A Helpful Neighbor for Hire

By Beacon Staff

Jerry Reynolds, 28, doesn’t join other locals in complaining about the comings and goings of part-time residents in the valley where he grew up. Instead, he has found a way to accommodate and profit from their presence.

In turn, Reynolds’s services may help save those who invest in homes here from thousands of dollars in damages or theft.

Reynolds started his business, U.S. Home Watchers, last year, marking the accumulation of years of planning and the realization of his goal to become a young entrepreneur in his home state. There are 3,570 seasonal, recreational or occasional-use homes in Flathead County, according the 2000 Census. U.S. Home Watchers, headquartered in Whitefish, serves around 50 of these homeowners by offering home monitoring, lawn care, snow services, landscaping and concierge services.

Bu, Reynolds sums up his services as giving homeowners a sense of security.

“I’m not just selling a home-monitoring service; I’m selling trust in myself,” he said. “It’s a matter of trusting me and my company enough to watch their house – a huge investment – and for somebody to turn their keys over takes a lot of trust.”

An, a reward for that trust may be measured more in what doesn’t happen, than what does.

Reynolds describes his services as proactive. When clients sign up, U.S. Home Watchers does an inspection of the residence, looking for things in the house that could cause future problems, like leaky pipes, drafty seals or leaky roofs. Then, while clients are away, Reynolds and his staff visit the home weekly, making a checklist and taking photos. Homeowners receive an e-mail with their completed checklist and photos each week.

Lawn care and snow removal services help preserve aesthetic looks, landscaping, roofs and decks, while deterring criminals and keeping the home looking “lived in.”

Emergencies are rare – about one or two a year – because most problems are caught before damage occurs, but when the unpredictable happens the extent of damages is moderated.

“There was a leak in a home this last week,” Reynolds said. “The house had about $35,000 worth of cherry wood on their floors and the owners weren’t planning on returning until Christmas. If we hadn’t been there to catch it there could’ve been months of damage, rot and mold before they arrived.”

A $2,000 annual investment in Reynolds’ services may prevent hundreds of thousands in unforeseeable costs.

And when something needs fixing or a security alarm goes off Reynolds’s clients don’t have to make long trips in from Canada, New York or California. Reynolds is there to take care of things immediately, dealing with police, contracting out work or overseeing cleanup.

Reynolds, who grew up in a house between Bigfork and Kalispell and attended Flathead High School, said he debated starting his business in other communities where more opportunity and clientele existed. Whitefish meant a greater challenge, but Reynolds saw potential and the allure of home.

“It’s been about a two-year roller coaster of, ‘Are we going to go? Will this happen?’” he said. “But this place is growing and changing and I wanted to be a part of that, of how that happens.”

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