As home inspectors we find ourselves driving all over the city and sometimes the state to perform home inspections for our clients and agent partners. One of our largest referral sources are the buyer agents who refer us to their clients who are in the process of purchasing homes. Unfortunately we cannot control where and/or when our agents’ clients want to purchase homes. That means if we have a really good agent that refers us to his/her clients on a regular basis and the property is in a location that may be 60 miles from our normal home inspection territory, we will typically perform this inspection to keep our referral partner happy and keep and stay on the referral list. So even if we market to clients and agents in just a 5 miles radius around our home and prefer to do inspections as close to our home or office as possible we will still want to do the home inspections for referring agent even if that means taking a less than desirable drive. If we start turning down our referral agent’s business they’re going to simply go and find someone else who is willing to work wherever the market dictates.
You never know when declining business or turning a client away due to the inspection being out of your “normal” territory will prompt them look for another inspector. They may find that they enjoy working with that other inspector, they may like their report format, pricing or other factors that will prevent you from earning their business at a later date. This could cost you tens of thousands of dollars in business and future referrals—all because of being averse to driving outside of your normal territory.
The other thing to take a look at is how many home inspections are performed within a given radius of your office or home. If you only want to work within a particular driving distance from that location keep in mind there is a finite amount of home inspections available and you are in competition with all of the other home inspectors in the market. Yes, restricting your geographic area will make a much more convenient and less stressful commute. Yes, there may be circumstances (or personal or scheduling obligations) which prevent you from taking a job but this will generally not do much in the way of generating future business or satisfaction with your current agent partners. Another side effect of restricting our geographic availability will also have a similar impact on your ability to meet your personal income goals. Some more experienced home inspectors with a robust referral base may be able to successfully find this balance and can afford the luxury of a tighter circle. For the rest of us, casting a very wide net is a wise option to help best meet your personal performance and financial goals. Case in point, when Wade Williamson began performing inspections over 10 years ago, he would drive all over Colorado despite being based out of Denver. He not only used targeted marketing campaigns, but accepted jobs from every corner of the state. The tradeoff between a little extra time behind the wheel and the additional income is worth it. Not only is it more beneficial to have to drive and still earn a paying job, but the relationships and network cultivation can and will yield positive downstream results if approached with the correct tactics. You never know if that agent who needed an inspection on the opposite side of the state also does 3-4 transactions per month in your neck of the woods. Also, any inspector needing experience should jump at the opportunity for paying inspections even if they are outside of your ideal location.
Let’s talk about some things that we can do to try and mitigate this drive time and/or actually make the drive time beneficial as a home inspector.
- Continuing Education. Most of us get into our vehicle and go into auto pilot, setting the GPS, turning on the radio and hitting the road. While that is a great way to relax, and a very select few individuals actually enjoy the open road, one way to use this time to your advantage is to download an eBook, podcast or other media that can help you become a more experienced or knowledgeable home inspector. Plus, by adding certifications to your portfolio, you are increasing your potential earnings on each and every inspection you perform. This is also much for convenient for your clients and referral partners as they can make one phone call (to you) rather than navigating through different providers.
- Relax. The hussle and bustle, daily grind or whatever other title you apply can wear even the toughest home inspector down over time. It can be nice to use the alone time to simply listen to your favorite artist and enjoy the scenery.
- Agent Check-In Calls. When was the last time you checked in with that agent that used you a month ago, 2 months ago, a year ago? Do they even know you still exist? Having the proper tools (Bluetooth or hands-free calling) can turn your otherwise unproductive time behind the wheel into a very productive exercise in marketing.
- Post-Inspection Client Calls. Few inspectors or inspection companies really take the time to follow-up with their clients after they provide the written report. This otherwise unproductive drive time could be used to follow-up with recent clients to make sure they received all of the information they were expecting, answer any outstanding questions and prompt the client to leave a review or potentially refer a friend, colleague or family member.
- Agent Office Visits. Perhaps driving for a couple of hours to get to an inspection would be made a little more bearable if instead of one inspection at (or on the way to) your destination, you were scheduled for two or three. Prior to departure, map out several agent offices located on the way to the subject property. Deliver some literature and business cards and cast that net as wide as possible.
No matter how you choose to spend your time behind the wheel, please always have safety for you and your fellow travelers top-of-mind.