One of the questions I am asked most often is what start up costs are involved with getting a judgment recovery business open for business and off the ground. I know that it stands to reason that if even one person is asking the question, then ten more people are wondering the same thing.
Any new business, regardless of what it is, will require an investment of some sort before putting out the welcome mat – there’s just no way around it. You’ve got to spend it to make it, but start up costs for a judgment recovery operation are surprisingly low.
By comparison, consider that the average franchise requires thousands of dollars of investment capital. For example, a Subway restaurant will cost $12,500 cash just for the name, and an additional investment ranging from $92,050 to $222,800 – and that’s just to get the door open. You’d need to rent or buy a storefront, hire and train employees, buy equipment and inventory, and buy advertising just for starters. Talk about sticker shock!
I’d love to be able to give you a specific, solid start up figure for a judgment recovery business - but the truth is, there’s just no way to do it. Rather than just throw some generic figures out there, I spent some time poking around today to try and offer up a realistic cost outline.
A Dedicated Business Telephone Line:
A traditional business ‘land line’ averages $50/month, if you keep the bells and whistles to a minimum. A great low-cost alternative to that would be a VOIP (voice over internet protocol) program, like Vonage. VOIP works through your Internet connection. Vonage‘s Small Business Basic plan includes local service, long distance, a FAX line, call waiting, voicemail, caller ID and even call forwarding – all for $39.99/month.
A Business License from your City or County:
Annual licensing fees are around $25-$60, depending on where you are, and whether or not you have employees. The great majority of states only require a generic business license, although a very few states do require collection agency licensing.
Locking File Storage:
Sensitive data, like consumer credit reports, bank account information and social security numbers are required to be locked away from potentially prying eyes. You can use an existing desk drawer (if it locks), or you can pick up a locking file cabinet from Wal-Mart for $59. Even a garage sale find would work!
Stationery (Letterhead, envelopes, business cards):
Homemade stationery, on quality paper will do – so long as you keep it simple and professional. The cost for a local printing company to print it will depend on the design and quantity. But you can usually order enough to get started for under $100. Try VistaPrint.com for free business cards – you’d just need to pay the shipping and handling cost.
Post Office Box:
Unless you plan on having a commercial location (most prefer to be home-based), you’ll need a post office box. If you rent a box from the US Postal Service, it starts at $10 for 6 months. Some people opt for a private mail box service, like MailBoxes Etc., which is about $50 for 6 months. And, don’t forget postage, at $0.44 per piece of mail.
Asset Location Expenses:
Locating judgment debtors and their assets (bank accounts, employment, property, etc.) is a key factor to your income. In addition to free resources – like public records - you’ll need access to non-public data as well. Consumer credit reports average $7, depending on what resource you decide to use when obtaining them. You’ll also want access to other types of private information, like banking detail reports, property searches and people locates. You’ll typically spend around $10 – $15 for basic asset location reports for each case.
Court Filing and Levying Fees:
While there is typically no cost to research civil judgment files (they’re public record), or to file the document to assign the judgment into your name, you will have court filing and levying fees when it’s time to seize assets through the court. Figure on spending $35-$50 per enforcement procedure. The cool thing about that is that your court filing and levying fees are legally added to the judgment and the judgment debtor has to pay for them. Any other expenses, like asset location costs, are reimbursed to yourself off the top of what you collect.
Seriously, as far as must-have expenses go, that’s all I could think of! There’s a pretty nifty breakdown on costs vs. income on the main page of my website, if you need some clarity on how much your bottom line will be. Obviously, the costs to locate assets and acting on that information will vary depending on how many judgments you’re working on at the time, but hopefully this information will help you realistically determine what you’ll need to get started.
BIO: Christina Smiley is the founder and owner of Sierra Judgment Recovery, established in 1997. She has helped thousands of people make money with a home based business by providing professional judgment recovery training.