2023 new business idea #3: Start a property restoration or hardening business

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By Michelle van Schouwen

It’s a truism that one person’s misfortune is another’s good luck. In 2023, amidst increasingly severe weather throughout much of the world and the promise – with climate change – of more to come, a real estate restoration or hardening (“resiliency”) business is a good opportunity.

A case in point: Estimates for the property damage costs of Hurricane Ian, which impacted Florida and beyond, range from $42 billion to as much as $258 billion. Much, although not all, of this damage was to homes and commercial buildings. Roofs had to be replaced or repaired, structural damage fixed, flooding dealt with, mold mitigated, electricity rewired, lanais rebuilt, and much more. In addition to repairing and rebuilding, many Floridians are further hardening their homes and buildings, even in advance of likely revisions to the state’s already stringent building codes. This is a trend that has been going on for some time and presents an ongoing opportunity for restoration and resiliency contractors.

Hurricane Ian’s damage is not a singular story, though, and not all restoration and hardening require a specific severe-impact event.

Hardening existing structures addresses different priorities depending on the region, much of them in preparation for expected troubles to come. Needs include hurricane-rated windows in the south, raised structures on the shore, earthquake-hardening along known faults, building in protection from wildfires in vulnerable regions… and much more.

How to get started

The work of restoration after damage and building resiliency for protection in anticipation of need, will grow in scope over the next decades. To get started, you need to have appropriate contracting skills and licenses. You should choose areas of specialization relevant to your target market and skill sets, which can of course include employees’ skills as well as your own. As noted, damage restoration specialties include: Fire, mold, water, wind, earthquake, and similar. Each of these may involve several needs: structural, electrical, plumbing, odor, aesthetic restoration, and more. For companies building in resiliency or “hardening” of structures, the same examination of target market needs, likely building code upgrades, and your own skills may lead you to anything from redesigning the readiness of homes to upgrading commercial properties to help business owners minimize losses from severe weather and other disasters.

Gary Brunelle owned Ace Fire & Water Restoration, Inc. of West Springfield, MA, for nearly two decades. His successful company wrote and negotiated property loss settlements for damage caused by fire, water, wind, or mold damage, then repaired the properties to pre-loss condition. In addition, the company was a wholesaler for kitchen cabinets, with in-house design and installation. He advises new entrepreneurs considering a property restoration or hardening business to make sure they fully understand and love the products and services they will offer. In addition, he cautions that a prospective business owner “must have a real understanding of the workforce that they will be hiring. In the construction industry, there has been an enormous void of qualified, skilled people coming into the field over the last fifteen to twenty years. Without the right help, an owner may as well remain a “One Man Band” and thus control the workflow and, most important, the quality of the product and name.” Make sure you check out regional resources including vocational schools and other training and certification programs early on if you plan to hire workers in the future.

Critically, this is an industry in which demand will increase in coming decades. Building codes and techniques will evolve, possibly quickly, as will customer needs. For a professional willing to continue learning and updating offerings, the business of real estate restoration or hardening will be a strong long-term opportunity.


Michelle van Schouwen is principal of Q5 Analytics, providing advocacy and communications for climate change mitigation and adaptation. For 32 years, Michelle was president of van Schouwen Associates, LLC (vSA), a B2B marketing company. In 2017, van Schouwen Associates was acquired by Six-Point Creative Works, Inc. of Springfield, MA. Michelle is available for speaking engagements on topics including her work on climate crisis mitigation and Florida coastal water issues. She speaks to business and student groups about marketing launches and entrepreneurship and works with start-ups to support their development.

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