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I’m new to this business but I have been around construction all my life. However after relocating to the Tampa area I thought I would take on a new career. I’ve been in it since March and things are A LOT slower then I thought. My question for everyone is do you have any tips on marketing\advertising. Or is things really this slow. I’ve heard about post cards, emails and even cold calling.. has anyone had any luck with this. Or know of anything that does work well…

Thanks in advance.

Joe

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Joe,

I think you have a pretty good question. That said, it is always nice when a person uses their real name.

I took a look at your website and notice a few things, but most of it is really oblique info.

Have you filled in your information on the ASHI site? Have you talked to local chapter guys? Every area is unique, especially during these tough times. Have you thought about different services - Thermal image, IAQ, etc?

gotta have patience of Job.

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I’m new to this business but I have been around construction all my life. However after relocating to the Tampa area I thought I would take on a new career. I’ve been in it since March and things are A LOT slower then I thought. My question for everyone is do you have any tips on marketing\advertising. Or is things really this slow. I’ve heard about post cards, emails and even cold calling.. has anyone had any luck with this. Or know of anything that does work well…

Thanks in advance.

Joe

In my area, during really good times, about 16 out of 17 new home inspectors went out of business within their first two years. These are not really good times and the numbers are even worse now. You've chosen to enter the profession in the middle of the worst housing market that we've had in 40 years. Your'e also working in an area that's pretty well saturated with very experienced inspectors who produce very polished reports and your report is a hand written check-the-box form that went out of fashion many years ago. You've picked a tough row to hoe.

You might try exploring a niche that no one else is in right now, but I guarantee that your competition has thought of that as well. The bottom line is that, if you're going to succeed, you have to do the job as well or better than your competition is doing it.

I see that you went through AHIT training and I'm curious. Did they rope you in with promises of the big bucks that you were going to make as a newly minted home inspector? I only ask, because I regularly receive emails from them promising that kind of thing.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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Well to be honest I knew that the field was in a down turn. I thought I would be a good time to get in learn in network while a lot were getting out. As for AHIT yes I went to that school and well I feel I wrote a check and they ran off. The school was fine really I didn’t learn anything I didn’t already know but now I can say I’m certified. I have spoken with several realtors in my area and they seem to like the paper format that I have. I know its out dated However once things are going I’ll be changing over to computer \ software. I’m just trying to figure out the best way to get my name out.

Thanks guys

Joe

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Being relatively new to my area as well, I too am up against "established" inspectors, some of whom used to be a realtor and some who still carry a real estate license and market that fact. So marketing has some challenges for me. All I can say is that you do the best work you know how to do, the word will get out from your customers and you will start getting referalls. Stay above board with everyone and hold true to your ethics.

Use electronic reporting with photos in your report. I keep my explanations simple and to the point. I dont give coupons, dont have too. I went to some local businesses and got freebies from them to hand out to my clients as a form of welcome home package like you get at the post office.

I went to AHIT as a means of obtaining CME's. I had a great instructor who was up front and honest and told us that this was a hard business and the amount of money you will make is directly related to the work you put in. Gave advice on how to work with clients, difficult realtors etc, and we still remain friends today.

Hope this helps a little bit.

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Rob,

I choose the high road, in your words. I market to friends, family and co-workers and wait for referals. The high road is slow going. I also market to RE's in an attempt to fill the gaps, the low road is slower, but I don't compromise my values to get a gig from them. I sell to the RE's the same way I pitch anybody else, guess that's why they don't give me any referals.

Tom

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If you're looking for tips on advertising you need to determine your target audience.

OK! you asked and I'll answer you honestly.

If you market to home buyers (your client) then it will be an uphill battle that may take years to cultivate.

If you market to reeltours then it's a downhill ride. You'll get lots of work, perhaps make lots of money.

Is the low road bad?...

You have to ask yourself WHY you got into this business.

The high road is not easy but not impossible.

1. Get a website that works

2. Get a reputation for knowing something - if you don't know, volunteer yourself to a contractor. I've hired electricians, plumbers and paid them full contract and offered my help for FREE so I could learn a little bit about their trade, their thinking etc.

3. Get happy about every phone call you get - I treat every inspection with enthusiasm.

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Before I stopped inspecting and started school (God the math is hard!) I had an idea I wanted to put into play but never got it started. As a newer inspector you may have the time to do this and it may get you a few inspections. Remember, I said it was something I was thinking about, have not done so there may be some improvement to be had.

The gist is, start in your neighborhood first and look for FSBO's. Maybe you have family or friends or friends of friends that are selling FSBO style. Either way, you need to find one FSBO willing to give you a chance. Your offer them to host their home in a open house. What you do is get the open house signs, balloons for the signs, use all the free listing services and maybe even pay for a local ad announcing an open house. Have some bottled water and or other drinks, maybe some candy or finger foods. Also create a survey for the potential buyers to complete. Then host the open house.

If the seller lets you do this, depending on the traffic that day, you should meet between 3+ potential buyers which also equals 3+ potential clients for you. From talking to a few agents about open houses, 3 is a slow day, on good days you could have 15-20. There are tons of factors like location and weather that you just can't control but even if only 3 show up and you only get one of those, that is one more than you had yesterday. Plus if one of these people actually buy the home the seller may be thankful as well and use you for their next purchase too. Maybe that is one way to convince them to let you host, offer them a discount on an thier inspection if they let you host their house.

The survey, what you do is, as the visitors are getting ready to leave, you ask them to complete the survey and if they do, you will give them a coupon for $20 off an inspection. The survey if for the seller. It asks things like, what did you like what didn't you like. This can give the seller valuable information as to why their house has been sitting on the market for 16 months. It also give the visitor your name, phone number and other information. Information they would most likely remember when they do actually buy a home, even if it's not that one.

At the open house, you don't sell your services. You are there to present the house. If asked, you tell them straight up, you have not inspected the house and can not give an opinion in that regard, but you can say it has a swell kitchen with nifty gadgets or such. You can have material like your business cards and or brochures and anything else you want, but put them on display for them to take, don't force it on them.

Again, the idea is to get your name and face in front of potential clients. 99% of the visitors are looking to buy a house in your area in the near future and thus it is a target rich environment. A lot better than scatter gun tactics like newspaper ads. The trick is you have to give something of value to the seller to convince them to let you do it. By offering the free listings, survey information and an overall good experience (all at ZERO cost to them) may be enough for some.

Your actual costs for this is very small. Once you buy the signs, you can use them over an over. The ads, at least in my area, for a simple print, (No big glossy pictures or such) was like $12. There are over a dozen web sites you can also announce an open house, all for free (except the 100 phone calls you get later asking you to upgrade the service). The most expensive thing is the drinks and food (You should already have marketing material like business cards and brochures). So start low and if people don't respond well, go to more or better stuff. But I figured I could do it all for one Saturday of my time and maybe $50. With time and experience I'm sure you could get that $50 a lot lower too.

Like I said, this is just a general idea and needs some tweaking, but I think it has good potential.

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I'm surprised Les hasn't mentioned Yo-Yo's yet.

Being in my 3rd year in this biz, I can say Scott's suggestion works. A while back he posted a sample letter he uses. I started a similar letter (short & to the point) with a couple of business cards. I can't really quantify or measure it's success, but it does get my cards into the hands of people who will most likely pass them to future business. I don't go to the offices and drop off brochures or anything like that; but I feel reaching realtors this way is not too aggressive, which could result in them throwing out my card.

Oh yea, and get Yo-yo's (ask Les)...

Frank

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Well to be honest I knew that the field was in a down turn. I thought I would be a good time to get in learn in network while a lot were getting out. As for AHIT yes I went to that school and well I feel I wrote a check and they ran off. The school was fine really I didn’t learn anything I didn’t already know but now I can say I’m certified.

Hmm. You wrote a check -- they ran off. The school was fine -- you didn't learn anything. I find it interesting that you're demonstrating a pattern of illogical thought that's very common with newer inspectors. It follows the "it's screwed up -- but it's ok" logical model. We see it all the time in report writing. (The roof is shot -- but it'll be fine for 3-5 more years.) That sort of thing can really come back to bite you. But it's even more bizarre to see it used as a business model. (I can make money by entering a business market that's in decline.)

I have spoken with several realtors in my area and they seem to like the paper format that I have.

I'll bet they did. You do understand, don't you, that realtors are *not* your friends in this business?

I know its out dated However once things are going I’ll be changing over to computer \ software. I’m just trying to figure out the best way to get my name out.

More confused logic. My product is outdated but I'll improve it after I'm successful. Does this really seem like a sound business plan?

No offense, but before you consider how to improve your marketing, you consider how to improve your thought processes.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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