Friday, August 18, 2017

Rotten Butts

I frequently tell clients that “if you wish to own with excellence, then do [this or that].” Usually the this or that has some reference to stainless steel and utilizing higher quality materials than the bare minimum, or the low levels of what code requires. I inspect many homes that really are well maintained on the superstructure. However, when accessing out of the way places, especially crawlspaces, the maintenance and care ends.

Recently I inspected a home selling for just under a million dollars in a hoity toity village down the coast. A million dollars! For real?! This was going to be a second or third home for the clients. The superstructure was something to behold. Well built. Maintained with excellence! Wonderful. Wonderful.

Then the crawl space. Unmaintained. Soaked. Rodents. Pulled down insulation in a sick soup-morass of dung, disease, wet filth. Garbage and debris everywhere. Old worn out plumbing. Supports on one whole side of the structure that looked like they were thrown together by the local pre-school. I call this type of supporting “Uncle Jed” supporting. The proverbial uncle jed came over, watched the game, then helped fix the electrical and raise the house when half intoxicated.

Do not show me the pretty upside when the downside is a corrupted morass. Rather, show me that you are the total property owner by caring not just for what can be seen, but also that which is not seen. 

This the essence of J’s condemnation of the religious self-righteous in the New Testament. Fancy clothes. Prayin’ in public for all to see. Showin’ off how much they give, how generous they are. How good they are. . . 

And all for naught. 

Likewise this house. A million dollars for a pretty face but a rotten bottom.

Why Good-Ol'-Boys and Girls Suck

The most successful real estate team in our rural area used to utilize my services frequently. Being wanted/used of course feels nice. 

One day, one from this team decided to use me for a home that he was personally purchasing. I did not charge any less for this inspection than for any other structure of the same size or for any other client. Some time later, after payment, this person contacted me and asked me to send a blank invoice so that the charge for the inspection could go to another and not himself. I had already contracted with this person, been paid by this person, and the transaction was finished.

I do not bill anyone except the person paying for and receiving the inspection. As far as I was concerned, the transacted inspection was finished and over.   

You see, the State of Oregon requires that inspectors put the following on the front of their reports. It must be capitalized and bold faced.

I explained to this realtor-client that this mandatory statement is why I do not bill alternate parties. You pay for the inspection; thus, YOU are the person that is on my contract and to whom I send the report. The conversation was awkward; nevertheless, the realtor assured me it was no big deal and that I shouldn’t worry about it.

Despite not being a big deal, this was the last inspection for which this team utilized my services.

I am very much into inspecting, seeing, and report writing. I get a deep sense of satisfaction for seeing everything possible for a client, reporting this at length, and being in a very real sense a shield between the client and surprise and financial distress or even ruin. I am not into politics, schmoozing, politically advancing self, or associating in ANY WAY with any good old boy or good old girl networks. Being an outsider to this rural area, I have deliberately avoided politicizing in such ways.

I take words seriously. Speaking truth. This for me even goes as far as even avoiding pretense in the niceties that we so often say in greeting, lies really, when we say, “so nice to see you!” or “how are you?”, etc., when we do not mean it or care.

My way of dealing with the real conflict of interest that exists between inspectors and realtors: to put my head down and do my job, seeing and speaking and writing truth, and all else be damned. Treat all people the same. Worry about the quality of my inspecting and reporting first, accruing business not first. 

History shows that work comes as work comes. The bills get paid; life continues. 

It is so-sad to not be used by some or to not make as much money as one could or the like. However, this boy lives by conviction and not by profit motive or motives of ego or motives of being one of the "in" crowd. And that is how it is going to be. 

Meanwhile, let’s go paddle across the Columbia. The waves are angry and exciting this fine day my friend!

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Reflections on the Occupation

People who become home inspectors seem to be the person who knows, who is in controlThis was demonstrated when listening to a budding inspector respond to a client’s queries. The dam broke; the words poured forth.  

How people handle knowledge is an interesting study. Some people keep their knowledge to themselves and judiciously speak. Perhaps these are the minority. People who know things usually seem to want to let others know how much that they do. Perhaps more than they know. Like the fellow on Wheel of Fortune the other evening who had to let everybody know that he could speak seven languages fluently, and several more languages conversationally. Or a past professor who lorded his knowledge over others like a stick, beating them, making them look stupid and small. Or the small-in-stature boss that I had for a period who did the same with those under his finger, seeming to gloat in making others look ignorant.

I wish to learn ravenously, but to be wise about what to speak. How. When. And to uplift others in the process. To genuinely listen to others when they speak and then to think about what they said. Not to be ready to answer in rebuttal or quick succession. To be able to say when I do not know something and not try to misrepresent. 

The growth pains continue. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Fools of the Dynasty

Many dynasties have their clowns. The infamous megalomaniacs Nero and Caligula for the Julio-Claudian dynasty, etc. Again, the words of WASP, album Golgotha: 

     You cheered ya'alls clown to king. . . 

along with an ancient Hoseaic proverb, 

     Whoso sows the wind, shall reap the whirlwind. 

And another, 

     The labor of nations is fuel for the fire.

Let us enjoy the whirlwind, dÄ“mos. As we ride the mayhem together. The mad torrents of incompetent, raging ego. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Gaps

What to look at when not in some ugly crawl space lookin' for leaks, 'coons, structural problems, etc. E.g., off days.

Magna Columbia; non pacifica. (The great Columbia; not [always so] peaceful.)

Can we even believe the privilege of being able to live here?! Coming from the gray, flat, dirty midwest, this land is something else!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Work Ethos

For part of my life, I was raised on a small farm. My old man had me out mowing the lawn when I was in grade school. Mowing also included thwacking the weeds down in this one hellfire area that was steep, large, and too rock-infested for the mower. This was an era when motorized weed eaters and such tools were still to be invented; hence, the weed wacker used was a variation of a sharp scythe at the end of a metal pole that one whisked back and forth. Also included in these youthful chores were digging post holes in rock-like ground, weeding the onions, and so forth. In short, my old man taught-forced me to work hard and to shut up about it. Back talk was taken care of with a 14"X5"X5/8" wooden board applied to the glutes at velocity; this man was a veteran school principal in an age when whooping ass in the office was as common as greasy breaded fish on Fridays. (Today’s time out’s. . . HA!)

When young, I hated hard physical labor but did it because I was told to do it with no other option. In HS, I did this work to get spending money, working on a horse ranch shoveling out stalls. In college, I did such labor over the summers to pay for tuition and books. I still hated the work but did it because it needed to be done. The motivation changed from a wood board to a financial necessity.

Attitude about such labor has changed over the years.

With aging, I have come to very much enjoy hard physical labor, though done periodically to allow time to rest and recharge. A special point of enjoyment is digging in the dirt. A farmer who hired me once said, “you dig the cleanest holes and trenches I have ever seen.” (DEFINITELY something to put on the resume!) He then threw me on a tractor for the rest of the summer to cultivate the soil around the newly sprouted beans. The other help ran them over or uprooted them, he explained. The rest of the summer was quite enjoyable trucking around remote fields on my tractor watching the birds, the creegles, and crop-dusters. (A creegle is a cross between an eagle and a crow. And have you ever seen a bi-plane fly UNDER power lines at close range and then shoot vertically up into the air only to swoop back down and repeat?! These fellows are amazing!) 

I tell clients who are going to do their own work, from roofing to crawl space excavation to whatever: Now you are going to find out who your true friends are! Nothing shows authentic friendship like work that is face-down-in-the-dirt, grubby, excruciatingly difficult. Everything else is simple acquaintanceship. Inside, I am also thinking that these peoples’ personal mettle will also be tested. Will they finish the job or hand it off to a company to finish it. . .

Monday, June 20, 2016

Why to Work, reprise

   The following citation from a man who heads a company that trains inspectors and who authors material toward this end. He authored a publication that is meant to persuade inspectors to purchase qualification through his organization so that they, and he in the process, can become fabulously wealthy.  

[My text] answers [the question of how to become financially rich as an home inspector.] Remember, the purpose of being in business--any business--is to make money. If you want to make a good living, don't go into business. Instead, get a good job. The only reason to be in business and take on all that it entails is to make a really, really great living and to pile up stacks of money for yourself and your family. N.G., advertisement for STACKS: A Home Inspector's Guide to Increasing Gross Revenue.
   This business ethic is fundamentally and irrevocably opposite to my own ethic as a business man and inspector. Hedonistic, selfish, and just stupid. In one of the earliest posts in this stream, we discussed ethical motivations for behavior. In this scheme, motivations were broken down into four broad options:

1. ethical egoism -- behaving in a way to serves me and mine; 
2. utilitarianism -- behaving in a manner that serves the majority number of people; 
3. deontology -- behaving in a manner that is necessary, proper, or right -- behaving on principle. 
4. altruistic -- behaving in a manner that assists others with little or no regard for self. 

    There certainly are other reasons for being in business other than accruing piles of money for oneself and family, a classic ethical egoistic motivation for working. Among alternatives could simply be to live a quiet and peaceful life, slowly and deliberately doing right in an occupation, treating others with honor, with the expectation (or hope!) that normative financial obligations of life would be met. 


   Imagine a business occupation as a large field of grain. Some business persons work very hard to put a fence around this field, claim it for themselves, and deny or hinder access to others. Others realize that the grain field is not their exclusive domain, that there is ample room for themselves and others, and to work to live rather than living to work. Some do just fine by gleaning the grains left over once the big shot harvesters have come and gone.

   Coming from a theistic conviction -- that a potent, provident, providing, personal God exists -- I am struck by efforts of us humans to ceaselessly advance the self, to inflate the pocketbook, to pat oneself on the back (tooting one's own horn, etc.), and to grab the whole grain field to the exclusion or detriment of others. What a funny contrast life presents in general with the "looking out for #1" attitude that is so prevalent, but especially in this atmosphere of running a business.