Running a successful home inspection business takes a lot of work — and inspecting homes can sometimes feel like the least of it. In addition to knowing all about home construction and infrastructure, you also need to have solid business skills to keep the lights on. And, of course, you have to keep the clients rolling in. This is especially challenging in a field where you’re very likely to work with a home buyer just one time, since the average person doesn’t buy and sell homes more than a handful of times over the course of decades.
But you know who does buy and sell houses on a regular basis?
Real estate agents.
Realtors are constantly ushering home buyers and sellers through the process and working to make sure the transactions work for everyone involved. While real estate agents are unlikely to hire you directly to inspect a house, they are your very best connection to the people who need your services.
So how can you build your relationships with real estate brokers and tap into their referral pipeline? Here’s what you need to know.
Keep it ethical
Home inspectors are advocates for their clients, and they need to provide accurate and detailed reports that present the truth about a house’s condition. Before you begin to market yourself to real estate agents, review the code of ethics of your professional association as well as any state requirements for ethical conduct as it relates to your license for practice. This will let you know if there are any activities related to working with agents that are off-limits for you.
In general, it’s important to bear in mind that you represent the home buyer, not the agent. While you don’t want to gain a reputation as a “deal-killer,” you also don’t want to change your standards just to make things easier for an agent. There are far better ways to impress them while still doing right by your clients.
Get your marketing materials in order
Marketing yourself to agents is not a one-time job. Effective marketing is an ongoing process, and successful inspectors are doing it all the time: day after day, week after week, month after month. To lay the groundwork, you’ll need to invest in materials to hand to agents when you meet them. Must-have marketing materials include:
- Business cards: You should never, ever leave the house empty-handed — even on weekends! You never know when you might bump into a real estate agent, and you want to be ready. A great business card will include your business name and logo, website URL, contact information, and perhaps a list of services. You may want to invest in a slightly different card for agents to highlight how you can help them — which will be different than how you would target a home buyer.
- Brochures: When you’re out on a job or hitting the bricks to introduce yourself to agents, you’ll need some materials that explain your business. A well-designed brochure or pamphlet gives you plenty of space to outline your services and experience. You may also want to include testimonials, a short case study, or an educational piece on common issues in your region — and how your training and expertise is perfect for handling them.
- Website: You can’t hand someone your website, but you know it will be the first thing someone refers to after looking at your card or brochure. A modern home inspection website with a clean design and sharp photos will show agents that you mean business. Make sure it’s optimized for mobile, and consider adding a section just for real estate agents where you can include sample inspection reports, case studies, and even blog posts about the latest issues in the industry.
Meet face to face
There’s no better way to get your name out there and build trust than with a face-to-face meeting. There are a few tried-and-true ways to add Realtors to your network to get those referrals:
- Visit realty offices: Think of this as a cold-call, but in person. Drop by a real estate brokerage office and introduce yourself to the staff. You may not get a meeting the first time you stop by, but you will definitely have the opportunity to leave your card and brochures. It’s also a great idea to leave a sample inspection report to show exactly what you will deliver to their referred clients.
- Stop by open houses: Agents are a captive audience at an open house, but if you stop in during a slow period, they will likely be very glad to have someone to talk to. This is a great opportunity not only to introduce yourself, but also to show what you know with some casual observations about the house (and ones on the market like it). Don’t forget to leave a brochure and a short stack of business cards!
- In-office presentations: As an inspector, you have valuable insight to share. Consider putting together an educational presentation for Realtors about important topics that come up with homes in your region, whether it’s a common wiring issue or the latest construction technique. This is a great way to show your expertise and build trust with agents to get those referrals.
Practice your elevator speech
Once you start putting yourself out there, agents will ask you plenty of questions about your experience or why you got into the business. But the number one question they’ll have is always the same:
Why should I refer you to my clients?
You need to be prepared with a short, clear answer. This could include your philosophy and experience, but Realtors really want to know what you can do for them. So as you practice your go-to pitch, make sure it includes how you work to make agents’ lives easier. Whether it’s a lightning-fast turnaround on appointments, modern online scheduling, or tools that make it easy for agents to create a list of fixes for negotiations, you need to tell them what you offer and how it will streamline their busy lives.
When crafting your answer, give yourself just three sentences to explain what you do and how it helps agents succeed. You can do this in writing, or you could record yourself saying it. Either way, take the time to be very intentional about your pitch and what you include. You should also practice for friends and family to get comfortable delivering this little speech before you take the show on the road.
Target new agents
Most established real estate agents already have a list of go-to inspectors, so it can be frustrating to try to elbow your way into a crowded field. The solution? Reach out to newer agents who haven’t had the time to build their networks (or get set in their ways). You can do this by asking around, or you can hit the internet to do some research on local real estate companies’ “About Us” webpage. Look for the agents with that most recent start date and go from there. You can also seek out newer agents on LinkedIn and other social media platforms to make connections. Younger agents will almost certainly be using Twitter and Instagram to build a following, so start by liking their posts and following their accounts to break the ice.
Remember that referrals are a two-way street
If you want referrals, it’s important to remember that networking works both ways. As you reach out to build relationships with Realtors in your community, you also want to give back. If you’re ever able to refer a friend or family member directly to a real estate agent or local realty office, they will definitely remember it. The same is true for other office personnel, including developers, rental agents, and mortgage brokers. Your ultimate goal is to build personal connections that will last for years to come.
Once you’ve got the basics down, you’ll need to devote time regularly to the process. This could be a daily social media session, weekly drop-ins at open houses, and monthly visits to real estate offices in your area. Remember, this is sales work, and you’re selling yourself. To get the leads, you’ll have to cover a lot of ground. Keep at it, and you’re sure to build a network that helps your business thrive.
Looking for more helpful advice about running your home inspection business? HomeGauge has everything you need to succeed, from professional websites to a comprehensive home inspection software suite. Contact us today to find out more about how HomeGauge can take your home inspection business to the next level.