October, 2017
Feature
Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors



Blogging For Better Reports

REUBEN SALTZMAN



As a home inspector, most of the defects and problems that I find during home inspections are repeat offenders: ungrounded three-prong receptacles, short downspout extensions, leaking faucets and so on. 

When I find these conditions, I do what most other home inspectors do: I click a box in my home inspection software. This populates my report with a comment that I already wrote, oftentimes with an accompanying illustration. Home inspectors frequently call these canned comments “narratives,” but I do my best to avoid including anything that could be called a narrative.

Narratives Are Too Much for Me
When I think of the word “narrative,” I think of a story or a long explanation. I have no problem with home inspectors who like to fill their reports with those, but I don’t. My goal is to keep my inspection reports short and bitter.

I focus on the stuff that’s wrong with the house. I tell my client what the problem is, why it matters and what to do about it. This is in accordance with the ASHI Standard of Practice (SOP), Sections 2.2.B.1, 2.2.B.3 and 2.2.B.2, respectively.

Enter Blogging
If an issue can’t be easily explained with one or two sentences, it probably needs a narrative. In those cases, I rely on a blog post that I’ve already written on the topic and use it as a supplement to my report. I do this by creating a link to the blog post in my report.

The beauty of including links to your own website in your home inspection reports is that this increases your website traffic, and it begins to turn your website into an authority on topics. For example, I blogged about how to fix a door that doesn’t latch properly. 

My old inspection report comment said, “The bedroom door doesn’t latch properly, and should be adjusted for proper operation.” My new comment says “The bedroom door doesn’t latch properly, and should be adjusted for proper operation. Click the following link for instructions on how to do this: How to fix a door that doesn’t latch.” Clicking on the link in my report takes the user to my blog post, which describes how to fix a door that doesn’t latch (http://structuretech1.com/door-repair/). 

You Should Blog, Too
Blogging has been the single most successful marketing tool I’ve ever used and all that it usually costs me is my time. Charles Buell, a home inspector out of Seattle, had a nice article about blogging in the November 2012 issue of the Reporter titled “The Blog that ate the ASHI Home Inspector” (http://www.ashireporter.org/HomeInspection/Articles/The-Blog-that-ate-the-ASHI-Home-Inspector/2431). Everything in that article is still relevant today.

The best place to blog is on your own website. If your website has built-in blogging ability, try using it. You might need to hire your web guy (or gal) to give you a quick lesson on how to get started, but it’s not too different from using a word processing program. When you’re done writing a blog post, you just click “publish” instead of “print.” Yes, there’s a little more to it than that, but those are the basics.

A large portion of newer websites already have blogging ability built in, even if the blog isn’t being used. Oh, and if your website hasn’t been redone within the last five years, have it professionally redone. (Emphasis on professionally.) Outdated, neglected websites make your business look outdated and neglected. DIY websites usually look DIY. When your website is redone, make sure it has blogging capabilities, even if you’re not planning to blog just yet.

Forced Education
Not only is blogging a great way to share your knowledge, but it forces you to become more knowledgeable. When you write about a topic that will be read by thousands, you’ll find that you really want to be right about the information you’re sharing—even more so than you would want to be for a single inspection report. This forces you to do research on topics that you may have always assumed you knew as facts, but to blog about it successfully, you now must look up to make sure that you really know what you know. Roger Hankey had an article in the October 2016 issue of the Reporter, “Are Your Recommendations Based on Accurate Information?” (http://www.ashireporter.org/HomeInspection/Articles/Are-Your-Recommendations-Based-on-Accurate-Information-/14937), which gave a great example of this. In some cases, you may even change your mind about a topic before you’re done writing about it. I know I have.

Content Marketing
In addition to all the virtues I’ve listed already, blog posts are perfect to share on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. It’s the center of my marketing strategy, which clearly falls under the category of “content marketing.” It’s the latest marketing buzzword, and for good reason. It beats the pants off everything else.    

Blog posts also make for great newsletter content. I send out a bimonthly newsletter comprised of my top three or four blog posts over the past two months. It’s all completely original content, and it’s all helpful information for homeowners. It’s content marketing.

Blogging Tips
Go through your reporting software and pick out your longest narratives. Turn them into blog posts.

Keep a list of questions that customers ask and write out long, detailed answers. These can be used as blog posts. Blogs posts don’t need to appeal to the masses; they can be written for a very targeted audience with a very specific question.

Commit and be consistent. Choose a day of the week and force yourself to post on that day, every week. If you get inspired and write three posts in one day, resist the urge to post them all on the same day. Save them for the days on which you’re not feeling inspired.

Don’t try to sell your business. Nobody wants to read about what makes you a great home inspector. Sharing your knowledge will convey that message without being pushy.

Read Youtility by Jay Baer, or listen to an audio version of the book while driving to and from inspections. It’s all about learning how to help your potential customers, which eventually turns them into paying customers.

Read Epic Content Marketing by Joe Pulizzi, or listen to the audiobook. You can probably guess what this is about.

Reuben Saltzman, ACI, StructureTech Home Inspections, Minneapolis, MN, is a second-generation home inspector, a representative on ASHI’s Council of Representatives (CoR) and the President of the ASHI Heartland Chapter. Reuben presented an educational session at InspectionWorld® 2017 in Las Vegas. Check out Reuben’s weekly blog posts at www.structuretech1.com/blog/.