May, 2018
Feature
Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors



The Home Energy Score Means Business: Taking a Close Look at How The Score Fits Into a Successful Firm

ASHI STAFF

In this monthly column, we’ve covered a lot about “why” you should be interested in the Home Energy Score (HES) program. Now that inspectors across the country are building it into their businesses, we can start to examine “how” to add it to your business, in specific terms. Recently, a multi-inspector firm jumped into the HES fray—we tell their story here, and we’ll follow up with them down the road to tell you about their progress.

Bringing a New Offering to an Established Business
Jacksonville-based Ameripro is no home inspection startup. A Sunshine State pioneer in the inspection industry and part of a family of businesses with more than a half-million inspections to its credit, this firm has been serving satisfied customers for more than 24 years. As a provider of a wide range of time-tested services, they’ve never been one to just jump on the latest bandwagon when it comes to bringing new offerings into their lineup. 

Not surprisingly, any alterations to their services over the years have been the result of careful deliberation and CEO Michael Rowan understands that, although there are considerable benefits to being the first in the market to offer a product, that product still needs to be the right one when a company’s reputation is on the line.

And so it was with the Home Energy Score, which Ameripro had been studying for more than a year to prepare for this venture. The Department of Energy (DOE) program caught the eye of Rowan, who recognized the “greening” of the industry and the importance of homeowners’ monthly budgets as two of the most important trends in recent years. He saw in HES the best available means of meeting those new market realities head on. 

Needless to say, when an operation like Ameripro makes a change to their proven and successful business model, they tend to do it correctly. To begin the process, they asked themselves a series of questions relating to how including the HES would affect their operations and stakeholders—ranging from homebuyers to real estate agents and from delivery models to net revenue.

Working from the idea that broad adoption of HES will benefit the entire industry, they’ve also been open to sharing the details of their plan with the readers of the Reporter. Let’s evaluate their thought process in creating an HES pilot project and the specific ways they’re introducing it throughout their operations.

Go Big or Go Home
There are aspects of HES that Ameripro recognized as being fairly easy to implement, namely the low-cost online training and onboarding process that allows inspectors to “hit the streets” with the service in a short time. Still, Ameripro understood that to give this new offering its due, they needed to implement it across the full line of business operations, so they fully integrated HES into their various divisions.

Field Personnel
The word is out that the long-running partnership between ASHI and ID Energy means getting started with the Score is easy and inexpensive. Because of the partnership, inspectors can get personalized help for the “Sim” online training, and the mentorship session and ongoing quality assurance require by the DOE can be accomplished without having to interrupt inspection schedules or time-crunched clients. Importantly, these services are available to any inspector, and ID Energy has a special onboarding package for larger firms like Ameripro.

Once Ameripro completed the ID Energy “Fast Track” onboarding process, the field inspectors had little difficulty with the technical aspects of delivering a Score. Still, the additional time required to gather the necessary information (20 minutes on average, although that figure is decreasing as Ameripro’s inspectors become more efficient with the scoring tool) meant that some inspectors initially had the impression that they were doing “more work for the same money.” Securing buy-in from the team presented a challenge to companywide adoption of the Score.

Ameripro addressed this obstacle by implementing the following strategies: 

  • protect inspectors from taking on too much additional work (the Score is currently included only on homes smaller than 2,200 square feet); 
  • offer inspectors more money per job due to a higher-priced “bundle” of services; and
  • offer inspectors the prospect of better relationships with new real estate agents in particular, and more consistent schedules (that is, fewer slow-season open slots) since inspectors can leverage the “feel-good” marketing value of the HES with the agents they meet on site.


Inside and Outside Sales
Like any successful multi-inspector firm, Ameripro excels at the sales and marketing aspect of their work. Its expertise in bundling home inspections with wood-destroying organism (WDO) inspections and other services has resulted in steadily higher conversion rates and average ticket figures. As such, integrating the HES into an existing “bundle” and describing it with a simple value proposition was relatively easy for their process. 

Serving two key customer sectors (inbound homebuyers and real estate agents), Ameripro’s sales specialists are keeping close tabs on the impacts the Score is having on both. The verdict? So far, the reception from homebuyers is positive—it turns out that homebuyers view learning about the expected costs of utility bills, the opportunities for energy and comfort improvement, and a highly credible DOE label that adds value to their home as a good thing! Even better, Ameripro is seeing markedly higher conversions from their “price-shopping” clientele because the Score is included in their package.

Feedback from real estate agents has been more cautious than fully enthusiastic in the early going, but the fact that the package is bundled lets agents know that they’re going to have a happy client who hasn’t been subjected to a laundry list of options as part of the inspection process. Ameripro reports that many agents—especially newer ones—are encouraged by the idea that their clients are going into a purchase with eyes wide open as to what they can expect budget-wise as a homeowner.

The Network and PR
The expected benefits to the Ameripro brand in their market was a key factor in their decision to move forward, even though leadership is fully aware that the Score has yet to attain anything like “household name” status at this point. But, as keen observers of major trends shaping their industry, they’re aware that energy efficiency and related home comfort are climbing ever higher on the list of priorities for homebuyers and agents alike. The fact that they are the first in their market to offer the score is just icing on the PR cake.

Over the years, Ameripro has earned the trust of an extensive network of agents who rely on their routine of delivering presentations that cover a wide range of industry topics. Bringing HES-related presentations into the mix (“canned” and customizable versions of these are available to all from the HES team) has generated increased requests for talks and enthusiastic feedback from the agents, many of whom can see the energy-related writing on the wall as clearly as Ameripro does.

The Bottom Line
One of the most respected and time-tested businesses in one of the hottest housing markets in the country, Ameripro credits much of its success to its practice of continually aiming toward a higher industry standard. Their embrace of the Home Energy Score reflects that commitment and yet, even high-minded initiatives like this one must correlate with a positive impact on revenue to remain part of Ameripro’s operations.

Their methodical adoption of the Score extends into every aspect of their business. Adopted at the end of winter, just in time for the upcoming season, the program’s true merits—not least of which are revenue-related—will be made clear only once it’s been in use for at least one busy-season cycle. Watch for an update on that to come in the fall. As it stands now, however, Ameripro has high hopes for the HES as a worthy and profitable inclusion into their business.

Be the Early Adopter in Your Market!
The Score can benefit your business, too. Contact Jen Gallegos (jeng@ashi.org) at ASHI HQ with any questions. Or jump in and fill out the application on the ID Energy website (energyscoreusa.com/sign_up.php). And let us know how it goes for your business!