Your service area comes into play in many aspects of your business, from marketing and advertising to pricing and fees. Service area parameters differ significantly by specific locations in the country, as well as an individual business based on:
- travel distance preferences;
- desire to be busy with commercial projects;
- existing inspection capabilities; and
- team member connections (inspectors and specialty consultants).
When researching your service area, consider the geographic areas that will land you the most commercial property inspection jobs, including sub-regions, satellite cities, and metro areas. If you are in a rural area, it may be best to include the nearest city where business parks and retail districts are located.
Note that if your existing business’s service area excludes or borders a metro and urban area, consider extending it. As a commercial property inspector, you may command higher fees than your current offerings, making the travel distance worthwhile.
Ultimately, your service area should be defined as an area of success for making a profit.
Critical Thinking Exercise
For the following exercise, create a list in an Excel file or another application that can be easily saved and used for reference:
- Using a map of your area, list the specific locations that will land you the most commercial property inspection jobs. Note relevant districts and neighborhoods. For example, Denver, Colorado, has several regions, including Lo-Do, Capitol Hill, Uptown, Highland Hills, Cherry Creek, and more.
- Next to each location on your list, note the mileage you will be required to travel to and from your office or general starting vicinity.
Properties Located in Your Service Area
Venturing into the inspection industry’s commercial sector can be overwhelming, but proper planning and research can make for a relatively smooth transition. The first step is to research the most common types of commercial properties found in your service area and surrounding areas. Keep in mind what would be feasible for you to start off inspecting, and what scope of service or type of property you would like to work towards.
While researching commercial properties, pay close attention to the real estate firms, real estate agents, property management companies, and other major players that would be great POCs for drumming up business. It may behoove you to take notes about what each company or individual specializes in.
Conducting such research provides you with a basic understanding of the CRE dynamics unique to your service area. It also helps you identify opportunities, develop business strategies, and be ready to take on jobs for various clients, buildings, and regions.
Common Types of Commercial Properties in Your Service Area
There are a few easy ways to research the common types of commercial properties in your service area. First, conduct a general Google search. Search for CRE agencies, property management companies, and buildings that are for sale and lease. Similarly, perform a search on Loopnet.com, which is Zillow.com of CRE in the U.S. and Canada. When reviewing the different listings, pay close attention to the repeated property types (i.e., retail, pad sites, office, industrial, etc.) and their specific locations. Also, pay close attention to the details provided about each property (i.e., square footage, listing agent, zoning, building use and occupancy, etc.). The last item is especially useful information when pricing jobs.
During your research, you may decide to set up alerts on Google and Loopnet.com for new CRE listings, plus businesses that are moving, closing, or hosting a grand opening. Such alerts will help you monitor current and future trends for your market. This is also worthwhile because many of these properties will require an inspection as part of a pending real estate transaction or for developing a preventative maintenance plan.
Another way to identify the common properties in your service area is to simply drive around. Observe your defined service area and any bordering districts and neighborhoods.
Last, since banks and the government can be a type of commercial client, try researching online auctions for foreclosed or seized properties. There are various websites, including government agencies, that host and list these properties. Regardless, a Google search should provide you with sufficient information.
Major CRE Players in Your Service Area
Since property listings typically have a listing agent linked to a firm, you may have already identified the major CRE players in your service area when researching the different types of properties. However, a general Google or Loopnet.com search will provide you with a good idea.
If you expand upon an existing business or, in general, have a background tied to the real estate industry, your connections may be put to good use now. Depending on your relationship with the individuals or companies, you could talk with them directly about the CRE market, or they could put you in touch with someone else. Such connections may also come in handy when you start marketing and advertising your new services. For example, as a home inspector, you can inform your residential real estate connections of your latest offerings to drum up business. That firm can either start using you for their commercial property inspections or pass along your contact information to someone who can. Consider distributing CCPIA’s Commercial Property Inspector Marketing Set to prospective clients.
Another method to identify potential commercial clients is to consider the unique types of local communities or districts in your area. For example, a college town may be more likely to have many prospective clients that are investors and property managers. College towns are ideal for investing in income-generating properties, such as multi-family units and apartment complexes geared toward student housing, and restaurants and other various businesses. Even HOA communities are likely to have property management companies as prospective clients. Both scenarios provide a good chance for repeat business, including people who are buying, selling, and leasing properties, and those needing annual maintenance inspections, as well as assistance with project oversight.
Regularly performing research on your competitors will provide insight into their strategy in the inspection industry’s commercial sector. You may find engineers and architects specializing in commercial property inspections, while you may find home inspectors who are merely dabbling in commercial inspections.
Some projects may require hiring other inspectors and subcontractors to complete a large job on time, in which case other inspectors may not always be your competition. You may want to take advantage of their ancillary services, such as blower door tests or infrared scanning.
Knowing your competition will provide you with insight into how to differentiate your business from theirs, and who to call if you need to subcontracted help.
Critical Thinking Exercise
Based on the research to be conducted above, answer the following questions.
- What are the most common types of commercial properties found in your service area that you are ready to inspect?
- What are the types of properties for which you’ll need to hire specialty consultants or other subcontractors?
- What the types of properties you are going to work towards to be able to tackle?
- Who are the major CRE players in your service area?
- Is there an overlap between your current connections?
- What are some distinguishing characteristics and qualifications of you and your business that will make you stand out from your competition?
The key to getting started in the commercial sector of the inspection industry is conducting research. Gaining insight into your service area is especially useful for your business plan, such as where you would like to focus your marketing efforts. It is also useful in gaining clientele. If you’re a trained and informed candidate for a particular job, people may naturally want to hire you over your competition.
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