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When Dan and Colleen Kutchin began their home-inspection business, HomeEx, five years ago in Northern Wisconsin, they sought an escape from the corporate world.
They were in their mid- to late-50s and weighed their options. Dan Kutchin, a former chemical engineer, said he looked at being a freight truck driver, but home inspection won him over. Home inspectors don’t need to find office space or they work for themselves. The Kutchins also could leverage their two-person team. Colleen could answer the phone while Dan was working in the field.
They had some cash savings, and decided to take the leap. Dan Kutchin estimated his first-year start-up expenses to total around $15,000.
“When you’re looking at other types of businesses where you’re signing a long-term lease for office space, paying a franchise fee and all of that, it really was appealing because we could afford the easy start up and we could ramp it up at our own pace,” he said. “I think the expenses are relatively minimal compared to the potential returns.”
Now, the Kutchins are on the high end of the home inspection start-up spectrum, which can range from $2,000 to $15,000, depending on variables including if the inspector goes full or part time. Those costs include basics such as the proper tools.
While licensure isn’t required, membership in professional organizations is a must when forging a network. Dan Kutchin is an AHIT alum, and he said he spent about $3,000 on training and licensing. That lends credibility while building up trust with Realtors whose referrals are crucial for a successful business.
“Realtors are very protective of their clients and they definitely want to work with someone they trust,” Kutchin said. “The best way to start those relationships is by a face-to-face meeting outside the office setting.”
For Kutchin, home inspection is a full-time job, and though he touts the benefits of networking through professional memberships, he understands part-time home inspectors may not want to pay for memberships. But that’s also a benefit of the industry, as it affords flexibility.
Lower costing than other options
On the low side at $2,000, the costs are very much in line with businesses like janitorial or house-cleaning services, where business owners constantly must restock cleaning supplies. Start-up costs for cleaning services range from $3,000 to $7,000, according to the Houston Chronicle. Kutchin’s point about franchise fees is further shown by the initial cost over at The Grout Experts, a chain that maintains and repairs grout. Those start-up costs range from $25,000 to $43,000.
The start-up costs for home inspection include the costs of technology like computers and tablets. There’s also liability insurance and marketing expenses, including ensuring the business has a well-designed website.
Other costs include having a durable car and having to pay for wear and tear. Kutchin advises any prospective home inspectors to invest as much money they can at the start. Moisture meters, combustable gas detectors and infrared thermal-imaging camera can be purchased later, but having high-quality gear to start mean home inspectors will decrease the likelihood of needing to replace them in the future at a higher cost.
“As you get a stable income, you can start purchasing these extra tools that are very helpful,” Kutchin said.