Monday, October 16, 2017

Billing Escrow

Domuspect is paid by the person contracting for the inspection. The person who contracts is the person who pays. Not escrow; but the person who pays.

Justification follows. 

1a. Paying through escrow potentially or actually influences the inspector to report in a way that will facilitate the transaction. Even if contractual material is completed that assures payment if the transaction does not succeed, inspection payment will be delayed regardless of the state of the transaction. It will especially be delayed if the transaction does not succeed and if the client is reticent to reimburse for the failed transaction. Payment delay is a reasonable motivation that inspectors may (but not necessarily) angle their reporting in a way that makes the transaction succeed.

1b. I adhere to the ethics and conduct standards set forth by the ASHI organization. ASHI (American Society of Home Inspectors) standards say: 1. Inspectors shall avoid conflicts of interest or activities that compromise, or appear to compromise, professional independence, objectivity, or inspection integrity.
B. Inspectors shall not inspect properties under contingent arrangements whereby any compensation or future referrals are dependent on reported findings or on the sale of a property.
Online at:
Accessed 7.20.14. Emphasis mine.
2. Escrow payment for the inspection is potentially by the seller, not the buyer. If monies for escrow that pay for the inspection are contributed by both seller and buyer, or solely by the seller with the intention that the seller will pay for the inspection, then the inspection is the property of the seller. However, the State of Oregon requires inspectors to prominently display in their reports,

In such a case, the escrow purchased report can only be relied on by its purchaser – the seller. However, in diametrical opposition, the escrow-purchased report is assumed to be the property of the home buyers who have not purchased the inspection

3. If payment is expected through escrow and the sale fails, the home inspector can be put in the position of bill collector, needing to pursue relevant parties to be paid. Timely payment only through the purchaser of the home and/or the purchaser of the report avoids this dilemma. 

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Structures and Letter Grades

One time a local real estate agent who grew up and stayed in this area used me for the first and only time. She asked me what background I most recently came from.

My most recent work was primarily from an educational background apparently wholly unrelated to contracting. When stating that I had been a teacher, her disdain and disappointment were obvious.

Not said was that I have worked in construction, roofing, painting, maintenance, etc. since the early 1980s in various capacities, sometimes as a or the primary means of sustenance, and other times dormant. Sometimes as the principal worker (supervisor), sometimes as a subordinate part of a team.

Often it is better just to stay silent.

Personally I am grateful for having a varied background; work from the past – even that which seems greatly unrelated – helps much with the report writing and the overall attention to detail that I strive for on behalf of my clients.

When teaching, I did not curve grading; people received what they earned. I always had a portion of persons receiving As, Bs, Cs, Ds, and Fs, with the majority straight in the middle of the 70-80 range.

One aspect of the past life that remains in the report writing is that letter grades for each structure inspected are assigned. Bs are not assigned for C work; Bs are given for above average work. Etc.

Yesterday, an F was assigned to a structure due to a radically moving foundation even though the rest of the structure had many significant, positive features. Day before, a B+ for a Seaside bungalow built in the early twentieth century that still needed a new roof and a serious plumbing upgrade. Etc. These letter grades offer an opportunity to stand back and look at the big picture, to recapitulate all of the larger scale issues, and to present them in an accurate, understandable scale.

Factors: On the bungalow: the size of the structure was small and therefore had not much of a roof. The pitch was shallow; access to the roof from the street was clear, and a roof hence would either be easy to install if doing themselves or not too expensive if having done. The plumbing changeout would be painful if doing themselves (pex) due to the river rock addled crawl space; however, half of the plumbing had already been changed out and so at least the process was half completed. If paying to have done, the cost would not be too extreme due to the few number of plumbing points. Etc.
      On the F grade, you can put all the lipstick, finery, and jewelry you wish on a pig, but the pig will remain a pig nonetheless! Or, you can build the most beautiful structure possible on a sled going down the hill; but the structure is going down the hill one way or another.

Sunday, September 3, 2017


Pending a 1983, 1946, 1928, and a 1916. What to see? What cool history as exhibited in the construction, or the upkeep since then. . . What funny behind the scenes repairs or supporting to be seen? Oh yeah! . . . 

Wondering who lived here. What went on. What joys, accomplishments, tragedies, miseries. 

Then the report writing, which is satisfying in and of itself. Even fun at times. 

Genuine anticipation for the coming week! I have lived many decades in a position of hating my job. How weird to be in an occupation that is loved, with eagerness for coming days, weeks, structures, fun crawlspaces. . .

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

On Flippers

A flipper is a person who buys a property, renovates and improves it, and then resells the property for a profit.

There are various shows on the tele that show flippers going into properties and renovating these into solid, beautiful structures. The flippers in these shows have a base measure of moral integrity. They are professionals who do it right. They do not camouflage problems but rather face any and all issues, take out the corrupted, and replace with whole, always in a visually pleasing way.

Virtually all of the experience I have had with flippers in our rural area has been negative. Problems are sometimes addressed; many times rather covered over. Recently an inspection of another camouflage job: a structure was improved but in an incomplete manner. The property owned by an unprincipled, principal real estate broker. The foundation perimeter was re-poured and re-set, but then so many sub-structural items had weakness, corruption, and pest damage – even at the points of the new work – that the structure was given a completely failed grade. Ironically or not, the farther one moved away from the access hatch, the worse the problems got. Did the workers run out of materials or energy with the increase in distance? In the middle of the driest month of the year, large and small puddles of water lay everywhere. The mud line shows that the entire crawlspace is completely underwater, likely for half a year or more, up to a 1.5’ (foot!) depth. (Nothing quite compares to accidentally rolling over in a crawl space puddle and immediately feeling the sick, rodent riddled, foul water get through your crawl suit and soak you. . . Hmm hmm: it’s an acquired taste, some say.)

Somebody is going to get fooled on this structure; somebody is going to read the fancified words in the flyer, think upon superficial consideration "it's so cute," not get a proper inspection, buy it, and be saddled with a problem that would take a decent foundation specialist sixty thousand to fix. 

This structure was funny; the owner did a bunch of work replacing this and that, re-supporting the perimeter, but did nothing to solve the base problem: serious water in the crawl space year round. A band aid fix on a cancerous problem. 

That old adage about rotten butts on another blog entry. 

A few egregious greed-based updates:

- An old roof that needs to be replaced, entirely and carefully spray painted black to look new. With a bit more effort, the old roof could have been removed and a new installed that would last for twenty five years. 
- Instead of pouring a concrete driveway and walkways, simply laying a thick blanket of wood chips down and all around. How unique, nice, and fragrant this looks now; how sick, mucky, and swamp-like this will be in a few months, after the owner has pocketed his cash and walked. 
- Siding and window trim rot that was sprayed with wood hardener, painted, and passed off as recently maintained. 
- Spraying one type of blow in-insulation in over a carcinogenic other, hoping to camouflage the dangerous issue. 
- Deliberately blocking access to the crawl space by building a deck too close and, to make sure, passing a fixed downspout right across the opening. (I actually was eager to get in this space and see what funsies the flowner was trying to cover up!) [Flowner = flipper / owner. . .] 
- A 600 sq.ft. humble cottage that was lipsticked and jewelried-up in the usual flowner-way, and then sold for 230,000$, covering serious problems along the way. The realtor description of "this gem" was as flowery as one could expect. If "a gem" is lipstick, earrings, and a gold nose ring on a fat, nasty possum, well then yes indeedy! (New appliances, floors, sinks, etc. etc.) But viewing the world from my perspective of dark, out of the way places both of structures but of the sick (universally sick!) human soul, then this description is an outright lie. This structure is rather a complete theft of money dressed up in pretty finery. 
(Not sorry folks, I boldly believe in original sin. Inherited. Imputed. Actual. [Contra Pelagius, you go Augustine! And beyond Augustine, supra-lapsarianism for those who want to go the theological distance.] Nobody escapes sin and nobody is above it. Only by recognizing and acknowledging it personally can one potentially and partially avoid its continual, drumbeat attempts to infiltrate the crawl spaces of our spirits, though a place where it already dwells. I digress.) 

Some poor person is also going to get fooled yet again. . . Meanwhile, the flowner and the flowner's realtor will be smiling all the way to their banks. To this pair, the end really does justify the means. What end? Profit. What means: immorality. Is deceit (intent to avert one/s from reality) immorality? Yes! 

Would I resist a thief on the street, obviously taking another person's purse or possessions? Absolutely. Why should I resist with any less intensity the theft that I so often see that is manifest in other forms of deceit, trickery, rank greed? 

. . .

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.

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 realtor or realtor group or to not make as much money as one could or the like. However, this boy lives by conviction and not by profit motive, motives of ego, or motives of being one of the "in" or good old boy crowd. And that is simply 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! (Pictures from recent crossing of Ft. Canby [Washington] to Hammond. The first is the boat barn for the Coast Guard rescue surf boats at Cape Disappointment. The most stressful and physically demanding aspect when coming from Washington is crossing the shipping channel when freighters are coming or going. They are deceptively fast. The shipping channel is half a mile wide and the ships cannot maneuver or stop, much less see a flea sized kayak in the water far below.) 

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.