Friday, April 27, 2018

What a client thinks

Just posted on Yelp: "My husband and I are in the process of purchasing our first home. Our realtor referred us to Chris Hilton to conduct the home inspection and I'm so glad she did. He arrived promptly on time and was fully prepared to go to the 100 yards. Chris is very personable, respectful and knowledgeable of his profession having over 20 years experience. I walked with him throughout the home asking questions and absorbing how the home works. He went into the attic and welcomed my step dad to go with him into the crawlspace (and he did). He walked around the house even in the rain. He documented everything and took pictures. It took around 3 hours from start to finish. His report was done and sent to my realtor and myself the very next morning. I was nervous going into the inspection but he eased my nerves knowing that he is on the buyers side and working hard to prepare the buyer for any future issues. I highly recommend Chris Hilton to do your home inspection!"

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Why such hate from agents?

“Why such hate from agents (Realtors)?” This was the question asked of me early this morning from a Realtor, I have always heard was involved in the process of disparaging me with other agents, who may have found a little enlightenment over the past few days. She is having difficulty comprehending the very obvious hate from some Realtors, who are not involved with me, and apparent love she is discovering from those who have worked with me consistently for many years. Why is it that hundreds of Realtors hate me, talk bad of me, prefer that I not be involved in their transaction, consistently bad mouth me among their peers and belittle agents who choose to work with me? 

They say confession is good for the soul so for the first time, in 20 years, I am going to confess. There are a huge number of Realtors who hate me because, when I started in this business, that was one of my primary goals and it has worked well for me. When I attempted to explain this goal to my Realtor wife she said that I was nuts, that my business and success would come from Realtors and that I could not make it in home inspections with such an attitude. 

I had never been on a home inspection with a home inspector. Imagine that. I started in the business with very little concept of how my competitors did what they did, and I didn’t care. I learned from classes, books and formed my own concept of what a home inspection should be. The state of North Carolina has a minimum standard of practice and I quickly learned that most home inspectors, for the most part, limited themselves to that standard. My thought process was that I would want a home inspector who cared about me and my family.
Who would be better than a father or grandfather with extensive construction experience? I had a father like that, was a father like that and later became a grandfather like that. So why not inspect homes to a higher standard and become that to my clients. Inspect homes as if your child was the buyer and your grandchildren would be the occupants. It did not appear to me that is what other home inspectors were doing based on their reports and the outcomes of their inspections.

To put it in the terms of a leader in our industry I considered every home an elephant hunt but found the elephants by looking for the tiniest little squirrel most inspectors were ignoring and unlike them, I included those in my reports. Then, I included things they choose to ignore, because it made too many waves with Realtors, including but not limited to abandoned wells, below grade fuel oil tanks, asbestos, placed radon monitors in unfinished basements as was the confusing intent of the EPA standards which most test providers chose to ignore because the test would be lower pleasing more folk. The EPA, at my request, later clarified that requirement bolstering what had been my position since the beginning forcing others to follow instead of buck my lead. 

On one of my very early inspections I was confronted by a high performing listing agent who chose to stay by my side and argue about everything I brought up. I politely ask her to step out in the yard and advised her that she had a choice. She could leave, or I would leave. She left and has spread her hate of me throughout the industry ever since. I can quote her comment to my wife “You know I hate your husband”. This spread like wildfire through her company and other high performing agents who have basically black-balled me forever. 

How do you become a successful home inspector while being black-balled by most high performing agents? You connect with those they don’t have influence over, many of which are new agents. You ride up the ladder as part of those new agent’s team until they are high performing agents. Hence the agents who love me and the ones who don’t. 

An interesting thing happened to me before I actually did my first inspection. I attended a meeting of the local chapter of the American Society of Home Inspectors and sat beside of the only person in the room I knew. He happed to be one of the longest serving and respected home inspectors in the community, as well as a structural engineer, and his book reflected that. When asked for introduction of new attendees he stood up and said, “Gentleman allow me to introduce my greatest fear in this industry who will now be inspecting the homes we have previously inspected.” He went on to explain who I was and that I had more construction experience than everyone in the room together. Now, that is the way to break the ice in a room filled with strangers. 

Now we have this guy with extensive experience and knowledge setting out to conduct a home inspection as if he were the buyers father or grandfather. The result was more detailed tougher inspections and reports than the Realtors were accustomed to seeing. The guy who introduced me above’s report might have 8 pages while mine could be 40 or even 100. Now the Realtors happy listing weren’t so happy. If you aren’t happy with this inspector how do you keep him out of your listings? Simple, represent him to all of the agents you associate with as a deal killer we don’t want involved with our home inspections. And they did and still do. 

Why would I start out on such a crazy path?  I became, over time, the home inspector the buyers began to demand and that Realtors, who honestly care about their client’s best interest, preferred. I enhanced that by becoming the most available inspector covering a larger area and working crazy hours seven days a week. When your inspector of choice wasn’t available I was. I became the number two choice by default. I was available when they were not. 

There you have it, the most hated home inspector loved by a few and by his home buyer clients who spread the word bringing more business than he can handle.