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An Interview with Mike Holmes


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Anacortes, WA/November 21, 2011

by Rick Bunzel, ACI

I have to admit that after watching a few episodes of Holmes' Inspection that I wasn't a big fan. I had to keep reminding myself that this was Reality TV and most home inspections are boring to the TV viewer. TV producers will cherry pick from hours of video to get the juiciest sections to create a show that captivates the audience.

In prep for my interview with Mike Holmes I went over his background and I have to admit my opinion of Mike changed. Mike started his first construction company when he was 19. In 2001, he rose to media fame with Holmes on Homes which ran for 7 seasons and broadcast worldwide. In 2006, he started the Holmes Foundation to promote young people to get into the trades and assist the impoverished who have had bad renovations. In 2009, He started the show Holmes' Inspections and Mike Holmes' Inspections.

Q: Can you tell us how the inspection side of your business came about?

Holmes: The number one complaint from home owners during the seven seasons of Holmes on Holmes was poor home inspections. After we did four different shows that had to address issues missed by home inspectors we came up with the idea of basing a show around it and Holmes' Inspections was created.

Q: Is there such a thing as a perfect home inspection?

Holmes: Absolutely - most aren't done correctly - most inspections don't have the knowledge to do good inspections. The number one step is better education. Two, having the proper background is key. We need to upgrade industry. Home inspections should be more thorough and cost more. Most inspectors don't charge enough for their work. I think home buyers should recruit an inspector before they start looking. Take the Realtor out of the loop. Re-evaluate how it's done. Buyers buy on impulse. Consumer education is key. Charge the right amount of money. The fees for a home inspection should start at $1,000. Inspectors should have tools to look into walls and pipes. On most inspections I do I use my IR camera and snake camera. When inspectors see renovations they should be checking with the building departments to see if permits were pulled and approved.

Q: As the owner of a multi-inspector company, what do you do to ensure the highest quality inspections?

Holmes: Any inspector we consider must have a background in construction and completed at least 1,000 inspections. We then send them into our training program which includes getting Level 1 IR Certified. We then observe them for 20-30 inspections before they go out on their own. We also have relationships with plumbers, electrician, HVAC and roofers that we can call in on issues where we need to go further. We can afford to do this because our basic inspection start at $595 for a 2,500 sq. ft. home and the enhanced inspections (with IR inspection) start at $925.

Q: Most home inspectors perform visual inspections, you routinely go beyond that, why?

Holmes: On the show we are usually going in after the home is purchased and issues are present. Is that realistic in real estate transactions? No, not realistic. However IR and snake cameras can see issues into walls which helps.

Q: Do you encourage your inspectors to join professional organizations? Which ones?

Holmes: Yes - there are three in Canada. I encourage my guys to join all of them (the Canadian Association of Home Inspectors, American Society of Home Inspection, and the Ontario Building Inspectors Association.)

Q: How do you feel about home inspector licensing?

Holmes: Totally necessary - licensing brings a minimum level of education and certifications are also key. I would like to see a national license for Canadian home inspectors.

Q: Many home inspectors feel Holmes' Inspection's is disparaging to home inspectors in general and promotes your own company, how do you respond to them?

Holmes: Holmes on Holmes had the same issue. Contractors now appreciate the visibility - I was raising the bar and became a voice of the industry. The same thing is happening here. I am highlighting the fact that there are inspectors out there don't look deep enough to identify issues that affect peoples lives. Home Inspectors will come around just as contractors came around.

Q: How do you like being a media star?

Holmes: I appreciate being in the position to educate people on what?s right whether its how a home should be constructed or how it should be inspected. We are doing some good things here; Skills Canada, Building initiatives and our Holmes' Foundation work.

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The 'Basic' is $595 and the 'Enhanced' $995. The missing $5 must be a rounding error converting from metric.

Holmes is a boob, but that's why he's on TV and the rest of us aren't. Bad math or not, having the Holmes' marketing machine telling the public that a basic minimum standard inspection should cost almost $600 is a good thing in my book.

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I have had clients who referenced having seen his show as their motivation for searching out a competent inspector. Just today a guy told me "Your price is a little high but I've seen that guy's TV show too often to choose an inspector based on price." I assume he was referring to Holmes.

That's good in my book. I also like the fact that he's pushing for more education for inspectors.

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And ... on the other hand. I had a call today from gentleman wanting a complete, detailed, thorough and professional inspection on a older property that was also a pier & beam.

I provided my quote at $500.00 and a WDI (termite) inspection for $110.00 plus tax (pier & beam fee). The WDI fee goes to the pest inspector ... not me!

He said I was too high. He had quotes for the entire package not exceeding $250.00.

I'm guessing this person never heard of Holmes.

Obviously I didn't book the HI.

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And ... on the other hand. I had a call today from gentleman wanting a complete, detailed, thorough and professional inspection on a older property that was also a pier & beam.

I provided my quote at $500.00 and a WDI (termite) inspection for $110.00 plus tax (pier & beam fee). The WDI fee goes to the pest inspector ... not me!

He said I was too high. He had quotes for the entire package not exceeding $250.00.

I'm guessing this person never heard of Holmes.

Obviously I didn't book the HI.

Idiots abound -- both as home buyers and inspectors. We all know that. I know that Holmes is a blowhard who is building an empire. Hell, in his position I would too. I freely admit that in the dozen or so shows of his that I have seen I have cringed at things he's said. But even if every potential buyer doesn't see his shows I still say they are a plus for the home inspection profession.
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Maybe I don' understand math but if a home a inspection fee should "start at $1,000" it seems to me that the cost of "starting at $595" contradicts that practice.

Maybe he was just hopeful about the price?

He wants you to charge $1000 so his disciple can get the job for $925. [:)]

Big Mike's ok if you stay on the good side of him and never appear on camera as the guy that missed a bunch of stuff. He has definitely raised awareness.

A Holmes disciple gets 50%, so they are doing a full IR scan and snaking the toilets for about $400 after the overhead. How's that for Math?

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It's net positive, even though he makes me cringe.

His "guys" don't have a good deal; we'll see just how effective his multi-operator model is in a few years. He talks a very good game, but we'll see.

What Mike does better than anyone is set up on camera; he's just got that camera friendly thing going; some guys got it, some don't.....he does. Vila had it too, only different style. Neither one of them knows a tenth of what they seem to know. The camera is a really weird thing.

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Great inspectors are not necessarily great TV guys, and vice versa.

I don't watch TV, but I would no more expect a TV inspector to be a great home inspector, than I would expect Frank Oz to be a great sow.

Apples and oranges, folks, but more power to the folks who can make either paradigm work for them.

Happy Thanksgiving,

JM

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Holmes doesn't seem to have it in himself to admit the negative influence of the camera. If he did, he'd likely be replaced on the show for breach of contract, for not promoting the interests of the show.

Net positive? Likely, in the long run. I can admit that. I just don't like getting the shaft. I don't deserve it. Many HI's don't. Must he stereotype us?

Marc

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In my opinion, just highlighting the fact that this is an important part of purchasing a home is an important aspect of the show. Some first time buyers don't even know about home inspectors until after they have signed their contract to purchase the home. Then they either go online and choose the first big name or take the realtors suggestion and hire their "yes" man.

It is not uncommon for an agent to tell his/her client to expect a $250 fee for the inspection thereby negating someone who may charge more and do a more thorough job.

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I've seen several of Mike's HI show. I seem to remember several of the home owners stating they took their Realtors recommendation for a HI. While they don't come right out and say it's a bad idea, it does have a strong undertone of it. Hopefully folks can read between the lines.

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