Since its inception in 1979, HouseMaster Home Inspections has grown to nearly 400 franchises that have performed over two million home inspections. Recently, company president Kathleen Kuhn was nice enough to spare time in her busy schedule for an interview with Franchise Direct. She spoke in great detail about the future of HouseMaster and the real estate industry in general. She also gave advice on what prospective franchisees should look for in franchises as well as insight into what franchisors look for in potential franchisees.
What is the outlook for the real estate industry this year in general and for your franchise specifically?
The outlook for both the industry and particularly for HouseMaster is extremely bright in 2014 as HouseMaster celebrates our 35th year. The housing market continues to rebound and HouseMaster franchisees continue to reap the rewards of their hard work, superior service offerings and consistent marketing efforts. The average tenure of a HouseMaster franchisee is over 14 years, so when the housing market turned, our franchisees were ready for it. As a result, even after a drop in 2008, HouseMaster has continued to grow.
HouseMaster is focused on kicking off our next decade of growth by adding several new revenue opportunities for our franchisees and taking our marketing systems to a new level. We have recently expanded our marketing team lead by our new SVP of Marketing, Brian Ranck. Brian is an exceptional marketing executive who is working closely with our franchisee community and our leadership to create and execute some of our most exciting initiatives yet. Our goal at HouseMaster is simple; we will once again dramatically raise the bar for the property inspection industry.
Tell us about the standards and systems in place to comfort consumers who might be fearful of unethical practices.
Great question! HouseMaster has a stellar reputation for accuracy, thoroughness, customer service and integrity that has spanned over millions of inspections and several decades.
However, we do not rest on our reputation. Over 20 years ago HouseMaster introduced the first home inspection Guarantee. Only HouseMaster home inspectors back the quality of their service with a written Repair Reimbursement Guarantee. The guarantee provides reimbursement of repair expenses incurred by our customers on eligible elements for a minimum of 90 days from closing or 120 days after the inspection (terms vary by location). This guarantee gives our customers, the piece of mind that we are going to do our very best on each inspection.
Some home inspection companies now pay a third party to provide a short term warranty to their customers. These third party programs generally limit coverage to 20 days after closing and sometimes less. More importantly the home inspector who pays for the coverage is essentially “off the hook” and do little to address concerns that consumers may have about the objectivity of their inspector, while the HouseMaster Guarantee is a bold statement that shows that HouseMaster franchise offices stands behind their work.
What role does technology (internet, mobile) play in the marketing and running of your franchise?
The biggest changes that have occurred in our industry have been as a result of technology. Everything is web and mobile based at HouseMaster from delivering important pre-service documentation to our customers to the delivery of our final report. Technology continues to play a huge role in our marketing campaigns for recruiting quality new franchise owners and in generating inspection leads for franchisees.
Building relationships will continue to be the foundation of both our business as a franchisor and our franchisees in their local communities, being able to market across all the technology platforms is essential. In 2014 we are putting more resources into our marketing pursuits that involve technology, including an expanding mobile focus.
What are some trends to keep an eye out for within your segment of the real estate industry?
Some of the trends I am seeing is the increase third party ancillary services such as a service that offers a report on the permit history of the home and local building records, and services that will alert a homeowner to possible recalls on products in their home. The correct addition of these services offer significant value to consumers and justify the additional cost to the consumers. If done incorrectly, additional services are nothing more than gimmicky and could cloud the key information that a consumer should be focused on during what is generally a very busy information packed home buying process.
At HouseMaster, our number of focus is to provide home buyers and home owners with the critical information on the status of major components of their home so that they can factor accurate information into their home buying or selling decision. That is our core competency, our number one focus and what HouseMaster has been doing better and longer than anyone else.
What advice would you give to prospective franchisees on what to look for when researching franchises?
Get to know the culture of the organization. This is critical. While the formal support provided by the franchisor must be strong, the best franchise systems have a true fellowship among their franchisees. This secondary layer of support is powerful and can be an important factor in terms of a franchisee’s ROI on joining the system.
What are the most important traits HouseMaster looks for in prospective franchisees?
Naturally we have certain liquid capital requirements as well as net worth requirements, but just as important are the less tangible traits. Self-confidence, strong communication skills as well family support are important characteristics we look for before we award a franchise. We love franchisees that come from entrepreneurial families or background as well.
Do you have any other comments or observations you would like to share?
HouseMaster uniquely offers both owner operator opportunities and executive model opportunities. While a large majority of our franchisees do perform inspections, HouseMaster’s unique niche in the home inspection franchise marketplace is with professionals that want to grow their business to a multi-inspector business which increases the business value and revenues. A quick comparison of HouseMaster’s Item 19 compared with that of our competitors confirms this.
A huge thank you to Kathleen for sharing her thoughts with us! If you would like more information about HouseMaster Home Inspections, please click here.