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.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Holmes Weighs In

Continuing with the intent of the last post, the sharp-tongued M. Holmes says, "There [is] way too much cooperation -- even dependence -- between home inspectors and real estate agents.  . . . The most common source for a home inspector referral is the real estate agent. . . [however]; even the most honest agents cannot avoid conflict of interest in this particular area. Why not? A real estate agent wants to sell houses. But sometimes an inspector will scare off the buyers if he tells them the whole truth about a house. [This truth] may [thus] not make an agent happy. An inspector wants business. [T]o keep the referrals coming from his prime source - the real estate agent - he might not be as thorough as he should be every time he inspects a house. The net result for the buyer is not having the whole story before signing a purchase offer. 

. . . 

Keep one thing in mind. . . : you are the client. . . The real estate agent is not the client. . . If the inspector you hire has a history of working with a particular agent, you [are] walking into a situation of divided loyalties." You need to be the one to make the decision of which inspector to use. Make sure you ask for a list of at least three inspectors. You do the leg work to decide which inspector you wish to use. M. Holmes, The Holmes Inspection: The Essential Guide for Every Homeowner, Buyer, and Seller (NY: Time Home Entertainment, 2012), 12. 

Monday, June 13, 2016

Buck Passing 101

Arrived on a vacant site, early. A good coastal rain this AM. Was promised the key would be present in such and such a place. Voila! The key was not present at such and such a place.

Contacted the realtor vainly several times, inspected what could be inspected, and ended the inspection. The journey was long. Went home, contacted the realtor and said I would come back for a substantive reinspection fee paid by her or this broker's agency. S/he made it clear that I was cheeky in this request, and that it was, after all, s/he who had referred me in the first place. The clear thesis was that if I expected to get further work, I had better tone it down and follow his/her direction. The old ancient appeal to the stick/club/weapon. I have the power to bring you income; you keep quiet and do what I say. Even if I am the one who messed up in the process. My stick/weapon is my ability to bring you money. Submit to your station or prepare to git the beatin' that you so richly deserve!

Living in the back woods of nowhere (e.g., coastal Oregon), my old theory that human pride, self-inflation, egocentrism -- sin -- in all its sick glory permeates every sphere of human existence and dwelling is again confirmed. One cannot get away from puffed human ego even when in the farthest corners of this country's bywaters. Academia is full of this. Big cities and big business also. So too the coastal byways of remote Oregon. The high desert of Price-Helper, Eureka, Kanab -Utah, or anywhere else big or small. 

The realtor explained that it was not his/her fault that the key was not available. Rather it was the seller's realtor who had gaffed and not provided the key. Of course, Realtor. Of course.

Meanwhile, while standing in the rain wondering why simple access was again barred to a property, something my friend D. Ramsthel said decades before came to mind. The six "P"s = Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance. We would laugh and laugh back in the day while considering this maxim, and the most basic life situations that evaded this principle.

Credit to the Ramsthelian, the six "P"s are an excellent way to go to this day, in any persons' life, and in any occupation. The six "p"s in action. Why do realtors or their staff not go to properties about to be inspected and make sure access is viable. That possessions are out of the way of access points and components. That the transaction is facilitated to progress or succeed. Actually, some do. Not this realtor, however. Too important. Too busy. No six "p"s to be found here.

Oh realtor from the rarefied heights of Cannon Beach: exactly how difficult is it to get a key, go to a property in the same small town in which you reside, turn a lock, and allow access to a vacant property? Or to just make sure the key is available? With your blame-shifting mouth, not difficult at all. With actions, it really is rocket science.

My actual response to this person: Realtor and agency, contact me no more. Take me off your list. I walk away from you, your intimidation, and shall rather work with persons who take stock in the six "p"s with more than the mouth. And who treat persons as persons and not as subservient commodities - objects - to their own wealth and success. 

[Now, what were we saying about ego? Self-inflated attitude? e.g., the prideful sarcasm that pours forth from my own pen. . .] 

Friday, April 1, 2016

The Holmes Imperative & A Partial List of Inspectors

M. Holmes is a populist TV builder/contractor personality. He is direct, truthful, and does not mince words. One of his publications was and is instrumental to me as an inspector. M. Holmes, The Holmes Inspection: The Essential Guide for Every Homeowner, Buyer, and Seller (NY: Time Home Entertainment, 2012). This text has horror story example after example of bad inspections, incomplete inspections, inspector-to-realtor conflicts of interest, and the like. As a new inspector, I approached this book with fear and trembling. Since reading the book, I go back to it periodically to remind my self how essential it is to be careful in inspecting. That I need to have the same fear and trembling that was present at the beginning. Holmes infers that diligent care and competent communication are more important than making a dollar at the expense of quality. Add to this testimony the story after story (after story) I have received from clients who have had abbreviated, quickie inspections and reports themselves. One page report for 450$! Said nothing. Missed twelve cracked windows. Etc. The inJustice of the 17 page report that missed large item after large item on a property I reinspected after a prior un-Just inspector had done his thing.

I am a buyer's inspector. But not completely. I am an inspector for whomever hires me. If you are a realtor, buyer, bank, or seller who wants a quick, check off list type of typical inspection that covers the big issues only or seeks to treat the inspection as another hoop to jump through, Domuspect is not for you. Go to the next inspector on the list, please. The list is at the end of this post.

Domuspect's reports are detailed, long, have many maintenance suggestions, and like Holmes, seek to speak the truth and plainly. I tell people to use high grade silicone caulk that is 10$ a tube, to use stainless steel flashing and fasteners, and to not cut corners for the sake of greed. Since I am a born maintenance man, I include explanations how to do your own work if you are that type of personality. I shall not gloss over issues to make the sale or help the transaction in any way. If you want the detail, it will be there. If not, read the summary only or else get another inspector. I once had a realtor nearly shout at me, "You cannot be a deal killer." In response, I seek to observe critically though fairly, and then speak the truth. Deal with it! And she has dealt with it: she never refers me and that's just ok with me!

Recently, an inspection of a property outside Nehalem that was along river. The river had deep banks, a somewhat built up dike, and during calm times (almost always), portrays an idyllic riverfront property that looks most appealing. Beautiful country with your neighbors out of your face. Simply walk twenty feet off of your porch to fish or kayak or get your river blackberries or visit your river rat pets Frank and Jules, or whatever. However, thrice in the last twenty years, the property has flooded. The house is only accessible by boat when this occurs. Your car is up to its wheels on the high ground (fully underwater on the low ground) and all your firewood floats away! Water is under the house at a one foot depth average. The house skirting on two sides is caved in from the force of the flooding water.
The rest of the house and pole garage were in fabulous shape. I would have given an A- or B+ for the structures alone. But I told my client, "I give this property a flat F because of where it lies. You shall experience flooding that will be detrimental toward the structure, dangerous to you/yours, and beyond this, to you even being able to get in and out when this occurs. It is not a matter of if this flooding will happen, it is rather a matter of when." My report paralleled this conclusion, come what may.

Ok, a list of inspectors besides myself in Tillamook and Clatsop Counties. This list has no reference to any abilities, experience, knowledge, etc. of these persons, companies. I am just giving a list; YOU make up your own mind based on speaking with the person(s). I hate, despise the idiotic good old boy network where one person in control likes person a, f, and t and only recommends them while another likes b, g, and t and only recommends these. As Holmes says, YOU THE CLIENT should be the one to interview people and make up your mind intelligently on whom you are using. Invariably, one person loves that guy (person) while another does not, for whatever reasons. Some of these inspectors may be out of business. If not here and want to be listed, contact and I'll add. With the exception of one inspector (out of area who works primarily in this area) whom I have inspected after he and cannot endorse his superficiality and lack of interest in his clients' financial and safety concerns.

The Tilly:
Steve Schroetke, Silvertide Inspection Services. 503 351-8156.
Jeff Schick, Amber Home Inspections LLC. 503 734-7564.
Scott Neimann, 4 Corners Home Inspection. 503 812-5603.
Aric Barnes, Northstar Home Inspections. 503 738-7488.
Jeff Hayes, Top Notch Home Inspection. 503 816-6098.
Deleted, see *** below.
Jim Smith, Professional Home Inspection. 503 458-5602; 503 791-8028.
Brent Mallory, Coastal Pacific Home Inspection Services. 503 791-5997.

Long Beach Peninsula:
Leslie A Colvin, Colvin's Quality Inspections. 360 777-8880; 503 791-2313. 

 Sicut Domino, gaudio, inspectans!! (As unto the Lord, inspecting with great joy.)

*** Mike Harrison of Seaside: you are off the list. You are a vastly experienced contractor having many decades of contractor experience. However,

1. How many times must I hear from your former clients about your abbreviated inspections, spending fifteen to forty five minutes on site. (Fifteen to forty five MINUTES!?!!!!!) No access to roof. To other components. You may be an old school contractor, but you are no inspectorial prophet and seer. You simply cannot stand at the edge of a property and look over it and accurately pontificate what is defective and in need of work. What lazy arrogance, this?
2. We live in a computer age. You need to either come to terms with this, integrating it into your work, or leave your occupation. Your half to one page hand written check-off reports shall not do. No pictures. Hand scribble that is nearly illegible. These reports do not at all do justice to your clients' interests. You would not want a report like this were you spending 250K on a property; hence, DO NOT expect that your clients' will either.
3. The straw that broke the back: My neighbor from across the street bought his house two years ago. He found massive rot on two sides of the structure -- such that he has had to tear the structure apart to remove this rot and remediate. On my off time, I have been going over and helping him with this work since he is too under-employed to pay for this work. His structure is a war zone now, has been for the last year, and shall be for many months and even years. Imagine my surprise last evening when my neighbor said that you had inspected his house. Fifteen minutes on site and 350$. A short one page of report that said nothing. As I bend down with sore back, wrists, and elbows to lay a sill plate or repair this or that, you come to mind. Enough is enough Harrison. Either come up to a minimum standard with the quality of your work, or abandon your stubborn demeanor and leave the profession. Shameful!

One Man's Clean Laundry is Another's. . .

Recently a seller of a property that I inspected said the following in a review.

This company has caused us much grief because of the incredibly erroneous reports on the home we lived in. We even showed the reports to professionals in the construction field who said the report was completely ludicrous. A friend of mine from MIT told me he usually referred to this type of 'professional' as "Revenge of the C students". 
I inspected this property on behalf of two potential buyers and not for this woman. Both buyers told me that the owner was not willing to budge at all on the price. The place needed work in two primary areas, with the usual odds and ends that go with any structure new or old.

This complaint is actually a badge of honor from a seller. Conversely, it is nothing good if from my client(s). I hear third person on occasion that sellers are angry at my reports. Too detailed! Incompetent! Demands too much, Etc. My response: oh well and oh well. . .

I am not the "law;" I am not a Municipal Code Inspector. People can take my suggestions or not. You do not like what is said? Move on and move on!

I inspect each and every structure as if inspecting for my God, the one, only God, with Him as my Employer, and not a company or primarily any clients. True, I do seek to defend by seeing and informing my clients and their massive financial outlay that is hanging in the balance. But my inspecting is to please my authentic Provider, Employer. Pretty simple.

Doxe Monoutheou: with honor unto the One, Only God

Our logician friends would perhaps say that such a one is appealing to popularity or consensus. "My collection of contractor experts say. . ." Also an appeal to intellectual snobbery/elitism, my friend the MIT professional no less. The criticism of this MIT professional, the classic abusive "against the person" argument. Perhaps more, with pejorative terms and language, etc.

For any topic, point, argument, paper, presentation, whatever, there are always persons to line up on whatever side and support one side and condemn the other. The Investigation-Discovery channel and the unending line of expert witnesses to argue both for the prosecution and the defense in past court cases. The current ever-charged and divided political climate, with the various heresies (positions) and definitive arguments on why this or that person is America's right choice. Bottom line: money and ego. Agree with me and help fill my bank account and you are true, right, correct, even good. Do not, and you are an incompetent lout. . .

Meanwhile, I lie down into by crawlspace "belly buggy" and head off into the nasty, dusty gloom to see what things there are to be seen, to the honor of my God, in defense of my clients, and to let the angry old woman get angrier. 

Friday, January 15, 2016

all hail the kalafa (sic et non)

select words and music by W.A.S.P., “Shotgun,” Golgotha (Austin, TX: Napalm, 2015).

when your madman’s raised to king
and your starving babies scream
one world, one king. . .
and freedom [is] long dead and long gone
a slave in chains don’t never change his song
grab a torch, a pitchfork and [git] your guns

you gave’em hope and you tied the [noose]
dead man’s bones don’t lie. . .

tonight hail the king a shotgun. . .
hail to the king a shotgun

and you cheered y’alls clown to king
till your tongue’s too numb to scream
ooh, the promise of tomorrow is long gone
and the whip keeps pounding down now
from the head that wears the crown
the plantations cotton’s rotten so long


Those who live by the sword shall die by the sword. . .


[Yes, I’m an inspector and this is supposed to be an inspector blog. But not really. For the two or three people who read it, you know that it deals with things beyond your faulty light switch or plumbing material. The thousands of other inspectors and sites can help you with that stuff.

An apology. (an ancient word for defense) First, I am a person, part of the human stain spread across the planet. Second, I claim the One God in Jesus as the one, only God. Third, I like to ponder and think about things all over the place, including philosophy, god-ism ("theology"—things relating to God and so-called gods and their relation to humans past, present, and future; evil/good), history, etc. etc. Frankly I inspect part time, at least as far as my mind goes. Fourth, the world news shouts itself daily in a way never before experienced in terms of content, knowledge, clarity, ubiquitousness. Fifth, even for those who have but a dim interest and knowledge of history, consider the parallels of the modern mass of lemming-devotees who are ever-willing to grab their shotguns (ala. kalashnikovs / toyotas / mausers / nagans / swords / shields with crosses / crossbows / . . .), claim without a shadow of doubt that they know god and what their big, bad garbage-god wants, and run off to blast a few humans into eternity for the stercus glory of their respective gods or political systems? Is this a new concept?! Dissertations have and could be written to infinity, but a few prominent examples. Was not Alexander a servant of his god, his human hand god’s very hand? Octavian? The long and blood-soaked list of self-proclaimed ishmaelite spokesmen unto now? Theodosius the Great? The popes unto this very day? Catholics, Crusades and inquisitions? Lenin/Stalin? The great Orpah W. and Dr. Pills of our day? (sic) The current western political and religious heads and the vapid “god bless you’s” that emanate from their mouths in their endless drones? The gods are ever on the side of whatever leaders are speaking for the moment. It has ever been so and will always be so. And so this blog entry, intended for the endless kalafae of the past, present, and to be. With the eironeia (irony) that I so love. With gratefulness to you, Blackie Lawless of W.A.S.P., for standing for the One Lord of Golgotha. For your mysterious, wonderful words. For the contrast of what you were in relation to what you are now.]

Friday, January 1, 2016

SentriLock Realtor Lock Boxes

Selections from a letter to the SentriLock Management. 12.2015. This is a company that produces realtor lockboxes that hang on door handles to access a property for sale. These are electronically controlled and activated; they can apparently be activated from the internet and from bluetooth devices. How convenient they must be for realtors who want to cut back with their hands-on work.

SentriLock Management:

I am a home inspector. Know the following.

I despise your product! Your product is intended to serve and facilitate, and for excessive profit. Why then, in over sixty percent* of the time I try to use your product, IT DOES NOT WORK?! All the theory and fancy gadgetry in the world means nothing when in the field in hard weather trying to do my job but cannot because of your fancified product. 
Old school contractor boxes anyone? Push several buttons and you are in. 100% success rate in my experience thus far. 
I will proclaim frequent and vocal opposition to your LOUSY product until one simple thing occurs: that it function when I need it to function. It isn't rocket science people, though you have made it thus with all your wireless nonsense.
(This morning, early in the freezing dark, ONCE AGAIN I could not get into the property because of your technologically advanced box!) And yes, I am following all of the proper protocol that your device requires.

C. W.
Home Inspector

*a conservative estimate