Building Your Home Inspection Business

   Let's assume that your Home Inspection business is up and running now. You've been licensed to do business in your state, chosen a name for your business, filed it in the state where you will be conducting Home Inspections, joined a professional home inspection organization, and you're anxious to get started. So what's the next step?

   The next step is building your Home Inspection business and making it a profitable, self-sustaining venture. If you're thinking that it's going to be an easy road, then stop reading. It's going to require some sacrifices and some ugly hours to make this thing work, but if you're serious about running your own business and steering your own ship, then read on. You'll find that I'm not one to "sugar-coat" the truth...I'll give you the straight scoop on what it will take to be successful in the field of Home Inspection.

   Of course, like any other business, money will not fall into your lap the minute that you "hang out your shingle". Every business venture takes hard work and unwavering commitment, or the business will wither and die.

Building Your Home Inspection Business: Weekend Inspections

   A Home Inspection business is certainly not a 9 to 5 job; you'll find that you need to have a lot of flexibility in your schedule in order to accommodate the needs of your Home Inspection clients. People today are busier than ever before...juggling jobs, child care, hobbies, family time and a thousand other commitments, so don't be surprised if they request a home inspection on the weekend. Many of them have no other option, so if you want their business, you'll make yourself available to perform their inspection at their convenience. In most cases, a home buyer will only have a very small time window to get a home inspection....usually 10 days from the time that they sign a purchase offer. If their only availability is on the weekend, you may only get one chance to secure that home buyer's business. And if you're smart, you'll seize the opportunity.

   Performing home inspections on the weekend is a double-plus for your business: in most cases, there will be a real estate agent who is handling the home sale. You show up on a saturday morning and perform a great, thorough inspection for the home buyer. That real estate agent is going to remember you, and drop your name to the next prospective home buyer who needs a weekend home inspection because of a tight schedule. And of course, the other plus is that you've secured another home inspection and more income for your fledgling business.

   Did I mention that the Home Inspection business will require sacrifices? Your weekends might be one of those sacrifices, but it's worth it to be able to control your own future rather than to be at the mercy of a corporation.

Building Your Home Inspection Business: Dealing With Real Estate Agents

    As you become more accustomed to how the real estate world works, you'll realize that your relationship with real estate agents is a double-edged sword. To put it simply, your relationship with real estate agents (or lack of a relationship) can make you or break you as a home inspector.

   Agent referrals are a huge source of business for a home inspector. If I had to guess, I would say that 75% of my inspections were directly attributable to real estate agents. Sounds wonderful, right? You cozy up to a real estate agent, and that agent gives your name to their buyers to contact you about a home inspection.

   Not so fast. This is where home inspector ethics comes into play. A home inspector needs to remember who they work for...the person who "butters their bread". You are working for the home buyer, while the real estate agent works for the home seller, unless the agent has been contracted as a buyer's agent. In the course of your home inspection career, you will most likely come into conflict with a real estate agent. Think about it; the agent only gets paid if the home is sold. If you find a problem with the home during the course of your home inspection, it may kill the home sale, and that agent will (most likely) not be happy with you.

   It's important to remain objective during your home inspections. Your job is to report the condition and functionality of the home at the time of the inspection. Period. Your job does not include overlooking or failing to report a defect in the home in order to secure future business or referrals from that particular real estate agent. A good, experienced real estate agent will understand the love/hate relationship between the agent and the home inspector, and they will not expect you to alter your evaluation of the home to stay in their good graces. In the event that you find a big problem with the home (or a major defect), it reinforces the perception with the buyer that you truly are working on their behalf and looking out for their best if the home sale falls through because of a problem that you've found, you may very well get an inspection from that client for the next home that they are thinking of buying.  

   Most of the problems that I have encountered with real estate agents has been with new, inexperienced agents who are looking to sell their first few homes. After they've been in the business for awhile, they begin to understand that your inspection is a good buffer between themselves and a very unhappy, unsatisfied buyer. Think of it this way: if you bought a home without getting a home inspection and found that there were numerous problems with the home (after buying it), would you be happy with your real estate agent? Hell no. You'd feel suckered. Your home inspection, and what you find during the inspection, offers that real estate agent the opportunity to distance themselves from any defects or issues that you find with the home and avoid any bad feelings that the buyer may have toward the agent after the sale.

   To sum it up - be prepared to be the bad guy.

Building Your Home Inspection Business: Client Relationships

   As a home inspector, you'll find that your most important business relationship will be with your home inspection clients. There is no better way to build your home inspection business than to perform a thorough inspection for those who contract your services. If you do your job correctly, word-of-mouth will serve you well.

   I've found that many home buyers are not familiar with the very nature of a home inspection, or what a home inspection really is. You must remember that in some cases you will be dealing with first-time home buyers who have no idea what to expect. Some have even asked me after my inspection "So what do you think? Would you buy this house?". Or "Do you think this place is worth $175,000?"

   Your job as a home inspector is to inspect, and report upon the condition of the home. You are not a real estate appraiser; therefor you are not qualified to give advice regarding the value of a home. Nor are you buying the home, so your opinion about "whether YOU would buy the home" is not pertinent. In some cases, you will need to explain your role in the home-buying process to your home inspection clients so that they understand that you are there to report on the home, not to give your opinion on it's value.

   Before you perform an inspection, it might be wise to sit down with your client and ask a few questions. Ask if they've ever had a home inspection before and if they understand what you'll be doing during your home inspection. You may also need to explain in  what circumstances they would be allowed to back out of buying the home (without sacrificing the money that the real estate agent collects when they make an offer). In most cases, a single defect in the home that would exceed $1500 to repair will give the buyer the option of retracting their purchase offer, unless the home seller offers to repair the defect. Some buyers, however, have the idea that if the total repair cost of many small defects adds up to more than $1500, then they can back out of a sale without penalty. You may need to explain the difference to them so that they have a good understanding of how the process works.