Home inspectors across the country give their best advice on the topic of the month. This month’s question is:
What’s the most effective marketing decision you’ve ever made for your home inspection business?
“Make sure the BNI group has a strong power team of real estate professionals that can refer you business. Examples would be real estate agents, loan officers, insurance agents, skilled tradesmen, etc.”
~ Lee Harless, owner of Safe and Sound Inspection Service in Huntington, West Virginia.
“Getting someone ELSE to answer my phone so I don’t interrupt an inspection with a sales call and get both parties upset.”
~ Bob Sisson, owner of Inspections By Bob in Boyds, Maryland.
“…Indoor air quality and mold testing and writing scopes of work account for 40 percent of my business. I also do commercial inspections and expert witness work. So I would say diversification is a strong marketing tool.”
~ Jim Dietrich, owner of AAA Home Inspections in Flushing, Michigan.
Two new home inspectors weigh in on their greatest challenges and seasoned pros show how to fix them.
Some inspectors work for larger companies, but most of us in the business are on our own to sort out problems and find solutions. In an effort to start opening a best practices dialogue amongst inspectors, we asked two brand new inspectors to admit their greatest business challenges and sought the support of some inspectors who have been around the block. We also want to hear from you. If you’ve got a question you need answered, a problem that needs troubleshooting or just want to get some thoughts from others in your industry, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll be delighted to help you get connected to the right people. In the mean time, check out how these pros solve pressing problems for newcomers in the industry.
The Problem: Landing Those First Clients
Like every other inspector getting started in a post-recession market, John Keener of Mountaineer Inspection Services in Bridgeport, West Virginia has questions about breaking in.
“There’s already established home inspectors in my area,” he says. “I went to a few of the real estate agents, put on a little ‘This is who I am. This is what I do.’ I really haven’t seen any return from that…What’s the best strategy to try to form those relationships?”
Solution: Forget the Agents
“I actually try to market to the public versus realtors,” says Casey Patten, who’s headed Root River Inspections in Minnesota for the past five years. “…I’m professional and polite, I’ll answer questions if they have them, but I’ve never gone out of my way to market myself directly to them.” Instead of tapping into real estate agents, Patten focuses on marketing to home buyers directly as well as to loan officers, mortgage lenders, contractors and anyone else involved in the home construction and buying biz. To do that, Patten makes his online outreach efforts a top priority.
“I hit my web site as much as I can,” he says. “‘…I hit social networking. I’ve got a Facebook page for my business. I’ve got a Google Plus page for my business. I’ve got LinkedIN and Twitter, all so I can try and stay as independent as I can.”
New home inspectors can also beef up their client list by joining networking groups like BNI and LeTip, becoming a housing expert for local publications and getting the word out in their local PTAs, civic groups and volunteer and religious organizations.
The Problem: Assessing the Add-Ons
Sure you can inspect homes, but clients may wonder what else you can do too. Amidst a sea of licenses and certifications, Aaron Frasher, owner of ACF Home Inspections, LLC in Huntington, West Virginia, wonders what additional services are worth offering. After all, training, certification and equipment required to provide ancillary services can cost thousands.
“There are different things that we want to be able to provide for our clients like mold inspections, air quality inspections, that sort of thing,” he says. “…A lot of home inspectors offer home warranty and recall checks and mold inspections. Each one of them costs money out of our pocket. I’m wondering if it’s worth going and getting those certifications. How often are they used and required?”
The Solution: Test the Market
Whether add-on services like mold inspections and radon testing will boost your business or sap your bank account depends wholly on the market in your area says Bill Dare, owner of Spotlight Home Inspection LLC in Harleysville, Pennsylvania.
“About 40 percent of the work I do is with stucco [inspection] because that’s a big thing here,” he says. “I imagine if I were in a place like Florida, mold and termites would be at the top of my list.”
Ancillary services are a crucial part of many home inspectors’ businesses. Dare says that inspectors frequently earn 30 to 35 percent of their revenue through add-ons like wood-destroying insect, mold, thermal imaging and radon tests. To find out which services work best in your area, Sergio Angione, president of SRA Home Inspections, a franchise of HouseMaster located in Towaco, New Jersey, recommends that new inspectors listen to their clients and check out their competition.
“Call [competing inspectors] up as if you were going to book the home and ask what services they could provide,” he says. “If you see that no one in your area is providing a radon screening, then there may be a reason for that. Maybe there’s no radon in the area…or maybe you could be the only company that provides that service.”
Until new inspectors have a solid grasp of which add-ons will pay off in their neck of the woods, Dare recommends finding contacts so newbies can subcontract work out. The tactic not only makes you look good to clients; it can also provide referrals when your subcontractor has a client who needs an inspection.