Hello, and welcome to episode 51 of the Bay to Bay podcast. I’m your host, Seb Frey, and for this episode of the podcast, I’m very pleased to welcome David Aronovici as my guest. David owns and operates Four Seasons home inspections, and they do home inspections all throughout the Santa Cruz, Monterey, and Silicon Valley areas. I’ve been trying for a long time to have David on the podcast because home inspections are a very important aspect of the real estate process, and I’m a realtor. But you know what? David’s a very busy guy and it’s hard to find the time to get together with him to spend an hour or so talking about home inspections. But every dark cloud has a silver lining, and both David and I have more time in our schedules than usual for this sort of thing. So I asked David a lot of questions I have about home inspections, and I learned a bunch of stuff, and I’m sure that you will too. So without further ado, please sit back, relax, and listen to what David Aroni has to say.
David, how are you doing?
I’m good. S how are you?
I’m all right, but I’m actually pretty excited today because I finally have you on my podcast.
Thank you. Well, I’ve got some time on my hands considering what’s going on right now.
Right, right. We are speaking during the coronavirus, lockdown, sheltering in place. How’s that working for you?
It’s actually working fine outside of trying to figure out what to do with two kids all day. It’s actually working pretty good. I mean, as good as it can be, just trying to stay safe and do the right thing.
Right, exactly. Me as well. So David, I start these podcasts off and I ask my guests to tell me a little story so that we can sort of get to know you a little bit better. Do you have any story you can share that will give us some insight into who is David ii?
Well, I have a lot of stories. I don’t know if anybody that’s listening to this would really want to hear any of them.
I want the not say for work stories, David. I want the ones that,
I didn’t say that, but Oh, I could tell you a funny home inspection story. It’s a real quick one, but
I would love a funny home inspection story.
Okay. So again, I go underneath the house, I go up in the attics and there’s wildlife around. So this one, actually, I wasn’t under the house. I was in the living room and there was a bunch of clients in there, and I was opening up an access panel to the hydro tub, which is something that I do to look and check out the components in there. And I was pulling the cover off, and right there about four inches from my fingertips was a raccoon staring at me. And I immediately put the cover back on and I actually screamed out loud, and everyone looked at me and I told ’em it was a raccoon. And yeah, I’m not sure what I said, and hopefully it wasn’t anything inappropriate, but those are the kinds of things that I deal with sometimes, and that wasn’t the first time I’ve come across raccoons or skunks or vermin, but definitely keeps us on our toes.
Have you stared down a lot of rats and crawl spaces?
I’ve stared down a few, actually, which is interesting because usually you see their evidence, but you usually don’t see them. But I’ve seen ’em on occasion. I’ve seen skunks, raccoons a couple times, skunks more than once. Yeah, that’s about it so far. I don’t want to see anything else. I don’t want to see long RY things, but yeah, that’s what I’ve seen so far.
Right. Yeah, rats just creep me out. I don’t know what it is about them, but they just give you the heebie-jeebies.
Yeah, they don’t bother me so much. What they leave behind can be really pretty nasty, though. That’s what bothers me because when there’s a lot of them and they’ve been in there active in areas, they can really cause a lot of unsanitary conditions. So that’s what bothered me. Yeah,
For sure. For sure. Yeah. Early in my career, I sold a house that had had a major rat infestation in kind of, it was a crawl space. It wasn’t a crawl space, it was on a hill. So it was like the unusable space underneath the house where they had
The heater and the furnace and a whole bunch of insulation. But it had been completely, I mean, it was just like a war zone of rat crap. Right. I mean, the whole thing was just like, it was unhuman. And I called these guys called crime scene cleaners, who they actually clean up crime scenes like murders and suicides and stuff, and they also clean the detritus from a rodent invasion. And so I got them down there and I cleaned it out for my client as a closing gift. It was like, I don’t know, three or four grand to clean out this. I’m not sure how big it was. I forget it was years ago. But anyway, can be pretty ugly. So David, you are a home inspector, is that correct? Do you inspect homes professionally for a living? That I do,
Alright. Now, you weren’t always a home inspector. I imagine that when you were born, you were doing something else. So where did you grow up and what was your childhood like?
I grew up in Santa Cruz County, specifically in APTAs. I lived a couple blocks from the beach and Oh,
Whereabouts? In APTAs? I live in APTAs myself where
I lived right off of APTAs Beach Drive on a cul-de-sac called Wixson Avenue.
Oh, I know Wixton very well. Okay, very good.
My dad was
House, and my dad was a sailor. He was into sailing, and that’s one of the reasons that brought him to Santa Cruz in 1970. And yeah, so from there, growing up near the beach, surfing was something that I just kind of went straightforward, and that’s what I did in my childhood and years past I did that.
You grew up in the bucolic of what, the 1970s and eighties? Is that it?
Yeah, yeah, yeah, I did. Yeah. Wow.
Must have been pretty nice. Did you do a lot of hiking and surfing and skateboarding?
Yeah, I did. Nice. And Mark’s was basically our backyard, the state park there, so we would go up into there and hike around the creek. We did steelhead fishing. I don’t know if anybody knows what that is, but there’s big fish that go up those little creeks, believe it or not, that come from the ocean. We did that. Yeah, we spent lots of time at the beach surfing. Yeah. Aptos was a playground. As a kid, that was, I would not change that for a moment.
Right. Well, why? I’m very happy that my kids are growing up in, I mean, it’s a wonderful place to be. Even now, it’s probably not as wonderful. And the reason why it’s probably less wonderful today is just because it’s more regulated. Right. Back then in the seventies and eighties, it was a little looser, I think.
Well, that’s for sure. Yeah. I
Don’t think anyone’s fishing for steelhead at i c Mark’s Park anymore.
No, actually, believe it or not, believe it or not, there’s still fish that go up there. Don’t tell anybody. It’s a secret.
Can you get a permit for it though, right?
Oh, yeah. Oh yeah. It’s still legal. It’s still legal.
Oh, it is?
Well, there you go. Well, I think I’ll have to take my kid’s steelhead fishing in the Aptos Creek.
I think Aptos, it’s still Aptos. It’s still, I mean, the ocean and the redwoods are basically right there, and you can’t change that. It’s different because there’s more people and the traffic’s different and whatnot, but it’s still the same place,
And it’s certainly exponentially more expensive to live here.
In the seventies.
Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. Yep.
Yeah, back in the seventies, a sailor could buy a house. Yeah.
Parents paid, I think
They paid 75,000 for the house on Wixen, which was a modest home, probably 1800 square feet with an ocean view, two blocks from the beach. I think they paid like 75,000 for it.
Right. That was probably a lot of money back in the seventies or whatever.
Yeah, because their house, we moved from, we lived on Monterey Drive in APTAs, and that house, I think they sold for 40, so they were taking a big jump going up to that $75,000 range.
Wow. On, so I guess you went to schools here in APTAs, like DeMar or whatever I did, right.
Rio DeMar. Yeah.
Very good. And then did you end up going to college?
Yeah, I guess you could call it that. I mean, growing up in Santa Cruz and having the ocean right there, it was a little more difficult to concentrate on school. But I did go to Cabrio College for a couple years, and that was it. That was as far as I went with that. But I kind of jumped into, I played music and I played in the band as well, so I played music and surfed and did that stuff and worked. But I never really went for the full four years, the
Full four years. Alright. So you’re a Cabrillo guy?
I’m a Cabrillo guy, yeah.
Wonderful, wonderful. Myself, went to Cabrillo for a little while, and I live right in the shadow of Cabrio College Right now. I live just like a block and a half from there. So Love Cabrio College. You mentioned that you were doing music and all kinds of other stuff. What did you do for work when you got out of Cabrio College?
I went into the surfboard industry, surfing industry and surfboards specifically, and ended up doing that pretty much my whole life manufacturing, and owned a custom surfboard factory for, I don’t know how long we did, I did that maybe I had my own shop for 20 years. And what we did was we, there’s what we call surfboard shapers, and those are individuals who actually take a piece of foam and shape it into what is a surfboard, and then they have to have somebody glass it for them or finish it. So that’s what we did. We would take their raw blank and we would put fiberglass on it, put color, put logos, whatever they wanted us to do is what we would do for them. And then once it was finished, we’d give it back to them and they would either sell to a shop or an individual or whatever they would do with it. But yeah, I did that for a long, long time. We were always, always busy. The surfboard industry was strong in Santa Cruz, still is, I still think it’s pretty darn strong. We never had a shortage of work and just did that for a long, long time.
So you had the dream job shaping surfboards or not shaping them, glassing them, I guess, and then you decided to throw it all away on a lark and become a home inspector, or did
You Well, yeah,
It’s not a natural progression
No. There’s a little bit of a story back there. Yeah. So I did that for a long time, and during that period when I was building surfboard, I met my wife Jennifer, and she joined me here in Santa Cruz. She actually went to U C Ss C, but then when I met her, I met her through a mutual friend. She was in Oakland living up there and managing a catering company up in Oakland. We got married and she decided to come and live with me here in Santa Cruz, and she got into real estate. So that was probably, I don’t know, mid 2000. So 2005 or oh six or something like that, somewhere around that date, maybe off a little bit. But yeah, she got into real estate, and so she sold houses and I built surfboards. And I actually thought real estate was really interesting, and I would listen to her talk about her deals and things like that and talk about inspections and all the whole process.
But it turns out at the same time she got into the industry, one of my real close friends that I grew up surfing with became a home inspector. And so I just thought, wow, I talked to him. I’d actually seen him on a couple, well, actually, let me back up here one second. So what happened was my wife was doing real estate. I was building surfboards, and I was pretty interested in real estate. So we had a baby and we were on our way to the next one. And I decided that since she was the mom and she’s taking care of kids, and I’m obviously helping out too, that maybe I should get my real estate license and help out with that so we can both take care of clients and do that. So I got my license and I started going to transactions and going to inspections and things like that.
And Jason was his name, the home inspector. I really thought his job was the coolest job. I mean, I liked the real estate part of it, but I thought the inspecting part was way cooler. So I would always talk to him after we would do inspections and pick his brain and this and that. And then one day it dawned on me, I kind of wanted out of the surfboard thing. I’ve been doing it my whole life, and I wanted to become a home inspector. It was really kind of like that aha moment. And then I went to him and he was super gracious about everything and introduced me to the whole thing and took me under his wing. And the rest is history. But I did a lot of other stuff, a lot of other education and things like that in between all that. But that’s kind of how, in a nutshell, how that happened.
Okay. So when did you do your first home inspection under your own name or whatever?
That was, I think August six years ago. So August
Six years ago. So what is this? This is so 2014. So it took you a little while to get there from
From, yeah. Okay. So you sort of eased into
It. Yeah, yeah. No, that was kind of a condensed version. I mean, was years mean? It wasn’t like right after I got my real estate license, I jumped into the home inspection thing, but it was a few years after that, and then I kind of toying around and thinking about it. And then, yeah, so it wasn’t like from here to there, but to get to that point where I did my first inspection, there was years I spent, oh man, I probably spent over two years educating myself and going on ride-alongs with him and other inspectors. I went to a school in Southern California. I passed the national inspector’s examination. I did a lot, a lot of studying. I crammed a lot in a couple years because a ton to know. So
Yeah, that’s actually one of my questions I had for you. What’s the training education that you need to go through to become a home inspector? Is there any
Nope. No, there’s not. And that’s a really, really, really good question because there is not. So in the state of California, you could just print a business card and say, I’m a home inspector. The chances of you getting hired are probably pretty slim if you want to get hired. Basically, there’s a couple of different organizations that credible home inspectors will belong to, and one’s ashe, which is the American Society of Home Inspectors, and there’s Korea, which is a California Real Estate Inspection Association. And both of those associations have a real strict standard of practice. They have a code of ethics, and they also require continuing education. And on top of that, you need to pass the National Home Inspector’s examination and a lot of other criteria to be met, to be part of that organization. You can be a member, but then you can go further and you can be certified. And being certified means that you’ve completed all their requirements. And I’m actually certified with both ASHI and Korea. Again, one’s national, one’s state. So I think it’s good to be part of both of those associations. So what’s going on nationally and statewide?
You went down to Southern California to go to some kind of school. Is that for ashi or who was that
For? Yeah, it was ashi. It was called the ASHI School and went down and completed that program, and that enabled me to become ASHI member and then start going through their program. I went through their program first before I did the CREA thing. So I went through the ASHI program and became an ASHI member and eventually certified with them. But it took a lot. There’s a lot. The National Home Inspector’s examination, that test actually is pretty tough, and that takes a lot of time to get that. The best experience I had was I was really fortunate to meet not only my friend Jason, but other home inspectors who took me under their wing and let me ride along with them, answered questions for me. It’s a pretty tight knit group of guys. A lot of guys that I mentored with are bit older than me and have been successful and have really felt that they’ve wanted to share the knowledge and the success with me to make the industry as a whole really credible and solid so that we’re a real professional organization that does a good job because we’re out there in people’s houses and a big investment and whatever else.
So I was really lucky enough to have people help me.
Right, right. Oh, very cool. Very cool. So the ashy thing down in Southern California, did they have a fake house that you guys would go through and what was their facility like?
Well, actually it was basically a classroom setting, but we did go out and we did go out and look at houses. The instructors were local home inspectors, so they knew people in the community that would let us go through their homes and look for deficiencies and defects and things like that. So that was pretty cool. That was really just the tip of the iceberg though. I mean, I would say anybody who wanted to become a home inspector, definitely take the training courses and do that stuff for sure. But that really is the tip of the iceberg. You’re not going to get the experience you need by just doing that. You really need to be doing inspections and going out there and getting out there and doing multiple ride alongs with people, because your main way to learn in this industry is really on the job.
I mean, I know people don’t want to hear that while you’re learning on my house, but I was confident enough that when I did my first inspection that I knew what I was doing. But it took me a long time. It took me a long time to get out there and really go, you know what? I’m okay. I’m on my own. And I had such a good group of guys mentors that if there was questions that I needed answered, they would’ve no problem. I get on the phone or email or whatever else and say, Hey, what do you think about this? And so that was really reassuring to know I had these people behind me.
Right on. Now, so you mentioned that anybody in California who wants to become home inspection, just print business cards and go out and start inspecting houses because there’s absolutely no licensing or government oversight at all. It’s just completely unregulated.
Well, California Business and Professions, they do have their code for home inspectors. So there are things that they require, but there is no licensing. And in fact, there has been, there’s licensing bills on the books, but this year, I think it was going to be voted on. I think something happened. They decided to put the bill on hold, but it’s going to happen. It’s only a matter of time. California will require home inspectors to be licensed. The stance that my organization, Korea, which is a California Real Estate Inspection Association, their stance on it is licensing is good as long as it’s good licensing. And some of the stuff that California has been talking about, the things that home inspectors would be required to get a license are not nearly as stringent as what CREA has for its inspectors. So basically, it would probably, if they did it the way they were originally going to do it, it wouldn’t be a good thing for the industry because you would get a home inspector that wouldn’t have to do the continuing education that I have to do every year and know what I have to know and adhere to the standards of practice that I have to adhere to.
The California would be a lot easier for anybody just to go, I want to be become a home inspector. I take my little exam, get my license, and I’m out inspecting homes and people off the street, including realtors and whatever, whoever else may not understand that just because you have that license doesn’t mean you’re going to be a good home inspector. I would. So what CREA is saying is that if you can come up with a licensing, that would be beneficial to the community that we’re fine with that. But if it’s not going to be something that’s going to make our industry better, we’re not for it. So it’s on hold right now for some reason, but it is going to happen at some point. It’s only a matter of time.
Right. Well, that’s a good point. Interesting that the state would come up with a weak system, which is not really surprising, I guess, given that the real estate licensing is also so lax, essentially, that it would surprise me. But I guess there’s some states though that really have it together in terms of licensing, right? I mean, who’s good about that? Texas,
I don’t know all the states that have licensing. I think Oregon might have licensing. There’s a handful for sure. I think Texas does, and I’m not sure what their licensing looks like, but I just know for sure that what Korea was seeing that California was doing was not to their liking. And again, we’re not against it, but let’s make it benefit the public. Let’s make it something that will make our industry stronger and not just give somebody a license that doesn’t know what they’re doing. So again, not a bad thing. Licensing’s not a bad thing. We’re not against it, but we need to see it be a good thing. We need to see it
Benefit. You’d basically describe every single real estate license they hand out, because basically you give somebody real estate license, they have no idea what they’re doing. There you go. You have fun with that kid.
Yeah, no, exactly. When I got my license, luckily my wife had been in the industry for first years and had sold quite a few houses, so I basically would, I would learn from her. She would basically handle the transaction, but I was her helper. We had a baby and kids and whatever else. So yeah, I mean, I would think it would take years to learn how to do a transaction properly. I wouldn’t think it would be something you could learn out of a book. I see what you guys go through on a daily basis. I mean, I’m still working with realtors every day, and your job’s not easy, for sure,
Right? Yes. It’s not quite like on million dollar listing. It’s a little trickier than that usually. So David, what’s your typical day? Okay, alarm goes off. What’s David doing?
Yeah, yeah. Alarm goes off and actually don’t use an alarm. I have a built-in alarm clock, which is a bad thing. People say, oh, it’s good. It’s not really, I can’t sleep in. But I get up early, get a cup of coffee, and I look at the two inspection reports from the night before, and just basically at that point they’re done, but I want to look at them one more time for any grammatic errors or anything like that. And then I send them out and do what everybody else does and have a little breakfast and get ready for the day. I typically do two inspections. I do one at nine normally and one at one or one 30 and kind of get those done and get home. And home is my office as well. And I get the reports. The reports are put together pretty much on site with, I have an onsite hardware or software I use with an iPad, and I can get the report, maybe 80% done on site, but then I come home and spend a couple more hours that evening, dialing in everything, making sure everything’s right.
If I need to do any research on any kind of appliances or anything like that, I’ll do some of that stuff and put those together. And my wife does all the backend of our business stuff. So she sends out all the agreements and billing does all that. So I’m off the hook for that, and that’s it. And then I do my thing and start again in the morning, send out two reports in the morning and go do two more the next day. So that’s a typical day. In the wintertime when it’s a little slower, I’m not always doing two a day. A lot of times I’m doing one a day, so my schedule’s a little more flexy. But in the spring and summertime, I’m working long, long hours. I’m working mostly 12 hour days for about six to seven months out of the year.
Wow. Wow. That’s a long day. 12 hour days,
Long day long days. Yeah. Maybe not always, always 12 depending on the condition of the home. The homes I’ve done, if they’re clean houses, my day shortens up quite a bit. But yeah, typically 10, maybe 10 to 12 hours a day when it’s in the busy season. But that’s when I make the most of my money.
Have you ever seen that movie Groundhog Day?
Oh, with Bill
Probably. Yeah. Bill Murray,
The TV reporter or whatever.
Yeah, sorry. No, you
Should go watch that movie. It’s basically Bill Murray gets stuck in pxi, New Jersey or whatever it is, where the groundhog comes out every year. He is there as a reporter to go and report on Pxi Phil to say if there’s going to be a early spring or whatever, and he goes there and every day he wakes up at the same thing. He’s trapped in some sort of time warp or whatever they can’t get out of, and every day is the same. Every day he wakes up and it’s the same thing over and over and over again. Do you feel like that ever?
Absolutely. But you know what? What’s great about my job is that it really isn’t ever the same. That’s the greatest thing about it. I mean, one day I’ll be up in Boulder Creek off grid, and then the next day I’ll be in Saratoga working on a multimillion dollar 4,000 foot estate. So that’s what I like about my job, and I do pretty much meet different people every single day, clients and whatever or not. So I do feel like that though, actually. I do feel like it’s the same thing every day, but it’s great because it’s not, there’s always something, and I learned
There’s always something new,
And I learned something every single day. There’s always something. There’s never something. I mean, again, I learned something every day. So that’s pretty cool too,
Right? Yeah, I feel the same way. I mean, I don’t want to say that I’m frequently surprised, but I do learn new things very commonly in the real estate business for sure. So it’s never a dull moment,
As you would
No. The real estate industry is something that’s bending and flexing, and you’ve got to be on your toes. It’s not black and white.
It’s a meat grinder. That’s how I feel. Anyway, enough about me though. So David, listen, I’ve been through so many home inspections, just bajillions of ’em, and I always get, I’ve seen so many home inspection reports, obviously even with deals that I’m not a part of disclosure packages, I’m inspecting for potential properties. I mean, I can’t tell you how many home inspection reports I’ve read
From different vendors and whatnot, but what are the red flags that should really just leap out at you? If you’re reading a home inspection, what should people really look out for when they’re reading a home inspection or their home inspection? Yeah,
That’s a really good question. And to answer that question, red flag. So I mean, I don’t know if this is going to answer your question directly, but there’s a different buyer for each home, and so then there’s a different house for different people. So what I’m saying is that, so let’s say you’ve got a first time home buyer and they, they’re super, not paranoid, but cautious and don’t know anything about houses. Let’s say maybe they rented a condominium and the landlord did everything, or the H O A did everything. They didn’t even change the light bulb. Well, they could get one of these reports and they could say, wow, this has a lot of stuff on it. There’s a ton wrong with this house. And for me, and since these reports backwards and forwards, and I do too, it’s a clean report, and there are no red flags on that report.
Then you’ve got the house where there’s some cracks in the, and the roof needs to be replaced, but you’ve got a contractor coming in and there are no red flags for him. So I guess red flags. So that being said, systems, so major systems. So if you’re looking at a house, you always want to look at things like the major systems. So the roof, how’s the roof look? Okay, so the inspector noted that it’s worn. We talked to the inspector. The inspector said it doesn’t need replacement right away. That’s a good thing because roofs are expensive. Obviously with foundation’s another major system, you have a long horizontal crack and a foundation wall. That’s probably not an ideal situation and something like that would need to be looked at by a foundation contractor. So that would be something that would be a red flag if you’re somebody who was not a foundation contractor or a contractor looking for a fixer.
Upper, other systems, major systems, electrical systems that have hazards nowadays, electrical systems on older homes, they don’t meet today’s demands. People have car chargers, they have hot tubs, they have smart this, smart that they’ve got all sorts of stuff that takes power and older services on some houses where 50, 50 amp services standard kind of even up until the eighties, nineties, even the mid nineties where a hundred amps nowadays, we’re putting 200 amp services. So that would be something that somebody’s going to want to think about, is the electrical amperage service, is the service going to be sufficient for the demand? So that would be something to look at. So yeah, major systems really electrical roof foundation, plumbing is the plumbing, older galvanized steel plumbing that the flow is reduced because the bores shrunken down. That would be something to think about, because if that’s the case, it’s real inconvenient when somebody flushes the toilet and the shower flow reduces. So something like that would probably take some money to replace that system. So basically looking at the bigger systems in Santa Cruz County, and even over in Silicon Valley, the housing stock is pretty old.
So those are things to take in mind when you’re looking at an inspection report. How old’s the house, these systems, were all, a lot of the systems older, like electrical and plumbing, the houses were built with these systems. So these systems get old. They need updating. So yeah, just look at the major systems and talk to your home inspector, ask them about the report, what the big, big ticket items are and things like that. Talk to your real estate professional. And yeah, I don’t know if that was long involved there, but
Well, no, it wasn’t that long involved. And yeah, I think that’s a good rule of thumb is to check out the major components first and see what kind of issues there are with those. I mean, like the roof, that’s a biggie, right? Electrical can be really a big problem.
The foundation, and you mentioned foundation cracks, and so the horizontal crack is no good. Vertical crack. So vertical cracks, are they less bad than horizontal cracks or what’s the, why do you mention horizontal cracks, specifically
Horizontal cracks versus a vertical crack? The vertical cracks are usually from settlement of soils and the structure. We have different environmental changes. So you have a winter that’s heavy in rain, and then you have a couple years of drought. So the structures are always moving. They do settle, and those vertical cracks are typical, usually, unless they’re really wide or if they’re pronounced everywhere, the horizontal cracks, typically they suggest more of a structural problem or a potential structural problem. And what happens when the horizontal crack appears and it’s not fixed? There’s steel rebar typically in the foundation, and when that rebar starts to corrode, then the foundation gets weaker in that area. And then that can in the future, definitely cause settling to the structure and bigger structural problems. So those are the kind of cracks you want to fix right away. I did want to mention though, so if you’re looking at a home inspection report, and you may actually get to this, Seb, you may ask me this question here. I’m not sure, but stop me if I’m jumping too soon. But there’s things that you want to take care of right away when you’re moving into a house, if you see them on a report. Oh,
Rob, you hear me?
Nope, I’m here.
I’m here. Can you hear me?
Yeah, I can hear you.
Okay. I was going to say there are things on an inspection report that should be done sooner than later. Probably the number one thing, well, not the number one thing, but one thing is any kind of plumbing leak or roof leak, water is kind of the root of all evil when it comes to structures. You want to keep the structures sealed and tight, and if you have a plumbing leak or a roof leak or anything like that, that can just wreak havoc and cause all sorts of problems. And pretty quickly too. So that would be one of the things you’d want to look for. And any
Kind of water issue.
Yeah, absolutely. Any kind of water leak, any kind of moisture, intrusion, leak, it can lead to all sorts of bad things and deterioration of materials. It can lead to mildews and molds and all that fun stuff. So water, you want to keep the water out of the structure and keep it where it’s supposed to be.
Right. That’s actually a very, very good point. One my client order, a termite inspection. I say the big thing on here, isn’t termites ever hardly, it’s usually rot from water. Water is probably the single most destructive thing that happens to houses.
It is, yeah, absolutely agree with you. You’ll have things like a lot of times you’ll see on those pest reports, and I note this as well, is a loose toilet. And people say, well, it’s just a little bit loose to the floor, but over time, that toilet starts leaking down that subfloor. You may not know it for a while and it can rot out the entire bathroom floor, and you’ve got a big costly repair on your hands. And to fix something like that, it’s not very, very hard or very expensive. Most homeowners can do it. So yeah, that would be something. I don’t know if those are, I guess that would be a red flag. That would be something that somebody would say, again, not costly now to fix the plumbing leak that hasn’t caused damage. But man, that can be costly down the road if it’s left unchecked.
Right, right. Okay, good point. So David, what kind of era of homes, maybe your type of construction or something like that that you found has the least issues from a maintenance perspective? Is there any kind of home that jumps to mind that’s more of a trouble free than others?
That’s a good question. I’m not sure if I can really totally answer that. I mean, yeah, I mean, all the different eras have their pluses and minuses. I think today’s homes are probably, if they’re built well, the materials are becoming pretty superior to the stuff we had in the past. You got fiber cement sightings and laminate flooring that’s bulletproof. You’ve got roofing materials that are lasting much, much longer. But back when homes were built in Santa Cruz County in the late 18 hundreds we’re using redwood. That was from first growth. And I’ll do a Victorian home and I’ll see T one 11 siding that was added on in the 1980s or seventies, right along with some of the original wood on that structure. And the T one 11 plywood siding is rotted out and the original siding next to it and framing is totally fine. So I don’t know how to really answer that question, but I really like the new materials on newer homes. I think they’re getting better. Stucco siding is always a pretty good thing. Fiber cement siding is a good thing.
Every era of construction has its benefits. The flat roofs of the seventies, some of that stuff has been a problem. So flat roof, meaning no pitch to it. So back when I was a kid, our house had some tar and gravel roof to it. And I guess for the time that was fine. But nowadays, the flat roofing materials are superior. We’ve got these membranes that last 40, 50 years that are basically completely watertight. It’s like putting a balloon over your house to keep the water out. So I don’t know. I think it goes case by case really, as far as if the house is going to have problems or not, depending on how old it is, has it been kept up. And that’s why I would go out and talk to clients after I inspected the home and say, Hey, this house was built in 1950. A lot of stuff has been upgraded, but a lot of stuff is not. And this is the potential areas. These are potential areas that you might have problems with in the future. Kind of work it out that way. But I don’t see an era of construction being horrible compared to other errors. That’s just kind of my 2 cents on it.
Right. Okay. So looking at these inspection reports, there’s a lot of stuff that say immediate correction required, right? So is there any way you can tell if it’s really immediate correction required or something that you should correcting the next couple of years say, is there any way to notice what’s really critical that you better do this before you move in? Maybe. I mean, because there isn’t really that kind of fine granularity I find in terms of how critical the correction that’s needed is.
I’ll tell you what, that is such a good question. And I think that question is probably fundamental to a good home inspector and a good home inspection report. And I think that is why there’s a difference between an inspector that is really good at what they do, but can’t convey the message across to the client me, the way I do it. And most home inspectors that try to design our comments, and again, you’re not going to get this with every inspector, but I try to design my comment that I will tell you what the implication is. So let’s say I say the toilet is loose in the master bathroom, fix it. That leaves you, you’re kind of vague. That’s pretty vague, right? You’re kind of like, okay, it’s loose. Fix it. I don’t really, okay, well maybe I’ll fix it at some point. Well, we were just talking a moment ago about if a toilet is loose and it’s leaking and you don’t know that there’s major damage caused in the subfloor.
So what I like to do in my comments is give you the implication. I would say the toilet is loose and if left unchecked, this can cause serious damage and costly repairs to the subfloor. And I think when people read it that way in a comment, they say, whoa, whoa, the toilet’s loose. It could cause lots of damage, and my recommendation would be repair. Have a qualified plumbing contract to repair that for you. They go, oh yeah. Well, this is something we need to do right away. So I think it really comes to the way that the inspection report, the comments are written. Ideally buyers would be there. If it was a buyer report, buyer’s inspection, the buyers would be there. And I can convey that message to them verbally and in the report. But a lot of times with these transactions, we’re doing ’em for sellers or we’re doing them for buyers that are busy and working over the hill or wherever, and they’ve got a life and they can’t be there. Well, you have to design the comment so that the buyer who’s reading the comment and the report understands whether it’s important or not.
Right. Okay, well, that’s very good information. Now, is there any way that they can prioritize those items? I don’t know. When you do a report, do you have a prioritized list or how would anybody know, even if they ought to be done right away, is there
Way they should figure out how to prioritize those or they work with a contractor on that or?
I really don’t. I do have a summary in the back of my report that condenses the report down to action items, specifically action items. Some of those action items may be maintenance, some of them, which maintenance is always important too, because if lack of maintenance can lead to deterioration of systems and components and appliances and things like that. But again, I think it’s up to the user to really read. Now, again, verbally, I can always go over these things and that’s a really good way to do it is verbally call me or whatever. Or if they’re on site, we can talk about it. But you got to read the whole report and you got to read the comments all the way through because the comments, if they’re written properly, which I believe mine are, will tell you whether they’re urgent or not.
And I do have some icons that go along with my comments too. So I do have an icon that tells you if it’s a safety problem or safety issue, and anything that’s a safety issue, you can just automatically look. And there’s a little yellow icon that tells me that’s a safety thing. Safety things are always a higher priority. But again, if there’s also things that need to be corrected, like the toilet, the toilet’s loose, it needs to be bolted back down or the wax ring needs to be replaced. You need to get that done. If you read the report, read the comment, the comment should direct you in that kind of urgency. So if it’s something like a light bulb needs to be replaced, there’s not a huge implication other than you may fall on trip if you have improper lighting. So that’s kind of how my reports are designed. But again, verbal is always good too. I always do a summary with buyers and let them know what I think you should jump on first, anything for habitability of the structure. So if the shower doesn’t work or the toilet doesn’t work, that’s a pretty obvious thing that needs to be taken care of. But I’m not sure if that answered your question.
Well, you said something interesting there. You said, read the comments. So am I to be led to believe that you want people to actually read these reports?
Yeah, exactly. That’s tricky too, because you don’t want to write a novel to where the person falls asleep and won’t read the report. So there’s a fine line there. You don’t want to design the report where it’s just so there’s so much technical mumbo jumbo in there that the person reading the first comment is asleep and said, I don’t even understand what this means. I try to design my comments to where I’m not using trade slang or I try to explain things in ways that just people, common, normal people that don’t have experience with homes or repairs or things like that can understand. So yeah, you definitely need to read the report. Don’t just read the summary, which the summary is where all the meat is, that’s where all the action items are. But read the whole thing. There’s a lot of information in there that’s useful. But yeah, so again, I try not to make my reports too long with stuff that’s going to bog a reader down, but that’s real important. Yes, we need to read the reports.
Read the report. So you can’t just read the executive summary. You need to get in there and just go through it and you’re spending like $800,000. Maybe it behooves you to spend an hour or half an hour.
Reading the report. Okay. Ask them good advice. Advice. I’ve never actually heard that one before. So the report, I appreciate read the report. Exactly. So let’s see here. What else did I want to ask you? So I work a lot with sellers myself and always, or almost always advise that my sellers get a home inspection before they put their home on the market. Now buyers, they’re always supposed to get their own inspections. So what do you feel about the sellers getting a home inspection? You think that’s worthwhile or you think it’s just does the buyer do it? What’s your take on that?
So when I’m out doing home inspections, I’m never practicing. I’m never stepping on toes of realtors and never playing realtor. I always tell clients, talk to the realtor, but in this case, I’ll play realtor because I think with a seller working with the realtor, I think having all that information on the table is critical. I think it’s really a good plan because that way that the buyer coming in already knows, has a pretty good idea of what the condition of that property is and can do their own research and find out. The home inspection report says that this roof is going to need replacement in the near term, and I need to see a roofing inspector or a roofing contractor. So it’s just power. It is power to the buyer and it’s power to the seller, I think. I don’t know. I mean, personally, I think if I was a real estate agent now, I would say I wouldn’t sell a house without one. I think it’s a real good thing. I also do inspections for sellers that want to know the condition of their property, and a lot of the stuff that they fix themselves, they feel like they want to do this here because this was a safety issue, or they want to replace this because they just feel better about somebody coming in and having that done. So I think it really benefits buyers and sellers alike. I think it’s the only way to go, to be honest.
So a lot of times when a seller gets a home inspection, a buyer will also get their own home inspection. I’m sure you’ve run into that many, many, many times. Do they give you the existing home inspection before you go out there or they ever give it to you afterwards? Or do you not even know, or what’s that?
That’s a real good question too. I go behind other home inspectors all the time. So yeah, all the time. And most home inspectors in the Silicon Valley, Monterey Bay area, they’re good. I don’t run across very many home inspectors that I don’t think that are good. But yeah, sometimes the agents will offer the report, and I always look at ’em if they offer ’em up. And a lot of times I’ll get the inspection done and I’ve gone over the summary with the buyers or teller. It wouldn’t be a seller in that case or with the buyer. And they say, oh yeah, we had an existing report. So a lot of times the agents don’t tell me, and that’s fine too. I don’t necessarily think, I don’t have to see those reports. It doesn’t bother me if I don’t see them. I mean, I’m pretty confident that I will pick up pretty much everything that’s going to be important going forward. Inspectors do have different styles too. Some inspectors write their comments different or call things out differently. But I think in general, I mean, are you asking me whether you think it’s good to have a go behind inspection? Was that part of your question?
No, I’m just interested. Oh, I’m just interested to, I guess what I’m getting at is what’s it like when you have some other inspection report? If you’re going behind somebody, do you get the report before they go, before you go out? Do you get it after you go out? Do you
Their report to your report or anything like that?
Yeah, I do. I mean, if the agent says, yeah, there’s an existing report, but the buyer just wants to make sure, and I’ll say, would you want to send that over to me? And they will, they won’t. Either way, it’s fine. I definitely will view it just to look at and see what they have as far as the things, and I can look at those things a little closer when I’m there. And I always ask buyers before I do the inspections, whether there’s a report or not, if there’s any concerns or anything they want me to look at closer. But yeah, it’s pretty common. I think I do maybe 30% of my inspections for buyers. There’s an existing report. I think I do quite a few of ’em. And again, I don’t always see the reports. And again, some reports are 150 pages long on an 800 square foot house and others are 30 pages.
So sometimes I feel like if I’m doing a report or an inspection behind somebody who has a novel written for that house and all the information is in there, the same things, I found the same things. And our call outs are the same. All the deficiencies are the same. The information may be a little bit easier to digest for someone who I just did that report for in my 45 pages report as opposed to that one 50. So again, all those different reports, they’re all valid, they’re all good, but there’s just different styles and things like that.
I find these big reports, they’re usually basically like fluff. There’s like a hundred pages like, Hey, how do to keep your home in good maintenance? Right? That’s not really a report. It’s you just copied and pasted this in there and it’s good. I mean, it’s real information, but it’s a little out of context, I would say for a home inspection.
No, and I think you’re right. And I think that takes away from the importance of the inspection report because the inspection report’s supposed to note deficiencies and things like that, things that need improvement. So that other stuff is fine and well, but if you start concentrating on that, it may throw your mind off of that last little bit of information there that could have saved you thousands of dollars because you didn’t fix that leak behind the washing machine,
Right? You were distracted with something else. Exactly. So when you do these home inspections somewhere in the beginning, it basically identifies the scope of the home inspection. And so when you go out to a home, you’re not inspecting every single last little thing in there. So what kind of things do you not inspect that could be common sources of problems for homeowners that they might want to have somebody else look at?
Well, most of the stuff, components that are out of the scope of our inspections, most inspectors are actually, they’re pretty up on those things, and they actually know a fair bit about those systems, especially things that would potentially cause damage. Like for example, water softener. Water softeners are notoriously installed incorrectly, although they’re beyond the scope of the home inspection. Most home inspectors, including myself, will call out installation problems. So that’s one thing to keep in mind. So even if it says in the report that we don’t do that system, we would note if we see something like that, we would note it as a deficiency, just as a courtesy. But main things in rural properties we have around here, I’d say septic systems, obviously that’s something that we don’t look at at all. Again, if I see an open hole in the yard and somebody can fall hurt themselves, I would talk about it.
But we don’t do any testing on septic systems. Wells, Wells would be another thing. Although we do test water pressure at the exterior supply bib, we do check water flow on the interior, so make sure that the water flow is good. So we would have an idea if there could be a possible well problem, but we don’t inspect wells. But yeah, most of the components like, well, I don’t inspect saunas. I go to homes that have saunas inside. I don’t inspect those. I don’t turn those on. We don’t inspect hot tubs. I don’t know if a sauna would actually have a potential, what kind of problem that would have in the future other than not working. And then the things like hot tubs, I do have to look at the safety features on hot tubs and swimming pools. But yeah, if you’re buying a house and swimming pool, you obviously have to have that looked at. But yeah, far as things that could be potential problems, I don’t think there’s a lot probably that we don’t look at. That could be a big issue down the road. I think most of the stuff, again, if it’s something there, we take a visual look at it and see, but
Well, what about a retaining wall? Retaining walls?
Absolutely. That’s a good question. So again, retaining walls kind of the same thing as septic systems and wells. That’s outside of the scope of what we do, but I without a doubt, look at retaining walls. I mean, there’s no doubt. And if I think that there’s a problem with the retaining wall, I’ll note it in the report and suggest that having a client look at that further with the engineer. But yeah, you definitely want to look at those. Yeah, so that’s kind of the gist said. We do have these things that we’re not required to put an inspection report or inspect, but we do look at ’em anyway, and then we will comment on them, especially with something like a retaining wall or something like that, or trees. There’s big trees. I’m not on arborist, I’m not qualified to inspect trees. But if there’s trees overhanging the building or trees close to the building that could uproot the foundation or potentially fall on the house, I definitely talk about that in the report.
Right, right. So how about that? I don’t know. A few months ago I went and saw a house in Los Gatos, Los Gatos Mountains over there in, what’s it called? Redwood Estates. And it had these three gigantic redwood trees. And the whole property is steeply sloped, and the house is halfway down the lot, way far back from the street. I mean, the house is over a hundred feet from the street, I would say. So the trees on the bottom side of the house, these three gigantic trees that are growing up right against the foundation of the house, and they built a deck around part of the trees that’s going up. Is that something you would comment about? Is that an area for concern, or what do you feel about that?
Absolutely, without a doubt. And that is so common in the center, Cruz Mountains. I mean, that describes thousands of houses, hundreds of houses up there. That’s super common. And I always talk about that in the report. You have to. I mean, those trees are not going to go anywhere, and those trees are not getting smaller. And those roots are, yeah, I mean, you have to talk about it because if somebody’s going to buy a house and they’re going to be in there 10, 15, 20 years, they’re going to notice that that tree is that much closer to the property. I mean, like you said, houses built with the deck built around the tree. I’ve done, I don’t know how many houses that have, the redwood tree literally right up to the fascia board along the roof line there, and it’s right there. And they say, well, is this going to be a problem?
They say, well, yeah, this tree’s going to grow. So you have to take that into consideration when you’re buying a property and there’s really good arborist, that’s what you need to talk to an arborist, and they can give you a little more of what they think is going to happen in the future with that tree. They can give you an idea of where the roots are, where the root system is on the property. Those redwood trees, the root system, go and go and go. So yeah, absolutely. I mean, again, trees are not out in the scope of my inspection, but something that’s going to threaten the structure like that, you better believe I’m going to talk about it. Yeah, absolutely.
Right Now, have you ever seen that show on TV called the Holmes Inspection? Have you seen that?
I have, yeah, I have. I’ve seen a few episodes. Yeah,
I’ve seen lots of episodes of Holmes Inspection. And for those of you who don’t know, it’s this guy. What’s his name? What’s his first name? Not Sherlock, Mike Holmes or something like that. He’s a Canadian guy, and the show is all shot in Canada. It’s on H G T V or I don’t know, discovery or something. I dunno what network it’s on, but this guy, Mike Holmes, is this thing called the Holmes Inspection, and he always goes and laughs and all the bad home inspectors who have come through the property and missed all these things. And the reason why Holmes doesn’t miss these things, because it goes in with a hammer and immediately starts tearing stuff out to look behind the walls and to find all the space that a home inspector could never find. And people may not realize this, but home inspectors, they’re not allowed to do any destructive inspections. You guys can’t drill holes in things and all that. So how can a buyer feel confident when you do a visual inspection? It’s basically a visual inspection to know about the inner guts of a home if you can’t actually open the walls up and see what’s going on behind them.
Yeah, well that’s a good question. I think that show a reason I didn’t watch too many episodes is because it wasn’t really realistic. I mean, maybe it was, but I think a lot of that stuff was definitely,
Oh, it’s all fake. Of course it’s all fake.