How Past Clients Can Boost Your Home Inspection Recovery

The current real estate slowdown has been different from anything I have experienced in my 20+ years as a home inspector. The two questions on everyone’s mind are: ‘When will the recovery start?’ and ‘How fast will business ramp up to the usual seasonal busy time?’.

The recovery has already started. We are seeing an uptick in the number of home inspections going through Tap Inspect.  If you are waiting for the phone to ring you are still not too late. Now is the time to be marketing and putting your name and yourself out there.

Reach Out to Your Past Clients

A master home inspector focuses on building and maintaining their client relationship since the inspection was first booked. There is great value in that relationship. They know an ongoing relationship with their client will limit complaints and prevent claims. It also builds their referral network providing more and more home inspections.

If you have ignored your relationship with your home inspection client since you delivered their report you have been losing out on a valuable resource. It is not too late but I do have a few words of caution.

Trying to reconnect with past clients that you have ignored can be a double edged sword. If you did a great job they will be happy to hear from you. But if you remind an unhappy client about a bad experience you could be in for a harsh response or two. Take the risk and start reaping the rewards.

Client marketing takes a lot more than sending a calendar or fridge magnet once a year. It is not about just getting your name in front of them. You need to provide some type of value. Here are three ideas to get you started.

Seasonal Maintenance Checklist

Most people are working or staying at home. They are looking for projects. Home maintenance projects are some of the easiest and simplest to do. Send them a spring maintenance checklist to give them some direction.

Not a graphic designer? Not a problem. Spend $20 by going to Fiverr or another online service to get it done for you. It does not have to be anything fancy. Just a list of tasks with your logo and contact information. 

Home Maintenance Inspection

Usually at this time of year we are busy doing retail priced inspections. That is not the case during the current slowdown.

Some of our home inspection clients may be a bit overwhelmed with spring maintenance checklist or maybe just don’t have the time. By offering a low priced maintenance inspection you can bring in a few dollars and has very little liability. 

You could even offer to connect them with contractors to do the work or to provide estimates by using a service like Repair Pricer.

Ask Your Home Inspector

Almost everyone knows how to use Facetime, Zoom, or Skype by now. Most home inspectors are already using them to Provide a Personal Touch During Social Distancing.

As our clients are spending more and more time at home they have questions. They will notice things they have never noticed before. Leverage the technology to be your home inspection clients ‘go to’ when they have a question.

Be the home inspection hero they hired and you will have a referral source for the lifetime of your business.


How to Provide a Personal Touch During Social Distancing

For over 20 years and after 10,000 jobs I have always encouraged my home inspection clients to attend the entire inspection. I explain that if they want to have the full value of the inspection they need to see what I do and they will get to learn how their particular home operates. That is not the case during COVID-19.

By now everyone should know about social distancing and be providing some type of stay safe procedure for their clients, agents, and inspections. If not, check out the InterNACHI COVID-19 Safety Guidelines for Home Inspectors and Contractors course for free. It is our job as professionals to guide them along the next steps to keep our clients, homeowners, and ourselves safe.

Set the Tone During the Booking Call

We have been surprised that almost none of our clients have asked about COVID-19 precautions while booking their home inspection. It is understandable when you keep in the mind the journey they have been on before they called us. It is stressful enough in normal times. These days it is even more stressful.

We are now telling our clients to not attend and how we intend to keep them, the occupants of the home, and ourselves safe. We also set the tone of how our process has changed and what communication they can expect from us. It has become super important to make sure the client is comfortable with a phone call, FaceTime, Zoom, or maybe Skype for their call with the inspector. 

Make Contact Before the Inspection

My favorite part of most home inspections is usually the driveway meeting. It is when I get a chance to meet my client and let them meet me. In just those first few minutes you can tell what kind of client you are working with and what kind of reporting will be needed.

Many home inspection clients are downright terrified. They will likely not hear a word you say or ask a single question. Others are extremely comfortable doing their own repairs. Home inspection clients are not all the same. The driveway meeting helps us understand who we are working with.

This is not so easy during COVID-19. Since we ask our clients to not attend the inspection or to only come alone at the end, the driveway meeting is a thing of the past.

Since we have already let the client know the inspector will be reaching out before the job they are ready. We contact the client at least the night before or better yet on the day of the job for a virtual driveway meeting. 

Write the Report for an Absent Client

Over my 20 years our reports have developed into something that is meant to be read. We always do our best to only report on important information. Since our clients are with us and we have been able to also talk and show them how things work and what we do it has worked incredibly well. It has let us deliver a home inspection report that our clients really want. The only complaints we get are from clients that are not at the job.

Now that our clients do not attend we now write the report for an absent client. This is not really new since we have been doing it for years once we realized that these types of clients were the source of complaints.

We still do not overwhelm them with every piece of information about the home but we are more mindful that the report is the only way they can tell what we did and did not do. We now report on much more informational items that we typically would if the client was with us. The goal is not to overwhelm them with such a long report they can not read it but just enough information that they understand the home. 

Do a Virtual Report Summary

After the driveway meeting I have always enjoyed the report wrap up and report summary with my clients. Some of the best real estate agents I know also show up at this point so everyone understands what the biggest issues are that need addressing and possible ways to make that happen. It also gives everyone a chance to understand what makes a particular house unique.

These days that is no longer possible in person but it can be done virtually. The most important thing is to set up if it will be FaceTime, Zoom, Skype, or phone call with the client beforehand. That way everyone is expecting it and should have their personal technology ready. They are also prepared when they see us in full personal protection equipment (PPE) when we call for the summary.

Follow up After the Job

After the home inspection our clients move on to the repair request and the next steps of the homebuyer’s journey. They may never think of their home inspector again or even look at the home inspection report. Unless there is a problem.

The post job followup can be the most important way to maintain the personal touch with our home inspection clients. It is also an incredible way to limit complaints and generate online reviews. This has not changed much since COVID-19 has come into our lives but it is more important than ever. 

We already send an email and also a text to every client three days after the home inspection asking if they need any help or have any questions during the repair request phase. Now, since we are doing everything to provide a personal touch during social distancing we are having our inspectors call as well.

Master Home Inspectors Understand the Homebuyer’s Journey

Happy Homebuyers

By the time the homebuyer reaches our door, they’ve been on a long journey. They’re almost to the end. They’ve already spent months looking at properties. They’re already working with some of the dozen other players in the home buying process, including the real estate agent, the loan officer, and the seller. When they meet us, the homebuyer is praying that nothing is wrong with the home. If it falls apart now, they have to start the journey all over again.


 

Home inspectors are in a delicate position. On one hand, we must give cold, hard, and sometimes ugly facts about the home. On the other, the homebuyer is desperate to make this purchase happen.

Our mission is to guide the homebuyer through the inspection and prepare them to confidently request and negotiate repairs. To do that, we will need to understand our client and tailor our services to their home and to their needs.

Understanding our Client

Knowing houses is only part of being a great inspector; knowing our client is the other. Homebuyers are desperate. Many have never bought a home before. Even if they have, they usually don’t know how the home works. They know that they’ve picked a property that appears to fit their needs. They don’t know if a hidden problem will turn their dream home into a nightmare of repairs.

Homebuyers also don’t know the first thing about us or what we do. Many hire a home inspector based on a recommendation from their real estate agent and our availability, but few know how our job works. Homebuyers are laying the biggest purchases they’ll ever make in the hands of a stranger and trusting us to give a clear picture of the health of their home.

Being Kind but Firm

Listen and be patient with the client. Give them good and bad news calmly and directly. Keep in mind that we are not seeing the homebuyer on a typical day in their lives. We meet them when they are stressed out. Stay strong. It is not our job to make the deal easier. It is our job to help them make an informed purchase.

Homebuyers might feel extra pressure from their real estate agent to close the deal. It’s easy to think of the real estate agent as an adversary, but remember, they’ve been the homebuyer’s closest friend through this process. Talk about the real estate agent in a professional and respectful manner. Gently correct the homebuyer if they’ve received inaccurate information from the real estate agent and explain why the information is wrong. This professionalism-first strategy builds client trust and builds business. Real estate agents who feel respected will happily send referrals your way.

The homebuyer needs a guide who can provide reliable, unbiased information about the property and can help them stay calm and make sound decisions. Confident homebuyers will enter the repair request phase armed with a clear idea of what their new home really needs.

Home Inspectors are Only One of the Homebuyer’s Dozen

The home inspector is just one of about a dozen people that our client will deal with throughout the homebuyers journey. We play a very unique part. The home inspector is the only person who can provide impartial information about what the homebuyer is truly getting into. We are the only player in the deal who knows the house from the inside-out. Master home inspectors know the major players that their client deals with before and after they reach our door. Here is a breakdown of the homebuyer’s dozen.

Player 1: The Loan Officer

Buying a home starts with financing. Before contacting us, a loan officer helps the homebuyer figure out how much they can afford. Before they look at homes, the homebuyer gets pre-approved for a loan so that they have a price range in mind.

Player 2: The Real Estate Agent

The real estate agent is the homebuyer’s life raft. Master home inspectors understand just how important and special the relationship between the homebuyer and the real estate agent is. Real estate agents go from house to house helping the homebuyer figure out what they really need in a home. They answer endless questions. They take panicked phone calls when the homebuyer feels overwhelmed. Many real estate agents spend nights and weekends showing properties that the homebuyer will ultimately reject.

Homebuyers rely on the real estate agent for guidance finding a home and assembling other players in the purchasing process. Real estate agents want the purchase to go through. They are not always easy for home inspectors to deal with, but they can provide valuable client referrals to you for years to come.

Players 3 and 4: The Seller and Seller’s Agent

Once they find the dream home, the homebuyer and real estate agent make an offer. If the seller and the seller’s agent agree, the clock begins ticking. The homebuyer has about 10 days to figure out the home’s true condition.

Player 5: The Home Inspector

By now, the homebuyer is exhausted and eager to complete this transaction. Here we come to do the home inspection and deliver news that could make or break the deal. We inspect the home, write our report, and prepare the homebuyer to make repair requests. Our job happens in the blink of an eye compared to the rest of the homebuyer’s journey. The homebuyer, seller, and their agents now start negotiating repairs and a final price.

Player 6: The Appraiser

Unless we report something devastating, an appraiser estimates the home’s value. The finish line is just around the corner!

Player 7: The Loan Underwriter

The loan underwriter digs into the homebuyer’s employment background, debt, assets, and credit history to hammer out the specifics of the loan. Once there’s final loan approval, closing is in sight!

Players 8 and 9: The Title Officer and Home Insurance Agent

Closing brings in new players and a small mountain of paperwork. The title officer verifies that the seller truly owns the property and that there are no outstanding liens, debts, or other restrictions. The home insurance agent writes the homeowners insurance policy.

Players 10 and 11: The Closing Attorney and Escrow Agent

Legal details are the only things left to iron out now. The attorney and escrow agent guide the homebuyer and seller through the legalities of the transaction and both parties sign the necessary paperwork. The homebuyer grabs their new keys; the seller receives escrow funds. The homebuyer becomes the homeowner.

Player 12: The Mover

The big day is here and the homebuyer’s journey is finally over. Movers haul in furniture and the new homeowner starts making the house their own.

What Happens After the Home Inspection?

Congratulations! The home inspection is complete! We write the report and move on to the next job, but it isn’t over for our client. They will now use our report to negotiate repairs with the seller. How we write and present the report to the homebuyer deeply affects the repairs request and negotiation process plays out. Here’s what we can do to prepare the homebuyer for the negotiation process. 

Keep Things in Perspective

We know that home inside-out after inspecting it. We spot every problem, from huge structural issues to tiny cosmetic blemishes, and we know which ones to worry about. Our client doesn’t have this frame of reference. To them, an inspection report can feel like an overwhelming list of problems they have no idea how to prioritize.

Give the homebuyer perspective. Emphasize what issues really need addressing now, and which are less important. It’s tempting to write up every minor flaw, but an overly long report reads like a textbook. A typical homebuyer can’t digest the important information in time. Ask the client what is important to them, and address those points in detail. Tailor the report to cover the most relevant issues to that client and include an executive summary that places important information front and center.

Speak the Client’s Language

Our client shouldn’t need a dictionary to read their home inspection report. Technical language is second nature to us, but discussions about roof flashings and water heater anodes will lose readers. If our inspection report reads like a software manual, homebuyers won’t pay attention and may miss something important. Simple is always better. People respond to straightforward, uncomplicated language. Define complex systems and components so the homebuyer doesn’t have to ask, and encourage the client to ask questions even if they sound silly.

Give Your Client a Roadmap Through Repairs

Our home inspection reports serve two functions: notifying our clients of problems and giving ways to address those problems. The best reports offer concrete, actionable steps the homebuyer can take to address major issues before they move in. When writing up a significant problem, step into the client’s shoes. They have an issue. How big of an issue is it? What do they do? And when?

Write with action in mind. Don’t just say that a furnace is unsafe; tell the homebuyer to get an HVAC inspection before closing. We don’t need to provide cost estimates or recommendations for HVAC inspectors, but we do need to recommend next steps. Maybe the homebuyer decides to take those next steps before closing, maybe they don’t. The important thing is that they’re ready to make informed decisions.

Follow Up After the Inspection

Your home inspection report is fresh on their minds. Now, show them that you appreciate their business. Shoot the homeowner a thank you note three days (or less) after the inspection is done. Within a month, send another note that welcomes them to their new home and offers a timeline for maintenance tasks, like cleaning the gutters.

Homeowners are excited when they get the keys to their new place. They can move in and turn the house into a home. After a few months, small annoyances and problems surface. Send another note 90 days after the inspection to check on the homeowner and another at the four to five-month mark. Remind your client that it’s time to do seasonal maintenance, like checking the sump pump in winter or the HVAC system before summer.

Follow-up notes show that you’re a diligent, careful home inspector who cares about your clients. Investing in that relationship builds your business and minimizes complaints and lawsuits.