Sooner or later, it happens to everyone. You pick up the phone, prepared to tout your expertise and book a home inspection appointment, only to get interrupted by one impatient question:
“So how much do you charge?”
And if you’re dealing with someone particularly brazen, you might get an immediate follow-up:
“Can you give me a discount?”
There’s nothing wrong with price shopping, exactly. We all do it, and it’s perfectly reasonable to want to get a good deal on a product or service. But internet shopping has made it so easy to compare prices that it has incentivized a race to the bottom. Offering the lowest prices may be fine for giant retailers, but it’s no way to run a home inspection business based on expert skills and excellent service.
But how can you convince ornery price shoppers of this?
While we can’t guarantee that you’ll turn every comparison shopper who requests your rates into a client, there are plenty of strategies you can employ to boost your odds. Here are some ideas to help you handle price shoppers as a home inspector.
Make sure the price is right
You should always be confident in your pricing. It’s rarely a good idea to reduce your rates on the spot because someone asks you to — or worse, out of fear that they might ask you to do so before they even make a move.
But to get to that place of confidence, it helps to review your business plan to make sure your rates are right for you. Figuring out what to charge for a home inspection can be tricky, especially if you’re just starting out. You’ll want to do some in-depth research about what other home inspectors in your area charge, and what types of services they offer for their rates. (This, ironically, could put you in the position of calling around to do a little price comparison shopping!)
Choosing a price that’s not too far above or below the average for your region is a good starting point, but you’ll also need to consider your own business needs to ensure that you turn a profit. To do this, take the time to add up any direct costs involved in a home inspection, right down to the paper you print the report on or the complimentary tape measure you hand out to each client. Then, determine your total overhead costs, including money you spend on equipment, home inspection software, business vehicle costs, and more.
Once you know how much you spend each year, divide that cost by the total number of inspections you do each year to determine the overhead cost for each inspection. Add this to your direct costs to get your pricing base — whatever you charge beyond this number is what you’ll earn in profit.
From there, you can consider either how much you’d like to earn per inspection or count up how many hours you spend on the average inspection and multiply that time by your desired hourly rate. Add your desired profit to your total costs, and voila: you’ve got your price.
This is a lot of work, but it’s important work. Once you’ve gone to the trouble to do the math to come up with a solid price, you’ll be much more likely to stick to your guns when bargain hunters come calling.
Pro Tip: Try a service pricing calculator to help you crunch the numbers.
Make a personal connection
When someone calls and immediately asks how much you charge for a home inspection, it’s easy to be annoyed — but that’s never the reaction you want a potential client to notice! Take a deep breath, and keep in mind that they wouldn’t have called you if they weren’t interested in your service. Treat the call as an opportunity.
Then, get them talking. You can hold off on answering immediately about the price — and thereby risking a quick hang-up — by telling them you’ll need a bit more information to best help them. Don’t make it an interrogation, but do ask some open-ended questions that will let them talk about themselves for a few minutes. Some good questions include:
- Can you tell me a bit about the property you’re looking at?
- What’s your experience as a homeowner so far?
- Do you have any specific concerns about the property?
- Do you have any questions or concerns about the home inspection process?
The idea here is to begin building a relationship. The longer they spend talking about themselves and their dream house, the more invested they become in working with you — even if they don’t realize it yet. Notice that these questions don’t push your services or your experience yet. Instead, you’re offering a connection by listening to their story, and possibly adding value by walking first-timers through the process.
By the time you’ve completed this conversation, the caller will be softened up about your pricing, since they have a better idea of all that they’re getting for their money — namely, a personable, knowledgeable pro who truly cares about their home-buying experience.
Gain some subtle leverage
If you are in the middle of your busy season — or if you already bring in clients at a steady clip and don’t need to worry about converting every single lead into a client — you might try asking a different set of opening questions. In this scenario, you’ll let the client know that you have a few questions to see if you’d be a good fit for each other.
This ever-so-slightly shifts the power dynamic in the phone call. Instead of the potential client bening the boss and you bending over backward to please, you’ve politely let them know that you’re also checking them out. Some questions to ask:
- Are you a first-time home buyer?
- What’s your ideal timetable for the inspection?
- Are you looking for any additional services or expertise?
Of course, you can also ask the questions listed above as well, if it feels natural in the course of your conversation.
Why try this subtle power move? It will position you in the client’s mind as someone whose skills are in high demand, and the unspoken idea that you might not think they’re a good fit creates a little competition — they want to be the type of person you want to work with! This is all psychological, but it can be effective if you are careful to be easygoing about it.
Focus on value
You know that not all home inspections are created equal, but your potential client may not understand the difference between your expert services and the competition. So tell them!
Whenever you name your price to a client, never let the number be the last word. Instead, say that you charge X dollars for Y service — and then proceed to list all the goodies you provide in that inspection. This will keep the focus on what they’re getting for their money instead of just the amount.
It’s also a great opportunity to highlight things that set you apart from the pack. Do you guarantee a quick turnaround on the report? Provide high-res, full-color photos? Coach new homeowners on the ins and outs of HVAC systems? Have a high-tech drone to get a bird’s eye view of the roof? Whatever makes your inspections stand out, name them right after the price.
Pro Tip: Keep a bulleted list of your top three selling points right by the phone so you never forget this step.
Reframe your price
You know your prices are reasonable, but price shoppers often need a little convincing. One way to put things in perspective is to reframe the price as a middle-of-the-road option. You can assume that they’ll find a bargain price from the internet, whether that’s a real price available in your area or just a suggested price they read about on someone’s blog.
When they hear your price over the phone, you don’t want it to be the highest price they’ve heard all day. To guarantee that’s the case, you can present an even higher price for comparison by creating a premium package.
For example, consider these options:
- Bargain Home Inspection
- Your Standard Home Inspection
- Your Deluxe Home Inspection
Now, to make this work, you’ll have to create a deluxe inspection that includes some extras. This could be a package that includes additional services like thermal imaging, or you might offer faster turnaround. For first-time buyers, you could create a special booklet of important things to know about houses and their systems, or offer an onsite tutorial. It’s really up to you.
You may only ever sell a few deluxe packages, but the real benefit in offering them lies in the way they make your standard price seem like an even greater bargain by comparison.
Closing the deal
Of course, you’ll always want to make room in your conversation for answering any questions your potential client has, too. You may not turn every single price shopper into a customer, but these tips should help you seal the deal with many more than ever before.