Home Inspector-10yrs, WA State Licensed. General Contractor 33yrs. Adjunct faculty: Bellingham Technical College's Home Inspection Course. Licensed Structural Pest Inspector. Certified ASHI Member.
Get to know Charles Buell
I had been designing and building homes for 33 years when I decided to become a Seattle Home Inspector.
With all of my years of building experience and taking the 160 hour Residential Home Inspection Course at Bellingham Technical College, it is difficult to imagine what kinds of inspections the buying public was getting before the State of Washington started requiring Home Inspectors to be Licensed. (Thanks to the efforts of Senator Spanel, and many others there is now licensing of Home Inspectors in Washington State.)
I have a dream of seeing home inspections taken to a higher level. While setting "minimum" standards is important, providing something of lasting value to the home buyer is what I am interested in, and over the coming years I expect to see increased education of home inspectors---perhaps even including 2 to 4 year college degree programs.
Providing the kind of information necessary to aid in the decision making process is not difficult, and adding the kind of information that turns the home inspection report into the beginnings of an "owner's manual" creates something of lasting value. Because I use a lot of pictures in my reports, people have often commented on how easy it is to communicate the issues to the seller, and as a result I very rarely ever get calls from sellers looking for clarification----or to refute my findings. The whole process is about communication and information----"too much" is never enough.
Current Member of the WA State Home Inspector Advisory Licensing Board.
I am a Certified Member of ASHI and I see membership in at least one of the major associations as a "minimum" requirement when choosing an inspector in Washington State----in addition to the State's requirement to be a Licensed Home Inspector. I would also expect to see Home Inspectors also be Licensed Structural Pest Inspectors in order to provide the highest level of service to the home buyer.
While members of the major Associations (and other associations for that matter) will argue the merits of their Association over the others, I find that they all have their good points. Buyers need to understand that membership requirements in all of these associations set "minimum" standards for the profession and that most inspectors exceed those standards. The important thing is what kind of report does the inspector provide and how clearly is it written, how well does it describe the issues, and how clearly does the report define the course of action regarding those issues.
I provide my client with a very detailed and thorough report on the condition of the home---some have commented on the report being like an "Owners Manual." I consider it the beginning of one. Along with all the major concerns, the buyer will also find useful information as to the age of appliances and Model and Serial Numbers.
One area of concern for many home buyers today is MOLD. It has almost become a "four letter word" (wait a minute----it is a four letter word). No buyer's education and information about Mold is going to be complete without the information provided by Caoimhin Connell. For some great information please see his links below:
Health Effects of Mold
Caoimhín P. Connell http://www.forensic-applications.com/
Forensic Industrial Hygienist
What Will the Inspection Cost?
Since this is one of the first questions the inspector hears when he or she picks up the phone, I figure this is as good a place to start as any.
It often seems that for the caller it may just be a conversation starter---not knowing any better place to start the conversation. It seems like a simple enough question but behind this question is a mountain of unasked questions. Even before I attempt to answer this question I want to see how much of that mountain I can explain before getting to that burning initial question.
My favorite lead in question is something like, “Do you have any current concerns or particular interests regarding the house?” This leads to answers of, “Well we are really concerned about the roof,” or “The seller reported that there was flooding in the basement,” or “There is this crack big enough to drive a truck through that we are concerned about.” All of these questions start to build a connection with the buyer and help me get a sense of what the house is about as well as their level of comfort with “the language” of houses. Do they know what a furnace is, or the difference between drywall from plaster, or what a crawl space is----as opposed to an attic?
I will usually ask them for the MLS number or the house address so I can get a look at it while I am talking to them. In this way I know the age, the square footage, number of bathrooms etc----all things that go into helping calculate the cost of the inspection.
Some inspectors have fixed fees (no ifs, ands or buts), some have fixed fees (unless the house is really big or really small), and some have sliding fees depending on how old the house is, where the house is, the square footage, number of bathrooms, number of kitchens, number of attics, number of crawl spaces and so on. I fall in this later group.
So the conversation with the buyer is about gathering enough information to give an accurate price. Most inspectors have rough minimum fees and typically the cost goes up as new information is gathered.
At the end of all of this is the idea that people will start to see the price as secondary to what is actually being provided---information. People want “value” for what they are getting---often more than price. They still want to know what the inspection is going to cost but agreeing to the price has a way of making sense in relation to the conversation had about their particular future home.
There will always be people that all that matters is the price---but that is likely to cost them a lot more in the long run.
While it is OK for agents to give prospective buyers a rough idea of what an inspection is going to cost, it is best, in my opinion, if they give a “range” as opposed to a specific number as there are so many factors that must looked at in determining the cost. It can be very awkward when a buyer says something like, “But the agent said it would only cost $350.00 and you are telling me $475.00----what gives?” Well, what gives is that the agent may be giving the buyer a price based on other inspector’s prices, or based on houses with fewer contingencies etc. Maybe there was no crawl space in the $350.00 one and this one has three.
Usually by the time I talk to them and they see my sample report on my website, Charles Buell Inspections Inc I end up booking the inspection. I don’t try to be the cheapest inspector in town. I attempt to give them as much information about the home as I can in the short time I am there. Putting all that information into a report with pictures can take another 6-10 hours of work in the office. This office time is something that few people factor in when they hear the price of the home inspection.
Giving a price for the inspection can be very difficult because of things discovered at the site that would have affected the price had they been known. I have gotten to many inspections expecting one crawl space and found 3 or 4 distinct spaces. I have recently started letting the buyer know ahead of time that if there are “significant” extenuating circumstances the price may have to be re-negotiated. This rarely happens and I would have to say that, more often than not, to foster good will, I don't change the price.
So now---what is the cost of the inspection?
Charles Buell's Blog Posts
Much of my home construction has been involved with Super Insulated, Energy Efficient Homes. I have been a dealer of composting toilets, installer of wood foundation systems, and installer of air and water solar heating systems.
I won a New York State Energy Reserch & Developement Award ($10,000) in 1979 for a super-insulated duplex house built in Oswego, NY. My interest in energy efficient housing continues today and, because of my years of experience, I am able to assist my buyers with their questions about how efficient the home they are buying is or help them with their questions of how to improve the energy efficiency of the home. I was into "Green" before it had been given a name. Now I can help people sort through the various approaches to building homes (and even assist with some of the confusion surrounding what it means to be "Green").
Because my entire carrier as a builder was "Design-Build," I am able to also assist buyers with questions they might have regarding remodeling. For example questions about whether walls are bearing walls or not, or the feasibility of adding a second story, are all questions I routinely hear from buyers, and am able to assist them with. It is all I did for 33 years. I designed and built dozens of homes, and additions to homes, over those years----including designing and building most of the cabinet work in those projects----so I am very familiar with the processes and requirements of all of these areas. In the early years of my career I was building in areas where I was allowed to do electrical and plumbing as well (they still had to be inspected of course). So I able to give much more in-depth information regarding these areas as well.
As a builder of energy efficient homes in the 70's, the Syracuse University, School of Architecture would routinely tour my homes and even monitored some of them for documentation purposes for periods of time. One of my more curious areas of interest was the use of wood foundations in the overall design of super-insulated homes. These systems designed by Weyerhaeuser for use in the perma-frost of Alaska were well suited to creating very energy efficient homes.
I curretly teach part of the (160hr) Residential Home Inspection Course at Bellingham Technical College in Bellingham, WA. Link to the course: Residential Home Inspection Course
I LOVE teaching. It is such a great opportunity to give back all the stuff I have learned over the years. It fits with my general life philosophy of "giving everything away---to make room for more." Blogging for me is an extension of this philosophy, another way to give back to the community.
How Long Will the Inspection Take?
This is perhaps the most common “second” question a prospective buyer will ask when they call for an inspection.
“How long will the inspection take?”
It is a totally fair question. After all, we all have busy lives and scheduling our time is important.
I do one inspection per day. In this way I am never rushed to get to another inspection should things come up on the inspection that might make the inspection take longer than planned.
Some buyers have more questions than others. Some buyers have a bigger learning curve than others and it takes considerably more time to explain the house to them. All of this is fine, and most inspectors will take the time necessary to meet the needs of the buyer. Each inspector will manage their time on site to fit the client’s expectations as well as getting the job done in a timely manner. Some inspectors will ask that the buyer hold questions to the end---or until the inspector gets to that part of the home etc. For me it is a mix---every inspection is different and every client is different.
It is important for the inspector to balance the need for getting the inspection done while at the same time meeting the needs of the buyer---to make sure they are left feeling as if they have been taken care of.
On most occasions, I think all parties end up happy. There will always be those fortunately very rare but difficult situations where nobody ends up happy. But isn’t that just like life?
So, back to how long the inspection will take.
I would say that generally speaking most of my inspections fall in the 2-1/2 to 4-1/2 hour range. Condos will sometimes (usually) take less time to inspect while large homes or complicated homes will sometimes take more time to inspect---and 5 to 6 hours is not uncommon.
Other factors that can affect the amount of time the inspection will take are: the age of the house, the number of crawl spaces, number of outbuildings to be included, the number of attics, the number of bathrooms, the number of floor levels, the number of HVAC units, the number of garage doors that have to be tested, and whether the house is occupied or vacant. Pets are another. If the critter gets out of the house and everyone spends an hour corralling it back into the house, the inspection will take longer.
In the end---they take as long as they take---so it is best that all parties have a “rough” idea of how long to expect while still being prepared for additional time as needed. If you know that you have to get to the dentist right after the inspection or have to pick the kids up from soccer practice, it would be a good idea to let the inspector know. They might just recommend an earlier start time----or possibly even another day---depending on the house.
A final note:
Always bring snacks to the inspection. Low blood sugar is not conducive to a good inspection.
Founder of Sparky's Plumbing, the ActiveRain Group where everything is shocking and all wet!
Founder of AHA!---A Forum of Landmark Proportions---your Group,for those AHA! moments we all have from time to time.
Founder of the group WeBlog Anything, a place for all those posts that need a place.
Below are some of my posts that ActiveRain has "featured" ----please enjoy. I promise, that if you tour through the archives, that I will entertain and hopefully educate you about the homes we all live in. Sometimes, no doubt, you will see things similiar to your own homes---sometimes things you will be fortunate to never see.
Is your blog a tortoise or a hare? A "Google Alert" I can LIVE without! What do you mean you want to know how much longer the roof will last? Does your inspector do Tree Houses? Seattle Home Inspector finds Fungus in an Old Rhyme! Inspectors GONE WILD!!!! Getting back to where we are! Your house has NO value! If I were "actually" Superman I could: I am watching you down there! Are you Googlicious----or getting a Googlectomy? Did Hans Brinker get "prune" finger? Does anyone think you are cool? Are you ready for the Real Estate floodgates to open? How big is your view----who are you willing to vote off the island? Make sure your buyers put money in the meter. Can I buy a "corrected" Inspection Report from you real cheap? What do you mean there was just a "few" shingles blown off? Anybody got 10 bucks I can borrow? Has anyone ever asked you to, "Pull the Plug?" I tip my hat to you, buddy! Should Agents sleep with their Home Inspectors?
Doggone it!-----Bet I’ll be in the “Dog House” over this dog!
Well, that's a “no-brainer”------ Finding the “Better-than-the-average-bear” inspector. ActiveRain burned my oatmeal! Why is there a BARGE on my roof? Cigarette Anyone? Scared the BEE-GEEEZEZ out of me!
Testimonials for Charles Buell
• Zan Murzello10/27/2013
I would like to once again thank you very much for your outstanding work on the inspection of the xxxxx Street house on our behalf.
Our expectations of the inspection you performed were exceeded. The detail and quality of your report will be used by us as a goal for other inspectors we have the chance to do business with in the future. I can not imagine that there was a single thing you didn't cover! We will use your report as guidelines on what we need to do immediately to the house, over the course of the next 6 months as well as ongoing maintenance. Your added background information and photos not only illustrated the issue but educated us as to the correction. Your willingness to share your impressions and knowledge via phone was greatly appreciated. We both feel this was the best money we could have spent!
Please feel free to use my name and have any potential customers contact me for a reference. I am more than happy to tell them what a professional, knowledgeable, thorough inspector your are!
Thank you for your outstanding work!
Thank you so much Charlie--- I am so glad I had you to do this inspection-- you did an excellent job and discovered things I would never have thought of and I so appreciate your expertise. I feel so much more confident going into this purchase knowing exactly what's going on.
Thanks so much,
Glenn Soja & Leah Mitchell10/27/2013
After finding a house that we loved, we had to finalize the details for the sale. For the inspection process we chose Charles Buell Inspections since our friends spoke highly of him. Dealing with the stress of making the biggest purchase of our lives, Charles' calm demeanor and thorough examination of the house and lot put our minds at ease. We felt confident that all of the negative and positive aspects of the home were brought to our attention on sight. Twenty-four hours later we received a detailed 84 page summary of his findings which included pictures to clarify the issues being discussed. We were impressed! In fact this inspection report has been almost like a homeowner's manual, which we've used while updating our home. We have now used Charles for both our home and business inspections, and would definitely use him again in the future! -
Thank you Charlie! I am amazed at the thorough and high quality work that you do. It's a bargain for what you charge. I'll be using your services again when I find a house that will work for me. The other home inspection reports that I've seen are no comparison to your work. They had one-tenth of the information that your report supplied me for the home I was thinking about purchasing. The other reports pointed out problems, but said little more than "you should have a professional evaluate this." Isn't that why you hire an inspector? I got a professional the first time around with your inspection!
Thank you so much for this great and very professional inspection. I have reviewed the information and will be using this to negotiate our terms with the seller. Your discovery of the issues on this place has shined a new light to this property:)
Thanks again for your help,