Year-end data compiled by Local Market Monitor, the national real estate forecaster, and HomeVestors of America reveals that the hottest markets for investment property sales are in the southern United States. That means good business for property inspectors in that region. Texas, North Carolina, Tennessee and Florida top the list of best investment property markets.
“The real estate markets that made the top 10 list for investing were chosen based on population growth and it’s near cousin, job growth — both conditions ideal for investing in single family homes,” said Ingo Winzer, president and founder of Local Market Monitor. “In all of the top 10 markets, the populations increased by more than double the national average of one percent.”
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Scott Hagan was a maintenance specialist for Caterpillar Tractors, where he’d worked for 16 years. Anticipating a plant shutdown that would put him out of a job, Hagan began to look for another career.
“I had never heard the term ‘home inspector,’ but my sister-in-law mentioned it to me and passed along a magazine article to review,” Hagan said. “She knew I had helped my brother through the years in his home improvement business and that I was interested in that type of work.”
That hint in the summer of 1996 sent Scott, and Abbottstown, Pennsylvania, resident on a search to educate himself about home inspectors. He started by requesting a list of home inspectors from the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), and he followed that with Internet and magazine research and telephone calls with prospective companies. He like what he learned, particularly from National Property Inspections.
“In the conversations I’d had with National Property Inspections, I was always very impressed,” Hagan said. “So much so, I didn’t even feel I had to visit the corporate office before I purchased a franchise.
That was in August 1996. Since then, Hagan has achieved back-to-back NPI Pinnacle Awards for his drive, determination and professionalism in developing a medium-sized market.
Many property inspectors expect a slow start, but Hagan’s dry spell lasted for two years. “Realtors in my area set up all inspections. When I came on the scene, most of them had established relationships with property inspectors, and they didn’t want to try someone new.”
So, Hagan set out to make a name for himself, visiting offices with newsletters and candy jars — anything to promote himself. “When I did get an inspection, I tried to do the best job possible,” he said. Eventually his new career took off, and his wife, Debbie, quit her job to become the office manager of his NPI franchise.
Having a reputation for being dependable has helped Hagan grow his southeastern Pennsylvania territory near the Maryland border, where apple orchards, paper mills and Harley Davidson motorcycles are among the largest industries. “Realtors know they can count on me to arrive when I’m scheduled and to do a good job,” Hagan said.
When he began his business, Hagan was personally delivering reports the day after the inspections. Technology advances since 1996 mean that Hagan now generates on-site inspection reports, which has helped him further improve his customer service. He’s also found that supplementing his general home inspections with radon, septic and well inspections, as well as water testing, is profitable in his area.
“The advice I would give to a new inspector is, ‘Don’t give up,” Hagan said. “Do the best job you can and eventually it will pay off. Also, if an approach is not working, don’t be afraid to try something else.”
“Franchise systems vary greatly, and not just in terms of the products and services they sell,” The WSJ published in an article called “So You Want In? How to Assess a Franchise Opportunity.” The article also said that different franchisors have different rules about how franchisees can and can’t run their businesses.
The good news is that most of the information you’re looking for is readily available. Read more of the article … click here.
Submitted by Roland Bates, President, NPI/GPI
I have been a business owner for a long time and have, and do, give bonuses. However, as a business owner, I suggest you never give a Christmas bonus. There is something unique about a Christmas bonus. If you give a Christmas bonus in December, in January you will hear something to the effect of, “This year when I get my Christmas bonus …” Give a Christmas bonus one time and somehow it becomes expected. Before you think of me as an evil person, please let me share my perspective on bonuses.
An hourly wage, a salary, commission and bonuses are all considerations for compensating employees. There is no magical formula for compensation, and no one ever thinks they earn enough. Compensate employees well but commensurate with what the company can afford.
First, think of the company as its own separate living and breathing entity. Reinvest a healthy percentage of your earning back into the company. The company must thrive if it is to feed you and your employees. Second, pay your employees before you pay yourself. I am not lamenting, but more than once have gone without a paycheck, though the employees were paid. The same is true for many other business owners. Third, as the business owner, and when circumstances permit, compensate yourself commensurate with what the company can afford, but again after you have reinvested back into the company.
Here is my personal perspective on employee bonuses:
- A bonus should come when things are going better than expected. Your employees got you there, so acknowledge them for that.
- Bonuses should be meaningful but not exorbitant. If you give a large bonus this time, but circumstances change, and the employees next time receive a much smaller bonus knowing they have worked just as hard, they will naturally feel let down.
- Lastly, bonuses should be given when not expected and at irregular intervals: Give bonuses on a set interval, and they will soon become expected, even if they are not necessarily earned.
Just like Fox News, I hope that sounded fair and balanced.
Thom Bowyer brings to his National Property Inspections business a varied background and a mix of talents. Bowyer was a retail store manager for nine years, editor of a golf magazine for one year, and a stay-at-home dad to his two daughters for a year when his wife’s employer transferred her out of state and the family moved. After relocating to Kentwood, Michigan, from West Virginia, Bowyer began researching ways to become his own boss.
Choosing the Right Franchise System
“I wanted a business with no leases, no employees, a low inventory and flexible hours,” Bowyer said. Property inspections came to the forefront. “And from there, NPI quickly rose to the top.”
Bowyer never considered starting his home inspection business independently. He knew he wanted to be part of a franchise system for the training, support and national name recognition. He wanted to receive everything necessary to succeed.
“NPI always presents themselves as succeeding through the success of their franchisees,” Bowyer said. “They offer tremendous support and encouragement and continually look for ways of providing new avenues for business.”
Bowyer purchased his NPI franchise in the fall of 2000.
Franchising the NPI Way
After signing the contract for his NPI franchise, Bowyer attended the intensive two-week training program at NPI’s headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska. “It is a well-rounded baseline to get a franchisee started,” he said. “No training is absolutely complete without years of experience and ongoing education, but it is amazing how much you can learn in a two- to three-week initial training program.”
Bowyer also appreciates the ongoing support he receives from the NPI home office. “It’s been awesome. From technical support to marketing support, NPI always is available with wisdom and insight,” he said.
Many business owners rely on referrals to increase profits, acquire new clients and grow their companies. Bowyer has fine-tuned the referral concept to pay off in a big way.
About every six to eight weeks, he sends a fax to the customers who have ordered his service. “I tell them what’s going on with my business and ask them to pass my name along to another real estate professional if they’re happy with my work. When a new agent calls and I complete the inspection, I sent a $20 movie gift card to the referring agent. It’s been very successful.”
If you do the math, you’ll realize that a $20 movie gift card is just a fraction of the cost of a home inspection. Bowyer’s method just makes good business sense. And, when he receives additional inspections from those new real estate agents, that $20 goes a long way. It’s that kind of innovative thinking that earned Bowyer a Rising Star Award for becoming a top performer during the first six months of operation of his NPI franchise.
Success With NPI
Bowyer has come a long way since starting his business. “The first few weeks, I was scared to death. I didn’t feel qualified,” he said. “So, I just threw myself into it. I wasn’t comfortable giving presentations or going to an office where the telephone was ringing, so I did almost all of my marketing at open houses. I’d take a bottle of water, a cookie, a gift, a price list and a business card, and visit 10 to 15 open houses on a Sunday afternoon. I usually ended up with two to four jobs from an afternoon of making contacts at open houses.”
Bowyer’s customer service philosophy is based on “always making buyers feel like I have all the time in the world to inspect their homes — even if I have another appointment in 30 minutes,” he said.
“My business has grown steadily from year one,” Bowyer said. “The past three years have been the most successful I have ever had, and I am hoping that my volume in 2015 will allow me to add an additional helper/inspector.”
Bowyer also said that joining the NPI franchise system has been one of the wisest decisions of his life. “I have never regretted joining the NPI family, and I have been extremely pleased with all aspects of my career.”
Earlier this year, National Property Inspections, Inc., parent company of National property inspections in the United States and Global Property Inspections in Canada, worked with Franchise Business Review to conduct a survey of our franchisee satisfaction. We could tell you that we have a satisfied franchisee base, but the results of our 2014 Franchisee Satisfaction Survey conducted by Franchise Business Review speak for themselves. The highlights are below, but you can click here to check out the full survey summary.
- Fifty-one percent of respondents considered starting a property inspection business on their own (independently). Over 96 percent of our franchisees are glad they decided start an NPI/GPI franchise.
- Over 96 percent of respondents rated our training program above average.
- Over 89 percent of respondents rated our marketing and promotional programs above average.
- Over 97 percent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that they trust and respect National Property Inspections, Inc., as a franchisor.
- Over 98 percent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that National Property Inspections, Inc., operates with a high level of honesty and integrity.
- Over 93 percent of respondents said that National Property Inspections, Inc., cares about their success.
- Over 96 percent of respondents said that they enjoy operating an NPI/GPI franchise.
- Over 90 percent of respondents said they have a positive attitude about their affiliation with NPI/GPI.
- Nearly 94 percent of respondents rated their satisfaction with NPI/GPI above average.
- Over 93 percent of respondents said they would recommend an NPI/GPI franchise to others.
And here’s what some of our franchisees had to say about us:
- “[I chose NPI for] the stability of the organization and tenure of office personnel; the reputation, professionalism, and ethics of the owner and staff; the support; and the ability to operate my business with autonomy but with all the support I need from NPI.”
- “[NPI’s] training is provided by world-class experts, a priceless commodity in today’s competitive market. Support is rarely needed but always helpful and in a very timely manner.”
- “[I liked NPI’s] value. Tangible assets in return for the franchise fee: training, inspection equipment, computer, software with free upgrades, website, business plan template including contacts for inspection work (draws & field service), ongoing technical support, annual meeting with continuing education, marketing materials and assistance. NPI, Inc., is truly interested in helping the franchisee succeed in business. The other franchisors seemed to be only interested in selling franchises.”
- “[NPI’s royalty] fee, while higher than others, did not add on an additional advertising fee, so the net fee was lower. I liked the territory protection, and most of all, I got a good feeling about the people who worked there. It was a good fit for me.”
- “[The] NPI staff [is] incredibly responsive, always positive, supportive and knowledgeable.”
- “Honestly, we never inquired about any other brands. After my initial contact, Julie Erickson, contacted my wife and I to tell us about NPI and answer our questions. She was very friendly, knowledgeable, and made us feel very comfortable. We very soon thereafter received a comprehensive information package. We then contacted several current franchise owners. All of them were very friendly, eager to share their experiences and encouraging. After all of this, it just seemed right.”
- “I believe the [software] quality is top-drawer. [NPI is] constantly changing the software to meet new standards, and any issues are promptly resolved.”
A journeyman carpenter, Greg Mathias spent 27 years working in the building industry. In May 2009, he broke his knee playing baseball, and the injury prevented him from being able to go back to his job.
Mathias had always been interested in the property inspection field, but he didn’t know where to start. He talked to a few real estate agents, but they all told him the same thing: “If you aren’t with a franchise, we won’t use you.”
Choosing the Right Franchise System
So, Mathias began investigating property inspection franchise opportunities. Franchising would be a way for him to go into business for himself, and he liked the idea that he wouldn’t have to do it alone. He would have the marketing, business plan and backing of a proven franchise system.
In addition, Mathias was looking for a company that was well-known and had brand recognition but that also truly cared about its franchisees. “That is a rare thing to find these days,” he said.
“I called four different franchise companies and talked to someone at each office,” Mathias said. Then he called Global Property Inspections and talked to Julie Erickson, director of franchise sales.
“When Julie answered the phone at GPI,” he said, “I knew this company was different. We chatted on the phone for over an hour, and she invited me to call any of the franchises in Canada or the United States for feedback. She was the only one who followed through on her promise to send me some information on the company. I called seven or eight GPI franchisees over the next few days and got nothing but rave reviews. I was sold!
“I decided to join the GPI team because of Julie,” Mathias continued. He described Erickson as forthcoming and enthusiastic and said that she not only conveyed a willingness to help in any way she could, but she also followed through with the help. No other franchisor Mathias had talked to did that.
Franchising the GPI Way
In November 2009, Mathias purchased his GPI franchise. The next step was to attend the intensive two-week training at GPI’s headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska. GPI has two training experts on staff full time, and these employees also provide field support to GPI business owners seven days a week by telephone. In addition to its training experts, GPI has a full staff ready to support its business owners, including a marketing team that includes a marketing coach and marketing manager.
“The GPI training program is second to none,” Mathias said. “It was a bit overwhelming at first, but as you settle in, you realize the knowledge being given is top-notch. Randy [Yates] and Kenn [Garder] do an excellent job of getting you ready to hit the ground running.”
And “hit the ground running” is just what Mathias did with his business, making him glad he’d chosen a franchise over opening a business independently. “With a franchise system, everything is ready to go the minute you start your profession,” he said. “Going independent, you would have to design a logo, website and brochures just to get started. GPI does all of this for you.” In addition, Mathias appreciates that when he walks into a real estate office, the agents have already heard of GPI.
But one of the best parts of owning a franchise, Mathias said, is the ongoing support he receives. “I know I can call anyone at the national office or any franchise owner to find an answer to my questions,” he said. “I don’t know of many companies as large as the GPI/NPI* franchise system that you can call and speak directly to the president of the company. Roland [Bates] has even answered technical questions for me when Randy or Kenn were unavailable.”
Bates is very hands-on with the business and regularly speaks to all of the franchise owners. He is a down-to-earth businessman who lives up to the GPI motto of honesty, integrity and professionalism.
Success With NPI
Mathias said that owning his GPI franchise has changed his life in three major ways: “One is the freedom to schedule myself around my family,” he said. “I can now go to my son’s football game or my daughter’s dance competition without the worry of having to tell someone and get permission. The second result is happiness. This is a job I truly love. The third result is money. I have almost doubled my income from before I started. I can worry less about money and focus more on my family and their needs. It’s an awesome feeling.
“GPI is top-notch,” Mathias continued. “I am thankful that I was able to find a company that truly cares about their franchisees. My experience could not be better.”
National Property Inspections, Inc., is excited to be included in Franchise Business Review’s Veterans & Franchising 2014 special report. The report narrows down the vast array of franchise opportunities available to military veterans by highlighting the 100 franchise companies rated highest in franchisee satisfaction by military veterans who were surveyed. Franchise Business Review’s research looked at survey feedback from more than 3,500 military veterans who are current franchise owners. The national study included more than 350 leading franchise companies, and the resulting list of Top 100 franchises was based exclusively on franchisee satisfaction among veteran franchise owners.
Military veterans are 45 percent more likely to take the plunge into entrepreneurship than people with no active-duty military experience according to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Office of Advocacy. Hundreds of franchisors have realized this and are offering military veterans incentives and discounts to invest in their franchises as a result. Not all are a good fit for vets, so it is crucial that they perform their due diligence prior to signing a franchise agreement.
National Property Inspections, Inc., parent company of National Property Inspections in the United States and Global Property Inspections in Canada, offers low-cost franchises for less than $35,000 in both countries, with a 10 percent discount on the initial franchise fee for U.S. and Canadian veterans.
“Being a vet is a special thing, and we certainly appreciate their service to our country,” said Roland Bates, president and CEO of National Property Inspections, Inc. “We have many successful vets who are now NPI owners and who have had a great talent for franchising.”
The report also features a profile of National Property Inspections franchise owner Jim Giuffre of Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina. Giuffre joined the U.S. Army in 1977, right out of high school. He later worked as an electrician for residential, commercial and industrial buildings in New York. He wanted to move to North Carolina, but he was too young to retire, so he decided to become a property inspector, and in April 2006, he purchased an NPI franchise.
“It is the American dream to be able to work for myself and be with my family,” Giuffre said in the report. “I am working hard for my growth, not someone else’s growth. It is actually fun to see how my company has grown. … That is a huge sense of pride for me.”
To learn more about NPI/GPI franchise opportunities, visit http://npifranchise.com/ in the United States or http://gpifranchise.com/ in Canada. To access the Franchise Business Review Veterans & Franchising 2014 report visit http://www.FranchiseBusinessReview.com.