August, 2013
Inspecting
Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors



From the CoR Speaker: The Best Time to Market Your Home Inspection Business

TONY SMITH

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The best time to market your  home inspection business is when you are the busiest, believe it or not. The best time to market your home inspection business is when you are conducting a home inspection. Why is this the best time to market your home inspection business? It is the best time to market your home inspection business because you are being PAID to market.

Inside or outside-the-box approaches to marketing have you paying in time and/or money to market your business. This is the old-school approach. New-school approach teaches you to get rid of the box all together. It by no way means that you get rid of the things that are already inside the box. Just get rid of the box, period. If you market to real estate professionals, continue to do so. If you do internet and online marketing, continue to do so. Again, do not throw out the things that are already in your box, just the box.

I do believe that if you take the one-inspection-at-a-time approach by utilizing the inspection you are being PAID to do as an opportunity to grow your business, and grow ASHI, you will have good, measurable results; you will make money.

So, how does it work? It works under the assumption that you have booked an inspection or are in the process of booking an inspection. You are ready to sell the sizzle? Remember, the marketplace today is global; expand your minds along with it. Learn to adapt to the needs of your clients to grow or die. Your clients may not know all of their needs. Educate and sell them the things that they need and they will thank you. Above all else, they will refer you to their family and friends.

Inspectors all over are asking for more from their different trade associations. Clients are also asking more of us; let’s give them more. Education is up there along with marketing at the top of the list of things we inspectors need to grow our business, to strengthen our beloved ASHI (www.ashi.org), and our profession as a whole. Let us also educate our clients with each and every inspection. Sell your services and market your businesses like you are being paid to, because you are. Give your clients the very best value for their hard-earned money. They will remember you for it long after their close of escrow. And we — we who Speak House — will make money doing so. After all, that is the main reason we are in business today, right?

So, through your local chapters you have been well schooled in the ASHI Standard of Practice and Code of Ethics (http://www.homeinspector.org/standards/default.aspx), keeping in mind that these are the minimum Standards and that nothing prevents you from exceeding them. Strive for excellence by exceeding the Standards in the areas where-in you are most comfortable. Let your clients know when you are exceeding the Standards; they may even surprise you with a tip for a job well done. However, before you decide to exceed the Standards, be sure to consult with your legal counsel and check for any local or state ordinances that may preclude you from doing so. Also, be well versed in the ASHI Clients Bill of Rights, (http://www.homeinspector.org/membersonly/docs/ashi-client-bill-of-rights.pdf). You do NOT want your report ending up as “Exhibit A” in a court of law. This would only cost you money . . . win or lose, period. You are a professional with a fiduciary responsibility to each and every client. You do not have to wear a suit and tie like I do, but for crying out loud, dress professionally, clean your shoes, wash your vehicle and conduct yourself in a professional manner.

Still waiting to hear how this works? Let’s get started.

The phone rings or you receive an email or text message for your next inspection. Determine who your client is. You will want to know an inspection address, a name (be sure to get the spelling right), a phone number, an email address and a physical address. Some clients may not want to divulge all of this information right away, and that’s okay. Get what you can now; try to get the rest later. Be in contact with your new client prior to the inspection date and time. Ask if there are any “special features” of the property to be inspected. If these “special features” — like a swimming pool or EIFS, for example — exist, let them know ahead of time that they are outside the scope of the inspection. However, for an additional fee you can conduct the inspection of their special features. Or, let them know you are not certified to inspect the “special features,” but you know another ASHI inspector who is, and if it is okay with them, you will have that inspector contact them to schedule the inspection. Leave nothing on the table. Do not be afraid to refer other ASHI inspectors that you know and trust; they will do likewise when the time arrives. Ask the clients if anything jumped out at them as they walked through the property, of if there is anything they would want to have you pay special attention to during the inspection. You may find out that they intend to open up the kitchen by removing the wall between the kitchen and the dining room. Make a note of it. Your inspection may reveal that said wall is load bearing and can only be opened up with the addition of sized headers — or not at all. Go the extra mile. Remember, you are being PAID to sell the sizzle and to market.

Strongly encourage clients to attend the full inspection. After learning the age and square footage of the property, let them know approximately how long it is going to take you to conduct the full inspection. You client’s time is valuable to them, and it should be to you also. Do not be late. Remember that “early is on time, on time is late, and late is just . . . totally unacceptable.” Many real estate professionals and home inspectors tend to discourage clients from attending the full inspection. In my book, this is very bad business. You will best educate the clients on how to maintain their new property if they attend the full inspection. However, the best part of them attending the full inspection is that you will have 3-4 hours to market, to gather information, to develop a relationship with your client, to let them see just how hard you really work for them and for them to get to know and like you. Most people do not file a lawsuit against people they know and like. They will be more likely to work with you and/or your insurance provider if, for reasons, you screw up.

If the property is very old, explain to them the “permit research” you can conduct prior to the inspection for an additional fee. Again, leave nothing on the table. Sell the sizzle; sell all you can. If they decline, you may still want to do the research. You may find out that the property was moved to its present location 56 years ago or that repairs due to fire damages were conducted 61 years ago. Pass that information on to them anyway. They will thank you; trust me. If the property is new construction, explain to them the one-year warranty they will receive from their builder. If you don’t know about it, find out. Explain to them how your 11-month inspection prior to expiration of their warranty works for an additional fee. Let them know that they do not have to decide now, but they will have 11 months to think about it, and at that time you will follow up with them. Again, leave nothing on the table. You have sizzle to sell; sell it. Keep in mind that you are not by any means nickel and diming your client. You are doing your due diligence to someone you are about to enter into contract with. It’s business, pure and simple.

That brings us to the Contract Agreement. Explain to them that you will be forwarding it to them prior to the inspection. They will need to read and sign it and/or have their real estate attorney take a look at it, but that at any rate they will need to show up with it signed. Bring an extra copy to the inspection. Do not take the chance that they will sign it and leave it at home. Most of mine are signed onsite prior to the start of the inspection. DO NOT INSPECT WITHOUT A SIGNED INSPECTION AGREEMENT; that would be bad business.

Explain the dangers of radon gas and the need for a wood-destroying pest (WDP) inspection. Book these for yourself at the same time, or book them and pass them on to a third-party ASHI inspector who is certified to conduct these ancillary services. Be sure the client knows this and that there is no additional fee and the third party will bill them directly. Be the one stop shop for all your client’s inspection needs.

We are almost there. You have booked the inspection. The house was built in 1907–106 years ago. It’s a two-story framed construction and consists of approximately 3,200 square feet above the grade. It sits mostly upon a full, unfinished basement. There are two additions that sit over crawl spaces. There is a special feature — an in-ground swimming pool in the backyard. The house is big and it’s old. I sure hope you told them to plan on four hours. Now let’s summarize how you are doing with selling the sizzle so far.

You’ve given the client the total inspection fee with all the “extras” you typically include (i.e., your typical inspection fee, any charge you might have for a home over 2,500 feet, radon monitoring, W.D.P. inspection, a permit research fee, perhaps a crawl space fee, etc.). Your client is sold. Now give them something right away. Give them some peace of mind even before you start the inspection. Give them something of great value. Let them know that after the inspection you will remain their consultant at no extra fee, for as long as their name is on the deed of the house. Let them know that you will remind them of this also after the inspection. If they have any questions or concerns after close of escrow, let them know that they should call you first. Again, if for some ungodly reason you screw up, you will want them calling you before they call their lawyer. Trust me on this. The inspection is scheduled for four days from today. This will give you enough time to do the “permit research” and set the radon monitor so that the results are available the day of the inspection. It also gives the third party enough time to prepare for the pool inspection.

The best time to market your home inspection business is when you are the busiest. That time is coming up in four days. You are well trained. You have the prestigious third-party certification of the American Society of Home Inspectors. Through your local ASHI Chapter you are well schooled in the ASHI Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics (http://www.homeinspector.org/standards/default.aspx).You are well versed in the ASHI Client Bill of Rights, (http://www.homeinspector.org/membersonly/docs/ashi-client-bill-of-rights.pdf). All your tools are charged up, calibrations are up to date where needed, and all are functioning as they were intended to. You await the return of the signed Inspection Agreement. You are now off to do the permit research on this older house. Your vehicle will be washed, your shoes will be polished, and you will be dressing like the professional you are. You, for the most part, have done a good job so far at selling the sizzle of your home inspection business–you did leave a little something on the table. Again, I’m sure you will not let that happen again. The big day is coming up, that is when the marketing starts. Stay tuned for part 2 of 2 in the next article. 

Work safe and walk good.
Respect, Tony Smith, ACI
ASHI Speaker, 2013 - 2014