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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
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    Chicago, IL
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    Default Oh Noes... THAT house. Again.

    Pulled up to another re-sided frame wreck in Portage Park yesterday afternoon and my heart sank, this is the fourth one of these I've done this year in this part of town for first-time buyers looking for starter homes, and I knew where this was heading; when the broker called me a few minutes later to tell me she'd be late (this is a broker I know well, who works with a lot of first-time buyers, and never complains when I pull no punches in reporting what I find at some of these properties) I told her:

    "I sure hope you recommended me because you want an evil, deal killing inspector on this one... because that's what's probably going to happen"

    "It's that bad"

    "Well the people who did the roofing and siding, they were probably thrown out of the Home Depot parking lot by the other day laborers as a disgrace to the trade..."

    "I see..."

    So I did the inspection. The buyers walked. And I got the usual compliments: "That was really an eye-opener. I learned something new about once a minute. I don't regret spending the money at all, I feel like it was an education."

    And I gave them a partial refund, and didn't have write yet another a pointless report detailing 20 years of deferred maintenance and abject uncaring incompetence by low bidder contractors and ludicrous attempts at "repairs" by moronic "handyman", and I'll get the next inspection, and maybe a third if it takes the buyers that long to begin understand how to evaluate the properties they are looking at.

    But the truth is I'm really not enjoying this process anymore - I'd much rather be inspecting properties reasonably well-informed people would buy as starter homes, and the whole thing got me thinking: what kind of assistance can I give these buyers (that is reasonably intelligent buyers who know nothing about residential construction and maintenance, and are financially restricted to the low-end of the market) to help them evaluate the properties are looking at so that at least by the second inspection I'm inspecting inspecting houses it possibly makes sense for them to buy?

    Perhaps, as an article on my website, or some other public venue.

    Which got me thinking about a list of very general criteria to help in evaluating such homes, the point being that each of these conditions is not a deal killer in itself, but rather that when you start to see combinations of them pile up, the odds that the property will have significant problems increase.

    A few that came to mind immediately for starter properties in my market here in Chicago, just based on yesterday's inspection:

    1). A simple roof is better than a complicated roof. Every time that you add a dormer or a valley you are adding to the complexity of the roofing and the flashing an increasing the likelihood of problems. And very complicated roofs (roofs that look a lot more complicated than most of the other roofs on the block) are a lot more likely likely to have problems than simple ones.

    2) Construction designs that do not allow any access to the underside of the roof (the attic) are more difficult to inspect and evaluate than construction designs which allow you to observe the underside of the roof for structural problems and leaks. The more the underside of the roof you can observe, the better the chances that inspector can determine the condition of the roof.

    3) Caulking as a substitute for correct repairs. The problem with caulking that it is seldom a long-term repair and often makes long-term repairs more difficult. If you see a lot of "caulking" that looks like it was added after the house was built, especially if it is on the roof or where something meets the roof, is a sign that there may have been leaks and that the leaks were not properly repaired. And lots and lots of caulking is a sign that there were probably lots and lots of leaks. Extensive caulking around doors and windows that looks like it was installed after the property was built is also a frequent indication that leaks have been improperly repaired.

    4) No large sections of the property should look "crooked", exterior walls should not be visibly leaning over compared to adjacent properties, and parts of the roof that look like they were intended to be straight lines should be straight lines, not dip in the middle or slope downwards toward one end.

    5) All other things being equal, a house with the original siding or masonry is easier to evaluate than house which is been re-sided, vinyl and aluminum siding jobs can hide a multitude of sins.

    6) Houses with vinyl or aluminum siding with obvious defects such as more than one or two missing pieces of siding, siding which appears "wavy" when viewed along its length or obviously "sloppy" siding jobs (pieces which don't seem to meet up, or pieces which meet up in obviously illogical ways, or which seem to leave some areas uncovered for no logical reason) are indications of "low bidder" siding jobs where the workers were unable or unwilling to pay careful attention to what they were doing, and if they didn't bother to do what you can see right, they probably did what you can't see underneath the siding at doors and windows even worse...

    So. Pointless exercise, or potentially useful?

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    Last edited by Michael Thomas; 06-03-2010 at 12:57 PM.
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    Michael Thomas
    Paragon Property Services Inc., Chicago IL
    http://paragoninspects.com

  2. #2
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    Spring Hill (Nashville), TN
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    Default Re: Oh Noes... THAT house. Again.

    Ahhh paragraphs??

    Scott Patterson, ACI
    Spring Hill, TN
    www.traceinspections.com

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Philadelphia PA
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    3,177

    Default Re: Oh Noes... THAT house. Again.

    Quote Originally Posted by Scott Patterson View Post
    Ahhh paragraphs??
    Chapters?

    "There is no exception to the rule that every rule has an exception." -James Thurber, writer and cartoonist (1894-1961)
    www.ArnoldHomeInspections.com

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
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    Spring Hill (Nashville), TN
    Posts
    5,847

    Default Re: Oh Noes... THAT house. Again.

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Thomas View Post
    Gack.. WILL NOT FORMAT

    Pulled up to another re-sided frame wreck in Portage Park yesterday afternoon and my heart sank, this is the fourth one of these I've done this year in this part of town for first-time buyers looking for starter homes, and I knew where this was heading; when the broker called me a few minutes later to tell me she'd be late (this is a broker I know well, who works with a lot of first-time buyers, and never complains when I pull no punches in reporting some of these properties) I told her: "I sure hope you recommeded me because you want an evil, deal killing inspector on this one", because that's what's probably going to happen..." "It's that bad?" "Well the people who did the roofing and siding, they were probably thrown out of the Home Depot parking lot by the other day laborers as a disgrace to the trade..." "I see..." So I did the inspection. The buyers walked. And I got the usual compliments: "That was really an eye-opener. I learned something new about once a minute.

    I don't regret spending the money at all, I feel like it was an education." And I gave them a partial refund, and didn't have write yet another a pointless report detailing 20 years of deferred maintenance and abject uncaring incompetence of by low bidder contractors and ludicrous attempts at repairs "repairs" by moronic "handyman", and I'll get the next inspection, and maybe a third if it takes the buyers that long to begin understand how to evaluate the properties they are looking at.

    But the truth is I'm really not enjoying this process anymore - I'd much rather be inspecting properties reasonably well-informed people would buy as starter homes, and the whole thing got me thinking: what kind of assistance can I give these buyers (that is reasonably intelligent buyers who know nothing about residential construction and maintenance, and are financially restricted to the low-end of the market) to help them evaluate the properties are looking at so that at least by the second inspection I'm inspecting inspecting houses it possibly makes sense for them to buy?

    Perhaps, as an article on my website, or some other public venue. Which got me thinking about a list of very general criteria to help in evaluating such homes, the point being that each of these conditions is not a deal killer in itself, but rather that when you start to see combinations of them pile up, the odds that the property will have significant problems increase.

    A few that came to mind immediately for in properties in my market here in Chicago, just based on yesterday's inspection:

    1). A simple roof is better than a complicated roof. Every time that you add a dormer or a valley you are adding to the complexity of the roofing and the flashing an increasing the likelihood of problems. And very complicated roofs (roofs that look a lot more complicated than most of the other roofs on the block) are a lot more likely likely to have problems than simple ones.

    2) Construction designs that do not allow any access to the underside of the roof (the attic) are more difficult to inspect and evaluate than construction designs which allow you to observe the underside of the roof for structural problems and leaks. The more the underside of the roof you can observe, the better the chances that inspector can determine the condition of the roof.

    3) Caulking as a substitute for correct repairs.

    The problem with caulking that it is seldom a long-term repair and often makes long-term repairs more difficult. If you see a lot of "caulking" that looks like it was added after the house was built, especially if it is on the roof or where something meets the roof, is a sign that there may have been leaks and that the leaks were not properly repaired. And lots and lots of caulking is a sign that there were probably lots and lots of leaks. Extensive caulking around doors and windows that looks like it was installed after the property was built is also a frequent indication that leaks have been improperly repaired

    4) No large sections of the property should look "crooked", exterior walls should not be visibly leaning over compared to adjacent properties, and parts of the roof that look like they were intended to be straight lines should be straight lines, not dip in the middle or slide downwards toward one end.

    5) All other things being equal, a house with the original siding or masonry is easier to evaluate than house which is been re-sided, vinyl and aluminum siding jobs can hide a multitude of sins.

    6) Houses with vinyl or aluminum siding with obvious defects such as more than one or two missing pieces of siding, siding which appears "wavy" when viewed along its length or obviously "sloppy" siding jobs (pieces which don't seem to meet up, or pieces which meet up in obviously illogical ways, or which seem to leave some areas uncovered for no logical reason) are indications of "low bidder" siding jobs where the workers were unable or unwilling to pay careful attention to what they were doing, and if they didn't bother to do what you can see right, they probably did what you can't see underneath the siding at doors and windows even worse... So. Pointless exercise, or potentially useful?
    __________________
    Michael Thomas
    Paragon Property Services Inc., Chicago IL
    A quick and dirty job at it....

    Scott Patterson, ACI
    Spring Hill, TN
    www.traceinspections.com

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
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    Default Re: Oh Noes... THAT house. Again.

    Thanks Scott, I sucessfully edited the first post in IE, for some reason it would not format properly in Firefox 3.6..

    Michael Thomas
    Paragon Property Services Inc., Chicago IL
    http://paragoninspects.com

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Atlanta, Georgia
    Posts
    1,078

    Default Re: Oh Noes... THAT house. Again.

    Home Inspection Light.

    What are easily visible clues that a "handyman" has been mucking around with stuff or the component is past its useful life expectancy. I guess you could probably put down the top 3 or 5 things for each of the systems.

    Structure:
    Cracks in foundation,
    Warped/crooked walls, floors, roofs
    Gaps between finish materials

    Roof:
    Covered above but see if you can boil each problem down to a single statement for each point

    Plumbing:
    Accordian/Corrugated waste pipes under sink
    Hot & cold reversed
    Anything that seems non-standard or just plain quirky/goofy

    Electrical:
    Electrical tape on anything
    Exposed wiring anywhere
    The use of extension cords anywhere for anything

    Heating & Cooling:
    Extremely dirty filters, looks like a blanket
    HVAC ducts strung like garland
    Rust

    Windows:
    Sticks to prop open windows
    Fogged windows
    Bars and security locks on windows

    Kitchen Applicances:
    Any appliance not white, black, or stainless steel (too old)

    Interiors:
    Water stains anywhere
    mismatched moldings in a room (somebody did something at sometime)
    black circular stains on wood floors (pets)

    Insulation:
    Visible paper backing

    General Signs:
    Garden hoses anywhere but in the yard
    Duct tape anywhere
    Any visible wires of any kind anywhere

    "The Code is not a peak to reach but a foundation to build from."

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Location
    Memphis TN.
    Posts
    4,311

    Default Re: Oh Noes... THAT house. Again.

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Thomas View Post

    "I sure hope you recommended me because you want an evil, deal killing inspector on this one... because that's what's probably going to happen"

    "It's that bad"

    "Well the people who did the roofing and siding, they were probably thrown out of the Home Depot parking lot by the other day laborers as a disgrace to the trade..."
    .
    Sure Hope Ken R don't read this Rubbish.
    * them" Buyers Know What They Want and Can Afford."
    ** sure don't want some ole HI to come along and " Give Them an opinion they aren't qualified to give."
    .

    It Might have Choked Artie But it ain't gone'a choke Stymie! Our Gang " The Pooch " (1932)
    Billy J. Stephens HI Service Memphis TN.

  8. #8
    Bob Spermo's Avatar
    Bob Spermo Guest

    Default Re: Oh Noes... THAT house. Again.

    Michael,

    Most cities have a night class community education program. I teach two three hour courses (Build/Contract Your Own Home and Home Energy Efficiency) in San Antonio. I find the people really appreciate the information they receive at a reasonable price ($18). It is also a good way to get new clients.


  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
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    Chicago, IL
    Posts
    2,797

    Default Re: Oh Noes... THAT house. Again.

    Billy,

    As I explain in my little pre-inspection talk: "I'm not hear to tell you whether to by this house, I'm here to tell you what you are buying."

    Bruce,

    I like that approach, and the economy of expression. And thanks for the title: "Home Inspection Light".

    Bob,

    Actually, I'm taking to a local organization about that.

    Last edited by Michael Thomas; 06-03-2010 at 12:58 PM.
    Michael Thomas
    Paragon Property Services Inc., Chicago IL
    http://paragoninspects.com

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Spring City/Surrounding Philadelphia area
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    Default Re: Oh Noes... THAT house. Again.

    I think it's just too much to cover. Where do you begin? Where do you end?


  11. #11
    chris mcintyre's Avatar
    chris mcintyre Guest

    Default Re: Oh Noes... THAT house. Again.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Spermo View Post
    I teach two three hour courses (Build/Contract Your Own Home........ at a reasonable price ($18).
    With all due respect, this is part of the problem, after 3 hours of classes someone feels that they are qualified to build/contract their own home.


  12. #12
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
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    Spring City/Surrounding Philadelphia area
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    Default Re: Oh Noes... THAT house. Again.

    I love how some of the DIY home buyers books tell buyers to bring a marble with them and to set it on the floor in a house to see if the floor slopes or is out of level. So say the marble rolls toward wall indicating a sloped floor, now what? Are you supposed to immediately cross the house off your list?


  13. #13
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    Charlottesville, Va.
    Posts
    292

    Default Re: Oh Noes... THAT house. Again.

    I had the same experience on Wednesday.

    Average looking home (from the street) in a good neighborhood, client is a single mom with two kids. The house was a disaster. All the way from the leaking roof to the leaking water heater in the basement. A total of 72 comments in the report detailing 40 years of deferred maintanence.

    I was thinking during the entire time on site..."what is she and her realtor not seeing here" and what, if anything, can I do to increase the chances that the next house she selects and calls me to inspect is worth purchasing.

    To top it off at the end of the inspection when she wrote the check for my fee she asked me to not deposit it till Friday. I don't understand the thought process of someone who is consider purchasing a fixer upper when they have difficulty covering the inspection fee.


  14. #14
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Location
    Rockwall Texas
    Posts
    4,519

    Default Re: Oh Noes... THAT house. Again.

    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Foster View Post
    I had the same experience on Wednesday.

    Average looking home (from the street) in a good neighborhood, client is a single mom with two kids. The house was a disaster. All the way from the leaking roof to the leaking water heater in the basement. A total of 72 comments in the report detailing 40 years of deferred maintanence.

    I was thinking during the entire time on site..."what is she and her realtor not seeing here" and what, if anything, can I do to increase the chances that the next house she selects and calls me to inspect is worth purchasing.

    To top it off at the end of the inspection when she wrote the check for my fee she asked me to not deposit it till Friday. I don't understand the thought process of someone who is consider purchasing a fixer upper when they have difficulty covering the inspection fee.

    I would have told her then not to expect my report till possibly Saturday morning.

    rick


  15. #15
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Knoxville, TN
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    2,446

    Default Re: Oh Noes... THAT house. Again.

    I also teach a class at the local college. It's more of what you can do yourself, and when to call a professional.
    I use a lot of slides and it gets pretty clear that a professional is needed most of the time. But it's also been a big help for investors to do a quick and dirty look see, and cross houses off their list.
    It seems to generate some business for me.


  16. #16
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
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    Charlottesville, Va.
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    Default Re: Oh Noes... THAT house. Again.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rick Hurst View Post
    I would have told her then not to expect my report till possibly Saturday morning.

    rick
    That is my standard policy...except when the clients an acquaintance and her daughter and my daughter are friends...


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