Monthly Archives: July 2011

Inspect the Inspector: Forrest Lines, Vice President of the National Association of Home Inspectors


Vice President of NAHIAs the Vice President of the National Association of Home Inspectors, President of NAHI Ohio and owner of By-Lions Home Inspections in Columbus, Ohio, Forrest Lines is well-versed in the home inspection game. A former draw inspector, Lines has run his own inspection firm for the past 14 years and weathered everything from hard times to on-the-job nudity. In an age where inspectors are scrambling to cram more and more inspections in per year, Lines takes his time and spends an average of three hours on each home. Here’s how he built a smarter business.

Tap Inspect: What’s been your biggest challenge so far?

Forrest: The biggest challenge in the home inspection business is all of us want to inspect homes. We don’t want to market. We don’t want to do business development things. All of that takes a back seat because we’re really interested in homes. One of the biggest challenges is to stay in a position where you are always marketing your business.

Tap Inspect: In terms of marketing, what works for you and what doesn’t?

Forrest: I’ve found some decent ways that you can reach people and get some reasonable results. One of the big ways is through the internet. People are searching for home inspectors and they’re not looking in the Yellow Pages. They’re much smarter about what they do and by the time they reach you, they know a little bit about home inspecting and they know something about you too. The best marketing tool that we have is doing a good inspection. That is what will get us more business than we ever even know because people talk to people so we just need to stay sharp, stay smart and fresh about what we do.

Tap Inspect: What’s been the most effective tool for you?

Forrest: One of the single most effective things I’ve ever done, and it’s so simple, is just not to leave money on the table, to be able to do ancillary services so that we can be more efficient at each inspection that we do. Ohio is a pretty strong radon state. Right on my [home inspection] contract, I have people accept or deny a radon test. You’d be surprised how many home inspections go from $350 to $475 in a blink because people go, “Oh yeah Radon. I’ve heard about that. Tell me about that.” Get yourself educated about radon and get licensed if your state requires it and you can add that to six, seven, eight out of ten inspections. I’m also educated in termite inspection.

Tap Inspect: What’s the number one thing you’ve learned about the home inspection industry?

Forrest: It’s not what you know; it’s how you say it. We all know about plumbing, electrical, heating and cooling, but that’s not what it’s about. It’s all about relationships. It’s about connecting with people and telling them the story that you read from the house. There’s a guy in my neighborhood who tells people, “Don’t ask me any questions. I’ll answer everything at the end.” That blows me away. I can’t get my home inspections done because I talk too much. I know i spend too much time connecting with people, but when I get done with a home inspection, people love me.

Tap Inspect: How do you handle the inherent conflict between giving all the gory details on a house to a client and keeping the realtor, the person providing your business, on track with the sale?

Forrest: We have to hold onto our standards and ethics and they state quite clearly that we inspect and report. The real estate agent has nothing to do with what we do, even though they sometimes try to be a big part of it. If the roof needs replacing, you have to say it. The home inspection is the last piece of the sale negotiation, so it’s a good thing that I found the bad roof. The buyers can use that as a negotiation tool. If I succumb and say, “Well the roof doesn’t look that bad” and then a couple of seasons down the road it starts to leak, I couldn’t sleep at night. You’ve got to tell the truth and it’s got to be clear. You can’t tap dance.

Tap Inspect: What’s the most surprising part of the business to you?

Forrest: I’m very surprised that the banks aren’t smart enough to figure out that if they would leave the utilities on in a vacant home, they would spend a few hundred dollars to save hundreds of thousands of dollars in mold mitigation. People come in, see the mold and end up negotiating these houses down by tens of thousands of dollars. I can’t believe that someone hasn’t figured that out.

Tap Inspect: We ask this of all our Inspect the Inspectors, what’s the strangest thing you’ve seen on the job?

Forrest: I was doing an inspection on a piece of property that the owner was home. The buyer was with me. We started out early on a saturday morning. We did the outside, the basement and the first floor. We were going up to the second floor and as we walked up the stairs, the owner of the home stood at the top of the stairs. He guided us to the first door on the second floor, opened it and stepped aside as if to say “Go on in.” I stepped into the bedroom and there lay his wife on the bed, completely naked. I turned around right away and looked at him and he just shrugged his shoulders like “Oh well.”

Check out By-Lions Home Inspections here.

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News You Can Use: July

Want to know what’s new in home inspection? We’ve got you covered:

* Now’s the time to sign up for the NAHI National Education Conference. Held September 22-25 in Cincinnati, Ohio, this year’s conference will cover topics ranging from protecting yourself and your clients to no cost marketing.

* Where are the cheap homes? Coldwell Banker releases its list of most affordable (and outrageous) housing markets in America. If you don’t want the full list, check out AOL’s summary here.

* Sweet! InterNACHI members get 31%-88% off at OfficeMax.

* With the mass amount of natural devastation that’s occurred across the country this month, it may be time for these. Ladies and gentlemen, tornado resistant homes.

* Mark your calendars-July 21, NAHI offers a webinar on common home defects. Registration is $25 for NAHI members.

* It’s hard to feel good about the current economic climate. That’s why this story on home owners foreclosing on banks brought warmth to our hearts.

This article originally ran in our Tap Inspect company newsletter. To get your monthly dose of the latest and greatest in home inspection, sign up by clicking the “Join Our Mailing List” button on the right.

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Direct Marketing For Home Inspectors

What’s Tap Inspect digging right now? These awesome home inspection videos focused on how inspectors can market themselves and reach a broader community. This interview with Ken Compton on how inspectors can market directly to the public is particularly useful:

Enjoy!

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Inspectors Beat the Economic Slump

No doubt about it, home inspectors have taken a beating these past few years. To get through the housing crisis, inspectors have had to revamp their business models, re-evaluate their expenses, and do what they can to survive. Here’s how three inspectors did it:
Ask For Help

 Rodan Home InspectionsFrom the home buyer that is. When he became a licensed home inspector in 2005, Stephen La Rosa of Rodan Home Inspections in Great River, New York, became known for creating gigantic reports. “They were 100, 110 pages long,” he says. “If you’re too thorough, realtors won’t even look at you. You become known as a deal breaker.” When the economy tanked, business got even worse. That’s when La Rosa started getting the agent’s perspective. “Always ask the agent, ‘What are you looking for?,'” he says. “If they want all the finer points, I’ll give them that. If they just want the meat and potatoes, I’ll give them that too.” After making that one tiny change, La Rosa says his business doubled in a matter of months.

Be Available

When the economy started it’s downward trajectory, Matt Newberry, partner with Newberry Inspections in Reno, Nevada, stayed afloat by doing what others couldn’t. “We tried to pick up along the edges,” Newberry says. “We tried to find areas where people were being underserved and to increase our level of customer service.” One way Matt did that was by making sure his firm was available when other firms weren’t. That meant laying off staff, but ALWAYS making sure that someone was around to answer the phone. “As things got tough, a lot of inspection firms shrunk down so that inspectors were answering phones while in inspections,” Newberry says. “We wanted our clients to know that we were putting them first.”

Charles Buell InspectionsDevelop an Internet Presence

Like Bob Sisson, profiled in our “Inspect the Inspector” section, Charles Buell of Charles Buell Inspections Inc. in Seattle doesn’t rely on agents to generate business. When the market crashed, Buell began relying more on the internet to generate business leads. “I was surprised,” says Buell. “I had heard that it was possible to get business from the internet, but I was unsure.” Since 2008, Buell has posted more than 1,400 entries on his blog and launched a second one. He currently brings in half of his business from the blog and  maintains a strong Google ranking. Buell’s advice for inspectors looking to rely less on agents is this-“Just get a WordPress site and start blogging about yourself,” he says. “Be transparent and don’t worry if you’re not getting comments. People will find you. You just have to post consistently.”

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We Can Relate

Home inspectors who have encountered raccoon damage…this one’s for you:

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5 Freebies to Give Your Business a Leg-Up

* Buildfax provides info on the history of a home before buyers take the plunge. Through July 31, they’re giving away home background checks for free. Head here to check it out.

 

* Sure you can ID a crack in a home’s foundation from a mile away, but how good are you at keeping the books? Mint.com will import your business expenses directly from your business account and keep track of where the money is going.

 

* Route calls to multiple phones, save your voicemails online, and get voicemails transcribed and texted to your phone. One of the easiest ways to make a small business look large,Google Voice provides free phone numbers in the area code of your choosing AND clients to call one number and reach your home, cell, and office lines at the same time. A demo video explaining it all is available here.

 

* If you’re looking to add a video component to your online marketing plan, this is the place to do it. Blip.tv allows users to upload videos and podcasts for free.

 

* Find out whether clients are talking about your business online with free alerts sent to your inbox every day. Google Alerts allows you to enter searchable keywords like “John Doe Home Inspections” and monitor who’s talking about it and what they’re saying.

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