Spring is here (at last) in Massachusetts, and it's getting to be that time again when jobs are abundant and competition is on the rise. Like many in the Real Estate profession, Home Inspectors can be subject to being perceived as commodities - that somehow we are all alike, separated only by cost.
As competition rises, so does the volume of time-tested sales pitches, claims, shenanigans, and exaggerations. While intended to be harmless, some of these tactics can downright deceitful. We've all ‘been had' at some point in time in our lives.
Some of you may question why a Home Inspector would write such an article about Home Inspection sales tactics. Here's why: After answering thousands of calls, presenting a dozen or so homebuyer seminars, and conversing with a multitude of clients and Realtors, it is clear to me that too many potential homebuyers don't know the difference between one Inspection firm and the rest. I educate buyers about homes, so why not also educate them about Inspectors? As an ‘honest Abe', I guess I feel like it's my obligation.
So the moral of the story is this: Be a skeptic. Make multiple calls. ASK questions. DON'T fall for the easy pitch. If you hear or read one of these famous one-liners, assume the alternate meaning might be true. Armed with this new perspective, you may find yourself seeing things in a whole new light and finding the inspector that is truly right for you.
•1. "Lower priced Inspectors are just desperate for business..."
What it can mean: "...Hey, this is America - and I know that you think that bigger and more expensive is ALWAYS better! The $1,200 TV at Wal-Mart looks way better than the $325 TV, so that must go for home inspections too, right? Hopefully, my well-practiced telephone sales pitch, flashy web page, 100 years of construction experience, and multitude of certifications and customer testimonials will convince you that don't want one of those ‘puny' $325 inspections! Because if I can't, and you hang up and call around, you'll find out that most inspectors can do the same thing for 1/3 the price. But that's okay... because ‘you'll be sorry'."
•2. "I'll save you $50,000 in repairs..."
What it can mean: "...But, you're not going to buy this house (in fact, if you're the scared and nervous type you may never buy a house)! Because I will point out every single defect and describe it in a worst-case scenario, you will likely become so frightful you will likely back out. This is good for me too because it eliminates my liability. You also probably don't realize that the odds of getting 50, or even 10 thousand dollars off of asking price really are about as great as hitting the lottery. But by the time you do, I'll have gotten 2-3 inspection fees out of you." (see #4)
•3. "Mention this ad/site and receive a $10 discount/free pest inspection..."
What it usually means: "...Mention this ad/site and I will raise my price $10 before discounting you $10, and then I'll give you a "free" pest inspection (that I was going to do anyhow) because I definitely don't want any claims for missing insect damage!"
•4. "I don't solicit/accept recommendations from Realtors..."
What it can mean: "... no Realtors will recommend me because I frequently scare customers out of transactions! I might really dislike Realtors (including yours) because of this. Even though not soliciting/accepting recommendations creates an illusion of ‘me good' vs. ‘them evil', you might not remember there are good and bad eggs in all professions. It's also good that you don't know that Buyer Agents in Massachusetts can and do recommend Inspectors, because if you did, I'd look like a either a hypocrite or a fool..."
•5. "My report is better because it's (insert number typically greater than 30) pages..."
What it can mean: "...the report will likely be filled with a lot of boiler plate (typically paragraphs of cut-and-paste information from a reporting software with some field enterable data); repetitive and over-worded statements (for instance, instead o f "I do not move furniture", using, "I didn't move the dresser in the front bedroom, I didn't move the sofa in the living room, etc."; lines of disclaimers (designed primarily to protect me); a copy of my state home inspection standards (which is required, but makes about 13 great pages of filler); about 100 questions "you should ask the Seller" (protecting my liability); and 10 contractors you should consult (also protecting my liability). Since you've never seen any other reports, you probably won't ever know the difference."
•6. "I have conducted over 5,000 inspections over the past 6 years...."
What it can mean: "...I was really only paid to do 750 inspections over the past 5 years, but I am counting every house I have ever looked at, because bigger numbers look way better than my competition. I may, however, be unable to figure out that would require performing more than 2 inspections per day, every day, 365 days per year, for 6 years straight, and the subsequent diminished quality that might seem to entail. Hopefully, you don't figure this out either."
•7. "I guarantee you my best effort, I promise you this..."
What it usually means: "...I got this great sounding tag line from (insert affiliation) and I really need to put something catchy on my web page/ad that shows you just how serious, how much better, and how different I am then my competition. I don't think you will find it cheesy, and I certainly do not think you will do a web search on it and find 100 other Inspectors (also from said affiliation) using the exact same line, because if you did I would look just like everyone else."
•8. "I've been a builder/contractor for the past (insert some multiple of 10) years..."
What it means: Being a good carpenter, plumber, finish contractor, etc. really has very little bearing whatsoever on being a good home inspector. You may logically assume that if someone has been hammering nails for 20 years, they must know a lot about houses (hopefully). You might not however, assume that doing finish cabinetry doesn't teach someone much about say, electrical systems or identifying foundation failures. What you do need to know is that being a great home inspector requires an enormously diverse skill set that is not taught in trade school, or ‘at the job site'.