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Anyone have any experience with BuildFax - a comprehensive report offering all permit info on a property (similar to CarFax)?

It seems like a pretty useful service. I'm going to do the thirty day free trial and see how it plays out.

The report offers: the name of every contractor that ever pulled a permit; what permits they pulled; when the work was done;

Seems like great info to offer clients buying older homes.

[:-thumbu]

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Anyone have any experience with BuildFax - a comprehensive report offering all permit info on a property (similar to CarFax)?

It seems like a pretty useful service. I'm going to do the thirty day free trial and see how it plays out.

The report offers: the name of every contractor that ever pulled a permit; what permits they pulled; when the work was done;

Seems like great info to offer clients buying older homes.

[:-thumbu]

I work for a municipality as a building inspector. I promise that BuildFax is completely unaware of any of the 600+ building permits we've issued in the past two years- or of any of the thousands that were issued before me. We run on paper and the paper is in drawers and the drawers. I work there and even I can't find anything- Build Fax doesn't stand a chance.

My point is- the service they offer isn't any better than just picking up the phone and requesting a permit search by the building official.

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Anyone have any experience with BuildFax - a comprehensive report offering all permit info on a property (similar to CarFax)?

It seems like a pretty useful service. I'm going to do the thirty day free trial and see how it plays out.

The report offers: the name of every contractor that ever pulled a permit; what permits they pulled; when the work was done;

Seems like great info to offer clients buying older homes.

[:-thumbu]

I work for a municipality as a building inspector. I promise that BuildFax is completely unaware of any of the 600+ building permits we've issued in the past two years- or of any of the thousands that were issued before me. We run on paper and the paper is in drawers and the drawers. I work there and even I can't find anything- Build Fax doesn't stand a chance.

My point is- the service they offer isn't any better than just picking up the phone and requesting a permit search by the building official.

Interesting!

Of course, their demonstration of a commercial property researched in Chicago resulted in 128 permits pulled since 1970. It was impressive. I suppose a sales demonstration is designed to be just that - impressive.

The old saying, "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is." suddenly comes to mind.

I guess the real message, for me, is to make certain that all of my local authorities make their info available online? I have a friend that's been doing title examinations for a couple decades and does most of it these days from home, so maybe she'll know?

Thanks for that rather sobering heads up, Chad.

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Even if it were all digitized, how could Buildfax do its thing without access to a municipality's data base?

Well, I know that my friend, the title examiner, has access to such public records. I assume she pays the local government for the right to access the files. She's a real pro and has been researching titles for over twenty years and owns her own title company. Somehow it's possible.

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mgb,

I don't know about your area, but here all those kinds of records are public, tho you can't get them online but have to pound the pavement to get to them.

That was the appeal - instant gratification, without pavement pounding. If it was a reliable service, it would be great info to offer a client - permit history of their home in just a few seconds.

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From what I have heard from a reputable car journalist, CarFax is incorrect something like 1/3 of the time, even missing salvage titles and collision repairs. And CarFax is using insurance Data, people who have a vested interest in providing correct information. I doubt that government documents would be that reliable. I do however get mostly reliable general information from sites like Zillow a far as size, taxable value, and location.

Please keep us posted on how it works. Here's hoping that it does work, sounds like a great tool.

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This happened on an inspection 3 weeks ago. The realtor opened the door for me and then went to the municipal office to see what permits had been pulled on the house 1940's with many renos. The disclosure said an electrical upgrade had been done with permits in '04.

When the realtor came back 2 hrs later, he said there was no record of an electrical permit for that time. So the paper was lost or the seller was Mistaken (lying).

I liked my position at that time - not my problem. I've got an inspection to do.[:)]

It may be a good service to offer, but it should come with a price increase, or it could just be added headaches.

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I just reviewed the coverage in my area, which it turns out was on a national map at buildfax.com. two thirds of the areas I serve are online 100%. But, unfortunately, the city of Richmond, which is the most likely area to have multiple permits pulled over a 80 - 100 year period is not on line. So, I'm canceling. Bummer. It really sounded great, but not worth $99 a month if the reliability is that spotty. Dang it!

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi mgbinspect,

My name is Ron and I work for BuildFax. I’m posting today to let you know that our BuildFax customers are our number one priority, and we take their concerns as well as the quality of our service/products very seriously. Below I outline the details of your queries and extend an offer in consideration for you sharing your experience with us.

I appreciate you taking advantage of our 30 day free trial. As with any service, we welcome feedback and we appreciate yours in this forum.

It might be helpful to give you a little background on BuildFax. We collect our data directly from building jurisdictions across the country. While we don’t have data from all building departments we are adding 30,000 addresses and 150,000 permits to our database every day. On average, our data goes back 17 years.

As for your experience, you entered 5 addresses in the Richmond, VA area. This area is covered by 3 different permitting authorities: Richmond itself (1 of 5), Hanover County (2 of 5) and Henrico County (2 of 5). Your reports indicated that we have data from each of these building departments but that no permits were available on any of the 5 addresses you searched. At first this might seem like a disappointing result but we firmly believe that “no informationâ€

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Ron,

Thanks for your input. I had indeed called the rep to cancel, and she convinced me to hang around at least through the cut-off date of the thirty day free trial to give the product a fair trial, which I am doing.

Nothing would please me more than to be able to come to a property armed with reliable permit information in hand through a simple "click" on-line. That's why I bit, and am reluctant to cash 'em in.

It's a slow week ahead, so I'm not going to have much to throw at you for a few days, but I do intend to take your service for a good test drive hoping for the best.

Thanks again for stopping by, which was completely unexpected.

All the best,

Michael G. Bryan

President

MGB Inspection Services

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Nothing would please me more than to be able to come to a property armed with reliable permit information in hand through a simple "click" on-line. That's why I bit, and am reluctant to cash 'em in.

Ron seems like a nice guy, but the fact is if the information is incomplete, it's unreliable. Why not just call the building department for free?

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Well, Ron, I suppose the thing that I'm struggling the most with is the monthly fee - a bit hefty in this day and time. I do value my time and am willing to pay for things that are convenient and save me effort. But, the fee goes a bit beyond that in my mind. I'm still mulling this all over, but a markedly reduced monthly fee and a higher fee per report that produces makes more sense to me, as a home inspector. That's more my thinking. I'm sure there are some groups that find the service and the fee WELL WORTH IT, but for what I do, it's tough. And, of course, the monthly fee would be good for a large multi-home inspector firm, but for me as a one man band, it's a considerable expense. I"m not trying to put you on the spot here, so don't feel any pressure to respond. I'm just offering food for thought from a home inspector's point of view. I still LOVE the idea, but I guess I hate paying for something when I'm not sure it's really paying for itself. Think about it and maybe shoot me an e-mail if you come up with something more home inspector friendly.

I'm going to give it a bit of time, but I think what I've said above is what's stuck in my craw.

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I dunno,

I just googled Richmond parcel viewer and was able to find all sorts of information about addresses in Richmond, including permits that had been issued. I'm not from there and it took me all of 50 seconds to find something. If I did 20 jobs a month in the Richmond area it might take 30 minutes of my time all-told to find that info on my own for all 20 homes. To me, it hardly seems worth the fee.

Maybe a buyer or seller, who doesn't deal with this stuff everyday, might find the service useful; but we look for this stuff all the time and we get to be pretty good at it. I really don't see the point.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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  • 3 weeks later...

For anyone that's remotely interested, I finally hit the Jackpot on a BuildFax search. Here is a sample report. This one confirms that the sellers actually pulled a permit to install their gas logs - impressive.

It also reveals that they didnt' pull a permit when they changed out the Heat pump in 2000 - interesting.

The Rep from Build/Fax offered several plans and I took a $49.00 per month plan, which gives me endless searches and ten actual reports before there is an additional charge. (Yeah, I'm a hard head, Chad, but I'm going to check it out for a bit.) I can quit at any time, and since I tend to write reports into the wee hours, it's nice to just search it when I want. Eventually, I'll conclude that it truly is or isn't worth the $50 bucks...

Here's the report, which I was able to insert directly into my reporting software as a reference document:

Download Attachment: icon_adobe.gif BuildFaxReport_20110130094518507030-H0X39O-997649.pdf

118.57 KB

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Here's a second hit on a building permit search. Home built in 1996/1997. It's just a second example of the Build/Fax service, which indeed has its limitations, which have been discussed above. But, I think I'm going to stick with it for a while and really consider the its usefulness to me.

Being able to get the info at a time convenient to me - 5:00 AM, was nice.

Download Attachment: icon_adobe.gif 117595 Building Permits.pdf

78.12 KB

The fee (discussed above) for the service rendered, seem to be in line, to my way of thinking - an imperfect form of delegation.

Being able to insert it into the report as a PDF, in a couple clicks - a DEFINITE plus.

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  • 4 months later...

Anyone else using this service? All of my clients or the RE agents seem to able to find the permit information they need for a property. They have contacted me several times and I have expressed that I am not interested but they keep calling. Today I got a coffee mug in the mail with more promotional material. Seams like most of the fee they charge goes into their marking machine.

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It all sounds cool, but..........

In Chicago, all it means is someone paid a fee and a permit was issued. Few jobs actually get inspected. Of those, the inspector might have been one of the 20 guys that got put in jail last year, or one of the 17 that were indicted this year. You get the job if you have an uncle who's a union steward, or have friends in high places.

Last time I was @ the Buildings Dept., they were taking a couple guys out in 'cuffs.

I'm listening, but permit trails are permit trails. What matters is who comes out to look @ the work.

Inasmuch as something like 90% of homes in the US that were issued CO's have code violations, what good is a permit other than a revenue stream for the municipality?

If every muni was Fabry, I'd be on board. Since they're not, I'm not.

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