An industry leader and fast-growing franchise model
Anyone who has ever bought a home knows how important it is to have it thoroughly inspected by a qualified and competent home inspector before signing on the dotted line. Flaws discovered, or needed repairs recommended, can drastically alter a home’s selling price, or in some cases, completely negate an offer to buy. Many “dream” homes have turned out to be nightmares in waiting, because a dwelling that may look move-in ready can turn out, upon inspection, to have significant electrical, plumbing, or other structural issues costing many thousands of dollars to repair or replace.
Bill Redfern, President and CEO of A Buyer’s Choice Home Inspections (ABCHI), developed his home inspection company after years in the real estate industry as a salesman, broker, and investment property owner. Realizing that the home inspection business provided little uniform reliability for realtors, home buyers, and home sellers, Redfern set out to protect all parties with full and precise disclosures on the condition of any properties up for sale.
“I thought that we could do something on a much broader scale with consistency and professionalism,” he explains. “The mission was to offer consistency to consumers and the real estate community, alike. So when they saw our logo or our brand, or saw one of our vehicles, they trusted they were going to get a fair shake.”
Redfern also surmised that the best way to set up ABCHI was to follow the type of franchise model that had worked so successfully for real estate companies, such as Re-Max. “I thought there was a lot of merit to that,” he says, “and I designed the business accordingly from the get-go.”
Today, A Buyer’s Choice Home Inspections is an industry-leading, home inspection franchise with locations in 15 countries around the world, including Canada, the United States, Chile, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and New Zealand. Currently, there are more than 120 franchises across Canada, nearly 30 in the United States, and dozens more internationally.
Redfern believes that ABCHI differentiates itself from the competition in several ways – first and foremost by its software platform that allows its inspectors to create detailed reports after each pre-sale inspection. “In the old days, customers used to just receive a check list with a bunch of boxes,” he says. “It really didn’t create a whole lot of value.” In comparison, a comprehensive ABCHI report can be viewed online at any point in time and its many details can help parties resolve any outstanding issues.
“Homeowners and real estate agents love seeing our reporting,” Redfern explains. “Realtors can work with both parties in the transaction on either side of the deal and usually negotiate a resolution as opposed to a stalemate, which is what we used to have happen years ago. You would have someone asking for something: a patio that needed to be replaced or a roof or a heating/cooling system that was timed-out, and it just left a lot of open room for dispute; whereas, now, there are so many details. If we show you a picture of a water heater with a data plate that’s ten years old and the insurer would want it replaced in seven to ten years – that’s really difficult for someone to dispute.”
In addition, Redfern says that ABCHI is always evolving its technology. “We took on a significant upgrade in software in the past year with a CRM program tied together with a good software platform,” he relates. “That’s incredibly effective in communicating appointments, financial arrangements, and ongoing follow-up. That was a huge initiative for us, which we were able to roll out across the company in fairly short order.”
According to Redfern, all of the company’s franchisees are trained and either certified or licensed as required by local guidelines. “We have an incredibly detailed training program,” he says. “Upwards of 440 hours of home study courses in textbook training before they even come to begin our two-week boot camp program.” Then, in many cases, unit franchisees are further supported by master franchise owners, who comprise about 10 percent of the company’s operations. “So they’ve got local support, local expert knowledge, and that’s critical in our opinion,” he adds. “We’re the only one in our industry that does that.” Finally, Redfern says that every franchise owner receives marketing training. “We take the mystery out of building a successful, ongoing business. ABCHI provides an integrated marketing campaign to every franchisee tailored to suit their needs and goals.”
What type of person is a suitable candidate for an ABCHI franchise? “Ninety-nine percent of the time, I am not looking for people who are already in the business,” says Redfern. “We’re looking for people who want to be entrepreneurs and have an appetite for doing something on their own. I’m not looking for the guy that’s been swinging a hammer for 20 years and decides that he wants something easier on his back, to do. We want business people. And in business today, that involves marketing and salesmanship. We can teach the technical skills. So whether they’re a school teacher, or have an IT background, a fireman, what have you – really it’s the appetite for business and being self-employed that’s the key. Beyond that, we’ll train them up.
“If someone is looking for a small business opportunity, I think this is a real verifiable opportunity – lots of personal attention, lots of value, and lots of meat on the bone in terms of margin. Our people are able to build a great business for themselves, even never having been in business before. So, when you look at all the opportunities around, we’ve got people who work at home with little or no overhead,. They can do something for the rest of their working careers if they choose to or, of course, they’ve got a business they can sell at the end of the day.”
Redfern believes that ABCHI will continue to expand it footprint in the foreseeable future. “We see huge growth happening over the next three to five years from master franchises and unit franchises in the United States,” he reports. “We see significant opportunities for further international growth; we see Australia very likely is going to be added to our roster, hopefully by year’s end; we’ve got some Middle Eastern folks with some aspirations who may be launching our service; and we just recently put a master franchise in India which covers the entire country. Their business plan calls for 390 unit openings over the course of the next five years.
“So, we’re going to see a lot of domestic growth; we’re going to keep adding international units – probably 15 percent of our growth per year will be international. The Canadian market still has a little bit of room for infilling of units, and now we’re seeing a significant drive to add more boots on the ground. We certainly expect to be the largest in our industry – not only in Canada, but worldwide. We’re the only brand within our industry that’s gone beyond the borders of North America, so it’s been a fun challenge.”
In addition to ABCHI, Redfern has launched two other franchise businesses under his parent company, Global Franchise Opportunities. “We’ve added a couple of brands to our roster,” he explains. “One of them is called iHandyman, a handyman services franchise. It will complement A Buyer’s Choice for the simple things – hanging light fixtures, assembling furniture when you move into a property, hanging some pictures – a lot of people don’t do these things for themselves, anymore.”
Another business, iCare, or Intelligent Home Care Solutions, was launched in 2014. iCare is an in-home care franchise that provides intelligent home care solutions to seniors. “With the senior population growing year after year, the need for in-home care has never been greater,” says Redfern. “iCare delivers a comprehensive suite of non-medical services to its clients including home making, home support, and personal care services. Its mission is to enable consumers to maintain a quality of life in the comfort and surroundings of their own home, while providing our franchise partners opportunities to become self-employed, working and building their businesses in a positive growth-oriented environment.”
What began less than 20 years ago with one office in Canada, which the company CEO operated, himself, for the first 18 months, ABCHI has grown quickly into a worldwide enterprise that continues to expand and prosper. “We’re very proud to have created something that our people can create value with,” Redfern remarks. “And I’m still enjoying the business very, very much.”
AT A GLANCE
WHO: A Buyer’s Choice Home Inspections
WHAT: A home inspection franchise company
WHERE: :Headquarters in Pompano Beach, Florida
Carson Dunlop – www.carsondunlop.com