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  • Writer's pictureKevin Maxwell

Home inspector diversifies to succeed by Times Union.

Kevin Maxwell thought he wanted to be a police officer, until he discovered home inspections. Now, he’s busy building an empire.

Maxwell, 29, worked for the city of Albany as a building inspector when he started a home inspection company in 2018. He prefers the educational aspect of the job to simply being the one enforcing rules. 

“I’m helping people understand the house they’re thinking about buying,” Maxwell said. “Homes can be complicated. There’s a new language to learn. I have a skill for taking in complicated information, dispelling myths and boiling it down.”

In the class Maxwell took before taking a test to become a state-certified home inspector, the teacher said women and people of color might struggle in the job because locally the industry is made up mostly of white people. Maxwell said he was stunned to hear the words. In the field, he found encouragement from people in the real estate business who want to see it become more diverse.

Maxwell said when the Black Lives Matter movement arrived and more people learned about hidden racism and misconceptions around people of color, they sent more work his way because they wanted to support a Black-owned business. It was a mixed blessing, Maxwell said because he appreciates the support, but wants above all else to be hired because of his skills.

“I want people to use me because I’m good, not because of my color. I feel people looking at me wondering how I know what I know, but as things go along it doesn’t matter if you’re Black, white, purple, brown.” Maxwell said. “I think there’s a bright horizon. There are more Realtors now who are people of color than there were decades ago and, because of people moving into this area from New York and other parts of the country, it’s less of an issue when they encounter a Black inspector.”

At one point as his business was growing, he did four or five inspections a day and hired a driver so he could work on reports from the road between jobs. Most jobs are routine, but every once in a while something weird happens.

Once, Maxwell met a real estate agent at a house she was considering buying. They were alone in the house, but they could hear music and then the sound of a door closing. The agent yelled out, “Is anyone here,” and started chanting. Maxwell suggested bringing in a priest before the closing.

Another time, prospective buyers asked if they could bring along their own dirty laundry to test the washer and dryer at the house. The owners were tense but allowed it. The couple finished their laundry and left — but didn’t buy the house.

And then there are the surprising ways people decorate their houses. At one house, the seller’s dog greeted Maxwell and the seller commented the dog seemed to like Maxwell. Inside the home, Maxwell found the reason the homeowner was likely to take his dog’s opinion seriously. The house was loaded with portraits of the dog and even a statue in its likeness.

“I’m glad the dog liked me,” Maxwell said, laughing.

Maxwell Home Inspection Services has five inspectors as well as an operations manager and an office manager. As the market heated up in 2020 more potential buyers waived inspection — a choice that makes Maxwell “cringe a little.”

“I would ask, if you’re considering waiving inspection, do you have adequate cash reserves, or are you handy? Some buyers I work with are prepared to make fixes, but others — a much bigger percentage — are already maxed out because they bought over asking (price) and they’re not prepared to replace a roof.”

When inspection work dropped off, Maxwell partnered with Adam Clark of Shield Guard Home Inspections. Together, the men formed mold removal, chimney cleaning, and asbestos removal businesses. They share the effort of training new inspectors. Maxwell is also the in-house inspector for Realty One Group Key, a brokerage formed last spring by Dan Reilly and Dan Starks.

When on the job, Maxwell’s clients often ask his opinion and ask if he was the one considering buying the house; Would he do it? Maxwell said he tries not to sway the decision making, but he recommends looking at the big picture. The condition of the roof and the foundation are far more important than trim or a cracked window, he said. He tells clients to look at the overall report and reflect on how it makes them feel.


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