By Liz Segrist
Published Nov. 8, 2015
From the Oct. 19, 2015, print edition
Rich Estes sent out a news release explaining what his startup would do before his platform was fully built.
By the next day, 200 people had requested a Home History Report from HomeTrackr.
“In a true lean startup fashion-style, I had to sell the ghost, which is a term we use a lot in the (Harbor) Accelerator,” said Estes, a member of The Harbor Entrepreneur Center's 12-week entrepreneurial boot camp. “The technology wasn’t quite there yet, but I had to get it out there and get feedback.”
|HomeTrackr founder Rich Estes wants buying a home to be more transparent. (Photo/Liz Segrist)|
The reports detail what work has been done on the house; whether it has ever had flood, fire or termite damage; which contractors performed work there; the age of the home, roof or HVAC system; and whether any lead paint was used.
After the requests came in, Estes — who was working full time at a design-build firm and earning an MBA at John Hopkins’ Carey Business School in Washington, D.C. — took two days off from school and work. He tracked down the records manually, wrote out the findings and emailed the reports to the requesters.
“It was patched together, but we got the feedback we needed to be able to tweak things to where it is today,” Estes said.
As a former homebuilder and real estate developer in Charleston, Estes often found himself digging through building permits in city offices. Those experiences, coupled with a school project that pitched the concept of people having control over their own health records, led to the idea for the startup.
Estes said he wants homeowners and buyers to have access to their home’s records.
HomeTrackr users can log in and search for an address. The application scrapes public records, aggregates the data and creates a home history report for free.
“All the people in the business are not incentivized to give you that information. ... I realized an opportunity that this could be disruptive and pretty big,” Estes said.
HomeTrackr produces about 1,200 reports each month and currently has about 12,000 users. The product serves as a lead generator for real estate and mortgage companies, and those firms act as a distribution channel for HomeTrackr.
HomeTrackr currently has four freelance developers and a full-time sales representative. Estes said the company was built with investments from friends and family.
“You’ve got this enormous pressure to grow and you don’t necessarily have all those extra resources like a more tractionable company, so you’re pushing it as hard as it can go to ... break it, all the time, and you do,” Estes said. “And if you’re scared to break it, you won’t really grow, so you push past your resources every day.”
Reach staff writer Liz Segrist at 843-849-3119 or @lizsegrist on Twitter.
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