November, 2002
Feature
Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors



Our Changing Environment and the Call for the ASHI Inspection

ROB PATERKIEWICZ, CAE, IOM

In 2000, during a strategic planning session, ASHI Leadership agreed to establish a “Big Audacious Goal” for the Society: ASHI will be synonymous with property inspection. This became and is our focal point, our vision; it is what we strive for. Achievement of this goal would significantly affect every aspect of what we do in our representation of the home inspection profession. Achievement of this goal would impact our Membership as well. Imagine if those involved in the purchase or sale of properties no longer referred to this service simply as a home inspection, but as an ASHI Inspection. Now, imagine how valuable it would be for you to be able to provide that service.

Upon reaching our Big Audacious Goal, we can safely say that every property transaction will receive a high-quality ASHI Inspection by a qualified ASHI Inspector. We would also see an improvement in the overall quality of housing stock as a result of consistently high inspection and safety standards. ASHI would not only represent the home inspection profession, but what’s more the allied and affiliated professionals in building, architecture, appraisals, etc. would look to ASHI as the main source for inspection-related information and assistance. Far-fetched? Hardly! While audacious, this goal IS attainable. Our efforts to formalize the ASHI Brand and the ASHI Inspection gets us far closer to achievement of this goal.

ASHI’s branding efforts

Over this past year, ASHI has participated in the formal creation of the ASHI Inspection, a crucial element of ASHI’s official “Brand.” This intensive work project has consisted of trend and opinion research of our key stakeholder groups, including consumers, real estate professionals and home inspectors. We have conducted meetings of a strategic branding team to begin development of the brand and its value propositions. Value propositions are the specific values or appeal the brand has to each stakeholder. These values are vital as they typically influence the choices made by the individual and lead to an ongoing relationship between the stakeholder and the brand.

We are now moving to the next level of the project where we will define the specifics of the brand and test our assumptions to be sure we have fully identified what will appeal to each group and may cause them to select ASHI and an ASHI Inspection over all others. We will then need to refine our work efforts in the Society to ensure our message and efforts are consistent with the Brand. Marketing, public relations, education and training should all begin to point toward the ASHI Inspection as the key element of our focus.

The ASHI Inspection appeals to home inspectors, consumers and real estate professionals by providing real value in how they each use it. The formal process of identifying the specific values of use to each shareholder, testing them and incorporating them into a service like a home inspection is detailed and complex
and would likely put you to sleep if I were to describe it to you. Instead, I’ll simply explain that we are working to establish an inspection that can only be provided only by ASHI Inspectors. There will be qualifications necessary in order to be able to perform the ASHI Inspection, but that should come as no surprise. After all, ASHI’s professional reputation is what allowed us to initiate this ambitious project. Holding membership in ASHI and demonstrating expertise in performing inspections and in running a business will likely be the foundation of these qualifications. In turn, ASHI must aggressively market this service to consumers and real estate professionals and all other stakeholders to positively influence their selection of the home inspector. The ASHI Inspection will be sought after and desired.  

This initiative is no simple job. It will take time, training, money, talent and dedication by us all of us. Like our “Big Audacious Goal,” however, we can accomplish it.

Why can’t things just stay the way they are?

Our environment is changing rapidly, and the challenges that face both you and the Society are growing in complexity every day. State regulation of inspectors has forced us to look very closely at how our membership categories fit, or don’t fit, with what the public wants. Our research shows clearly that consumers already believe their home inspector is licensed. Certifications and membership categories are of little relevance to them. Frankly, we’re operating in an environment where if we don’t make changes to our membership categories and our efforts to market our inspectors to the various stakeholders, we could very well be left behind.

There are some in our membership who feel we’re working too closely with the real estate profession.  We’re not looking to cater to the interests of the real estate agents. However, we’re not going to ignore the real estate practitioner either. The facts in this business are clear; the agent has an enormous amount of influence over which inspectors are referred, especially with first time buyers.

For the homebuyer, the ASHI Inspection they obtain provides them with security and confidence in the home they are about to purchase. If they found the ASHI Inspector on their own, great! They will soon pass a referral on to another homebuyer to get an ASHI Inspection. If the agent was involved in the referral, the homebuyer will be pleased with the agent’s recommendation, which will help in the establishment of a positive relationship between the agent and homebuyer. The agent feels security in the sale and confidence in the inspector.  Can you see how the values of the brand begin to surface?  

While the agent has much influence over the recommendation of inspectors, the referral power of a satisfied homeowner is even stronger. This branding project allows the inspector to appeal to both groups. Eventually, as more homebuyers obtain the ASHI Inspection or are educated about it from other homebuyers, the agent’s role in inspector selection may even diminish.

I’m sure you realize this is a far more detailed and complex program then what I have outlined here, but I’m hopeful you have a clearer picture of what we’re working on and why. We’re being realistic in our approach to making this work for all of us. The key is to provide the brand, and yet not compromise our integrity or our objectivity. You will all be hearing a lot more about the ASHI Inspection and brand very soon. We anticipate the official launch at InspectionWorld 2003 in Orlando. Until then, encourage and believe in your ASHI Leaders as they strive to continually meet the needs of our Membership and adapt to an ever-changing environment.