My father, John Franklin, grew up working in his father's hardware stores in
Florida. That's him sitting on top of the ladder. As he got older, he helped his
oldest brother build homes. In the early 1970s, he started building his own
homes in the Fredericksburg area with a partner. The company was called
J & J Construction. By the 1980s, my father was a contractor building homes
on his own in the Fredericksburg area and northern Virginia area. He also
owned 2 Ace Hardware stores in Stafford. Real estate agents would ask my
father to look at homes before their clients would make an offer. He did this
for years and didn't charge anything. Then by the late 1980s, he realized that
this was a growing industry and he wanted in on it.
I grew up working in the family construction company and 2 Ace Hardware stores. I literally learned about homes from the ground up with a shovel in one hand and a broom in the other. By 1985 I had moved on to the new world of PC programming. I worked full-time on DOD and other government contracts through the 1990s, but I kept my hands in the construction company.
In 1989 my father asked me if I would like to start a home inspection business with him. We got some formal training and in June of that year, we were open for business. I was still working full-time on government contracts, but working part-time with my father. There wasn't enough work to carry the both of us full time. Home inspectors were not well received. They were seen as deal killers. Then by the mid-1990s I gave up the government contracting world and worked full-time with my father.
Do you know who represented a buyer in a real estate contract in 1989? No one. Real estate agents all represented the homeowner. Buyer representation didn't happen until the 1990s. The homeowners were relying on the home inspectors to tell them what to ask for.
The delivery of the home inspection report has evolved since we started. In 1989 we would take notes during the inspection and then type the report in the office. We used WordPerfect software on an IBM AT with a green monochrome monitor. I remember watching my dad hunt and peck on the keyboard to type a report. I would take him over an hour for one report. So, me being the computer geek, I wrote custom WordPerfect macros so he could do it faster. We printed the report on a dot matrix Epson printer. It would take over 15 minutes to print 2 copies of the report. We hand-delivered the report the next day. Then in 1997, we got our first Sony Mavica digital camera. It stored pictures on a 3 1/2" floppy disk. I believe it could store about 15 pictures. We would take pictures of the defects during the home inspection.
In the early 1990s, we started doing radon tests. Basically, no one had ever heard of radon. We had to educate Realtors and clients about radon. Now getting a radon test is normal.
My father went through some health issues in the 1990s and then in 2002, my father passed away. I reorganized the company and stayed in business on my own. The company has been through the ups and downs of the real estate market. I have had multiple inspectors working for me and then there was a time when it was just me. The company is in a growing stage again today thanks to the support and hard work of my wife, Brianna.
- Kenny Franklin