May, 2003
Feature
Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors



Be True to Ourselves, Add to Stakeholders' Value and Other Branding Truths

ROB PATERKIEWICZ, CAE, IOM

Oliver Wendell Homes once wrote, “A man’s mind once stretched, never goes back to its original dimensions.”

By the time you read this, ASHI’s leaders will have been asked to comprehend and use the branding survey responses collected over the past months to define the future of home inspection. It doesn’t surprise me our leaders are willing to take on this task.

ASHI’s founders were pioneers, who were able to stretch their minds to envision the potential market hinted at by requests from family members, friends and acquaintances to take a look at a house they wanted to buy. Today, well over 60 percent of homebuyers have a home inspection when they purchase a home. ASHI’s founders added a new dimension to real estate transactions.

ASHI has never been satisfied with standing pat. The Society is committed to raising the bar for home inspectors and improving the Membership’s position in the marketplace. This strong internal focus is acknowledged in the branding motto as, “Be true to ourselves.”

But that’s not enough. A brand that works requires focusing outward — being able to add value to those who use our services, our stakeholders. To learn how to do this ASHI surveyed stakeholders, specifically real estate professionals and homebuyers.

Of the 602 homebuyers from across the United States who responded to our survey, about half had purchased a home more than five years ago; the others less than five years ago. The majority of respondents (63 percent) had an inspection before buying a house. While 37 percent were first time homebuyers, the remaining 63 percent had purchased up to five homes. The decision to have a home inspection did not seem to be associated with home purchase experience levels. Comments suggested some respondents did not use a home inspector because they purchased or built new homes. Others simply opted out.

According to survey results, in most cases, homebuyers chose to use a home inspector because it was recommended by the real estate professional, or because it was included as an option in the purchase agreement. In addition, over 75 percent of homebuyers surveyed used some type of referral to locate the home inspector. The top two referral sources were their agent or family/friends.

Homebuyers said they typically decided to use one because it was the “smart” thing to do for “peace of mind”, and because they didn’t want “surprises” for such a “major” investment.

Interestingly, “providing an inspection report that can be used to drive down the asking price of a home” had less importance than other items, and “providing specific repair referrals” was also at the lower end of importance when compared to other items.

Expert knowledge, high level of experience, professional disclosure and charging reasonable fees were the characteristics homebuyers identified as being most important when choosing a home inspector.

Now that we have identified what homebuyers value about the home inspector, our branding efforts will focus on what we call “Laser Point Promises”, where we will refine our messages to the homebuyers and focus on three key values: 1. Smart Decisions, 2. Lower Risk, and 3. Peace of Mind. Within these ASHI Brand promises, are both technical and professional benefits provided by the ASHI Inspector.

Technical benefits include:
  • Expert knowledge of home inspection
  • ASHI Standards of Practice for a thorough inspection
  • Reasonable cost for services
  • Objective data on the property

Professional benefits include:

  • Flexibility to perform the inspection
  • Professional disclosure
  • Understandable reports and explanations
  • An educated buyer
Our branding experts and comprehensive research has shown that by responding to the specific needs identified by the stakeholder, in this case the homebuyer, we can improve the awareness, increase the relevance, sustain profitable relationships, create more differentiation, and obtain more marketshare and more money for the ASHI Inspector. Plain and simple, this is what all the fuss is about. We are dedicated to making this happen for all in the ASHI Membership because we believe this is our place in the profession.

As we announce the decisions being made by the ASHI Board of Directors regarding our future, think back to the importance of knowing what customers expect. The brand allows us to be true to the Society, and to add value to our stakeholders. And once again, like at ASHI’s founding, minds will be stretching to new dimensions.