Increasing the number of customers and clients involves the following strategies:
• finding new customers and clients
• getting more people to refer clients to you
• increasing the retention rate of your referral base
• improving your sales techniques (increasing your conversion rate)
• diversification (thinking outside of the box for new inspection opportunities)
• other strategies
For this brief discussion, we’ll focus on diversification.
Diversification falls under the general category of getting more customers. What’s an avenue in this category that’s a natural for home inspectors to explore? Brand-new homes.
Inspecting new homes falls into the following three categories:
• construction management and progress monitoring
• inspecting a new home before the buyer takes possession
• inspecting a new home before the builder’s warranty expires
All three of these categories of new home inspection require some knowledge and skills beyond the scope of what’s needed for a standard home inspection. Inspecting a new home is very different from inspecting a home that is being resold. The main difference is that inspectors use a performance-based inspection strategy for homes being resold, and they must primarily use applicable codes to inspect new homes.
A performance-based inspection means you are looking for evidence of nonperformance. In other words, you are looking for things that don’t work. You should have some knowledge of both codes and construction; this background may help you predict nonperformance down the road or point out issues of safety concern, such as a reverse polarity outlet.
A new home does not have any history. You cannot evaluate its performance. All you have to go on are the written codes (to which you’ll refer) and your understanding of construction errors that could lead to nonperformance.
Because of this basic distinction from the inspection of older homes, completing an inspection and a report for a new home can be very different from what you are used to doing. For example, in an inspection of a brand-new home, you are not likely to run across a worn-out roof surface, but you are likely to see a roof or a wall flashing that was not done properly. You must “know your codes”
so that you can cite appropriate references for your findings.
Remember, you will be up against the builder!
We have found that inspecting a home before the warranty expires is one of the most interesting opportunities, from both a profitability and a “good fit” standpoint.
Here are six reasons why it can be a winner for your business:
1. There is some history to the home. It will have been through all the seasons and the homeowner will have operated all the fixtures. You can use some of your performance-based inspection savvy here; however, you still must be proficient in the codes.
2. The inspection can follow a quick, checklist-type format.
3. Because your client already owns the home, he or she will not be using your inspection report to make a buying decision.
4. No real estate agents are involved.
5. You can seek out this business opportunity rather than wait for a referral. In fact, you can aggressively pursue this line of business in the slow periods of the year and you can ignore it during your busy seasons. It’s kind of like a faucet that you can turn on and off.
6. The inspection is not urgently time-sensitive. It can be done at any time over a period of several weeks.
(Note: Reasons 2 through 5 apply to all three types of new-home inspections.)
At Carson Dunlop, we solicit this type of business in two ways:
• We supply a geographic area to a list broker and the list broker sends us (on a monthly basis) a mailing list of people who live in homes that are 10 months old.
• We mail a flyer, which lists compelling reasons to have us inspect the home before the warranty expires, to each home-owner on the list.
We’ve found this strategy to be successful—it’s a natural extension of what we already do. Offering commercial inspections is another opportunity for diversification. Again, these types of inspections require the use of different skill sets and reporting systems than traditional home inspections.
We hope this discussion of diversification has given you food for thought and broadened your viewpoint. The key is to think outside of the confines of the standard home inspection. These suggestions point to just one broad example among many methods.