December, 2018

Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors


Put Your Chapter on the Map!

CLAY RIDINGS

I’ve been performing inspections since 1988 and, over the years, I realized that certain patterns show themselves if you pay attention. It was always my contention that putting someone else down never really had staying power for increasing your market share or branding your business. 

In Delaware, a few of us branded “ASHI” early on, so real estate agents learned to ask, “Are you a member of ASHI?” before they scheduled an inspection. Before long, we never really had to sell the ASHI brand. Very few inspectors were involved with any other group, simply because the business was not there. Separating yourself from the pack and branding your particular business was the hard part.

When I founded the First State Chapter of ASHI 18 years ago, it was because some newer members were at cross-purposes with experienced members when writing about defects. Being the second inspector in Delaware made me the de facto person for agents to complain to, so I had a good feel for the agents’ concerns. 

After a year of holding meetings and setting up training sessions with expert speakers, we began to focus as a group on the real issues and how to call them. It was also very helpful that we could share stories and advice about how to avoid liability issues. My intention was to brand our chapter’s members as the “go-to inspectors” for agents to contact. 

Around this time, I came up with the idea of the “pad,” which basically is a mid-sized, tear-off pad of paper that lists all of the names, companies and phone numbers of our chapter members. We gave the pads to real estate agents, and they could circle three inspectors they liked and give the sheet to the buyer. This gave the buyer the option to use someone the agent did or did not recommend, but the pad limited their options to only First State chapter members. The agents loved this and (in lesser form) the pad is still in use today. In this way, we successfully branded ASHI, we branded our chapter and we provided the agents with a useful tool.

Over the years, we’ve tried many different ways to attract the attention of the real estate community, but none of them have ever proven as effective as holding a special event planned specifically for real estate agents. The idea began as a wine-tasting reception and catered dinner, during which industry speakers could help agents understand why inspectors report defects the way they do and explain the limitations of what inspectors can do. 

When planning this event, I enlisted the help of some members of the largest local real estate law firm, and they provided most of the continuing education. I looked for local speakers to offset some of the costs. We wanted the top producers, so we invited 300 agents who worked in the county. Close to 80 agents attended our first event! The dinner has grown over the last 10 years, and it has become the “go-to event” for agents to earn continuing education.

Here are some keys to planning a successful event: