HouseMaster is a trailblazer. “We were the first company to franchise in the industry and certainly one of the first companies in the industry whatsoever,” says President Kathleen Kuhn. “So many of the things that we needed to develop a strong professional service we had to pioneer.”
Ms. Kunhn’s father, Ken Austin, launched the business back in 1979, fulfilling a dream to own his own business and create a valuable new resource for homebuyers. Four decades later, HouseMaster boasts 370 local offices and over 2 million completed home inspections.
Mr. Austin’s efforts helped redefine the entire industry. “He saw the need to have standards and definitions about what a home inspection is so that consumers knew what they could rely upon and would understand what the service is about,” Ms. Kuhn explains. “We have a whole list of firsts in the industry.” Now, thanks in large part to Mr. Austin, the home inspection is an integral, standardized part of the home buying process, providing homebuyers with valuable information and peace of mind. “We are very proud of our contributions to the industry, having been the first company to franchise in the industry, and one of the first companies in the industry. Our history really demonstrates that we have been able to raise the bar.”
Mr. Austin worked tirelessly during those early years to create a trustworthy, standardized industry. Right off the bat, he helped found the American Society of Home Inspectors, which remains one of the largest trade associations in the industry to this day. In doing so, he pushed accuracy and accountability for HouseMaster, as well as the industry as a whole.
That accuracy and accountability is absolutely essential in the home buying process. “When they hire an inspector to come look at their house [consumers are] really trying to gain confidence in a purchase decision,” says Executive Vice President Brian Ranck. “What HouseMaster does for that consumer is provide confidence. We have a saying that information is the natural antidote to worry. When we work with consumers we are providing them an inspection service – but what we are really providing them is the confidence that they need to make a very difficult decision. That is why HouseMaster is so valuable.”
To ensure that HouseMaster inspectors provide homebuyers with the most accurate and reliable information, the company launched its own training institute, National Inspector Training Program (NIBI). “We saw a need over 25 years ago to create a formalized training and certification program for home inspectors because one didn’t exist in the industry,” Ms. Kuhn recalls. “We took our HouseMaster training and formalized it into a national training program and certification program for our inspectors. The training of the inspectors coupled with the ongoing access to technical support is part of our ability to crate a very accurate service. We know that our inspectors have met a minimal level of training; we know that our inspectors are being kept up to date on changing issues facing residential construction, commercial construction, and of course the overall housing market, so our inspectors are able to be more accurate.”
In addition, HouseMaster was the first in the industry to require comprehensive E&O insurance. “It’s not unlike malpractice insurance,” Ms. Kuhn explains. “It protects the consumer and it protects us as well.”
HouseMaster was also the first company to offer an on-site written inspection report. And, the team goes the extra mile to ensure that the homebuyer is fully informed by including extra details. “We use a very easy to follow, but detailed inspection report,” Ms. Kuhn explains. “With many home inspectors, the standard is to just tell the consumer whether something is functioning or not functioning. HouseMaster goes several steps beyond that. We let the customer know whether their system is in satisfactory, fair, or poor condition. We document the estimated age of the system, the estimated lifespan, and any other pertinent information. We are providing the most accurate snapshot of the condition of the property that is available on the market today.”
And HouseMaster doesn’t stop there. “We don’t just complete the inspection and hand off the report,” Mr. Ranck points out. “We actually walk through the home with the new owner and we demonstrate how to operate many of the systems in the home. We help educate them on some of the basic maintenance needs of that home. We are going above and beyond the inspection report. We are actually providing them with information they can use to be successful homeowners once they purchase that home.”
HouseMaster is so confident in the accuracy of its inspection report that the company offers a repair reimbursement guarantee – the first home inspection company to do so. “If they [the systems in the house] are inspected and found to be in satisfactory condition at the time of the inspection, we will reimburse the client for repair expenses that they did not expect to face within 90 days of closing or 120 days of the inspection,” Ms. Kuhn shares. “That is an additional way that we truly inspire confidence in the consumer.” This accountability is absolutely crucial in the high stakes game of home buying. “The consumer really wants to feel that the home inspector has their best interests at heart and that the home inspector is going to do their best each and every time.”
HouseMaster’s thorough, accurate reports and confidence-building policies have earned the company stellar customer satisfaction ratings. To confirm this fact, the team utilizes the Net Promoter Score and System (NPS) to monitor customer satisfaction. “Our customer service ratings are consistently off the charts,” Mr. Ranck reports. “Typically, 95 percent of our customers give us a nine or a ten in their satisfaction survey.” Ms. Kuhn adds, “The NPS score is certainly something we are very proud of because that is our customer giving us direct feedback.”
A dedicated team is responsible for these high levels of customer satisfaction. “Our business owners and our staff are incredibly passionate about what they do,” says Ms. Kuhn. “They are very passionate about delivering the highest level of service that they can. We have an NPS score that demonstrates the culture that we have promoted. The culture that we have grown over the years has always resonated with the consumers, but now we have the data to prove it.”
Franchise owners are also satisfied with HouseMaster’s service. The company has consistently been ranked in the top 50 in Franchise Business Review, a third party organization that surveys franchise owners regarding their relationship with their franchisor. Franchisee longevity also demonstrates the ongoing support and opportunity that HouseMaster provides. “The average tenure of a franchise owner at housemaster is over 12 years,” Ms. Kuhn reports. “We’ve got some franchise owners who have been in the system for 30 years.”
These franchisees have maintained the close-knit, family culture that HouseMaster was built on. “We have a very unique culture in that the business owners like to help each other out… they are willing to mentor each other, they like to see their fellow business owners succeed,” Ms. Kuhn reports. “They have a great passion for everything HouseMaster; they love what they do, they love their customers. We have been very fortunate because we have been able to recruit some of the absolute very best business owners in the industry and they are really the heart and soul of the business.”
HouseMaster continues to lead the industry by integrating the latest technology into its services. But, no matter how high tech the company’s systems become, the team is committed to retaining a close, one on one relationship with customers. “We are excited about some technological advancements that we have under wraps at HouseMaster,” says Ms. Kuhn. “We know that tomorrow’s home inspection consumer is going to rely heavily on data and on technology – getting things done easier and faster – while continuing to have a strong personal touch.”
For nearly forty years, HouseMaster has worked to ensure that homebuyers receive the support they need during a real estate transaction. As the company moves forward, adopting new technology and adjusting to new ways of doing business, this foundational goal continues to be a driving force. “Buying a home is one of the largest investments that somebody is going to make,” Ms. Kuhn points out. Therefore, a home inspector’s greatest responsibility is to ensure that the homebuyer has the information they need to make an informed decision. After pioneering the industry and creating new standards, HouseMaster is in a unique position to deliver the accurate, reliable service that homebuyers deserve.