The home buying process can be a long and costly one for homebuyers. They may spend weeks searching for just the right home before making a deposit, paying for the home inspection and appraisal, and then finally closing on it.
After closing, homebuyers are locked into that home, but they may be unhappily surprised to discover that their home inspection didn’t turn up everything they needed to know about the home. HomeTrackR, a new startup coming to Charleston, aims to save homebuyers time and money by eliminating homes from consideration early on before they get involved in a transaction.
HomeTrackR is a web-based application that supplies customized home history reports to consumers and real estate professionals. It provides critical, hard to get information that can’t be found in a home inspection to homebuyers before they make an offer. Think: “Carfax for homes.”
According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), 40% of all homes on the market have at least one serious defect. Homeowners can expend a lot of time and money during the buying process before discovering issues about a home that could change their mind. “That’s where HomeTrackR comes in,” says HomeTrackR founder and South Carolina native, Rich Estes. “What you’re not finding out in this process are the problems at the right time. You’re getting down to the home inspection before you understand there are problems with the house. And even if you don’t close you’ve still got to pay that money.”
Estes, who has a background in real estate development in Charleston, came up with the idea while he was working on a remodel project in Rivertowne. He needed the survey of the property to get the permit together for the homeowner, who was unable to locate it. “It took a lot of energy to just get that one little thing done,” Estes said. “Because she doesn’t keep track of stuff like that, and most people don’t. They don’t know the importance of it until it’s time to sell their house or do a remodel project. There are so many tools like online file based storage in the professional industry for architects and other businesses out there…but no one had done it specifically for homeowners.”
Estes briefly moved to Washington D.C. in 2011 to pursue his MBA and plans to relocate his business back to Charleston this summer where he will expand his management and development team, as well as complete development of the HomeRrackR mobile application.
HomeTrackR’s QuickLook Report aggregates a combination of private and public data about a home’s condition that homeowners would have difficulty obtaining or understanding on their own. Estes says, “You can call or go down to the city of Charleston, and you might be able to get it online directly from them, but you would spend hours doing it. You would not know what you were looking at as a consumer, even as a real estate agent. Unless you were a builder or construction professional, you wouldn’t really understand the inspections and permits on the property. We’re able to bring that straight to the report and make analytical decisions and recommendations about the value or condition of that property.”
HOMETRACKR VS. HOME INSPECTIONS
So how is HomeTrackR different from a home inspection? HomeTrackR provides data bout the past history of a home, while a home inspection is a visual examination on the present condition of the home. A home inspection may detect issues such as rusted pipes, broken valves, or peeling paint. However, HomeTrackR reveals information that cannot be seen during an inspection such as building permit records, insurance claims, warranty data, previous mortgage information, property damage history, and contractors who have worked on the home. and violations.
HomeTrackR’s goal is not to replace traditional home inspections, but rather complement them. Estes is currently reaching out to home inspectors in hopes that HomeTrackR can help their businesses. “There is a need for home inspectors. They’re going to find things out about the present condition of the home that there’s no possible way we would be able to see. But they can’t see inside the walls. We tell you everything that happened before they decide to lock that house down. We want to let them have it, and they can offer it for free or add it on to their current inspections.”
HOMESAFE FOR HOMEOWNERS
HomeTrackR also plans to help homeowners by giving them the ability to interact inside its platform with HomeSafe, a digital cloud space where homeowners will be able to comment, post photos, and add information they feel is important to keeping an accurate history of the home, such as home improvement, home repair, insurance records, and warranty information.
MOVING IN ON CHARLESTON
HomeTrackR has already gained traction in select areas nationwide, generating reports in Virginia, Washington D.C., and California. With its recent surge in technology startups in Silicon Harbor, Estes believes it is the perfect time to bring his business back home to Charleston. Charleston has really creative young professionals – graphic artists, social media and marketing experts. Most of that was born out of the tourism and real estate industry. These professionals might want to try something different, like technology. Take that and combine with Silicon Harbor, and it just takes a couple of things to get it going. Charleston is coming online at just the right time.”
Estes struggled early on as an entrepreneur in raising capital for HomeTrackR, before finally gaining enough traction to sustain his startup. His advice for other entrepreneurs in Charleston: “It worked for me, so my advice for startups and entrepreneurs is to work on getting traction, don’t worry about the product if it isn’t perfect.”
This past week Estes presented his ideas on entrepreneurship at Dig South in a talk entitled, “Zero Investment Capital: How to Launch a Company without Raising a Dime.”