Top Ten Inspection Industry Innovations of the Decade
by Nick Gromicko and Kate Tarasenko
1. Inspector Websites
It goes without saying that, for most of us, our first personal computer many years ago was a fairly expensive, heavy, overwhelmingly large and underwhelmingly slow contraption that displayed eye-fatiguing shades of blue or green connected to the magical ether by a will-it-or-won’t-it dial-up modem. Thanks to Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and a Silicon Valley filled with geeky smartypants, PC-ing has evolved into the ubiquitous wireless laptop that can travel with us wherever we go and display virtually anything the mind can imagine, in gloriously colorful HTML and Java.
So, too, has the Web exploded in breadth and capability (no thanks to Al Gore). A generation of children is approaching adulthood having never known life without the Internet. If we want to find out what the 25 best sports nicknames of all time are, insult a snooty relative using a line from Shakespeare, order ahead from the menu at the Russian Tea Room, see a map of InterNACHI’s corporate headquarters, or find a home inspector, the first and only stop we’ll usually make is online. That’s why an inspector’s Web presence is essential to his success. An inspector without a website will spend most of his time waiting by his phone playing Solitaire!
InterNACHI offers several options both for creating a webpage and for listing it online where the consumer can find you with a minimum number of clicks. We teach you how to maximize your inspection site’s content for search-engine optimization, as well as give you proven tips for what makes the best website by also telling you what makes a poor website. We want you busy booking inspections, not figuring out what color to make the background on your homepage. We take the guesswork out of this process from start to finish – even helping you figure out how to choose a domain name – because, at InterNACHI, we understand that most inspectors in business today remember a time when Pong was awesome.
The Internet, once again, comes in first place as the world’s modern innovation to beat, and not just for marketing, but also for learning. Even the U.S. Department of Education agrees that online education is better than classroom education. In a study spanning 12 years, which included college-level and Continuing Education courses of a technical nature, the results revealed that “online learning today is not just better than nothing — it actually tends to be better than conventional instruction,” according to Barbara Means, an educational psychologist and the study’s lead author, as reported by the New York Times. The study proves that, by a statistical significance, greater information retention is achieved in an online setting. That’s the very definition of learning.
Furthermore, classroom courses can actually harm consumers. Bricks-and-mortar learning requires inspectors to be held hostage by class scheduling, as well as instructor and course availability. Inspectors must go out-of-pocket for the time and expense of travel and tuition. And they have to sacrifice prime working hours – clients and income – to be available to attend school. In most community colleges and for-profit vocational-technical schools, there are expenses charged in addition to tuition that fall under the umbrella of “student fees” – for access and activities that inspectors don’t have the time or desire to take advantage of – which further compound the cost of attending school. And, once inside the classroom, lessons are generally paced for the comfort of the instructor – or, worse, for the comfort of the slowest student.
Practically speaking, there are so many disincentives inherent in on-site education that the classroom-vs.-online learning debate is a real no-brainer. In the end, clients suffer when inspectors don’t take advantage of the dozens of free, online courses offered by InterNACHI University, written by industry professionals, updated as new information becomes available, instantly graded for immediate feedback, and accredited by hundreds of state and local entities in North America.
3. Online Video Education
Hand in hand with online education goes online video education, courtesy of NACHI.TV. You can always watch elephants cavorting in the snow on YouTube, but when you want to get down to some practical, visual learning, NACHI.TV is the next best thing to being on an actual inspection.
InterNACHI prides itself on housing a state-of-the-art video facility where we produce many of our instructional videos – from writing the scripts and building the sets, to filming and editing the programs, and then uploading the final product for access online. Our record-breaking production pace means that we offer new videos to our viewers nearly every month. (It also means that we offer on-site primal-scream therapy to our staff, as re-enacted here).
We also regularly bring in guest experts and industry professionals to host episodes, and we go out in the field to private and commercial properties to show real-life problems and defects so that we can demonstrate on-site inspection tips and techniques.
- electrical inspection;
- structural inspection;
- fireplace and chimney inspection;
- mold inspection;
- green building;
- ancillary inspection services;
- roof inspection;
- building science;
- stucco inspection;
- thermography and infrared technology;
- marketing tips for inspectors...
...and dozens more.
For just pennies per hour, you can get a leg up on the competition and enhance your visual learning at NACHI.TV.
The average inspector who’s been in business for several years has likely discovered that a standard home inspection is not enough to meet his average client’s needs. The American homeowner and home buyer are arguably the most demanding consumers. Buying and selling a home is the largest financial transaction they will probably make in their lifetimes, and they want to have all their bases covered. So, for the inspector, that means augmenting the basic home inspection with some additional value and services, such as ancillary inspections. Luckily, InterNACHI has been pushing its members to exploit this ever-widening aspect of the inspection market for the past few years.
InterNACHI and NACHI.TV provide education and training for the following ancillary inspections so that our members can offer – and charge additional fees – for:
- energy audits;
- wood-destroying organisms;
- lead safety;
- Chinese drywall;
- thermal imaging;
- wind and hail damage...
...and many more.
Some ancillary inspections are so innovative, they deserve special mention, and infrared technology is one of them. Although infrared radiation was discovered more than 200 years ago, and thermography proved a boon to governments and the military as far back as WWII, only recently has infrared (IR) technology become portable and affordable enough for inspectors to use on the job.
And its applications aren’t isolated to ancillary services, such as energy audits. An IR camera can provide invaluable information when used during an electrical inspection, inspecting for moisture intrusion, checking for air leaks at both the interior and exterior, and even for inspecting the roof.
Like IR technology, green inspections -- though considered ancillary inspections -- are in a class by themselves. This past decade has seen the mainstreaming of green living in an exponential way. A “lifestyle” that was once the domain of fringe trendsetters is now the standard of daily life for most of us. Electronics and appliances are manufactured and marketed as energy-saving. Hybrid cars and trucks have finally found American manufacturers. Recycling is incentivized by local municipalities and trash pickup services. Shopping for and selling second-hand goods on websites such as Craigslist and Freecycle mean that fewer usable goods end up in landfills, especially in a time when more people have lost their homes and jobs in numbers not seen since the Great Depression. Waste not, want not, indeed. But green living isn’t just about pinching pennies. It’s about making the greatest use of the most life-enhancing resources available while leaving the least impact behind. It’s just a lucky coincidence that sunlight is free.
Part ancillary inspection, part marketing-niche creation, Move-In Certified™ has successfully exploited a previously underserved population: the home sellers who actually want home inspections. Marketing inspection services to home buyers is the pie that every inspector is fighting over. But there are distinct advantages, as well as financial incentives, for the home seller who lists a Move-In Certified™ home for sale, as well as for the inspector who performs the inspection.
A Move-In Certified™ seller inspection offers the following advantages to both the home seller and the home buyer:
- The seller can schedule and assist with the inspection at his convenience.
- The seller can correct any errors by the inspector before the report is generated.
- The inspection is already completed and paid for by the seller.
- The inspection report is made available online to prospective buyers and real estate professionals.
- The report may expedite financing.
- Problems and issues are revealed and reported, and can be dealt with or negotiated.
- There are no surprise defects that may derail the closing.
- The seller’s asking price is reasonable and reflects the true condition of the home, streamlining the sale.
- Buyers can look for Move-In Certified™ homes online.
Inspectors, their clients and real estate professionals alike appreciate and even expect online convenience, and InterNACHI happily accommodated them by providing the proprietary electronic inspection report-delivery system that has revolutionized the inspection industry: FetchReport™. The advantages are as immediate as the delivery. Inspection reports that are FetchReport™-friendly can be:
- quickly uploaded by the inspector, regardless of the reporting software;
- accessed only by those with permission;
- accessed online and viewed by sellers, buyers, real estate professionals and inspectors;
- easily corrected, if necessary;
- downloaded and printed; and
- linked on websites.
We’re actually expecting quite a lot from a client when we give him an inspection report. He has to take in a great deal of information, and most of it is probably unfamiliar. Generally speaking, as the client reads the report, he’ll stop on foreign terms and labor over them, scanning for something that sounds or looks recognizable. That’s just one reason why photos are indispensable for inspection reports. Our eyes are instantly directed to any accompanying images to clarify the text. There was a time when including actual images in inspection reports was done sparingly, but as this value-added feature became more common, it unfortunately slowed down the process of generating the reports. But, just as with cell phones, laptops and MP3 players, the technology behind digital cameras has morphed at lightning speed over the past decade. What were once expensive, cumbersome and complicated devices are now so affordable, versatile and easy to use that there’s simply no excuse not to provide digital images with your inspection reports, regardless of the format or software you use to create your reports. Your clients will not only be grateful for this, but they’ll expect it.
InterNACHI has met this expectation on another level by creating its online Inspection Graphics Library. These original images depict systems and components, available in both high-resolution for optimum size and quality, and low-resolution for instant download, that help explain to the client what they’re looking at – or, in many cases, what they’re supposed to be looking at.
What does the next decade hold in store for the inspector? At InterNACHI, we’ll continue to do what we do best. We’ll offer the most robust education in the industry by adding new online courses at InterNACHI University and instructional videos at NACHI.TV each month. We’ve recently expanded our reach by offering our educational resources to the pre-professional with our new Student Accounts. We'll continue to host and support inspector events, which provide information and networking opportunities for members, non-members, vendors and other professionals. The wheels on the bus of the InterNACHI School are going 'round and 'round again, and we'll keep you posted with its upcoming locations. We'll continue to author original, informative articles and upload them to InterNACHI’s article archives, Inspectopedia, so that you can link to them and post them on your website, and print them off to pass along to your clients by tucking them inside your marketing and inspection packets. We’ve just made available the InterNACHI Inspector Total Package, a cornucopia of inspector products and services worth thousands of dollars – including a year’s membership dues – for only $499. We’ve just released Inspection Business Success Strategies, Nick Gromicko’s marketing bible that has been literally years in the making, and available as a PDF download through InspectorOutlet. We’re in the process of developing customizable newspapers to be made available every quarter, providing members with yet another way to market their specific services and philosophies to local real estate offices and other locations that have direct access to consumers. (And we’ll also continue to keep our eye on the price of gold, because that’s how we roll!)