right thing, no matter the cost
Inspector BJ by BJ Kirby (a continuing series)
NACHI Women by Judy Kirby
Communication and Home Inspectors by Bruce Kirby
You say you are watching your inspection business grow; however, not as fast as you would like. Could your business use a little boost? The purpose of this article is to give the Women of NACHI (National Association of Certified Home Inspectors) a few ideas or suggestions on how they can contribute to the success of their Home Inspection business. Of course, the “NACHI WOMEN” include, but is not limited to; Certified Inspectors, wives of C.H.I.'s, office managers, secretaries, etc., and does not necessarily exclude men. Some of these tips may apply to them as well. In general I have geared this to wives. Read on.
It has been said, “Behind every successful man, there is a strong, supportive, encouraging, loving, helpful woman, with a pointed toe shoe.” Some call this a “helpmate”.
Each of us is born with unique qualities, talents, abilities and personality traits. The first step is to define your strengths and utilize them. For example; in the husband-wife business, one of you is bound to be better at taking the phone calls and “closing the sale”. That person should be the phone person whenever possible. If you are equal in this area – lucky you! One of you may be better at the meticulous paper work/reports/accounting/filing, etc., that person should do those tasks, and so on. If you are equally talented in all areas, divide the work load. If you are both, do-everything-yourself type people, do not take on more than you can handle and take turns instead of getting burned out. Ladies, do whatever it takes. Make the sacrifices today and play tomorrow.
Often small sacrifices are needed and the gains (not always visible right away – delayed gratification), are rewarding. Adjusting the budget may fall into this area for some of us. Not always buying on a whim and being willing to put profits back into the company are important. Domestic duties is another delicate subject for some. I find it works best to schedule in your domestic chores, but remain flexible. Sometimes the dirty dished will just have to wait. (If you are a cleaning and organizing fanatic, like I am, this can be tough!) If you can convince your husband to share in those duties they get accomplished faster leaving more free time for both of you.
Here is a short list of tips or suggestions I think will be helpful;
Take an Active Part - This may not be possible for everyone. Many of us have a career that will not afford the time for more responsibilities. However; if you want to be involved, read on.
Make a commitment to be a team. Do your part to pick up the slack. Voice an opinion. (That does not include nagging.) Make coffee on those late nights when two or more reports are in the process and computers and software will not cooperate. If it is feasible, go on the Home Inspection together.
Get Educated – Read, study and learn all you can about homes, home inspections, marketing, NACHI, etc. The benefits of education are explosive and can be fun, too. Adding to your knowledge base raises your self esteem and self confidence with clients and Realtors, whether in person and on the phone. You will find you can take part in discussions pertaining to inspections in general and in your H.I. Business. You do not have to be an expert! When you do not know something make a note to research it. A side benefit to all of this is the strengthened relationship you will find with your spouse.
Join NACHI – This step may seem like a bit too much for some women, but if it is doable, get certified and join NACHI; It is not a difficult process and can be an asset to your company. For example; market your company with two Certified Home Inspectors.
Marketing – There are many excellent classes, seminars and books on marketing your business. Try to sign up, attend and read as many as can. Then use what works for you. My focus for this article is on marketing your spouse, (or C.H.I.), as well as your company, on an everyday basis. You are “selling” your C.H.I. with all communications whether by phone, email, message board, letter, fax, or in-person conversations. When in-person, shake hands firmly with everyone you meet and make sure your business card gets into their hand. Use that confident professionalism you have been educating yourself with. Try this method proudly at church socials, P.T.A.'s, grocery store, health club, etc. No one will turn down your card and many may even feel flattered that you thought them worthy of receiving one.
Professionalism - Always exude professionalism in your communications. The two areas covered here are the phone and the message board.
Your recorded message should sound like a business. Preferably a big business. An example of a poor recorded message... “residence of the Joe Schmo family, which includes Lisa, and Billy, and little Katie, too.” An even worse recording is one by your, adorable as they are, small children. Get the picture. Scenario; The client calling this professional Home Inspector is looking at a 1.5 million dollar home and what he hears in those recordings might be; chewing gum, wet diapers, fingerprints, and so on.
Yes it is true that clients prefer a live voice and you should answer your phone whenever possible. Never, never allow small children to answer your business phone.
When you are in the field forward you calls to your cellular phone. (Remember, cell phones need the same professional recorded message). Don't forget to check those messages and return all calls as soon as possible. If you are at a Home Inspection you can excuse yourself to take the call. It is a common practice and most clients are not bothered by this. If you get their “permission” to answer your phone before you start your inspection, (they always say yes), they feel they are a part of the process. Your C.H.I. will not be interrupted and your new client will get a live voice.
Lastly, before you answer your phone – smile. “ABC Inspections, this is Aimee, how may I help you?” is one of many styles of greetings to use. However you answer your calls, be positive, and under no circumstances be rude to potential clients or Realtors. Never speak negative about competitors, be the expert on your company not theirs. One badly handled conversation can be really difficult to rectify later.
The message board is a new source of communication for many of you. It is not complicated to use once you get the hang of it; however there are protocols and certain etiquettes to follow. The main ones that should concern a professional business person are;
a) Always write professionally on a public message board. This is part of your virtual store front. We send our clients to the message board to check out NACHI. When clients comment that it appears to be a place where a bunch of whining and complaining inspectors, combined with unprofessional language and images, get together to play, (having nothing better to do) it is embarrassing to have to make excuses - “it must be a new guy..”. And hopefully, it is not a veteran with 3000 posts.
b) Never break thread on purpose. There is a reason for this request. Professionals do not have the time to sift through the garbage to follow a thread. They are often looking for an answer. Be polite, take a moment to start a new thread. If you don't know how to do this someone will be glad to guide you through it. If you enjoy distractions and have a short attention span, play somewhere else.
Positive Attitude - Negativity is a contagious enemy to your business. Once it starts it is hard to stop. A positive attitude goes a long ways to getting you through the tough places. Think positive - be positive. You will schedule more inspections and build relationships.
Edify – You already know how to edify your husband, boss, C.H.I., etc. Don't forget to Edify NACHI! Use NACHI to grow your business. That is one of it's purposes. Serve NACHI where you can. Get on the message board. Give and take – do not babble. Use the message board – don't confuse it! Join your local chapter. Start one if there is none. Contribute.
Patience - If you are not. Work on it. Don't be a nag.
Investing versus Spending – Money invested wisely will pay for itself. For example; software, books, tools, conventions, etc. These are necessary items and are often tax write-offs. (Check with your accountant.) Investing money is necessary to grow your company and your C.H.I., not to mention your income. Money spent is money gone. If not invested wisely, it is spent, not recoupable, and may eventually break you. If you can work from your home don't spend money on the overhead of an office space, which if you are doing inspections you won't be in anyway. Think before you invest.
Records - Treat you H.I. business as any other business – keep good records. Purchase accounting software or hire a CPA or both. Save and label all receipts.
Advice – If you ask for advice and receive it, from a successful person who has tried many methods and ideas, avoid saying “ya' but, that won't work in the real world...” If you haven't tried it, do not say it won't work. You only sound foolish. Always consider the source of your advice and weigh things out. Remember, one of the great things about advice is, you do not have to take it. The final choice is always yours.
Communicate – Communication is vital. Communicate with your spouse, employee, client, Realtor and fellow NACHI members. Do not be known as the one that “never answers emails” or “drops the ball”. Always follow up on any issue you are involved with.
Proper Dress – This area is a personal pet peeve of mine. Dressing professional when conducting business is not a new concept. There have been hundreds of books and seminars directed towards this subject. It makes a difference. By dressing professionally you will be taken seriously, you will be remembered, and treated as a business professional. This does not mean you must wear a suit at all times; generally a shirt with company logo is fine. A company or NACHI photo I.D. tag looks real professional. Baseball caps are widely accepted across the country, but is is my opinion that they are tacky and unprofessional. Don't let you C.H.I's or your husband wear one to work or to meetings if you can persuade them without too much strife. Bottom line – dress right. You will feel different, act different and will be seen as a professional.
Finally, ladies, some practical solutions to consider;
The Home Inspection Industry is a seasonal business in most areas of the country. That means you need to plan for the lean times. Plan ahead. When the income is high put away money and food (non perishable supplies) for the slow times. Buy your office supplies wholesale when possible. Work out a system for budgeting that works for you. There are many methods. Check with your accountant.
Here is a example of what it might look like;
Home Inspection Income – Total from each inspection * Tithe 10% * Savings 10% * Self 10% * Rainy Day 10% * Back into the business 60%
These are all merely ideas and suggestions to aid you in your business success. They are not meant as a guarantee.
© 2005 BJ Kirby
Communication and Home Inspectors by Bruce Kirby
Good communication is both a necessity and a responsibility. Accurate and rapid communication is more readily available than ever before in history. We have computers, email, instant messenger, phones, cell phones, satellite phones, 2-way radio, television, the list goes on. These are all methods or channels of communication.
I believe the only way to be successful in the Home Inspection industry is to be a good communicator. That is a two-fold process.
First of all, you must use the methods at your disposal to physically get your message to others. I know a handful of individuals good in this area. Lorne Steiner and Nick Gromicko, being two of them. We use email to communicate quickly back and forth. Another useful tool is one of the instant messenger programs available. They are quick and easy to use. Do not forget about the phone. People appreciate hearing a real voice on occasion.
Have you ever sent an email and received no response? Real annoying, is it not? I realize there is a lot of spam out there and we all use a lot of filters to stop spam from reaching our inbox, but this also stops legitimate messages from coming through. I have encountered clients, realtors, friends, and business associates - I had to phone and tell them to shut off their filters. Seems like a waste. I keep my filters at a minimum so I do not miss the important emails. People prefer to get some type of response (even if it is automated). This is the same reason why voice mail has become so popular.
If you expect your business to grow you need to be in communication with your customers. Years ago, before we started our company, we called every inspector we could find. Only one answered their phone. Out of all the messages we left with the others, (those that had voice mail or children answering their phone), only one responded. I knew then, we could be successful. When we are not at the office, we transfer our calls to our cell phone. Our message lets people know it is a cellular phone and we may be in a dead zone, (of which there are many in our area), and we immediately return calls when service is re-established.
The second aspect of good communication is getting the message across. This gets problematic. We all have different life experiences and do not see things the same. Each of us perceive things differently based on our past experiences. As an example, to some, a one mile run is unimaginably long. I have completed a fifty mile run and many marathons. I can not fathom the shortness of a one mile run.
To communicate effectively you need to care about what you are saying and take the time to think about what meaning is being conveyed. Children are especially poor at this, often blurting out the first thought that rambles across their mind. The old cliché “think before you speak” is sound advice for all of us.
Many problems (often lawsuits) arise from difference in viewpoint between the Home Inspector, Realtor and their clients. Every client is different and we need to communicate in a way they can understand. Let me give you an example of this. My company inspected a cabin one time, which was being purchased for rental purposes. The present owner was a contractor. Almost all of the outlets had open-grounds, some had reversed polarity and none of the GFI's worked. The buyer was extremely concerned since it was to be a rental and these are safety issues. The current owner was present during the inspection and shocked to find this out, but knew he could fix the situation. A few hours after the inspection, the owner had everything electrical fixed. Everyone was happy and THE DEAL WAS SEALED!
© 2005 by BJ Kirby
It is okay to buy a lemon as long as you know it is a lemon (you can always make lemonade). It is not okay to buy a lemon if you believe the house is perfect. I decided to get into the inspection industry to help people in finding the kind of house they would like. Some want mansions - some want fixer-uppers. Whatever kind of house you desire is what you should get and it is vitally important to know what you are getting. For most people, a home is the biggest purchase they will ever make.
We all know that no house is perfect, but like with any major purchase our emotions tend get the best of us and we become enamored with a home. Often it is love at first sight.
The average buyer is mainly looking at the cosmetic and convenience issues of the home. Style, view, closeness to work, schools, shopping or whatever interests them. Our job, as Home Inspectors is to be an objective observer.
In days gone by - you brought your dad, uncle, big brother, or someone else, who’s knowledge, experience, and opinion you trusted along with you to look at the home. Everyone was a handyman of sorts and construction was a whole lot less complicated. In this day and age you can not possibly learn and be aware of all the systems and components that go into a safe and comfortable home. Today you put your trust in a Home Inspector to be that objective and knowledgeable person. The professional Home Inspector spends countless hours studying and keeping abreast of past, present, and future methods of construction and home maintenance. It is a full time job.
I have read about many inspectors, some people considered to be too picky. I wrestled with how aggressive to be when inspecting a house and how much to report. I decided, if it were my future home, I would want everything possible checked and would want to know every little detail. I would then be able to judge the importance of each item for myself.
We as Home Inspectors have a responsibility to our clients similar to that of a surgeon to his patients. Obviously, we are not cutting into their flesh; however, if we do a poor job it can cost the home owner to be stuck with a “money pit”, or even worse, an unsafe home that could destroy their health or the health of their family. It could ruin their financial future or even break up their family.
Do you remember the movie “The Money Pit” starring Tom Hanks? Now there was a house in need of a Home Inspection. Mr. Hanks' remark is classic – “Why would somebody sell a million dollar house for 200,000?” The house turns out to be a disaster and almost destroys their relationship. Another movie you may be familiar with is “Moving”. Here is a good example of doing something legal that is just plain wrong. As main character, Arlo Pear and his family are walking through the house they intend to purchase, the seller keeps saying, in response to their exclamations of admiration of the unique features of the house - “But we’re taking it with us”; which they do. What a shock when the family arrives at their new home only to find the swimming pool, front door, stairs, etc. gone. Both of these movies give us an idea of the importance of knowing what you are purchasing. Remember - “It is okay to buy a lemon, as long as you know it is a lemon”.
As a Home Inspector there have been times I have been pressured - ever so politely - to overlook items or report items in a subjective manner rather than an objective manner. The carrot of increased business or the implied threat of decreased business was used to try to coerce me. The words which come to mind when this situation occurs are from the famous philosopher Popeye, “I’ve had all I canst stands and I canst stands no more.” It makes my blood boil! When the bills are due and it is near the end of the month it would be a whole lot easier to give in to their desires and do what I am told. There was a group, back a number of years ago, who just did what they were told. Their statements at the Nuremberg trials - “I was just following orders” still makes us shudder.
There is something called social pressure. We have all experienced it. Peer pressure in our teen years is a good example. Back in the early 1950's, Solomon Asch, a psychologist, conducted a classic experiment in conformity. Nine people look at lines of different lengths. Eight people are in on the test and, when asked, give the wrong answer as to the comparative lengths of the lines. The ninth person goes along with the group 75% of the time. I don’t want to be part of that 75% - I want to be part of the 25% that says “excuse me” - you are wrong, or are you blind? I have said “excuse me” many times. It has cost me friendships and forced me to give up or refuse work. As Certified Home Inspectors we need to be in that 25% group and not conform to lower standards.
My company inspected a house once, we believe lost us some business. We could very well be wrong (you know how us humans are always thinking the world revolves around us). The person owning the house has quite an amount of influence, with a Real Estate agency, we used to do quite a bit of business with. This house was being sold as a “fixer upper” to some unsuspecting potential victims, from out of state. The house was more of a “bulldozer-downer”. The things right with it were too few to mention and the things wrong made for too long of a report. This house would have been a disaster for the buyer. The owner should have obtained an inspection before they purchased it as an investment. Needless to say, the present owner was none too happy with the report and calls from that agency have slowed down considerably.
We all want to make a living, but money should not be your only reason for being a Home Inspector. Being a Home Inspector is a responsibility, not a way to get rich quick. If you want to get rich quick. There are a lot MLMs out there to choose from.
We as Home Inspectors owe it to our clients to constantly study and educate ourselves so we can perform our job to the best of our abilities. I believe one of our most important abilities as Home Inspectors is curiosity. I am always scratching my head and wondering why. We look for clues to issues. Water stains, misalignment, strange odors. Joseph Campbell calls this “Technology of Intuition” - a nagging feeling, a suspicion, a gut feeling, a hunch, a persistent thought. Our computers, our tools, our machines, are not enough. We need that healthy human curiosity.
Our goal as Home Inspectors should be to make every inspection our best inspection to date. If you are not willing to commit to that, then don’t become a Home Inspector or if you are a Home Inspector - get out of the business. You can always be a contractor. I hear in some states all you need is a hammer, a dog, and a pickup truck. Don’t be a Home Inspector to make friends, show off your knowledge, or become famous. Do it because it is the right thing to do for your clients. A Home Inspector needs to understand they are working for the buyer (or the seller in the case of a pre-listing inspection).
I have heard from a number of people in the industry - they know of a few folks dabbling in the Home Inspection business. I believe it is important enough - to give it your all and it should be your main business. I believe further there are certain businesses it is extremely hard to be involved in and be a Home Inspector. Examples of this are contractors and mitigators. It is rather hard to remain objective when the bills are due and the funds are low. It would be quite easy to say, “This and this are wrong with the house - but I can fix them.” I am not saying it is impossible to remain objective and have only your clients best interests in mind - just real difficult (if you are human).
Honesty, ethics, and moral values were taught in the classrooms of all major business schools in days past. Professors placed strong emphasis on a company’s responsibility toward its employees, customers, and creditors. Now it is not an uncommon practice (sometimes even policy) to mislead, deceive, outright lie, or even worse, just to make a profit. Frivolous lawsuits come to mind as I say this. Often it is not about what is right, but about what is profitable. Jesus summed it up succinctly; “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”
When you cheat, lie, steal, or deceive - you are actually doing those things to yourself. Here is a scenario – Have you ever gotten back the wrong change? If it is not in your favor, you demand your money back don't you? If it is in your favor - did you give the excess money back? Did you keep it? How did you feel afterward? It has been, said if you feel the need to justify an action - maybe it is the wrong action to take.
The best part of operating a business of your own is you are constantly faced with choices/challenges to do the right or wrong thing. And you get to learn from your mistakes. The difficult thing is when you are unsure or don’t have enough information.
There is an age old question. How do you sleep at night? Supposedly the honest/ethical person sleeps very restfully. One may say this, but is it always so? I know I have had restless nights where I wrestled with all the issues trying to decide, which was the right course of action to take. Sometimes I was not even sure if I made the right choice and sometimes I never found out. My goal - my company’s goal - and should be your goal, is to do the best with the information available at the time. Vince Lombardi said it well; “The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor.”
Ethics encompasses morals and values. As a discipline it studies the differences between right and wrong. Our company motto is, “Do the right thing, no matter the cost”. That means often we have to make difficult choices. Sometimes there is a course of action that is perfectly legal, but just not the right thing to do. Sometimes it means making less money or even not doing an inspection.
If doing the right thing causes unhappiness to others, it may be that their ethics are in question - not yours. I personally know a number of Realtors that really want everything about a house brought out into the open. One Realtor always says to me, “If the sale is meant to go through it will.” I have seen Realtors give up thousands in commissions just to make sure they did the right thing. I applaud them.
My company was called to inspect a house we had inspected many months earlier, including a mold test. The fee for this inspection was considerable and the funds were just what our company budget needed at that moment. This house had, what some would say, a serious mold issue, including a basement with no ventilation, a history of flooding, etc. The property had been on the market for a long time. I made the erroneous assumption the problem had been dealt with. After doing our exterior inspection we proceeded to the basement with the prospective buyer at our side. I was aghast to see nothing had changed. At that point, I realized it would be wrong to continue the inspection without informing my client about the mold issue. I decided to inform them and give them the choice of finishing the inspection or stopping and refunding half of their fee. They chose to stop the inspection at that point and requested further exploration into the mold issue culminating in remediation.
To make a long story short. The sale did not go through, $10,000 was spent on remediation, and the inspection was never completed. After all was said and done the Realtors and owner were glad to have avoided litigation.
I believe as professionals we are obligated to be ethical in our business practices. This includes furthering our abilities through education and training and realizing we are not perfect and do not know everything. This brings to mind my own definition for professional verses amateur. “The only difference between a professional and a amateur is; the professional gets paid - the amateur does not.” Let’s set some professional standards. So professional can once again mean - done with pride, quality, attention to detail, training, knowledge, experience, ethics, and knowing when to say, “I don’t know”.
Remember the old superhero cartoons. The villain is hanging over a cliff by his finger tips. The superhero reaches down and gives him a hand up. The villain says, “Why did you save me? I would have let you die.” The superhero says, “If I didn’t help you - I would be just like you. I had to do the right thing.”
To sum it up. We want our clients to get a house of their choosing at a fair price and to have the real estate transaction be accomplished in an honest and profitable manner. I believe the way to do this is to have a Home Inspection, to aid in a complete understanding of the condition of the home, by a qualified Home Inspector whose priority is the client – not the money.
© 2004 BJ Kirby
Buying a home? The process can be stressful. A home inspection is supposed to give you peace of mind, but often has the opposite effect. You will be asked to absorb a lot of information in a short time. This often includes a written report, checklist, photographs, environmental reports, and what the inspector himself says during the inspection. All this combined with the seller's disclosure and what you notice yourself makes the experience even more overwhelming. What should you do?
Relax. Most of your inspection will be maintenance recommendations, life expectancies and minor imperfections. These are nice to know about. However, the issues that really matter will fall into four categories:
1. Major defects. An
example of this would be a structural failure.
Anything in these categories should be addressed. Often a serious problem can be corrected inexpensively to protect both life and property (especially in categories 2 and 4).
Most sellers are honest and are often surprised to learn of defects uncovered during an inspection. Realize that sellers are under no obligation to repair everything mentioned in the report. No home is perfect. Keep things in perspective. Don't kill your deal over things that don't matter. It is inappropriate to demand that a seller address deferred maintenance, conditions already listed on the seller's disclosure, or nit-picky items.
The above is an excerpt from Sell Your Home For More by Nick Gromicko.
Copyright (C) 1997 Nick Gromicko
Having your home inspected by a NACHI inspector before you list is the recommendation found in the new edition of the book, Sell Your Home For More by Nick Gromicko.
Eventually your buyers are going to conduct an inspection. You may as well know what they are going to find by getting there first. The author points out that having an inspection performed ahead of time helps in many other ways:
© 2003-2014 BJCC Inspections