I find it a bit odd, and in a way disappointing, when a past client asks for a discount of my fees for the second, third etc inspection I do for them.
I know inspectors that do this. I had one buyer tell me that another inspector they talked to said that if the deal didn’t go through that the inspector would do the next inspection for free. Other inspectors offer 25% or 50% reductions.
I find myself struggling with the math on this, but I end up with more questions than answers.
It seems to me, that anyone that can afford to discount an inspection 50% must in some sense have ripped off the buyer 50% the first time—or the amount of real value they are providing must be pretty minimal.
Am I missing something here?
I guess the whole business of discounts shouldn’t surprise me really, since if you open any newspaper you will find discounts for everything under the sun—-1/2 priced pizza, 20% off your next haircut at Supercuts, or $50.00 off a flight to Las Vegas if you fill out a credit card application.
Even the lingerie adds offer 50% off when it is obvious that there is already a whole lot more than 50% “off.”.
Can you imagine asking your doctor for a 50% discount the next time he treats you for the flu because he had already treated you for it once?
By the time I do an inspection and produce the report, I make somewhere between $40.00 and $60.00 per hour. Most people tell me that this is nowhere near enough given the experience, training and knowledge required to do this job—-let alone the liability. But that is just the facts of life for our fledgling profession where there are tremendous discrepancies of quality, discrepancies in what is expected, and huge differences between individual inspector’s qualifications & experience.
Another thing that occurs to me is that in discounting a subsequent inspection we are in some way taking responsibility for the buyer’s decision to not buy the first one. That somehow it is our “fault.”
For those of us already giving 110% to the process, it would likely not aid in “feeling good” about doing the inspection when you know going in that you are going to get paid even less for it.
I do my best to not be motivated by money or to let the cost of the inspection interfere with how long the inspection takes—-or how long the report takes. The time it takes to do the inspection and produce the report is just what it is. Sometimes you “win” and sometimes they take longer than you planned for. They take whatever they take.
I always give a fair price for the inspection based on the best information I can obtain at the time the inspection is booked. I am by no means the cheapest inspector around. Even with good information we may have to deal with the discovery of things about the house that might have altered that original cost. Most inspectors are justifiably reluctant to change the cost after the inspection has started—-and the price has been agreed upon. It is just part of doing business and one gets pretty good at figuring out what one is getting oneself into. There have been many instances where I wished I could go back to the buyer and say look, “I only quoted you half enough.”
I have started warning buyers that if there are second crawl spaces, second attics etc, the cost of the inspection will be adjusted accordingly. I have never had a buyer balk at this arrangement.
It is always difficult figuring out just what to say when a previous client asks me to do a second one at a discounted price, especially when the second property is bigger, has a detached structure they want inspected, a second crawl space or some other factor that would make it a higher priced inspection to begin with.
The simplest and most direct answer would be “No.” That can be hard to muster and I usually end up elaborating.
When they ask this question are they looking for a “faster” inspection—-a reduction in quality——skipping some components—–or, are they expecting me to just work for free for a percentage of the inspection?
I know it is human nature to haggle over the price of things, and coupled with the fact that most things are overpriced, probably gives people the idea that they should at least ask. While I wouldn’t mind too much discounting $5.00 or $10.00, that kind of number is not usually what the buyer has in mind.
I have taken to explaining it this way: “Since we have worked together on one inspection, you know what goes into the inspection itself. Also, since you have received a report on that inspection and know how many hours it took to produce that detailed report, I think you can understand that to maintain that same level of quality and care I can’t possibly reduce my fee in any meaningful way.”
I have, to date, never lost an inspection with a repeat customer because I wouldn’t lower my fee—which is not to say that I have not reduced my fee. In the early days of inspecting I did a couple of times, and one other time when pressed really hard and I knew the house was going to be a much easier inspection. That said, I have not been asked to lower my fees very many times.
For me, I sleep a lot better having a policy of not discounting my fees—-and I don’t loose my shirt or “lingerie”—-anywhere near 50% of the time.
Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle
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