The ASHI Reporter thanks the home inspectors who contributed to this article by sharing strategies that helped their businesses grow and thrive. They answered the following questions:
- What successful business or marketing strategies do you apply to your home inspection business? Why do you think they work?
- What resources do you routinely use or seek out to keep your business successful?
April is Home Inspection Month—what questions would you like to answer or read responses from your home inspection colleagues? Please send your ideas to email@example.com
Doug Gialluca Smart Move Home Inspection LLC, Canton, OH
The greatest business strategy I have found is that a happy client equals a multitude of referrals later on. Customer service continues long after a long way after you are paid and until your clients are satisfied with everything they have learned.
Roger S. Herdt Herdt Home Inspections, Florence, SC
One flawed approach to business relationships that I have seen through 30+ years of association with other home inspectors is the adversarial approach to real estate agents. I have taken the other approach and, without compromising standards, have chosen to work with real estate agents. I have found that if you are willing to advise an agent on concerns beyond just writing the report, they remember free consultations and recommendations. Consequently, I depend on word of mouth from previous clients and real estate agents (they include me in the three names they provide to clients under South Carolina standards), and I haven’t spent a dime on advertising in 10 years beyond the cost of my website.
There are some agents who think my reports are too tough. Some say my phone number is “1 800 DED DEA,” and they recommend other inspectors…and that is okay with me. My calendar stays full.
Kyle S Hotchkiss True North Home Inspection, Biwabik, MN
My #1 business tip for home inspectors is communication. As we know, a majority of our future clients are call-shopping. It is important to establish an open line of communication rather quickly before the customer finds some other company to inspect their future home. As busy as you may be, answer the phone or return the call within minutes or the job could be lost. From then on, let your customer know that you are easy to get a hold of and that you will promptly return their calls or emails. This is huge!
Another reason communication is so important is that it helps to establish from the onset that you are approachable, accountable and trustworthy. Our customers have many, many things happening within the real estate transaction, let alone the trappings of life. When we communicate with our clients and let them know that we have the inspection process handled for them, and that we are accessible and responsive, this will instill client confidence. We essentially take that portion of the whole process off their list.
Make sure that the communication continues right on through the physical inspection, as well as once the report has been issued. I even send a follow-up message to check in with my client a couple days after they have opened their inspection report. Here, I ask the client what we can do to improve our service and ask them to give us a review (good or bad) on Google or Yelp if they are so inclined.
I believe the same holds true when working with real estate agents—communication is important. I always send a 24-hour inspection confirmation to the client, their agent as well as the listing agent, just so everybody knows “what’s happening tomorrow.” The added benefit of using email to communicate is that disputes can be avoided with a good paper trail.
Reese Perkins Perkins Home Services, LLC, Bangor, ME
I think, far too often, home inspectors and other business professionals focus on marketing while not focusing on doing the job right. It is surprising to me when I see a fellow inspector who is always on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn attending real estate agent functions and more, but does a poor job out in the field. All the marketing in the world will not make up for a job done poorly. Do a good job first and then, surprisingly, there is little marketing needed because then your reputation for good work should, on its own, bring clients to you.
Second, the biggest detractor to our reputation is a client who misunderstands what we do and so complains about us afterward. Make sure to set expectations up front as to what we can do for a client and what we are not able to do. Then, if those complaints come, remind the client of what the expectations are, and you will almost always defuse the situation and reduce or eliminate the complaints.
Todd Thuss Integra Inspection Services, LLC, Madison,AL
When I first entered the business, I followed the standard practice of going out of my way to meet and talk to agents, with a concentration and focus on them, their business and so on. I also would hand out inexpensive gifts, mail thank-you cards and sponsor various real estate events. I found that none of these things really worked.
Part of this is that my personality type doesn’t really click with the typical extroverted agent. Some of the presentations and sponsorships led to a few new referrals, but I discovered quickly that the high-producing and experienced agents weren’t present at these events and were instead out in the field busting it. I also learned quickly that agents are experienced salespeople and can smell a sales pitch (“refer me!”) a mile away.
My sole business strategy now is a focus on doing excellent work and letting my report speak for itself. I attempt to be cordial and friendly, but I don’t go out of my way to talk to agents unless I am spoken to. No more handing out food out or pretending to be interested in the agent’s kid’s sports. I simply exceed expectations and attempt to never trouble an agent with questions, tasks or problems whenever possible.
In other words, I simply attempt to be as easy and professional to work with as possible. This tactic has yielded far more new agent referrals than anything I’ve done in the past. Excellent work speaks for itself and word gets around.
A strong focus on professionalism helps. I answer agents’ texts immediately, am always on time (or a little early), and also responsive to questions and inquiries.
One last tip would be developing empathy. When dealing with clients (and agents), it helps to place yourself in their position and attempt to understand what they need and how they are feeling at any given moment. I’ve found that such an empathetic approach has transformed my narrative comments as well as my personal interactions.
Mary Anne Tonini Home Inspection of Kentuckiana, New Albany, IN
I don’t have a great marketing plan and I don’t have any tricks, but I can tell you that my business has strived on integrity.
Integrity is just something that has disappeared from the market for many professions. Fake reviews, false claims of experience, and marketing companies you pay to plaster your company name across the internet have taken the energy from companies. I see people raise their effects of customer service, but I personally see those efforts added so that there is someone in place to deal with “upset customers,” for the complaints or ways to draw in more business.
How about just plain old integrity, defined as aligning your conduct with what you know to be excellent. A person of integrity displays a principled dedication to values and beliefs, and seeks to reflect ethical standards and do the right thing regardless of the circumstances.
Most of the ASHI inspectors I know are teachers at heart. They are there to service their clients and help them understand what they are buying. They help them put into perspective the risk, expected expenses and the maintenance that will be needed. These ASHI inspectors also have been in the business for a long time and are confident enough to create reports that give clear direction rather than just directing the purchaser to bring in another professional to evaluate.
I believe the foundation of my success has been the integrity with which I run my business and the care I take with each client. I stand behind what I say and I say what I mean. I care what the client thinks and engage in conversation, as I complete the inspection, to gauge how much they are understanding. Remembering what it feels like to be “new” at owning a house and remembering what owning your first house meant to you are also very helpful things.