Misquoted fees cause hard feelings all the way around, so stop it in its tracks.
You rely heavily on real estate agents handing out your business cards and sending customers your way. And you’re eternally grateful for the business that it generates. But all of it can go pear-shaped when the agent quotes a fee that’s far lower than you normally charge.
Unless there’s a very tidy working relationship between agent and inspector, it’s usually considered bad form to jump ahead and quote a fee without at least picking up the phone or sending a text.
Here’s how to sidestep the dreaded misquoted fee and help prevent it from happening again.
An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure
You can explain all you want after the fact. But once customers have been quoted a fee by an agent they trust, you’ll automatically be the bad guy if you try to correct the error. A better way is to stop any confusion before it happens. And the best way to do that is through direct communication with your customers.
Working RE magazine talked with Toronto-based home inspector, Muhammad Rizwan Qureshi about his approach for warding off the dreaded misquoted fee. “I try to talk to my client directly prior to inspection day,” he says. “When I use my online agreement for them to sign/agree to electronically, the inspection fee is there for them to see.”
Inspectors who provide fee information electronically in no uncertain terms leave little room for confusion. Even if an agent oversteps and misquotes your fee, a document signed by the customer shows prior knowledge. E-signatures are just as binding as handwritten ones, says Working RE. But some inspectors prefer the one-on-one conversation backed up by an irrefutable John Hancock where the fee structure is stated.
Taking a pay cut once keeps the customer happy and won’t wreck your bottom line.
Sometimes a Sacrifice Saves a Job
Everyone makes a mistake once in a while. Even if you have a longstanding relationship with a real estate agent, you might one day get a customer referral who expects a fee that’s much lower than your normal rates. Qureshi says his approach is to honor the misquoted fee and then talk with the agent privately.
The error might be a pure accident on the part of the agent. By honoring the quoted fee, you’ll promote goodwill all the way around, even though you’ll take a loss. And then after the agreement is settled, you can find out exactly what happened.
If the agent never quotes your fee and this was an exception, there might be a logical explanation. Perhaps he or she works with different inspectors who don’t mind agent-quoted fees and there was just a bit of confusion. If not, you can make your position clear: no agent quoted fees because that’s your job.
Fees are a touchy subject under the best of circumstances. No customer expects a home inspection for free. Or at least most of them don’t. But everyone wants the fairest price. When terms are crystal clear before the customer has a chance to hang hopes on a cut-rate fee, you’ll get fair compensation and the customer won’t have a surge of disappointment over paying more than was quoted.
Home inspecting is part investigation and part business sense. Knowing how to handle business snags can take you far in a self-employed situation. As for the investigation part, ICA School can help. Enroll now in our online home inspection training course and work at your own pace.