Lew Sichelman is a seasoned writer with 50 years of covering the housing and mortgage markets under his belt. His biweekly Inman column publishes on Tuesdays.

There comes a time in the life of most owners when it’s time to sell their homes and move on. That’s when the condition of the place becomes paramount — at least in the eyes of the eventual buyer.

But how will the buyer know how well sellers did — or did not — take care of their houses? Will those sellers be able to provide invoices to show the home ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system was tuned up every six months or so on a regular basis? Will they be able to provide the model numbers for each of their appliances, plus the dates they were installed?

How about the color of the paint on the walls and ceilings, and identity of the paint manufacturer? Was it antique white or a variation of that shade, and did it come from Sherman Williams or PPG? When was the new carpet installed and the kitchen remodeled? By whom, and at what cost? Could the sellers supply copies of the building permits?

While this kind of information is important to only some buyers, it should be to everyone. It was to Jack Huntress of Carlisle, Massachusetts, founder of the software company HomeBinder.

The HomeBinder Home Management software system is a digital three-ring binder that organizes all your important records, room by room. But it’s far more systematic and comprehensive than traditional record keeping systems. It’s available for use to agents and allied professionals as a client gift that keeps on giving every day the buyer owns the house.

HomeBinder helps keep track of the minutia

Here’s a condensed list of what the software’s free version can hold:

  • Make, model, serial number and date installed for each appliance. The software includes fields for information on often omitted machines such as generators, water softeners and water heaters. And it includes fields that enable homeowners to describe and document the frequency of maintenance, service calls and repairs. Homeowners can include part numbers and include the name and contact information of the companies that supplied them. With this kind of data at your finger tips, you don’t have to try to remember who did the work or when, or what was repaired and what was replaced.
  • Paint colors and maker, i.e., “Bedroom walls: Antique white from Sherman Williams; ceilings and trim, white from Sherman Williams.”
  • Names and contact information for plumbers, electricians, painters, handymen and all other contractors.
  • Major improvements, by whom, the cost and when they were put into service. Thus, you’d know with certainty that you paid $65,000 to Murray Construction to build a mudroom addition and that it was completed in September 2016.

A premium edition comes with that, as well as space for permit number, type and date (in jurisdictions where this information is available electronically) so when a would-be buyer asks if said additions or improvements were built according to code, you’d be able to easily prove it.

And as they say on those middle-of-the-night infomercials: “But wait, there’s more!”

The premium edition also which comes with a 150-page homeowner’s manual. Among other things, the e-book allows owners to track their capital expenditures for improvements for tax purposes. So there’s no more guesswork about their cost basis.

The guide is necessary, according to Huntress, because today’s homebuyers are “fundamentally different” from previous generations. “When I was growing up, I puttered around the house with my father,” he explains. “Now people are very structured, and many buyers today don’t know that their A/C system has filters, or the chimney needs to be swept.”

The premium version of the software also contains a home inventory module where every item in the house can be listed for insurance purposes, a must in case of a fire or natural disaster. And as long as users enter the makes and models of their appliances, they also will be notified automatically of any product recalls.

In addition, HomeBinder will send out reminders to subscribers to the service to notify them of when it’s time to make an annual inspection of the property, stem to stern.

Huntress is selling the system to private home inspectors, who can offer it to their clients. Inspectors especially like the annual notice component, Huntress says.

“We are all about annual home inspections. Why do we go to the doctor, a mechanic, a financial adviser, a dentist regularly, but no whole home expert looks at the home after we buy it? When you consider the investment we make in our homes, that’s not smart.”

Other potential buyers for the package include real estate agents and brokers, lenders and even builders, all of whom are always looking for ideal thank you gifts for their customers. And individual homeowners can purchase it directly from the company’s website.

With the plethora of news about online privacy, digital data services and data breaches, one question that pops into mind when looking at HomeBinder is how the service uses all this valuable data about its users and how it secures it. The company addresses these questions here and here.

However, HomeBinder’s privacy policy was last updated in 2013, and Huntress’ post about how the company uses homeowner data is from 2017. Startups’ business models evolve over time, and clearly, all this data holds value to third-party companies that could market to homeowners based on the needs contained in their online files.

The company might want to think more about updating its current and prospective users about how it uses their data on a more frequent basis in order to reassure users and keep them up to date.

HomeBinder charges inspectors based on their volume. Consumers can pay for the service themselves for $2.99 a month for 36 months. Agents and brokers pay $24 per client, each of whom gets the system for life. The software also is being marketed to brokerages for all their agents and through Brokermint, a real estate back office management system.

With Brokermint, says Huntress, “every time a deal closes, the system sends out an email telling the buyer” the program is available at no charge.

Lew Sichelman is a seasoned writer with 50 years of covering the housing and mortgage markets under his belt. His biweekly Inman column publishes on Tuesdays.

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