Real Estate Today: Home repair expert teaches his customers


After leaving his job at the Boston Building Materials Co-op, John Leek found himself wondering what to do for a living. He had always enjoyed teaching people about home improvement. People were always coming into the co-op asking him how to fix their drafty windows or what they could do to cut down on their heating bill. Leek said he found himself answering questions based on the knowledge he had gained from his years working in the machine shop trades and the years of work he done fixing his own house in Mission Hill.

“I did my own plumbing, my own roof. Over the course of 20 years I have been very involved in fixing it up,” Leek said of his 1896 three-story house. After he installed insulation, he said, an energy company consultant estimated his house is among the most energy-efficient in the country.

The answer to his career question came when somebody suggested he should tutor others on home improvement, something like a coach. “It was like a light bulb went off in my head,” Leek said in a recent interview. “I have this thread going through my life. I’ve enjoyed empowering others with the knowledge I’ve accumulated, whether it’s bicycle mechanics or machine shop trade [skills] or composting or improving a home. It made me feel good to help them learn that stuff.”

After attending several months of business courses at Jewish Vocational Service, he kicked off his homeowner coach service in 2006.

“My ideal client is someone who wants to do more of it themselves, but they have questions, or they’re fearful about turning over control to someone else or not know the right tools to use,” Leek said.

Leek said his projects range from one-hour consultations about how to install insulation or windows to longer projects such as bathroom renovations, where he might spend 20 to 30 hours working with clients.

Leek said many of his customers are women. “One thing I found out doing market research is that more women buy houses today than men. If you look at the DIY (Do It Yourself) channel, two out of three people watching it are female.” If you go to the free seminars The Home Depot does on Saturday mornings, it’s more women than men. They want to learn how to do more.”

“It may sound somewhat ironic,” he said, “but, ideally, I’d like to teach a client enough that they wouldn’t have to call me.

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