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ericwlewis

what's the best advertising

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I found this site a few weeks ago and have found it quite entertaining and helpful.

I started my HI buis in Jan 07. I was informed by a realtor friend from church that there was more than enough buis to keep me busy year round. She was sorely mistaken. I have two realtors that "recommend" that what seems like certain clients to me. I have a yellow pages online add that gets me about 3-6 calls a month and have just started a google first page program. I don't have a snazzy website, just a page. I would LOVE to get away from remodeling and construction, 17 years has been long enough!

QUESTIONS;

1) What kind of advertising works for you all?

2) Do any of you need to keep your "dayjob" to stay alive?

3) Do any of you make repairs on other HIs reports and if you do, do you advertise that.

4) Does anyone ever get feed back from customers, positive or negative?

My inspections are up to snuff and I have only paid out one refund since day one.

Suggestions anyone?

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I found this site a few weeks ago and have found it quite entertaining and helpful.

I started my HI buis in Jan 07. I was informed by a realtor friend from church that there was more than enough buis to keep me busy year round. She was sorely mistaken. I have two realtors that "recommend" that what seems like certain clients to me. I have a yellow pages online add that gets me about 3-6 calls a month and have just started a google first page program. I don't have a snazzy website, just a page. I would LOVE to get away from remodeling and construction, 17 years has been long enough!

QUESTIONS;

1) What kind of advertising works for you all?

2) Do any of you need to keep your "dayjob" to stay alive?

3) Do any of you make repairs on other HIs reports and if you do, do you advertise that.

4) Does anyone ever get feed back from customers, positive or negative?

My inspections are up to snuff and I have only paid out one refund since day one.

Suggestions anyone?

I don't have any realtors who refer to me on a regular basis and I'm perfectly fine with that.

My answers:

1) Word of mouth (takes years to build up), Yellow pages, website, teaching classes to home buyers.

2) Don't have a dayjob, but I'm working on getting a side business, or two.

3) In my state, HI's can't make repairs on a house that they have inspected within the past 12 months (new law here, as of 1/1/2011).

4) Once in a while, rarely negative.

In 8 years, I've never refunded an inspection fee, though a single client has asked for it (I showed him the door when he got rude).

There's an inherent conflict between your interests as an inspector and the agent's interests. The sooner you understand the mechanisms behind that, the better.

Marc

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I found this site a few weeks ago and have found it quite entertaining and helpful.

I started my HI buis in Jan 07. I was informed by a realtor friend from church that there was more than enough buis to keep me busy year round. She was sorely mistaken. I have two realtors that "recommend" that what seems like certain clients to me. I have a yellow pages online add that gets me about 3-6 calls a month and have just started a google first page program. I don't have a snazzy website, just a page. I would LOVE to get away from remodeling and construction, 17 years has been long enough!

QUESTIONS;

1) What kind of advertising works for you all?

Word of mouth. But, as Marc said, it takes years. I've never had much success with any other kind of advertising. I'm impressed that you get 3-6 calls a month from the online yellow pages. Do any of those turn into jobs?

2) Do any of you need to keep your "dayjob" to stay alive?

No me, but I'm sure others do.

3) Do any of you make repairs on other HIs reports and if you do, do you advertise that.

Don't do it, don't do it, don't do it. You'll become known as the fix-it guy, which is fine if you want to be a fix-it guy but you just said you don't want to do that anymore.

4) Does anyone ever get feed back from customers, positive or negative?

Sure, I get feedback all the time.

My inspections are up to snuff and I have only paid out one refund since day one.

Suggestions anyone?

I've long held the belief that people should never let someone from their church do contracting work on their house. I'm beginning to believe that you should never have any business dealings at all with people from your church. I'm sure others will disagree, but it just seems to never work out.

Your web page sucks. I can't imagine any homebuyer with more than two brain cells wanting to hire a guy who charges $175 and might be done in 1-1/2 hours. In the paragraphs near the bottom of the page, there's absolutely nothing that would make me want to hire you.

And, when advertising as a home inspector, don't go around saying that you have 16 years of experience. That's a lie. You have 4 years of experience as an inspector. Don't mislead people.

Go scrape together $10k - $20k. Get a small business loan, if necessary. Then hire a good graphic designer to give you a professional look. Hire a web site designer to get you a good web site. If you're driving around in a beat-up contractor's truck, ditch it and get something presentable. Don't dress like a contractor, act like a contractor, or offer to do work like a contractor. You're now a consultant. Act like one and charge like one.

I'm sure others will have lots of good ideas for marketing, but they'll all be for nothing the minute someone visits that web page.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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Erby and Jim K are right.

"QUESTIONS;

1) What kind of advertising works for you all?

Answer: Word of mouth, donations to charity, schools, etc.

2) Do any of you need to keep your "day job" to stay alive?

Answer: Have not had a day job for several decades. We all work full time.

3) Do any of you make repairs on other HIs reports and if you do, do you advertise that.

Answer: NEVER offer to make repairs.

4) Does anyone ever get feed back from customers, positive or negative?

Answer: For several years we used a comment card system that client mailed back to us. As times changed we went from a 90% return rate to less than 20%. We tried an email comment response, but that got even less response rate.

My inspections are up to snuff and I have only paid out one refund since day one.

I really don't care about your paying refunds and I am sure your clients don't care. Likely your inspections are not "up to snuff" and if they are then you should developer a different product to just WOW everyone.

I have learned one thing in this business - Read, read, read and be sure your client likes you, trusts you and can communicate with you.

"Suggestions anyone?"

Get rid of your website and get responsible with your fees! Don't engage in puffery and remember who you work for.

You asked.

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Tom, more likely your compute is dead. They all still work for me. Anyway, just Google "Main Street Host Scam" and you'll find plenty on it.

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Kind-of what I expected from some of you guys.

My middle name really is Watson as is my dads, his dads and his dads first name.

007 was assigned to me, but cool.

if some of you had read correctly, I NEVER offer repairs for my inspections. My realtor friend from church asks about twice a year if we (my brother and I have had our remodel/ construction buis for 17 yrs) can make repairs for her clients.

I don't offer refunds, I just had some young client and her jackass realtor harass me until I gave in, a refund made them go away.

I am positive that 17yrs of solving problems my remodeling customers have had is worth the mention. That experience makes the home inspections much more complete IMO.

the goolge add is called outrank and I have gotten 3 inquiries but no inspections

When you guys say word of mouth, is that your mouth? is that clients mouths? are you suggesting they refer you if they were happy with you? what?

how much is enough? $100 an hour? Each inspection takes about 4-5 hours of my time after you include; travel, inspection, research, report. I can't see anyone with 2 brain cells paying $400-$500 for an inspection. I bought my first two houses before I knew you didn't need a circular saw to cut drywall, and the thought of even getting a home inspection never entered my mind, let alone paying more than $300 when they only see you for a couple hours.

not sure what puffery I'm engaged in??

I've donated, sponsored etc....

2/3rds of the yellow pages calls I get, I get the work! It's the only reason I keep it.

I have not TRIED to get realtors to recommend me because it seems unethical and I'm not looking for them to hire me. I work for the buyers only.

I've just replaced my 94 classic, not beat up truck with an 07.

I'm not trying to sound defensive but, MAN, I ask some questions and a few of you responded like you knew me. If you did know me you wouldn't talk to me that way because I don't treat people I know like that and expect the same in return. There is such a thing as constructive criticism and you don't have to be a jerk to provide it. If my work isn't up to snuff and no one is telling me, it must be because I'm so personable and they like me.

does a contractor wear Khakis and a golf shirt, I don't think so.

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Kind-of what I expected from some of you guys.

My middle name really is Watson as is my dads, his dads and his dads first name.

007 was assigned to me, but cool.

if some of you had read correctly, I NEVER offer repairs for my inspections. My realtor friend from church asks about twice a year if we (my brother and I have had our remodel/ construction buis for 17 yrs) can make repairs for her clients.

I don't offer refunds, I just had some young client and her jackass realtor harass me until I gave in, a refund made them go away.

I am positive that 17yrs of solving problems my remodeling customers have had is worth the mention. That experience makes the home inspections much more complete IMO.

the goolge add is called outrank and I have gotten 3 inquiries but no inspections

When you guys say word of mouth, is that your mouth? is that clients mouths? are you suggesting they refer you if they were happy with you? what?

how much is enough? $100 an hour? Each inspection takes about 4-5 hours of my time after you include; travel, inspection, research, report. I can't see anyone with 2 brain cells paying $400-$500 for an inspection. I bought my first two houses before I knew you didn't need a circular saw to cut drywall, and the thought of even getting a home inspection never entered my mind, let alone paying more than $300 when they only see you for a couple hours.

not sure what puffery I'm engaged in??

I've donated, sponsored etc....

2/3rds of the yellow pages calls I get, I get the work! It's the only reason I keep it.

I have not TRIED to get realtors to recommend me because it seems unethical and I'm not looking for them to hire me. I work for the buyers only.

I've just replaced my 94 classic, not beat up truck with an 07.

I'm not trying to sound defensive but, MAN, I ask some questions and a few of you responded like you knew me. If you did know me you wouldn't talk to me that way because I don't treat people I know like that and expect the same in return. There is such a thing as constructive criticism and you don't have to be a jerk to provide it. If my work isn't up to snuff and no one is telling me, it must be because I'm so personable and they like me.

does a contractor wear Khakis and a golf shirt, I don't think so.

There's lots of variables involved in what works for you. For me, Google ads works great. Realtors have had their way with home inspectors here for so long that I get tired of even trying to work with them. 'Word of mouth' is tops. By that, I talking about happy clients that spread the word about you. Stay here long enough and you'll notice that all the best guys in this business get all the work they want without spending much if anything on advertising.

Marc

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I can't see anyone with 2 brain cells paying $400-$500 for an inspection.
Then why do folks consistently pay inspection fees into 4 figures? Those clients have enough brain cells to understand value.

I bought my first two houses before I knew you didn't need a circular saw to cut drywall, and the thought of even getting a home inspection never entered my mind, let alone paying more than $300 when they only see you for a couple hours.

Then you don't get it. From your reaction to criticism from experienced professionals, I'm guessing you probably never will.

If you did know me you wouldn't talk to me that way because I don't treat people I know like that and expect the same in return.
You're right, we don't know you. Maybe you know what your services are worth. If I did know you, I'd tell you the same thing the same way. Folks here have actually tried to give you advice to help you succeed.

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Kind-of what I expected from some of you guys.

My middle name really is Watson as is my dads, his dads and his dads first name.

007 was assigned to me, but cool.

if some of you had read correctly, I NEVER offer repairs for my inspections. My realtor friend from church asks about twice a year if we (my brother and I have had our remodel/ construction buis for 17 yrs) can make repairs for her clients.

I don't offer refunds, I just had some young client and her jackass realtor harass me until I gave in, a refund made them go away.

I am positive that 17yrs of solving problems my remodeling customers have had is worth the mention. That experience makes the home inspections much more complete IMO.

the goolge add is called outrank and I have gotten 3 inquiries but no inspections

When you guys say word of mouth, is that your mouth? is that clients mouths? are you suggesting they refer you if they were happy with you? what?

how much is enough? $100 an hour? Each inspection takes about 4-5 hours of my time after you include; travel, inspection, research, report. I can't see anyone with 2 brain cells paying $400-$500 for an inspection. I bought my first two houses before I knew you didn't need a circular saw to cut drywall, and the thought of even getting a home inspection never entered my mind, let alone paying more than $300 when they only see you for a couple hours.

not sure what puffery I'm engaged in??

I've donated, sponsored etc....

2/3rds of the yellow pages calls I get, I get the work! It's the only reason I keep it.

I have not TRIED to get realtors to recommend me because it seems unethical and I'm not looking for them to hire me. I work for the buyers only.

I've just replaced my 94 classic, not beat up truck with an 07.

I'm not trying to sound defensive but, MAN, I ask some questions and a few of you responded like you knew me. If you did know me you wouldn't talk to me that way because I don't treat people I know like that and expect the same in return. There is such a thing as constructive criticism and you don't have to be a jerk to provide it. If my work isn't up to snuff and no one is telling me, it must be because I'm so personable and they like me.

does a contractor wear Khakis and a golf shirt, I don't think so.

Eric:

Slow down. I've not read any bashing comments or anybody harshing you too badly.

You asked questions and you got answers--straight answers.

You don't realize it, but this forum gains you access to decades of collective experience from some of the top inspectors in the country--seriously.

You've launched a fairly new business and the internet has given you this gift of asking how others who have gone way before you have succeeded. Lucky you! We'll tell you!

Just listen and don't get offended because our answers don't match up with your naive ideas for running a home inspection biz.

Edit: one last thing--don't forget that home inspectors by nature are critical, grumpy, and curmudgeonly. . . all in a good way of course. Every one of the guys I've met in person on this forum are fine folks with pretty gracious hearts. Well, except for Mike O. He really is a crank-pot curmudgen.

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Wha?

Well, except for Mike O. He really is a crank-pot curmudgeon.
I do crank and pot?!!!

Liar, I'll cop to being a curmudgeon but I'll have you know I've never done crank in my life and any pot I might have done was at least 35 years ago.

Jeez, go out on the job; come home and now I'm a drug fiend.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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.. . I am positive that 17yrs of solving problems my remodeling customers have had is worth the mention. That experience makes the home inspections much more complete IMO.

That's absolutely true. And when you get a real web site, you should tout that experience and explain how it makes you a better inspector. But never, ever phrase it in such a way that a reader could interpret it as meaning you have 17 years of experience as an inspector. That's a lie and it'll come back to bite you.

When you guys say word of mouth, is that your mouth? is that clients mouths? are you suggesting they refer you if they were happy with you? what?

It means the mouths of others. One happy past client tells his friends & family about you and then they hire you. That's word of mouth.

how much is enough? $100 an hour? Each inspection takes about 4-5 hours of my time after you include; travel, inspection, research, report.

Go here: http://www.costofbusiness.com/ Buy the program, use it honestly and it will tell you exactly how much is enough.

I can't see anyone with 2 brain cells paying $400-$500 for an inspection. I bought my first two houses before I knew you didn't need a circular saw to cut drywall, and the thought of even getting a home inspection never entered my mind, let alone paying more than $300 when they only see you for a couple hours.

You're making the mistake of holding others to your own low standards. That's not an insult, just an observation. If you can't "see" someone paying $400-$500 for an inspection, you're not *seeing* a good part of your potential market. My company's average price is in the high 400s. This morning's was $625. I've charged over $2,000 for some single-family houses. My three partners also charge those rates. While we're among the highest priced inspectors in our area, we aren't the only ones who charge like that. There are several other companies who charge as much. The interesting thing is that we also have inspectors in this area who charge $175. They constantly complain that there's never any work. And there are others on this board who charge more than I do. They manage to stay busy. That means lots of people hire them. But then you can't "see" those people.

I'm not trying to sound defensive but, MAN, I ask some questions and a few of you responded like you knew me. If you did know me you wouldn't talk to me that way because I don't treat people I know like that and expect the same in return. There is such a thing as constructive criticism and you don't have to be a jerk to provide it.

You've received some very good advice and some very constructive criticism. Some of it was on the brisk side. Sometimes that's the price you pay for free advice.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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When I started my business in 05' my phone never rang, looking back it was the best thing that ever happened. With nothing to all day and plenty of time, I did what I always do…hit the library and learn something new.

For me it was HTML & CSS, a daunting task at first but after a good six months in Dreamweaver, and 3 (not-so-good attempts) I got my site up and running.

It's not great, just good enough. Website, brochures and business cards say so much when done right…you need to always look like you know what you’re doing if not, don't do anything, have someone else do it, just my opinion.

In the beginning I’d say 80% of my work came from my site. I worked on it every day all day. Clients seemed happy and the word of mouth started. I never have or never will kiss any agents asses or marketed to them directly, but quite a few now recommend me all the time. I think the failure-rate in my state (NJ) is something like 75% for new inspectors…

Ask yourself, what am I good at?

I have to admit that my graphic arts background (amongst other things like a minor in art history…what the hell was I thinking?) have helped considerably. I never, EVER thought the time I "wasted" learning those things would EVER help me do anything. I was wrong.

I haven’t seen your site (where’s the link?), but it sounds pretty bad. I sometimes go through the NACHI, list of inspectors and look at websites at random. I can’t believe some of the things I see!

Computer shit has snowballed for me. Just recently I've passed my CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Administrator) so I’ll have something to fall back on the next time the real estate market shits the bed...

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how much is enough? $100 an hour? Each inspection takes about 4-5 hours of my time after you include; travel, inspection, research, report. I can't see anyone with 2 brain cells paying $400-$500 for an inspection. I bought my first two houses before I knew you didn't need a circular saw to cut drywall, and the thought of even getting a home inspection never entered my mind, let alone paying more than $300 when they only see you for a couple hours.

Today's small 1950's ranch is $475, tomorrow's 2700 sq ft ranch on slab is $625, Monday's 3600 sq ft contemporary w/ vaulted ceilings, multiple roof valleys and about 200 windows is $1500 and I bet the $1500 won't be enough. $425 is my minimum. I live and work in a moderate income area with housing stock amongst the most reasonable in the country. The small 1950's ranch is selling for $134,900.

Each of my next three inspections is a referral from past clients.

If you produce a truly informative document and you're presentable, personable and knowledgeable, you'll build a self sustaining business that operates with a very small advertising budget. Like Jim said, your web page is awful- I'd start there.

If you really want some help, post a sample report for review.

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Hi,

OK, my previous post didn't help much, I know. Sometimes I tell a lame joke or two.

$185?? Seriously? Haven't you ever heard the term, "Pay yourself first?"

When I began inspecting homes in 1996 our baseline price was $275 - that was nearly 15 years ago.

I won't even get in my vehicle to go look at just a single component for a consult without a report for less than $150 and my lowest price today for a full inspection of anything up to 1500 square feet is $395. I don't care if it's 100 square feet and brand spanking new, it's $395.

After 1500sf my prices go up based on square footage. Several jobs I did last week were over $600. I've been told many times that I'm way too cheap. Maybe I am; two of the guys who serve on the state board with me get over $100 more than I do for that same 1500sf inspection.

I don't have a website and I only spend about $10 a year on advertising. The $10 pays for the card stock I use to print my own business cards. I don't distribute flyers, I don't visit open houses, I don't darken brokers' doors, I don't advertise on TV or radio or in newspapers. Still, in the worst part of this recession, when some other inspectors around here were selling off investment properties at a loss in order to pay their bills, I was plugging steadily along because my business model is built around word-of-mouth from former clients and I don't have to rely on handouts from realtors to get new business.

Building a good word-of-mouth business is not easy; especially in this gig - you need to sacrifice a lot and you have to discipline yourself not to allow yourself to be bullied and manipulated by the real estate agents in order to garner their table scraps in the way of referrals. When you have built it though, you will have something that'll keep you steady in the downtimes when those who rely on agents are selling off their wives' jewelry 'cuz their agent " referral clients" have gone out of business.

We can't tell you how to price your work and we certainly can't all get together and agree on a price 'cuz that would be price fixing and is illegal, but we can point out to you that unless you are charging enough to pay yourself a decent living wage after business expenses, you are gradually working yourself into bankruptcy.

You said above that each inspection takes you 4 to 5 hours. Break that down. You know you work a hell of a lot more hours a week than the conventional 40 hours a week that an employee works; yet if we call it a 40 hour week we can say that at $185 you are taking in $37 dollars an hour for that 5 hour gig. Somewhere around here I have a pie chart of inspection business costs that ASHI once did after surveying their membership. Without it in front of me, I can't tell you how most of the expenses were broken except that I remember that the total of all operating costs was something like 50% of gross. That means at $37 an hour you are taking in about $18.50 an hour or $38,480 a year before taxes [if] you can bring in not less than 8 jobs a week for a total of 416 inspections a year and if you work a full 52 weeks and don't take any time off. From what I've been reading about the economy in Indiana these days, that's a pretty big if.

You're a business owner; not an employee anymore - does it make sense to take on the kind of liability that you have to take on as the owner of the business while working for day laborer wages? You decide.

Buy the program that Jim recommended. It will help you figure this stuff out better than my 2nd grade math skills can.

The folks here are trying to help you. OK, so maybe it's tough love and it stings, but if you listen you can learn.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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Let's look at this from another angle. You say that a home inspection and report takes you 4-5 hours, so what would you charge for a comparable remodel gig like replacing a 6' patio door? If your answer is $189 then it's amazing you made it 17 years in the reno biz. If your skilled labor is worth more, then why isn't your skill set? The truth is it's worth considerably more.

The difference between price and value is a difficult lesson to learn, but it'll bury you if you ignore it.

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Prices too low, you'll get the wrong kind of clients, for sure. The ones that expect more for less.

Prices too high, no that won't work until you get a track record.

Your prices should be the local average which says your product is equal to what the others offer. Then demonstrate that you can do better. Answer questions like you know what you are talking about. That means you need to know your stuff, this is right, that is wrong. This is serious, that is not. If you don't know, say you need to double-check and will get back to them. You can get the answers here. [:-graduat

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For me it was HTML & CSS, a daunting task at first but after a good six months in Dreamweaver, and 3 (not-so-good attempts) I got my site up and running.

It's not great, just good enough. Website, brochures and business cards say so much when done right…you need to always look like you know what you’re doing if not, don't do anything, have someone else do it, just my opinion.

Well, I am suitably impressed with your website, and I've browsed a lot of them. Good job. Want to fix mine? [:)]

www.allsafehome.ca

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The others are right. You must brand yourself with your website. Cancel that Google adwords campaign and concentrate on your website. Folks will define you by their impression of your website.

Funny story about telemarketers and such. I got a call from a guy about 3 months ago. Really nice guy, laughing at some of the pics on my site. He then starts his spill about how he can get me on page 1 of Google and such. I humor him, and listen closely. For you see I have been coding and building websites for years now.

He goes through his bullshit, because thats what it is. I polity decline, and tell him I already have adwords set up. He asked me who did it for me. I tell him I did it, as well as built my site. There is a long pause and he says "Why in the hell are you a home inspector?" I laugh and tell him the website thing started as a hobby. He then tells me if I ever get tired of being a home inspector give him a call. "I'll put you on as a freelance web designer tomorrow..blah, blah, blah"

The others here may sound harsh, and it's difficult to relay a message such as constructive criticism over a keyboard. But know that the brains that reside on this forum are the smartest in the biz. Period.

In the immortal words of Jules Winnfield: "If my answers frighten you, Vincent, then you should cease asking scary questions."[;)]

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NOW THAT'S WHAT I WAS TALKIN' ABOUT! These are some suggestions with reasons I can wrap my head around. I really appreciate the time you all have spent with your replies. I've got LOTS of work to do now.

If that patio door took me 4-5hs to put in, I'd shoot myself! And that would cost $250.

No really, thanks fellas.

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