March, 2009
From the ASHI President.
Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors



Diversification

WILLIAM (BILL) RICHARDSON

The economic downturn is still with us and may last quite a while. I know it has affected many of us in the inspection business. Even some of our past-presidents are not doing as well as they once were. It doesn’t matter how long we have been in the business; we are all affected. Everyone who has dealings in the residential home market has been impacted. One of our local inspectors has gone to work as an inspector for the Corps of Engineers, a related field but not his own business. Several other inspectors have closed down and are now working in unrelated fields.

I have often spoken about the benefits of diversification and how that can help even out the ups and downs of our businesses. Many of us say, “I am a home inspector and that’s all I do.” Well, if so, then we are the ones who are really feeling the pain. We are like the koala bear when we limit ourselves to only one approach to our profession.

The koala bear has a limited diet; it consists of the leaves and bark of eucalyptus, wattle, tea and paperbark trees. If these trees are not available, the koala must move to where they are located or starve.  Same with home inspectors. If all we do is home inspections or small multi-family inspections and they are no longer available, then we will starve. Most of us don’t have the option of moving to a better area; we have roots where we are. Also, the whole market is down — not just in localized areas, so it would be difficult to get established in a new area. The only option we have is to find other inspection-related avenues to pursue. There may be other employment options, but most of us do not want to work for someone else or in a different field. 

When I talk about diversification, it’s not about adding a service such as radon or mold to our basic inspection. It’s about offering other types of inspection-related services. Adding a service to our basic home inspection only works if we are booking inspections. When there are no inspections to book, there are no additional services to book.   

What types of related inspection services can we offer? There are condominium reserve studies, energy audits and maintenance or safety inspections. These are just a few of the additional inspection-related services that are possible. These can usually be done without special
credentials, just some additional training.
Other types of inspection services that require special credentials and training include new-construction phase inspections, commercial inspections, code and construction compliance inspections, construction consulting, construction management, plan review, project management and others. Some of these also may require state or local licenses.

Before anyone says that these services are not in our Standards of Practice, let me say you are correct; these do not follow our Standards. Our Standards apply to home inspections. Some of these services have standards and protocol; some do not. There may be a chance in the future for ASHI to write Standards for these and other services. These are specialty inspections we can be trained to perform and use to add to our bottom line. We may find these give us steadier work than home inspections in these tough times. I would like to see ASHI develop training for these services and to have this training available for our members.

I have performed all of these special services and will continue to offer them. It has been very interesting, educational and profitable to be able to provide my clients with these services. Obtaining the training, credentials and licenses needed was a good experience for me. I have found that having a team of professionals from other fields to assist me in the performance of these services works well. I’m sure any of you who will take the time to learn what you need to learn to provide these services will agree with me. I would be glad to explain to anyone who is interested how I have done this and what he or she may expect.

I’m hoping the markets turn soon and that you find additional income through diversification until it does turn around.