Should Our Company Stop Offering Free Inspections?

17 replies
I know when it comes to home improvement type work, A LOT of contractors offer free inspections just to get inside a home.

Our company has been offering free mold inspections basically forever, and I'm begining to think its a terrible idea.

Although I'm honestly not sure which is why I'm asking here.

The fact is 99% of our competitors do free inspections.

But with mold specifically, let me list out a few problems we always see.

1) The primary reason, it attracts scum.

2) People will call just to get a free estimate written, so they can use that estimate against their landlord without any intentions of paying for the work themselves. These types of situations rarely result in us getting the job.

3) People will call for the free estimate, just to show insurance that they have a mold problem, hoping they change their minds, when insurance has already told them they won't cover the work. Again, these usually never come through.

4) This kinda goes along with 3. But sometimes insurance will say they will cover the work, the person doesn't actually care or even want the work in the first place. But they will still call us, then ask us to quote them a ridiculous price, so they can keep a portion of the money insurance gives them. The worst thing with these types of prospects, they will outright lie, fake like they really want the work done, then the second they realize we won't do it, they lose a lot of their urgency to do the work in the first place.

5) It will sometimes lead to bad reviews. Sometimes people will lie about them owning a home then the inspector gets there and finds out they haven't bought it yet. Then we will say something like "there is a fee for these types of inspections", which we say in our marketing *homeowners only*. But these rude f##ks will go online and leave bad reviews when we try to charge them.


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The benefits of free inspections?

1) Its easier to get in a home and pitch our service.


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What do we do?

One part of me feels like "sure, its easier to get in these homes... but is it even worth it?" It seems to just attract broke people.

If we charge for inspections, then we'll have to deal with people saying "well none of your competitors do that". But at this point, I'm not sure I care.

The fact is, I know for a fact, most the companies offering free inspections have to COMPENSATE for them in some way. And the way they typically do that is by exagerating problems in the home... OR significantly raising the price of the estimate.

So I can put in bold on our site "Warning: What You Need To Know About Companies Offering 'Free" Mold Inspections".

I'm also thinking, this might motivate me more to use PPC. I will put right in my headlines that we charge for inspections, and maybe that will stop all the broke assholes from clicking on our ads. This is a huge reason why I don't use PPC.

WHAT DO YOU GUYS THINK?

I'm thinking, maybe just charging a low fee, is better than no fee at all. We can put the fee right on our website and in our headlines.

I see so many of our competitors using the free inspections in their PPC ads. Or a stupid "$500 OFF" coupon. And I keep asking myself.... why the hell am I trying to position myself the same way (on our site)?

If I did PPC this way, I'd basically be paying $25 a click, so cheap assholes can call up, the inspector wastes 2 hours driving there and back/doing the estimate, so we can find out the person has no intention of doing the work, but just wanted to see if they had a problem.
#company #free #inspections #offering #stop
  • Profile picture of the author wagsgraphx
    What percentage of these Free Estimates are people wasting your time?
    I like the idea of putting out a free report like 5 Reasons why...
    How strong is your referral business? Should more focus be put into that area?
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    • Profile picture of the author upmatthews
      You can look up the homeowner on the county assessor's website, if it doesn't match, you politely decline to go out. It's hard to charge for the inspection if everyone else is doing it for free.

      Only way I see around is to for example charge $25 (or whatever) and offer double or triple off if they have you do the work or if it is insurance related do something with the deductable.
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  • Profile picture of the author AffluentGifts
    I'm not an expert in home improvement, but a lot of computer shops do it one of these ways:

    - Charge up front for the whole service based on the customer's description of the problem and a quick estimate by a technician. This is easier with limited services offered, you charge on the very high end to account for variance. I don't think it would work for home improvement.

    - Charge a fee to look at it, usually a flat fee.

    OR, and this is probably the one I recommend in your case:

    - Charge a fee to look at it only if the repair is not done with you. In your case this helps avoid price-shopping (going around getting 10 different estimates) and helps even more to close the sale. Make it clear that there is a fee of X if they choose not to get the repair done (I used to have the customer sign a form to this effect when someone brought me a PC, Xbox, iPad, etc to repair).

    This last one also offers the ones looking for an insurance estimate a way to get that without having to get a repair, and you get your fee. Turn a negative into a stream of income.
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  • Profile picture of the author af7850
    I currently work with a company that offers exactly this kind of service. We absolutely do not offer free looksies. In order to pull it off the way we do, you must
    1. perform services in accordance with IICRC S520 guidelines
    2. Have the call handled by someone with at least moderate sales ability

    If you're interested, I'd be happy to walk through the pitch with you by phone. No cost, just a friendly favor.
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    • Profile picture of the author malia
      I paid for my mold inspection. Maybe free inspections, by nature, attract those who have no intention in moving forward with work whereas a paid inspection indicates commercial intent. I also paid for my asbestos and lead inspections.

      The only one I didn't pay for was the termite inspection because all pest control companies will do that for free. And I am really leery of termite inspectors, whereas you can see mold (I know you can't see all of it, but either visible mold or the smell is what initiates most homeowners to be concerned about mold) and I was pretty sure my ceiling had asbestos (but was surprised about the lead).

      I think if you want to market it, position it as a home health inspection (or something) for allergens, toxins, etc., Homeowners pretty much know they need routine termite inspections because pest control companies market it properly and the TREMENDOUS damage (and financial impact) from neglected termite infestations. So the key is education and marketing. The couple hundred bucks is worth the peace of mind of ruining your investment by neglecting these things.

      Let me tell you a story that I hope helps:

      I have both online and offline business. Offline business sells a product that could have an associated service with it. At one point we had another company, then an independent contractor- on premise- to perform the service. We even, at one point, comped the service w the product by paying the provider, such that it was free to the customer.

      The ones who ask for "free" or even barter over price are the absolute worst to deal with.

      But I felt like we "needed" to do "something" to get the sale. Most of those customers were complete *!&@&!^@^### who barely, BARELY could afford the product and honestly were most likely to be living above their means.

      Because customers out there understand that and have the money and can honestly afford it. Then the service became more about convenience than about price.

      I know what it is to be there and not wanting to turn away what could be business, but I also know the headache of chasing after people who legitimately are not your customer.

      Now I can gauge the customer by the look/response when I tell them, no we do not provide the service (which got rid of the questions about is it included in the price) but we refer out to a separate company (which makes it obvious it is not included in the price). If they have issues with price, we do not refer out as we don't want to lose those relationships by sending the service providers PITA (pain in the ###) customers.

      We focus more on attracting those clients that work for us. While you and I don't sell remotely the same thing to the same people, the underlying principle is that customer values what they have, cares for it, maintains it and can legitimately afford the product/service.

      I stopped caring what the competition was doing. Let them have these difficult people.
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  • Profile picture of the author Rearden
    Can't you come up with a pre-qualification script to weed out the bad ones?

    How can you take the majority of the gutter prospects out early in the sales process, based on what you described?

    I'm a big advocate of casting a wide net to generate a large lead volume. But you need to know how to qualify them to keep from wasting your time.
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    • Profile picture of the author RimaNaj2011
      I would charge a fee and then use it as a deposit for when you go and do the actual work.

      So they pay $99 for you to go out and check the problem. No one is going to waste money like that and BS you around, they're kinda already tied in with you so they won't go somewhere else, and if all fails, you made money on an inspection.

      Again, the intitial fee is a deposit for services, so whatever yo charge, take off the $99.
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    • Profile picture of the author dunkinbbb
      Hey Red

      Big fan of your CL stuff, btw

      How about charging the going rate for an inspection -

      stating so in the ad
      and offering a "double your money" discount if they actually go ahead and get the work done.
      Weeds out the "lookie lous"
      and "locks in the people who get the inspection"

      actually - kind of a qualifier for serious prospects - since the serious guy would save the most.

      As always - testing rules.

      Bill
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      • Profile picture of the author Colm Whelan
        Originally Posted by dunkinbbb View Post

        Hey Red

        Big fan of your CL stuff, btw

        How about charging the going rate for an inspection -

        stating so in the ad
        and offering a "double your money" discount if they actually go ahead and get the work done.
        Weeds out the "lookie lous"
        and "locks in the people who get the inspection"

        actually - kind of a qualifier for serious prospects - since the serious guy would save the most.

        As always - testing rules.

        Bill
        THAT is some nice lateral thinking!!
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  • Profile picture of the author Rearden
    Bottom line, you'll just have to test this marketing approach versus your standard approach.

    Look at gross and net. Measure the functions of each. Response rate dollarized, appointments per call in, profitability per deal. All measured against what you got going on now.

    Maybe you'll end up running it alongside your other campaign versus replacing it entirely?

    In my line of work, everybody is a prospect (life insurance). So I don't pre-qualify to set appointments, because, if they do, odds are they have a good-enough level of interest.

    Same goes for my lead generation -- I've tried a narrow and specific approach versus a wide and generic approach. I prefer the wide and generic approach, but truthfully the narrow and specific approach brings in a slightly different caliber of prospect.
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  • Profile picture of the author RedShifted
    Thanks guys,

    Maybe we aren't qualifying right, but it seems like no matter how politely you do it, certain people will still go online to say something bad.

    This doesn't happen a lot, but the fact that it happens at all is what bothers me (fortunately we've been able to remove some of the bad reviews).

    This most recent prospect, I was extremely polite to. Was trying to guage how serious the problem was and what his plans were if we found a significant issue in his home. He said, "I don't plan on doing anything about it for a few months, untill insurance tells me whether they will cover it or not".

    So I got a bunch of information about the problem, and knew immediately that insurance wasn't going to cover it. We know how insurance is, his problem was less than a couple square feet, and I knew it wasn't happening. I said, "I'm sorry sir, but I can tell you 99% for sure, insurance is not going to cover what you just explained to me". I even had him walk around the basement and explained what insurance looks for.

    He still wanted us to come out and do a free inspection. I said, "Look, I'll do the inspection, but I'm going to have to charge you for it. We get too many phone calls from people who have a couple square feet of mold in their home, and think insurance is going to pay out a few grand to do the work. And we know how these situations always turn out".

    He was being extremely polite, as was I. We went back and forth a few times, noone spoke aggressively, we both got off the phone in a respectful manner.

    I thought nothing more of it.

    Following day I get a bad review online from this guy. Who basically says he called up another company and they were willing to do it, and that we "really don't offer free inspections".

    This is the problem with trying to compete with companies that offer free inspections. A lot of these people aren't even certified/insured for mold and will go out on any call they get.

    Even if prospects know beforehand that its a conditional free inspection, they focus MORE on the word "Free" and don't hear anything else. Even WHEN you explain it politely over the phone.

    Now granted, I may have come off a little too stern, but this WILL happen again.
    We get too many calls from people who have a few spots of mold on their wall, and want a free inspection thinking insurance is going to pay out $5000 just to have it remediated. We've gone in hundreds of homes like this and its a waste of time. So to AVOID IT, we keep them on the phone and ask a TON of questions beforehand.

    The outcome? It doesn't do much.

    Thats why I think the smartest thing to do right now is charge.

    -Red
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    • Profile picture of the author Jared Hale
      I own an independent painting company so I know how things can be. In my market all painting companies give free quotes and I have had some that would make your head spin. Charging for them is not the solution.

      I had one guy want a quote on his neighbours house when they were not home because he was going to paint it and wanted to know what to charge.

      I had another guy have an interior quote only to discover that he was starting his own painting company and just wanted to see what my quote form looked like and know my rates.

      I have had too many 'tire kickers' to even list. People that want to get the free quote, but depending on how much they might just do it themselves. When I see this, I tell them I am booked up.

      I have however, managed to eliminate most of them by NOT answering the phone. I'm not kidding. I got a toll free number from Ring Central and set it up so it forwards (with nice elevator music) to a phone I don't answer. Some leave messages which comes to my email, but what I try to do is get as many people as possible to request a quote ONLINE. I have a great reputation so I can do this.

      An online quote form is perfect, because you get to ask the questions that you want answered and rather than hum and ha on the phone with someone, you can just hit the delete button on your email program.

      Secondly, I built an independent 'keyword' rich website for my market which gives people instant online quotes for interior projects, so they get a rough idea of the cost. If it's too much then they don't bother getting a quote.

      With what I have done, I get all jobs that go and quote on because I give as much information as possible to my customers about me, and they have given me as much information as possible about them.

      For you, I would suggest that for your ads, or on a voice message that instructs anyone who wants the free inspection, go to your website and fill out the form such as http://insections.mywebsite.com. Ask lots of questions for people to answer including:

      Do you rent or own?
      If you rent, who is your landlord for permission to inspect?
      Is this for insurance purposes?
      Square footage of your home?
      Address?
      Phone and email.

      and so on and so on. By each item though, you may want to put an info button as to why the information is asked. Also I would consider putting together an 'insurance' information page that is linked under the insurance question so it weeds out those as well.

      Good luck!
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  • Profile picture of the author RedShifted
    /\ That is phenomenal advice. I really appreciate it!

    Most of our leads come in as phone calls so if we can forward people to a form that does a good enough job qualifying, we'll be set.

    Not sure why I never thought of it but I absolutely love the idea and am going to use it.

    Thank you! =]


    -Red
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  • Profile picture of the author misterme
    Originally Posted by RedShifted View Post

    I knew it wasn't happening. I said, "I'm sorry sir, but I can tell you 99% for sure, insurance is not going to cover what you just explained to me"...

    I said, "Look, I'll do the inspection, but I'm going to have to charge you for it. We get too many phone calls from people who...

    we both got off the phone in a respectful manner.

    Following day I get a bad review online from this guy.
    Red, I think what's happening there is you're telling the prospect "negatives." You're telling them how you know things will work against them and they don't want to hear that. So you're becoming the bad guy in their eyes. You need to leave them feeling positive about you.

    So don't share that information. When they're telling you stuff you know won't work out, you can always say "uh huh I see OK I understand" ultimately followed by "lemme check our schedule... hmmm... hmmm... gee our schedule's really tight for the next 6 months. But can I call you if we get an opening?" [Yes, sure! they'll say] And then burn their number.

    Originally Posted by RedShifted View Post

    Most of our leads come in as phone calls so if we can forward people to a form that does a good enough job qualifying
    If you have leads take an extra step to go to a form from the phone call, you're going to lose those who don't go to the form, you're going to also lose those who do go to the form but abandon filing it out and sending it in. You know, something else caught their attention, they figured they'd take care of it later and later never comes, etc.

    Make the Q+A part of the phone call. And even smarter, instead of asking them direct things like if they rent or own, you may want to get the answers through the side door like a detective to avoid them lying to you. Maybe "Is the property mortgaged with a FNMA loan or by a commercial bank?" may be the question (I am totally making that up) because if their answer starts with "ummmm..." you know they're not the homeowner.
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  • Profile picture of the author bizgrower
    We do free inspections.*

    *For owners if they are paying for the work, or if called by the landlord
    or insurance agent.
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  • Profile picture of the author digichik
    What about working the inspections in a similar way to auto repairs, hvac , or plumbers; charge for the inspection $79(or whatever) then apply it to the the payment if you get the job.
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  • Profile picture of the author MIB Mastermind
    Qualifying sound like it's a problem.

    Also you really need to come up with your ideal client profile, usually it's wrong to be all things to all people (requires deep pockets, and as you're seeing not everyone is willing to pay) you need to better define the market segment you want to target, this way you can talk only to them, and you will attract the type of people you want to attract... and who can pay for your services.

    Just to add: It's usually always a bad thing to do things for "Free" it tends to attract the wrong type of people. You say everyone offers free inspections?, again you usually want to be doing the polar opposite of what everyone else is doing in your industry, this by itself will differentiate you from the rest of your competition.

    You will probably find that when you start charging for inspections, customers and clients will take you more seriously and automatically think that you're company is the best... why else would someone have the b***s to charge for something everyone else does for free?
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