8 Home Inspection Company sales pitches and what to do about them...

By
Home Inspector with BONSAI Inspection Company

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.

Here goes:

•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'.

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments (8)

Joan Whitebook
BHG The Masiello Group - Nashua, NH
Consumer Focused Real Estate Services

It's even worse in NH where inspectors don't have to be licensed.  Most buyers don't know this.  It is a bit scary out there.

Apr 28, 2009 02:25 PM
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Mike,

This is a pretty good and fair assessment of some of the catch phraes and marketing tactics by home inspection companies. However you do contradict yourself a bit. You stated and I totally agree that:

"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."

But in the the first point you say;

•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'."

So what you're saying is that the higher priced inspector is just fleecing the client, that his "multitude of certifications and customer testimonials" are just marketing hype and don't have any bearing on the quality of the inspection he will perform. That his investment in said certifications and other additional skills, which his competitors don't posses, do not warrant his higher fee.

Like you said we are not commodities. People hire us for our knowledge and skills. Like other professionals those that have additional skills ask for and get, deservedly, higher fees.

I don't know about your area but a $325 inspection here is middle of the road to lower priced. A third of that, $110, that just does't exist. Who could survive charging that little?

Apr 29, 2009 12:29 AM
Dennis Goudreau
DRG INSPECTIONS LLC - Nashua, NH

Joan we are going to be licensed by fall,to what benefit I'm not sure

Apr 30, 2009 04:11 AM
Dana Bostick
True Professionals, Inc. - North Hollywood, CA

Just my opinion but having a State that has licensing provision does not assure a good inspector. I have watched the process for many years here in California (no license required here yet) and the major players are the RE industry heavy weights trying to water down the requirements or otherwise gut the regulations so that the inspection means nothing. They have in fact lowered the bar for licensing, unfortunately.  I have no problem with a license if it actually was meaningful, I would qualify in a heartbeat and would get one if required. I already have more certifications in more fields than I have room on my walls for.

The comment that inspectors include so many "disclaimers" in the report to CYA is somewhat true.  This is as a reaction to both Realtors and Buyers not taking any responsibility to actually read the reports and act on the suggestions from the Inspector. I cannot count the times I've had to settle and pay someone to "go away" when I was provably 100% accurate and right in the report but it was ignored and I was named in a claim anyway. now I have to decide if I want to pay many thousands of dollars to an attorney to "prove" I was right in court or just pay off a small nuisance claim and move on. As an Inspector, I truely do have a target on my back every time I set foot on a property to inspect it.

Apr 30, 2009 11:52 AM
Vince Santos
StepByStep Home Services LC - Canton, MI
Southeast Michigan Home Inspector

•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'."

 

Nothing against you but I don't agree with the above statement. To say, in a way, higher priced inspectors are riding on the back of perceived value is misleading. In some areas where there are no requirements some inspectors choose to set themselves apart by paying for continuing education, carrying e&o insurance, performing thorough inspections, and spending money on marketing directly to the public.

So if you take an inspector with no affiliation/s, no insurance, limited education and little marketing do you think they are really providing the same service?

The bottom line is not all inspectors are the same nor do we all offer a cookie cutter service. There are in fact those who perform inspections at a lower rate than their competition for whatever reason. We have all see their basic reports and can understand why they charge what they are worth.

Apr 30, 2009 12:39 PM
Dennis Goudreau
DRG INSPECTIONS LLC - Nashua, NH

Dana I agree 100% licensing solves nothing,and I'm afraid it will just open the door just tale the NHIE exam pay your $230.00 agree to 6 hr ceu and that is it

May 01, 2009 05:19 AM
Mike Ciavattieri
BONSAI Inspection Company - Weymouth, MA
Home Inspection Massachusetts

Some great replies and a lot of great thoughts - exactly what a good discussion should contain.

I'd like to address a few of them. First off, I want to retain intact the context - I am a Massachusetts Home Inspector, and some of these points may have a different meaning/interpretation to Inspectors and customers from other states. Here in MA, we are all required to be licensed and insured, plus we must meet a rigorous Standards of Practice.

In that regard, I want to address point #1 - the "pricing claim":

Here in Massachusetts, Article 8.02(2) of the Professional Competence and Conduct Section of our Standards of Practice states, "The Inspector shall charge a fee commensurate with the services provided". Section 6.03, the General Requirements, essentially states that all home inspections must meet the Standards, at a minimum. Therefore, with the vast majority of the Inspection companies in my area, including Tiger Home Inspections, charging roughly $350-$375 to provide a home inspection that meets or may exceed the Standards plus a pest inspection, I simply ponder the prospective buyer to ask just what exactly the $1,200 inspector is providing? (and there are those who do charge that!!)

In regards to the licensing dispute:

I have been through all the hoops in Massachusetts: I have been around long enough to remember before licensing, and I have watched it evolve into what it has become. I was only the 9th non-grandfathered inspector in this state to acquired a license. At the start, Massachusetts essentially adopted the ASHI Standards of Practice, including the same exam. So you could have loosely classified all of us non-gradfathered inspectors as the equivalent of ASHI-certified. Since then, our training requirements have been made much tougher (too tough, in my opinion) and our SOP (version 3), as well.

Through the years, I have watched several other states go through the licensing battles (I have been a subscriber to the ASHI Reporter, though not a member, since 2000). I have watched ASHI lighten their stance against licensing, and begin to move toward their current "ASHI Branding".

The bottom line is this: licensing provides consumer confidence, and it is a virtual certainty it will happen in every state, eventually. Yes, I know licensing fees and politics play a part, but back here in 1999 anyone could be an inspector, do as much or as little as they wanted, have no insurance, charge whatever they wanted, and be in cohoots with the local Realtor. Consumers have the right to know what they are getting (here in MA starting this past year, we are now required to provide full printed copies of the entire SOP with every inspection). In an unlicensed state, being associated with ASHI, NACHI, etc., at least gives the consumer confidence that some set of standards are in place. Here in MA, everyone has to meet those guidelines.

For those of you in unlicensed states or think licensing does nothing but damage, let me end this with a perspective from the other side: Licensing has helped protect me, the inspector, more than I could have imagined. Having a detailed and well-designed SOP has been a huge ally against claims. It  levels the playing field. The brains working on my Board of Directors are working for me and not against. When your state enlists a board of directors wouldn't you want input? Wouldn't you work for the greater good? We are now almost a decade into licensing and when I get together with other inspectors at continuing education seminars, none of them mention licensing as a bad thing. Some of the competing arguments against licensing may come from those who simply fear the enactment of something similar to our article 8.02(2).

My Opinion ~ MikeC

 

 

 

May 01, 2009 07:13 AM
Harold Miller
Miller Home Inspection - Camano Island, WA
Certified Professional Home Inspector

Mike

It is interesting to hear your experiences with HI licensing. Our state is going through the process of implementing licensing currently.

May 22, 2009 03:51 AM