By Mike Mueller
Home inspections are a bustling business these days, but to be successful, you need to stand out from the crowd on the strength of your brand and your name. As a franchisee for Canadian Residential Inspection Services (CRIS) in Vernon, B.C., I’ve benefited both from the knowledge of an established franchisor behind me and from my own experience in the construction and sale of houses.
Early lessons learned
I was born and raised in Medicine Hat, Alta., and lived there until I was 41. As the youngest of four siblings growing up in farm country, like many other country boys, I dreamed of becoming a cowboy or a fireman one day. At school, my favourite subject was math.
At the age of eight, I started to play guitar. My school didn’t offer guitar lessons or, for that matter, anything else contemporary in its music classes, so I gathered all of my instruction from outside of school. I was drawn to both rock n’ roll and country music and started to think my career path would involve music.
My first real job was actually with a franchise—McDonald’s—but before too long, I moved on to teaching at my brother’s music store and began to play in a band. I quickly realized I could make more money in one night playing a gig than I could in a month at the restaurant. I later became a co-owner of the music store and worked there for 20 years.
During that time, I met my wife Nadine, who was also from Medicine Hat, where she worked in a sports store. I owned a small house when we met and as our relationship progressed and we prepared for a growing family, we realized we needed a bigger home.
Nadine’s was a family of construction workers and their knowledge was an amazing asset to us while constructing our new home. We both soon realized the potential in a good real estate market and ended up building and ‘flipping’ houses every few years.
Choosing a new path
Things were going well, but I had always dreamed of moving to British Columbia. After a vacation there, I couldn’t stop thinking about its lakes and scenery. I was working in Alberta’s oil patch as a field operator at the time, which paid great, but wasn’t very rewarding otherwise.
Our kids were still in grade school when we decided to make our move in August 2010, leaving the mosquitoes and high winds of Medicine Hat behind and heading to B.C.’s warmer climate. We bought an empty lot in the Okanagan Valley and rented while building our new home.
I had several ideas of what I might do for a living after we moved. I thought about teaching music or working in a music store again, but then I noticed the real estate market was much busier in the Okanagan than it was in Alberta at the time, so I considered becoming a realtor. Then I realized becoming a home inspector would be a much better fit given our background in construction. Another factor, given my young family, was the long hours real estate agents have to put in. I appreciated that inspecting houses, by comparison, could be a 9-to-5 job. I had really gotten the notion after accompanying a home inspector through a house we’d built.
It was shortly after the Great Recession and there was still a slump, but I felt a slow economy was actually a good time to get into this industry, since there’s nowhere to go from there but up. It gave me the chance to establish myself as I became busier.