in the end, whether they read it or not is their business----I am only required to let them know about it and give them a chance to read it.  It always comes to the old taking the horse to water but......you can't make them read the contract.  The only way we would ever know is to sit there and listen to them read it out loud :)

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 8 years ago

I did that once for a blind customer about seven years ago.  Man, those contracts are too long...

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) almost 8 years ago

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