AAAA Letter to an Agent

While there are many different ways to get clients as a home inspector, I think we can agree that most successful home inspectors get the majority of their clients through referrals from real estate agents. As we’ve discussed in an earlier post, the agents already know who needs an inspection and when they’re going to need it. As a result, many inspectors focus the majority of their marketing on real estate agents, trying everything in their power to get noticed. We use every trick in the book to get our name out there in the real estate stratosphere, hoping that someone will see and choose us out of the massive jumble that is our competition.

crowing about your home inspection business

Especially in today’s market, there are home inspectors coming out of the woodwork, and they’re all targeting real estate offices, using every marketing technique known to man. Overflowing bowls of candy with business cards taped all over the place. Marketing brochures stuffed in agents’ mail slots. Sponsored open houses with free food. Promotional giveaways; CE classes; Facebook marketing; Google AdWords; the list of marketing opportunities is endless, and we’re all there, spending our valuable marketing dollars in the hopes that someone, anyone, will notice us and take a chance on hiring us to represent their valuable home-buying customers.

Just give me a chance!

But, if we stop and think about it, do we really know how a real estate agent decides who’s going to be their home inspector? Have we ever sat down and though about the criteria that they might be using? Have we ever asked one of them why they chose the inspector that they use? Do we really know what it takes to get on their short list of trusted vendors?

For most of us, the answer is “no.” We really don’t have a clue as to why an agent chooses a certain home inspector over us.

In an attempt to help answer some of these questions, and to maybe help those undecided real estate agents figure out who they really should be referring to their home-buying clients, I’ve put together this quick guide to determining how to choose an inspector.

I hope it helps.

AAAA Letter

Being a professional real estate agent is hard. There’s lots of competition out there and finding legitimate clients (that aren’t going to waste your valuable time) can be difficult. Getting those clients from “just looking around” to an accepted contract often takes way more time than it should. But eventually you’re able to get them there; one step closer to the closing table.

Now comes the hard part: getting past the home inspection.

You’ve worked so hard to groom these buyers. You’ve showed them so many houses that you really thought you might have to build one yourself to make them happy! But, eventually, you were able to reach them. You were able to get into their mind. You opened their eyes to how this whole process works. You finally got them to realize that they’re not going to be able to buy their dreamhouse for the price of an outhouse. You’ve got an accepted contract, and you need to set up inspections to make sure that everyone (including you) is protected.

So, how do you decide on an inspector? Obviously, you’d like someone who knows what they’re doing, but there’s more to it than that. What are the traits that you should be looking for in an inspector? How do you choose someone who’s level of professionalism matches up with your own?

Obviously, there are many different traits that you should be looking for in an inspector, and there’s no one-size-fits-all, perfect inspector for every one of your clients. But overall, there are some overriding qualities that should be considered most important when choosing someone to represent your valuable clients. After all, the inspector you choose should mesh well with your values, and should work in partnership with you, helping to serve the best interests of your clients.

Availability, affability, ability, and advocacy are four of the most important attributes to look for when choosing a service provider. Checking off these “four A’s” will help determine whether someone provides everything we’re looking for in an inspector. While it’s nearly impossible to find someone that excels in every one of these categories, balancing the needs of your client with the talents of an inspector can go a long way towards making sure your mutual client is satisfied and secure in their new home purchase.

buying a new home with the help of a professional home inspector

An inspector who helps advocate for their client will have contacts in the industry and will be comfortable making recommendations when necessary. Obviously, professional agents will often have their own list of trusted contractors to call on when an inspection reveals a deficiency in a client’s new house. But inspectors often discover unusual problems that call for unique solutions, and it’s good to have a well-connected inspector to lean on (when necessary) to deal with these issues. Whether it’s knowing how to best fix a problem or knowing who to call when a professional is needed, having an inspector who cares about their client’s happiness and well-being is an invaluable resource that can’t be overlooked.

Obviously, ability tops the list of important traits in an inspector. They can be the most affable person in the world, making everyone laugh and feel incredibly comfortable with their purchase, but if they fail to point out significant deficiencies with your clients’ new home, all that laughter is quickly forgotten when the attorneys become involved.

Ask questions of your inspector. Find out about their experience; look at some of their previous inspection report; see what jobs they’ve done in the past that may show that they know what they’re talking about when it comes to inspecting houses.

Most importantly, find out how much time they spend educating themselves about the inspection industry. Things in the construction field are constantly changing. Every day there are new methods, new techniques, and new materials. Codes are constantly being updated and every week there are new recalls and lawsuits affecting the items in your clients’ home. Ideally, you’d want to partner with an inspector who’s well-versed in their industry; someone who’s doing more than the bare minimum amount of continuing education required by their state or inspection organization. Being available, helpful, and friendly are important, and it’s great if you can find an inspector who’s got all those traits, but in my book, knowing what the hell you’re doing trumps all.

Being able to communicate effectively with your inspector is also important. An affable inspector is one who’s got a great bedside manner and is able to talk to you and your clients in a non-threatening way. It’s great when an inspector knows what they’re doing, but you don’t want them to spend the entire inspection talking down to you and your client. If they’re trying to make you feel like an idiot for not having their level of expertise when it comes to houses, are you really getting any value from that experience?

Obviously, your inspector should know more about houses than you do, that’s what you’re paying them for! But they should also be able to relay that information effectively, without making your clients feel like a child being scolded by their teacher for not studying for their exam. If your clients leave the inspection feeling like their inspector was rude and obnoxious, things will only get worse once something goes wrong with their house. (And something will always go wrong with their house…)

Availability is important in an inspector, as you obviously need someone who will be able to do an inspection when you need them. It doesn’t do much good to find a quality inspector who’s so booked up that you can never get him when you need him!

trying to get on the schedule of a busy home inspector

This trait is quite likely the trickiest of the “four A’s” to check off in an inspector. If someone has the ability, advocates for their clients, and communicates effectively (is affable), it’s inevitable that they’re going to be a hot commodity. Like trying to get an appointment with a really good doctor, it’s to be expected that they’re going to have a full schedule. After all, good news travels fast, and a high-quality home inspector is going to be in demand. You’re not the only agent who likes working with good vendors!

So, what’s a professional inspector to do in order to improve his level of availability? How does someone make sure that they have room on their schedule to serve the premium agents and their clients? Most top-quality inspectors accomplish this by raising their prices. Charging more (for a higher quality service) is the easiest way for someone to dictate the quality of their clientele.

High-quality inspectors would (obviously) prefer to work with high-quality real estate agents (and their clients). The best way to achieve this is to price their services accordingly. Most intelligent people are willing to pay more money for a higher quality product. We make this choice every day in the cars we drive, the clothes we wear, the phones we use and the food we eat. People pay more for things they perceive to be of higher quality.

There are plenty of inspectors available that charge the bare minimum for their services. And, like the old adage says, you get what you pay for. Higher quality inspectors charge more for their services because they can. So, don’t give them grief because their prices are more than the other inspectors. If they weren’t charging a higher fee, they’d be over-booked and would never be able to fit you in their schedule.

We pay a premium every day for quality and convenience in every area of our lives. Why should we expect anything different when it comes to hiring a home inspector? Remember, your clients get what they pay for.

Knowing what an agent is looking for in a professional home inspector can go along way in helping your business. Figure out what group of agents you want to work with and work hard to find out what traits your target market values in an inspector. Then, do everything in your power to fill the bill.

It’s business 101: find out exactly what it is your clients are looking for and them give it to them! It doesn’t get any easier (to figure out) than that.

I welcome all feedback (both positive and negative) on this post.
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Thanks, Joe

pic of me, Joseph Cook Jr, home inspector