The first thing to do in networking is to make a list of possible referral sources. For home inspections, the most obvious are the following:
• Real estate agents
• Bank managers and mortgage brokers
• Real estate lawyers
Target Top 20 Percent
The next step is to identify the top 20 percent of the people in each of the categories. In any field, 80 percent of the business is being done by 20 percent of the people. While top agents do most of the real estate business, a whole lot of agents do very little business at all. You can’t afford to be networking with agents who don’t produce. The same goes for mortgage brokers and lawyers. Now that we are going to spend all of our time and money on top producers, how do we identify them?
Real Estate Agents
From the list of potential referral sources, the real estate agent is the most likely to refer business to you. The critical point at which you need to influence a homebuyer is after they have made an offer and the offer has been accepted, subject to a satisfactory home inspection. At this critical time, the homebuyer is in the care of the real estate professional. They are not at the bank, and they may not have spoken to their lawyer. The homebuyer often turns to the agent for a referral to a home inspector. So it makes sense to focus on the top 20 percent of the real estate professionals.
Target High-Profile Real Estate Offices
To identify the top real estate agents, start with well-known offices. Top producers may also exist in lesser-known real estate offices, but you are more likely to find them in a high-profile office. Check the newspaper. Real estate agents advertise their listings in the newspaper.
Look in the real estate section to see which names crop up the most. An agent who takes out a large block ad with a number of properties advertised
is probably a good prospect.
Most real estate offices publish lists of their top producers and prizewinners at least once a year.
A big office will often have an entire center spread in the real estate section of your city’s newspaper.
Ask a Top Producer
Another way to find the top producers is to ask another top producer. Once you have a few top producers on your list, you can try asking them who in their office are top producers. Or, put another way,
“Are there any other agents in your office who are as good as you?” Contrary to popular myth, flattery actually gets you everywhere.
In some markets you may be able to buy a publication that ranks all agents and offices by sales and listings for both units and dollar volume. Needless to say, this is very valuable.
Bank Managers and Mortgage Brokers
Before we discuss how a bank manager or mortgage broker could send business your way, let’s clarify the difference between a
mortgage broker and a mortgage specialist.
Target Mortgage Specialists or Brokers
When you go to a bank to get a mortgage, a bank manager, a customer service representative or a dedicated mortgage specialist may handle your transaction. A dedicated mortgage specialist deals only with mortgages. In fact, some mortgage specialists will come to your house to discuss your mortgage. If you are soliciting referrals from a bank, your best bet is to find out if that bank has a dedicated mortgage specialist. A dedicated mortgage specialist is more likely to work with lots of homebuyers. Volume is what you need.
Mortgage brokers work independently and may represent many banks. The mortgage broker will discuss the needs of the client and find the best matching mortgage product at the best price. A mortgage broker is also likely to work with many homebuyers and is a good place for referrals.
Although the person who writes the mortgage is not positioned at a critical point of influence like the real estate agent, there is an angle that may be worth exploring.
Many clients are preapproved for a mortgage. Preapproval is a process in which the lender helps you determine how much youcan spend on a house. The lender tells you how much they will
lend you based on your financial situation.
Contribute to Bank Manager’s Package
This preapproval phase happens before the prospect has found a home. There may be an opportunity to reach the prospect at this stage. For example, if the bank has an information package they give to each client at the preapproval phase, you may be able to get your information into this package. Your information should not be just a brochure of your services; it should be something useful to a homebuyer. For example, Carson Dunlop publishes a home improvement and construction cost flyer that is very popular. That’s the kind of marketing material a bank or mortgage broker would feel good about including in their information kit.
Real Estate Lawyers
Real estate lawyers don’t usually get involved in the transaction early enough to have an opportunity to influence a prospect on your behalf. Real estate agents have standard offers to purchase and many standard clauses, and the lawyer is often not involved until well after the home inspection is done.
Some people have their lawyer draft or review the offer to purchase. In this case, the lawyer could influence the buyer and refer business to you.
Sometimes Target Lawyers
A lawyer may be a good contact, however, if you do inspections on new homes. Inspecting new homes is a different type of inspection, requiring a different skill set and inspection report. If you do these kinds of inspections, real estate lawyers are a good source for referrals because their clients often ask them to review the offer of purchase and sale. These offers on new homes are complicated, multipage documents that usually require a magnifying glass and a law degree to work through. Many buyers ask their lawyers to review this document.
You could introduce the inspection done at the expiration of the builder’s warranty to the lawyer, for example. The lawyer may recommend it to his or her clients. Again, having some sort of informational flyer or brochure to give to the lawyer is a good idea. It’s something the lawyer can pass along. If it comes from the lawyer, it has an added layer of legitimacy. The downside is the client may not remember in several months.
Other Networking Opportunities
We have just outlined the top referral sources when networking your business. This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are many other opportunities such as business networking, joint ventures and strategic alliances. These topics will be covered in a future article.
Inspecting new homes is a different type of inspection, requiring a different skill set and inspection report. If you do these kinds of inspections, real estate lawyers are a good source for referrals because their clients often ask them
to review the offer of
purchase and sale.