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Jim Morrison

This is not a rant

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But it is kind of interesting and may even be a little bit of fun.

A woman called me the other day asking me to inspect a 20 year old, 4 BR house in the burbs. She currently lives in a condo in the city and she was impressed with the work I had done for one of her neighbors.

Her biggest concern was the fact that neither she nor her husband could take off time from work for the whole inspection. They wanted to show up at the last hour and have me walk them through the highlights. I said I'd prefer not to, but I'd accomodate them as best I could.

Below is our email exchange (first email last, last email first).

First question: Will I get the job?

Second question: What should I have said?

Hi Yen,

Thanks first of all for the high compliment of not canceling outright and giving me an opportunity to defend my fee.

I am very sure that the inspector who quoted you a fee of $350 is a fine judge of his worth, so I won't offer further commentary.

For myself, I will only say that a 3 hour inspection (depending on what we find, it could be longer), with 90 minutes of report writing time, roughly 2 hours of travel (with luck), telephone calls, emails, administrative tasks et cetera represents an 8 hour day. I only do one inspection per day, so you have my full attention. I won't be rushing to get through to my next inspection. No one who charges $350 can subsist on one inspection per day.

But you aren't just paying for my time. You're also receiving the experience I've garnered over 24 years inspecting houses in New England, the reference library I've developed over that time, not to mention the teams of experts in my network whom I consult regularly as needed. If you've been to www.almorrison.com, you've seen my bona fides.

The smartest, most experienced people in every field charge more than the other guys. I understand that budget is always an issue for all of us and I respect whatever decision you make, but I felt obliged to give you a few of the reasons why I can't lower my fee. Please let me know what you decide as soon as you're able.

Many thanks,

Jim

On Jun 20, 2011, at 12:27 PM, Yen xxxxxxx wrote:

Hello Jim,

Thanks for getting back to me.

Your inspection fee of $795 is more than twice as high as another quote that we recieved from another inspection company ($350)....is there any way you could bring the price down at all? Again, we thought you were very thorough with our neighbor's inspection and would love to use you but the price seems a bit high.

Please let me know if you can flexible on the fee.

Thanks,

Yen

From: jamesandrewmorrison@gmail.com

Subject: Re: confirming home inspection next Thurs

Date: Sun, 19 Jun 2011 20:57:22 -0400

To: xxxxxx@msn.com

Hi Yen,

I am still free Thursday AM. My fee for a home that size is $795.

Please let me know if you want me to confirm your appointment. A sample copy of my contract is attached to this email. Please look it over, let me know if you have any questions, and be ready to sign a copy on site.

Best,

Jim Morrison

978.851.6315

Morrison Home Inspections, LLC

"Each house tells a story. We write 'em down."

Empowering homebuyers with information since 1987

On Jun 18, 2011, at 11:15 AM, Yen xxxxxxx wrote:

Hi Jim,

Just wanted to confirm our appt for next Thursday, June 23rd at 8:30am.

Our broker will meet you at 40 xxxxxxxx St., Natick at 8:30 to let you in. I'm still not sure when we will be able to meet you but it won't be any later than 10:00am.

Could you also send me a quote of what the inspection will cost?

Thanks,

Yen xxxxxxx

cell xxx-xxx-3256

Dave xxxxxxx

cell xxx-xxx-6827

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Dunno if you'll get the job but I couldn't have said it any better than you did. I would've stood my ground just the same as you. My quotes are always final, always have been.

Marc

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Interesting early returns. I also ran this past my wife, who is a negotiator par excellence and she said:

'Nice email. You should have offered her a $50 discount at the end, though. It's a negligible amount (>6%) and it would have left her feeling like she'd gotten something.'

Excellent advice. Good negotiations leave both sides feeling like they 'won' something. I will report back when I hear more.

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Interesting early returns. I also ran this past my wife, who is a negotiator par excellence and she said:

'Nice email. You should have offered her a $50 discount at the end, though. It's a negligible amount (>6%) and it would have left her feeling like she'd gotten something.'

Excellent advice. Good negotiations leave both sides feeling like they 'won' something. I will report back when I hear more.

Exactly. That $50.00 will probably save you from $100.00 worth of nit picky criticism as well.

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I think it's excellent and I'll use it as a template for my own responses in the future.

Personally, I'd cut out the dig about the other inspector knowing his own worth. It's unnecessary and, I think, it lowers you. It's the kind of comment that works really well when spoken, but less well when written.

I agree with your wife that a small concession on your part would be ok. I negotiate with customers every so often and I even enter into barter arrangements occasionally. (My freezer presently contains a beautiful pair of Copper River Salmon from one such recent barter.)

Another tack I've taken, by the way, is to let the customer decide on the price. When they ask about a discount, I just say, "Tell you what. I think that my inspection is worth XXX. After we're all done, though, if you think it's worth less, you can pay me anything you want." I've done that a few dozen times and no one has ever paid me less than my initial quote.

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Jimmy,

I like your response and I also agree with your better half in that a small $50 discount may have been worth it. Although, this client may be the type that is going to hound you well after the inspection. Ultimately your call.

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$50 off won't make any difference with regard to criticism or hounding.

In fact, I've found that the ones who get the discount are often the worst hounders. After all, they nagged you once and it worked, why wouldn't it work again.

It's like feeding your dog from the table. It doesn't make him go away.

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$50 off won't make any difference with regard to criticism or hounding.

In fact, I've found that the ones who get the discount are often the worst hounders. After all, they nagged you once and it worked, why wouldn't it work again.

It's like feeding your dog from the table. It doesn't make him go away.

On second thought, Jim has a point. Why don't you offer up a couple of fresh Atlantic salmon instead.

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Jimmy,

Here's part of a recent email response I sent to a client who was doing the same thing to me as that potential client was doing to you:

You called me because you already knew the quality of the work that I do. You told me that you learned about me on your company's intranet message board; where dozens of your co-workers had strongly recommended me to others in your firm. The fee I've quoted you is based on the same fee structure I used when I did those inspections; nonetheless, you want me to reduce my fee by comparing me to other inspectors whose level of expertise and competence you cannot verify beyond what the inspector tells you or what you've read on the inspector's website. Frankly, I find that to be a little insulting.

If dozens of your co-workers had been successful in court proceedings because they'd all hired a certain very experienced lawyer to represent them; and then you wanted to hire that same lawyer to represent you, would you then try to get that lawyer to reduce his or her fee by comparing what that lawyer charges to the fees charged by a lawyer that's six months out of law school? Professionals charge professional fees; that's the way it is. Why, when you are about to make the most expensive purchase of your lifetime, would you even consider trusting the investigation of that home to the lowest bidder?

More than 80% of new home inspection companies fail within two years; that's a fact. After 15 years, my company is still around because I know what I am doing and because I know how to charge fairly for my services. So, if the lower fee charged by an inspector whose competence you can't be sure of is more important to you than hiring the most qualified, competent and experienced inspector you can find, than by all means you should hire the $350 inspector. Otherwise, at the present time I can accommodate you on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday of this week at 1pm only. If none of those dates works for you, I'll be happy to provide you the names and phone numbers of other experienced and competent inspectors whom I trust to do a good job for you and maybe one of them will be able to accommodate your schedule.

She booked the inspection within an hour for the Tuesday afternoon slot.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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The only thing I don't like about your price is that a number like '795' sounds sorta retail-store-ish. When my spreadsheet spits out a number like that, I alter it slightly. I think I would have quoted 780. Sometimes rounding up is OK but in this case it would have put you over 800, adding another perceived barrier to the buyer.

The line about the best practitioners always charging more is brilliant. You might get the job or you might be dealing with someone who never hires or buys the best.

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In fact, I've found that the ones who get the discount are often the worst hounders. After all, they nagged you once and it worked, why wouldn't it work again.

It's like feeding your dog from the table. It doesn't make him go away.

Oftimes this is correct, but not always. Sometimes making a tiny concession wins you a lucrative contract. Other times it works the other way. Great salespeople (I'm not one) recognize the difference. Hindsight in 20/20.

Consider this: The entire cast of Gilligan's Island was just thrilled to be working and happily signed away their syndication rights to that show. No one would have predicted that they'd be cancelled after three years and fewer still would predict that it would be broadcast around the world for the next 45+.

Go big or go home?

1/2 a loaf is better than none?

Is there a wrong answer?

Who do you want to be?

Will I be sitting at home posting on Facebook & TIJ on Thursday, or earning a little scratch?

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Answer to Question One: No clue.

Answer to Question Two: There is no correct answer.

I go through this scenario several times a week. When I'm busy, I tell them my fee and provide a 15- or 20-second self-promo, fully aware that I won't get the job, but that's okay 'cause someone else will call and fill that gap in my schedule.

When bidness is slower, I spend a little more time on self promotion. In marketing classes, they tell you never to go negative. It simply doesn't work. But I break that cardinal rule on a regular basis. I tell callers that I WILL walk the roof, I WILL check out every accessible area of the attic, and I WILL look at every square foot of the crawlspace, whereas my competitors won't. Does it work? Probably not. Or maybe I should say USUALLY not.

The difficult part, is that most people know very little about houses, and very little about what we do. People don't know how diligent and compulsive some HIs are--diligent and compulsive to a degree that those inspectors will debate what font works best in a report : ) , along with everything else that has to do with houses.

Yen knows your work, and wants to hire you because of it, yet she doesn't want to pay your fee because it's higher than some other schmuck's. Yen is basing her decision on simple cost rather than value obtained for that cost. Her lack of logic skews the question and renders it without a correct answer.

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I should probably point out that I do provide a $50 discount off my normal fee for employees of a few (only 5) local firms that each has over 500 employees.

When someone calls I ask them where they work and how they learned about me. When I learn they are employed by one of those firms, they are told, "My regular fee for a home that size is $XXXXXX, plus a distance surcharge if it's outside of a 20 mile radius of my base here in Kenmore; however, because you are a XXXXXX employee, I automatically deduct $50 from the regular fee and I'll waive the distance surcharge. That makes your fee $XXXXXX."

I standardized that about 2-1/2 years ago. Before that, I used to quote fees for employees of those firms based on an either/or formula that depended on location of the home. It was inconsistent and I found myself constantly explaining to callers why my quote wasn't consistent with so-and-so's fee, another employee of that firm with a home similar in size. When I went to a consistent formula, the fee dickering practically disappeared. It does crop up occasionally, such as in the example above, but nowadays it's pretty rare with employees of those firms.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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I am not sure what is going to happen but if the inspection is cancelled I would venture a guess that it is probably for the best.

I also think offering a SMALL discount is not a bad idea for the sake of good will.

Your answer is right on target.

I continue to be amazed at how many intelligent people that are purchasing a home that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars can base the home inspection decision on a price difference that is relatively insignificant instead of the references of other satisfied clients.

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Yeah, small discount as an act in good faith, but that's it.

I don't explain much of anything to anyone about my pricing. They take it, or not.

I'm not the most expensive guy, though.

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Keep in mind that in the Southern US our fees are not as high as what some charge in other parts of the country. Overall we have lower operation cost (lower property tax; I have no state income tax in TN, lower insurance cost, lower fuel cost, etc) If I travel more than 50 or so miles I bump my fee up $25 for the extra time.

I do not get into discussions of my fee or how my fee is broken down. I provide the quote and move on to the next.

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I'm probably the middle of the road with my fee quotes for my area. I stick to my initial quote always. I try hard to explain the time and effort I put in to the job. While not always successful at it, I try not to put down other inspectors. I just explain what I know about myself.

Confidence is a good thing usually but there's a fine line between confidence and arrogance. I hope I don't cross that line in the eyes of others but in my mind I sometimes get close. It makes me think over my plans about how I project myself.

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Well, it worked out for me this time around. I hope it was an interesting exercise to see played out, though. I would still love to hear more constructive criticism from you all.

Here is the last correspondence:

Yen,

Fantastic. I look forward to meeting you both on site.

Jim

On Jun 20, 2011, at 5:00 PM, Yen xxxx wrote:

Hi Jim,

xxxx and I have decided to stick with you. We will take a chance that having a good, thorough inspection with someone who was recommended to us will be worth the extra cost.

Our realtor will be at xx xxxxxx in Natick at 8:30am, this Thursday, to let you in. We will try to get there as soon as we can.

Thanks,

Yen

cell xxx-xxx-3256

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Also, did I actually put the other guy down? She never named him, and I haven't any idea who he might be. Libel per se? per quod? A left handed compliment? Not quite a put down, but maybe poor form?

Would you have crossed that line?

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Hey, I cross lines I don't know exist all the time; consider it part of your charm.

I would've knocked $50 off as a show of good faith, been real friendly, but remained firm that I'm worth it.

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Shoot last time it happened to me, the customer said "her realtor told her it was too much".

My response was "You know, I think your realtor should take the fee out of her commission, she's not good for anything else".

I didn't get that job...........but some of the best jobs are the one's you don't do.

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Jimmy,

If the inspection goes nice and easy, maybe then you can offer the small discount as a sign of thanks for making the right choice. I do that from time to time and they are always appreciative of the smallest discount I may give them.

Mike O will appreciate this one. I had a potential client from his neck of the woods call and ask for a quote which I gave, and he said the last inspector he talked with was almost $100 cheaper. Mike, that would have put them at $375 for 2800 Sq ft of house. I ended up not getting the job because I didn't want to do the inspection this past Sunday(Fathers Day). Or maybe it was the least expensive inspector that ended up with the gig.

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