March, 2003

Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors



Last fall as president-elect I was  invited to visit the Great Plains Chapter. At that time the ASHI Board was immersed in the work of branding the ASHI Inspection. The idea of branding was beginning to occupy my thoughts. During my visit, I discussed our preliminary planning, and was rewarded with some great feedback from the folks at the meeting.

A week later, I received a wonderful little book in the mail from a spouse who attended the meeting.  The book is “Who Moved My Cheese?” by Spencer Johnson. Johnson describes the human reaction to change through the predictable reactions of his metaphorical four mice whose lives revolve around looking for their familiar cheese that makes them happy and nourishes them. These four mice act just like people.

The mice’s problem is that their cheese keeps getting moved. Moving the cheese is a metaphor for unexpected change. The “they” that keeps moving the cheese is a metaphor for the tough world in which the mice find themselves.

These mice work hard, deserve their cheese and become accustomed to the routine of going for it every day and returning home at night to enjoy their just rewards. When “they” move the cheese, the mice are predictably outraged; moving the cheese isn’t fair. Fair or not, “they” move it.

Johnson’s book is a series of insights into the mice’s behavior, first when they become accustomed to their cheese and then when they must search out new cheese in order to get what they need to be happy, comfortable and nourished. Johnson’s description of the human condition is simple, joyful and insightful.

Similarly, ASHI is a maze wherein we look for the cheese that makes us happy and nourishes us. I suppose we don’t want the cheese moved either. Last fall ASHI’s consulting firm conducted three surveys: one with real estate agents and brokers, one with ASHI members; and one with home owners.

Through these surveys we learned that after a generation of exposure to the home inspection process, agents and brokers have developed high expectations for timeliness, responsibility and professionalism in home inspectors. Agents and brokers want inspectors to be tested and well-trained; agents and brokers want them strongly focused on defect identification; and they want the inspection experience to be positive and rewarding for the homebuyer.

Homebuyers want professionalism, honesty, high levels of knowledge and excellent reporting of defects so that risk is lowered in the home purchase. Homebuyers want a quality inspection, performed to high standards.

Home inspectors revealed insightful details. They are changing their marketing strategies, believe strongly in standards and a code of ethics, and are more concerned with professionalism then ever before.

The challenge for ASHI is to perfect its presence, perfect its professional presentation, increase the public’s perception of relevance both among real estate professionals and the homebuying public, while maintaining its standards. ASHI must also become synonymous with home inspection.

Home inspectors work in a changing world. Regulation has changed things at a state level. We have competition from other organizations. The Internet offers more clutter to distract the homebuying public from the ASHI brand home inspection that we know will provide the information needed to protect homebuyers during the purchase.

The cheese is moving, perhaps it’s moving in subtle ways and slowly, but our stakeholders are telling us that we need to be alert as the world around us evolves – just as the mice must be alert to thrive.

One mouse seemed to fear change and became anxious; another lacked confidence and changed his search for cheese only a bit. Jogging into the unknown is tough stuff. Even the old cheese that was a bit moldy seemed better than a jog into the unknown.

Another mouse realized that if he weren’t fearful, he would jog into the unknown more easily, and perhaps that would make finding the cheese easier.
Another mouse realized that when he got past his fear, he felt freer. Going for it seemed like an adventure. Imagining the enjoyment of new cheese seemed to lead to new cheese. Certainly, old routines don’t lead to cheese, when “they” keep moving it.

Being a successful mouse doesn’t seem too tough if you remember that change happens and one better get ready to change too. Change is predictable. It occurs when things have been the same for a long time and are getting stale. The successful and happy mouse adapts and moves as things move around him.

In the face of change, fear and anger are typical for mice and home inspectors, but if change is seen as an adventure – an opportunity to succeed – it can be enjoyable.

Perhaps the most successful mice and home inspectors are those who change quickly,  abandon fear and anger and strive to enjoy change. Branding ASHI is a great adventure that will make us better, more successful and create a steady stream of clients to our door so we can enjoy more of the things we value most in our lives.