I am a good ol’ boy, and it’s hard to teach a good ol’ boy new tricks.
I have been inspecting properties for over 20 years in northern Arizona. As one of the first of a handful of home inspectors in the state, I fondly remember being escorted out of real estate offices when I tried to explain to the agents the wonderful things a home inspection would do for them!
When I went to an inspection, I had my clipboard with a 3-part carbonless paper checklist, a flashlight, screwdriver, electrical plug tester and ladder — everything needed to do a decent inspection. This was adequate for several years, although I always picked up a new tool when I attended the ASHI conference. A moisture meter, tiff 8800 gas sniffer, circuit analyzer, mirror, etc., all contributed to the dog and pony show used to do a more thorough inspection for my clients.
At ASHI education conferences in the late 80s and early 90s, inspectors were debating the advisability of creating a contract for our service. Many of us good ol’ boys said we weren’t going to use a contract because we were sure that our customers would run straight to a competitor if we required them to sign a contract full of disclaimers. Now, of course, contracts should be a standard business practice.
Then came the affordable computer age. I jumped on the bandwagon and bought a laptop and some software as a method to differentiate myself from the “checklisters.”
At a chapter meeting, one of my comrades showed me his new digital camera and how he included photos in his reports, so I went out and bought a camera so I wouldn’t be left behind by the competition.
Now, some of us carry a wide array of must-have fancy testing equipment such as carbon monoxide detectors, digital thermometers, pressure gauges and even infrared cameras!
My clients often remark how computers, cameras and new testing tools have made our jobs easier. I say, “No way!” The inspection and report take almost twice as long as they used to take, and I think I create more information than many of my buyers need or can understand.
With the onslaught of new tools and gadgets, advances in technology and rising client expectations, the days when a home inspection was strictly visual seem to be disappearing.
In the 1980s, the ASHI Standards of Practice was already the model for excellence for our fledgling profession, and it was the home inspectors who were defining what an inspection was and what it wasn’t. Marketing at that time mostly consisted of educating real estate agents and brokers.
In 2008, members of our profession are working to maintain their identities as home inspections are being defined by many outside influences. Regulation and governmental intervention dictates what we can and cannot do in many states. In some markets, Realtors® tell inspectors how they are to operate if they are to receive referrals from their offices.
The slower economy and weak housing market have made a lot of inspectors look to add-on services to generate income and to provide added value to their inspections. New market opportunities are developing at a rapid pace, and many inspectors are moving into other areas such as environmental, disaster insurance, energy audits, pre-listing, commercial, structural pest, maintenance or even construction-phase inspections. All these types of inspections can provide added revenue.
I challenge each of you, whether a good ol’ boy or a newer inspector, to look outside the box. Add a new service or product, learn a new trick or buy a new gadget. It may be that a little diversification and added services in our business will help prepare and position us for the better times ahead.