How to Work with More Realtors
By Stephanie Jaynes
Wondering how to start working with more agents? We asked brokers for the qualifications they seek and inspectors for the strategies they employ. But before we get into tips for home inspection marketing to realtors, let’s establish why such marketing may be beneficial.
Why work together?
Research suggests that home inspector-realtor relationships benefit inspectors. According to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR), 88 percent of buyers and 89 percent of sellers purchased and sold their homes through realtors in 2016. While many buyers and sellers do their own research to find home inspectors, it’s common for realtors to make recommendations. And most of the time, those recommended inspectors get the job. In 2001, NAR and the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) commissioned a study revealing that 69 percent of home buyers nationally chose their home inspectors based on their realtors’ recommendations.
So what’s in it for agents? Linda J. Page, National Association of Realtors® Region 2 Vice President—which covers New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania—states that having multiple home inspector relationships is to the realtor’s advantage. Her company recommends clients more than one home inspector to give them a choice. In her 47 years of experience, she’s found that it’s important to base recommendations on inspectors’ characters and approaches.
“Everyone has a different personality, and we like to make sure that the personalities mesh,” Page said. “If we have a first-time home buyer, then perhaps they need a home inspector who is more hand-holding than the home buyer who’s bought and sold multiple homes and has a very good sense of what buying and owning a home is all about.”
Thus inspectors benefit from having differing personalities to meet the needs of a dynamic clientele.
What Realtors Want
According to our interviews and HomeHubZone‘s 2015 survey of 160 realtors, thoroughness, certifications, schedule, and demeanor were realtors’ top criteria for inspectors. (See below.) We will talk about personal demeanor in an upcoming post. For now, we’re sharing what the agents we interviewed had to say about the other top criteria.
Bill Gassett is a realtor at RE/MAX Executive Realty in Massachusetts and self-published an article entitled “What a Real Estate Agent Wants From a Home Inspector.” In our interview, Gassett stated that any relationship between a realtor and a home inspector should be a “win-win” for the client.
“If I’m working for a buyer, I want to make sure that they have a great experience and obviously a home inspection is a big part of it,” Gassett said.
Attention to detail contributes to that great experience. Thorough inspections allow buyers to make more informed decisions. And the more accurate and complete the inspection, the less surprises when the buyers move in.
“We want the home inspector to provide a thorough, comprehensive inspection so that the buyer can make an informed decision as to whether or not to move forward,” Page said.
In order to be thorough, Page believes that home inspectors need to be qualified.
“This is about the home inspector doing the best job they can for the purchaser,” Page said. “What we’re looking for is knowledge, experience, and a balanced approach to how they inspect a home.”
Our research and HomeHubZone’s survey suggest that agents seek similar qualifications in home inspectors. If there are any state licensing or certification requirements, brokers look for those first. Other optional certifications and training can indicate expertise. Finally, realtors look at how long inspectors have been in the industry, placing value on experience.
Realtors’ expectations may seem to favor seasoned inspectors. While that’s partially true, new inspectors with technical backgrounds remain likely hires.
“If somebody has been in the HVAC industry for 30 years but has now decided they want to retire from that business and get into home inspection, then we know that they’ve got some street credibility in terms of looking at those kinds of systems,” Page said.
Many real estate agents want home inspectors who can inspect on short notice. Any more leeway than a couple of days, and the realtor’s more likely to refer another inspector.
“The advantage to having a good working relationship with a home inspector is that, if you get in a pinch, and you need a home inspection in a very short period of time—especially during busy periods—the relationship may have an impact as to their ability to squeeze you in,” Page said.
For many brokers, timeliness is a priority for not just scheduling but also report generation. According to HomeHubZone, 35 percent of the 160 realtors they surveyed expected inspectors to deliver reports within an hour. Such an expectation seems extreme. However, it’s important to know that many realtors want reports earlier than inspectors provide them.
“In this day of technology, there really shouldn’t be any reason why a home inspection report can’t be produced within a matter of 48 hours,” Page said. “When you have a home inspector that’s still old school, and you don’t get their report for five days, that can mean the difference between a transaction going through or not going through.”
How Home Inspectors Build Relationships
As a home inspector, Paul Stratton, Owner of Stratton Inspection Services, LLC in Arizona, finds that realtors worry about potential claims. Many are concerned that, if the home inspector they refer to the client misses something, they’ll be liable. Stratton calms brokers’ nerves by explaining that his InspectorPro insurance policy protects them, too.
“Realtors want to know that they’re covered and that their client is covered as well,” Stratton said. “[Referring party indemnification] gives them more peace of mind.”
In home inspection policies that include referring party indemnification, should there be a claim about inspection findings, the insurance company assumes liability for not just the home inspector but also the referring party. (In this case, the referring party is the realtor since they recommended the inspector.) Having protection through the inspector’s insurance can make realtors less hesitant to recommend them to clients. (Check your policy to see if it includes referring party indemnification.)
Recognizing how he could use referring party indemnification as a marketing tool, Stratton designed a presentation for realtors about it. By educating real estate agents about the benefit, Stratton opened himself up to more realtor relationships.
There are many additional topics about which inspectors can present. In fact, the internet is full of completed home inspection presentations ready to download. And if none of the presentations online fit your realtors’ needs, you can create your own as Stratton did.
“You can better educate [realtors] and, at the same time, market yourself a bit,” Stratton said. “If they know that you’re adding value to what they want and you’re not just tooting your own horn, I think they’re more apt to use you.”
Jim Brown is the owner of Final Word Inspection Services in Georgia and the author of the article “Do You Trust Home Inspectors?” in REALTOR® Magazine. According to Brown, it’s critical to offer your services to your agents often.
“I’ll go to the office, and I’ll stop at Dunkin’ Donuts. And I’ll grab them 24 donuts and just take them in and restock my business cards,” Brown said.
Other times, Brown has taken real estate agents out to lunch or stopped by just to chat.
“It’s like any relationship; you have to work at it,” Brown said. “I’ve been married 41 years, and the reason is that we work. Even now, we work at our relationship.”
For Brown, his persistence has paid off. In one instance, a realtor called Brown after someone else’s home inspection. The property’s terracotta roof had been inaccessible. Thus the other inspector was unable to determine the roof’s condition. So Brown offered to survey the roof with his drone, which he did.
Stratton keeps in touch with existing and introduces himself to new realtors by sponsoring and attending broker events. For instance, sponsoring local BOLD events has allowed Stratton to network and learn.
“I just try to sponsor the stuff that’s really going to bring me a lot of business and pay for itself and more. Because if you capture one realtor, they know 50 others that they can refer you to,” Stratton said.
Other inspectors and marketing professionals recommend using technology for outreach. According to a recent blog post by Full View Home Inspection Marketing, following up every realtor-inspector interaction with an email helps, and engaging with realtor listings can keep inspectors top-of-mind.
Daniel Cullen, Owner of Domicile Consulting, LLC in Chicago begins his relationships with realtors in the field.
“We have never in the 20 years we’ve been in business done any cold-calling, direct outreach, visited real estate offices—anything like that,” Cullen said. “We’ve only gotten our name in front of realtors by running into them on inspection sites and hopefully impressing them with the quality of our work, with the thoroughness of our inspection, and the detail in our reports.”
Cullen isn’t alone. His strategy of accruing and maintaining realtor referrals by example is becoming more common. Offering a quality service and giving clients a good experience can make agents want to work with you more frequently.
“Customer service is the new marketing,” wrote Greg Shuey of content marketing lead generation firm Stryde. “As seen with Amazon and Zappos, providing ultimate satisfaction to your customers sells itself.”
Protection for All
Keep in mind that when working with realtors, it is in your best interest to have referring party indemnification. This means that, should there be a claim, the insurance company of the insured assumes liability for not just the home inspector but also the referring party.
If your insurer offers third party indemnification, your insurance policy will define referring real estate agents, real estate brokers, mortgage lenders, relocation companies, and other relevant third party referral sources as limited additional insureds. As such, these referral sources can receive insurance coverage from claims arising from your inspection services.
By taking the advice we outline above and having a referring party indemnification endorsement, you can enhance your marketability and work with more realtors.
Want to learn more about referring party indemnification? Read our article on the subject here.
The above article has been corrected to reflect that, when she was interviewed, Linda J. Page had 47 years of real estate experience—not 40.