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plan of attack considerations

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On my last inspection I went to the basement first before going to the attic. I found serious water intrusion and rot under the slider threshold at the rear sill and significant termite activity at the front sill under the front door. I needed the step ladder and to pull away insulation to find these things. If this house had had a finished basement, I doubt I would have seen any of that.

Since changing my moves to save the lowest level for last in the inspection, I found myself getting tired from all the hustle by that point and other people getting antsy near the end of the inspection.

From this last inspection find at the sill plates and the fact that I went there first solidifies to me how important it is to be fresh and full of energy at those critical areas. Because of this, I've edited my attack sequence to include a preliminary visit to the lowest level or crawl to check for major critical things. I'll not get lost on all the piping and wires and stuff since I'll still plan the downward spiral to end back at the lowest level for a final look at everything (pipes, wires and appliances included)

I think checking the lowest level first has its advantages while all the issues from the outside are fresh in mind. However, still need a second visit to the lowest level at the end.

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Hello John. I will often go downstairs to the basement first and get the utilities, which are usually down there in my area. Then upstairs and the attic, then main floor and the kitchen is almost always last.

But one important variation on that is to run water in the bathrooms before going downstairs.

I was doing a deficiency list on a new home last week. It is a very well built house with lots of attention to detail. I found a dripping trap under the master bath in the crawlspace only because I had run some water in there before going below, and I saw a little wet spot on the floor.

The builder got his plumber on it right there and actually thanked me for catching it. I thanked myself for finding something and making myself look good. [:)]

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I inspected the areas where the water is to be run in the bathrooms, kitchen and laundry before I inspect the areas that the drains are installed. basement and/or crawlspace.

The way I do most of my inspection is Exterior (driveway, walkways, yard walls on the outside of the house, decks, porches, patios, doors windows, trim and etc.)

Then the roof. walk around the exterior again.

Then I do the garage/carport and any store room in that area.

After that I go inside and start with the kitchen,then the laundry room, then start going to each room. I look at the electrical panel, water and the heating and cooling units as I come to them in the inspection.

If there is a basement I do it next then go to the attic. If there is a crawlspace is is always done last.

I go back and walk thru each room again, walk around the outside of the house and check the water heater.

When all of this is done I download all of my photos and go over each one with my client.

I do my report at the office and sent it out in an email then mail a hard copy.

But that what works for me.

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Don't know what to say John.

Most of us try not to backtrack, but houses differ enough to where it is hard to etch a sequence in stone.

I leave crawls/basments last usually, unless it is the attic that is last. Doing the attic before going on top can be useful as well, so that if there is damage below you can do better above.

Because I take 3 hrs on average to do the field work, anybody hanging around waiting is likely to get antsy. Of course I also welcome them to follow me around. That slows me down but I think that I have to accomodate them if they are interested. Used to carry a Tyvek coverall for the clients use but quit after almost nobody took me up on it.

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Like most inspectors, I arrive at the job with a default sequence already set in my mind but I usually end up going back and forth between areas, adapting on the fly, remaining fluid, because a finding in one area might change the focus in mind that I want for another area or even for the entire house sometimes.

It's the same way when I write the report and is a reason why reporting categories depend on the house and why I don't turn in reports while onsite. A finding on the gas powered furnace combined with another in the garage or kitchen can change the write-up on both or even result in a 3rd write-up on a different page that replaces the first two. A report under construction, an inspection in progress, are both organisms in gestation. I don't know for sure what it's going to look like until I'm done. It's like the house, they all different.

Well...sort of. That's kinda changing too.[;)]


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1) Initial scouting review of exterior

2) Roof

3) Second review of exterior

4) computer notes at kitchen table

5) attic

6) work down thru house doing all the stuff

7) bsmt., structure, mechanical

8) back up thru house to check mechanical to make sure it makes sense with what I find in the basement, second interior review

9) back down to basement to finish structure and mechanical

10) computer notes @ kitchen table

I do a lot of what I call "scouting" reviews; getting a feel for the joint. I'll adjust my protocol depending on my scouting trips.

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I do a lot of what I call "scouting" reviews; getting a feel for the joint. I'll adjust my protocol depending on my scouting trips.

The macro tour or scouting review is vital. I always do it alone, or at least I attempt to do it alone. With my initial macro tours, no matter how carefully I explain to the buyer what I'm going to do and why, there are some that insist on accompanying me, afraid that they're going to miss something. Worse, is when the seller decides to walk around with me. This is typically coupled with him pointing out improvements made over the years, in minute detail. I politely ask to be left alone.

If I can't focus and concentrate on my macro tour, it seems to throw the rest of the inspection a bit off. Another benefit of doing the macro alone is I can take a few minutes to figure out an unusual system or piece of equipment without anyone seeing me do it.

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I must say I'm happy to see that others don't have a steadfast plan. On common house designs it's easier to stick to a pre-determined plan. On the less than usual things, it seems not possible to forecast the diversions that will happen. I'm sure the audience must wonder why I'm zipping all over the place sometimes. Adapt and conquer....what else can you do?

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"...Worse, is when the seller decides to walk around with me..."

Times that has happened I've been able to shake 'em off with snide comments and verbal overload. I can bore people pretty quickly in my most pedantic mode.

Buyers who follow me usually tail off when it is apparent that I'm explaining more and looking less.

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I do a lot of what I call "scouting" reviews; getting a feel for the joint. I'll adjust my protocol depending on my scouting trips.

The macro tour or scouting review is vital. I always do it alone, or at least I attempt to do it alone. With my initial macro tours, no matter how carefully I explain to the buyer what I'm going to do and why, there are some that insist on accompanying me, afraid that they're going to miss something.

I politely tell the client if they want to make sure I'll miss something, then keep distracting me.

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I do a walk-n-talk and try to stick to one consistent method.

I conduct what I call the "school of the house" and I involve the client from start to finish. It keeps the client from getting bored. I like teaching and I think most people like learning. If I'd been able to do more than second grade math and been able to get a college degree in education, I probably would have been a teacher. Never got there, but in the military I enjoyed training troops and since I retired I've enjoyed teaching folks about houses.

For me, having the clients with me is not a distraction. I've been doing it so long that it's second nature. I admit that when I was new at this gig I'd get distracted by the client and/or realtor(s) following and peppering me with questions; but after the first six months I'd developed a process and flow I was comfortable with and I try to this day to stick to that same process. In fact, it's when a client or an inconsiderate agent ask me to deviate from that process that I get distracted, disorganized and miss stuff, so I try to avoid that at all costs.

When I was new I could have made a conscious decision to follow the marketing and work flow guidance of the franchise outfit that I was with at the time and stuck to it. If I had, I know that I would consistently be doing two to three inspections a day by now but I'd be eating at the realtors trough and trapped in an inexorable cycle of sucking up, dropping off candy, follow-up letters, follow-ups to follow-up letters and weekly open house touring that would have worn me down long ago, so I chose a different path.

Today, I get very few referrals from realtors anymore but I stay consistently as busy as I want to be. I'm not getting any younger and I have my military retirement, so I don't see any need to work myself to the bone. Besides, thanks to technology I'm busier than I've ever been over the past decade due to customers talking about me to each other on the net. To me, that's vindication that customers want to know as much as they can about the inspection and they want to be involved with the inspection. When they are, they reward me by way of telling others about their positive experience.

A couple of the agents who've regularly referred clients to me since I got in this gig have told me that some agents are telling those back at the office what a royal pain-in-the-ass it is to have that O'Handley guy inspect homes for their clients, because he takes so long, runs his mouth so much and doesn't respect their time. I can live with that; there're a whole lot of 'zoids no longer selling real estate 'cuz they think like that, while myself and those agents who were happy to put up with a walk-n-talk have stayed relatively busy throughout the recession.

I think that the bottom line is that you have to develop a method that works for you and stick to it. However, if you find that your method isn't getting you the kind of repeat business that you want, than you need to decide whether you want to change it up in order to net the results you want.

Just my opinion, worth the price charged I suppose.



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It may be called the foxtrot but everyone who does it moves differently. The steps are the same but the bodies aren't. It was our policy to insist that the buyer be present to go through the house with us. If he/she got bored we gave him/her some assignments - Make sure the beds as they plan to have them will be near electrical outlets. Gave them graph paper and a pencil to do quick sketches of the furniture they have and which rooms to put it in. Electrical outlet tester - three lite plug in - to see if and which bedroom outlets were were tied to the wall switch. They loved being educated for the most part. We always started in the basement worked up to the attic and ended in the basement to make sure everything was as we found it. We took field notes and dictated to tape which was transcribed by our secretaries. Reports were in the next working day's mail. Never varied for 50 years.

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