Episode #003 - Need a home inspection? In this episode we visit with Jeff Mutchler. Jeff has been doing home inspections for 13 years in the DFW area…(https://youtu.be/pu2l4b6Aorc)
Links from this episode
Jeff's website: https://www.northstarhi.com/
Episode #003 REN Podcast Transcription (Jeff Mutchler)
Jason: Good afternoon everybody and welcome to the real estate podcast. Today we have Jeff Mutchler with us. He is a home inspector and I have used him countless of times with my clients. I wanted to put him on the podcast today to about inspections, so you listeners out there can get an idea of what goes into home inspection. Without further ado. I have Jeff on the line. How are you doing Jeff?
Jeff: Fantastic Jason, how are you?
Jason: I am doing great. So, you’re working on your boat.
Jeff: That is a true statement. I was out there trying to clean it up and get it ready for the spring.
Jason: So, everybody who does an inspection with you gets a day on the boat. Is that right?
Jeff: Sure. Why not? Any excuse to go, I am in for.
Jason: We have known each other for years now. How long have you been in the inspection business? Have you always been in the DFW area? Can you elaborate on that?
Jeff: It feels like I have been doing this forever but it has been 13 years on June 30th. That would be the anniversary of having my license. I have only done home inspections in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Before I did this, I was in the Navy for 8 years. I spent 5 years on the ship in Hawaii and three years as an instructor in San Diego. It was a rough duty but someone had to take one for the team. I have seen my fair share of the Persian Gulf. After that, I went to work for a telecom company, that brought me to the DFW area. I never thought that I would be back in the Arlington area. Lo and behold, that is where I am. I absolutely love it.
Jason: Can you elaborate on when you became an inspector in Texas, are you required to be licensed and if so, what are the requirements. Do you have to renew your license on a regular basis? What goes into that? (2:46)
Jeff: Absolutely. Texas is one of the few states that does require licensing, not every other state does. To get your license to be a home inspector in Texas; there are a couple of different ways you can do it. One is the apprentice route. Not many guys do that route anymore. Most of us do schooling, which a good percentage of it is done online. Most companies that do it usually have a 1-2 week class in the classroom where you are looking at things, doing fake inspections and things like that. I did the schooling route and I did not think that it would provide me with enough experience to go out and say, “Let me look at your $200,000 house”.
What I did was I went out and did 47 ride-alongs with two other inspectors that I met. One was in the Denton area and that made for a long commute. The other was in Dallas. I did not want to go and have my direct competition either steering me the wrong way or training somebody that was going to compete with them. After that, I felt that I could still use some experience on my own. I went into some rougher neighborhoods in parts of Fort Worth and Dallas with lower income. I contacted some realtor’s that had signs in the yard and I did 32 free inspections in the month of September after I got my license for low-income people purchasing houses. They were not paying me so I was not going to be held liable but it helped me see crazy things that I have not seen a lot since. It helped me get more experience where I can go to somebody and say, “I have done X amount of inspections even though my license number is new” that is how I started my business.
Jason: That is awesome. Jumping into inspection themselves; if there is a first time homebuyer that is looking to buy a house and he needs inspection. As an inspector, what all do you cover? Is it everything that you can possibly cover? Can you give me an overview of the main items that you look over? (5:15)
Jeff: I would start of with this; the state of Texas does have a bare minimum requirement of what we are supposed to do. I personally do not know any inspectors that do the bare minimum, but I’m sure there are some out there. Most of us are trying to be over achievers. In a nutshell, what a home inspection consists of is checking out the house from top to bottom. Getting on the roof, to crawling through the attic, to inside the house testing all the electrical outlets. Checking all the doors, windows, & plumbing fixtures to looking at the foundation and checking for the smallest appliances. Be it the garbage disposal to heating and the AC equipment. Including water heaters, dishwashers, oven and everything. If it attached and normally goes with the house in a real estate transaction, we home inspectors are going to look at it and figure out what is going on with it. I will try to educate my clients on the age of things. I would say, “This AC unit is 15 years old. They usually only last about 15-20 years, so it is time to budget for a new one.
That is an overview of what a home inspector does, we do go above and beyond. I do the sprinkler system and I do not charge extra for that but some other guys do. There is an extra fee for swimming pools if there is one there. If the temperature is all right outside and the house is new I would do thermal energy scans on the home to let you know how energy efficient it is going to be.
Jason: If you get the inspection done with the HVAC, it is 15 years old and you tell them, “it is potentially near the end of its life” or if it is not even operational or something is keeping it for going on. If there are, things wrong with the foundation or the HVAC, I know that in your report you recommend further evaluation by another professional. Do you recommend people to do that? Do you rely on the agent to make that connection? Is it they buyer that is responsible for that? How do you go about that? (7:22)
Jeff: One of the things that I do for my clients...I have many clients that are relocating here because DFW is the largest growing metropolitan area now. And they may not know anybody. I have a list of people that I email to them from my doctor, dentist, electrician, plumber, bank, to heating and AC company. Everybody that I know, trust and would personally do business with. If they call them, that is great and if they do not call them, it does not hurt my feelings. I tell my clients that if you call them and you throw my name out there, they would start giving them a hard time right off the bat.
Jason: You probably have a good reputation then.
Jeff: I try.
Jason: For those who are not familiar with inspections, how long does an inspection take for a three-bedroom and two-bathroom typical size house? (8:51)
Jeff: A good rule-of-thumb is about an hour and 15 minutes for a thousand square foot. That is going to include typing it up. It is going to take 45 minutes to inspect 1,000sqft house. For a 2,000sqft house, it is going to take an average of two-and-a-half to three hours to do everything that I need to do. Some houses would take longer if the house is older with severe disrepair. If it is new construction that is in good shape and has been well taken care of, then it would be faster.
Jason: With buyers coming in, do you recommend that they come with you there the whole time or come for the last 30 minutes so that you can work them through. What is most efficient for you and for them? (9:42)
Jeff: What most of my clients do and this is what I prefer but if someone want to come and be there for the whole time, that is good too. Most of my clients come at the end and they give me thirty minutes to one hour. I take a lot of pictures during inspection and as the saying goes, “a picture speaks a thousand words” we’ll look through the pictures and talk about everything that is wrong with the house. I would try to break it down and bring up issues of big things that they may be concerned about. Occasionally, when there are a lot things going on there, you might want to consider looking for a different property. It is dependent upon what their situation is.
Jason: One of the people on Facebook whose name is Lisa Kunes commented that they first bought. That they had a hard time with the inspection report and it can be overwhelming for a first time home buyer. I am sure that you have to put a lot of things on there that met code couple of years ago and now does not. In that meeting, do you work through it with them and say, “This used to be okay but now it is not okay but it is covered by a code.” (10:48)
Jeff: Absolutely. My goal is to educate the buyer on what’s going on with that house. There are many things to talk about on inspection report. There is a difference between building codes today, in 2018 and when a house was built even just 4-5 years ago. Most houses that I’ve looked at are at least 10 years old or older and there are going to be code changes. Nobody in Texas is required to get a house up to current code. Everything is grandfathered as far as that goes. When we talk about everything, I like to keep things in perspective. I tell them that my inspection code is; do as I say and not do what I do. Do not come to my house and say, “Jeff, you told me that I am supposed to fix this” and it is not fixed at my house. I guarantee you that it would not be. Just like a mechanics car is never fixed. It is just one of those things that; if you are okay with living with it, I would educate you about it as much as possible. If you still want to go in and get it fixed n brought up to current codes, more power to you. Most people say, “That is fine, I can live with that.” if it is not going to burn the house down or cause injury to anybody. Most people are fine with some smaller things
Jason: It sounds like a mixture of those buyers getting counsel from you based on your experience and then maybe the realtor having some input based on their experience. On what is it a big deal based on the individual buyer? (12:44)
Jeff: Everybody has their own hot buttons. I have done an inspection on a house that had aluminum wiring and the gentleman’s father told him never to buy a house that has aluminum wiring. So as soon as he heard that, he said, “I am done, we are not buying this house” and he walked away. Everybody has their own hot buttons. I still educated him on aluminum wiring so that he knew what was going on with it and why it cause fires.
Jason: Another thing is termite inspection. Despite the age, do you recommend to get termite inspections? What is the added cost if there is something found? Do you use somebody who can provide an estimate on the spot as to what it would cost to get it fixed? (13:37)
Jeff: Absolutely. What I do for my termite inspection is that I use a third-party pest control company and they come out the same time that I am there. They do not just look for termites; they look for all wood damaging insects; carpenter ants, powderpost beetles, woodborers, termites and some that I cannot pronounce. That is part of the reason that I do not have that licensing. The person that I use, I tell everybody that he’s the guy that brought termites on the ark with Noah. He is 76-years old and still works every day. He loves his job, and he still gets down in those crawl spaces in those older pier and beam houses. Termite inspection is not a bad idea. It is a requirement if you are doing a VA loan but it is not a requirement on any other type of house. I’ll throw the recommendation because most new constructions are pre-treated for termites these days. You do not have to have it for a VA loan if the house is 10 years old or less. You can get away without doing one. Even though, I do not hold the licensing and the insurance to do termite inspections, if I see anything that is out of the ordinary, I do point it out. Whether it be a conducive conditions for them or if I see, something that I suspect might be carpenter ants or termites. I would tell my client, “Something is going on there. Let us get the bug professional out there and get it checked out”
Jason: Is it the same cost no matter the size of the house? (15:34)
Jeff: It does vary somewhat. In a generally speaking it is about $100-150. If it is an old crawl space house, then the price goes up. That is the same with home inspection because then you have to crawl underneath the house and battle with the snakes and the rats. We are going to charge more because it is not our favorite thing to do.
Jason: Another question we got on Facebook from Lane Tidwell, he asks about the foundation. He asks, “Do you as an inspector take the device that the foundation managers use to measure it or do you look for signs of foundation problems and you recommend it to be checked further, how do you typically determine if a foundation is passing or not passing?” (16:05)
Jeff: I look at the overall condition of the house. The name of the device those guys use is called a zip leveler and it is used for measuring the elevations of the house. There might be a house that was built somewhat crooked or sloped or it is built on the side of a hill so it doesn’t need repairs. They would look at it and say, “You need $10,000 worth of foundation repair”, but you do not because everything is fine. The key thing is that foundation companies are business to sell you something. Structural engineers are there and you are paying them, but foundation companies come out for free. I look at the overall condition of the house. If I just see some minor hairline cracks, I would tell people that it is typical and common. However, if I see larger cracks that might be alarming, if it’s in the brick, something the size of the eraser of a number 2 pencil. If that is bad and we have, reciprocation cracks on the interior. Or you get doors or windows that really hard to open. Inside the house, if there is any diagonal crack going through the sheet rock that do not lean off the doors or the windows that can be a sign of foundation problems too. If there is a big diagonal crack in the middle of the wall or in the ceiling, that can be a sign that there is adverse movement going on. We want to get the structural engineer or the foundation company out there as soon as possible to figure out what it is going on.
Jason: I have a couple of questions. You provide a report that is part of your inspection. Is that correct? (18:06)
Jeff: Absolutely. Part of the requirement of being licensed in Texas is that we have to provide a written report.
Jason: Awesome, in terms of how far of an area you have covered yourself with North Star Home Inspections. How far is your threshold on how far you will go out? (18:21)
Jeff: It depends on how big the check is that someone is willing to write.
Jason: You would go to Montana!
Jeff: The farthest I have gone is Austin. That was someone that I had done inspection for him and his son. He was buying house for his daughter who was going to be a sophomore at UT to rent out with some roommates. He told me to come and look at it and I tried to tell him that I would get someone else to look at it”. He said, “I trust you” and I said, “it is going to cost you this much” and he said “Okay, on top of that, I will put you in a hotel room. You can take your wife and kids out on Saturday” I went to do the inspection, we had a good time, saw some friends and we came back. Generally speaking about 50-70 miles around the DFW area.
Jason: Still in a general area here.
Jeff: That is where I try to stay.
Jason: We have gone for more than 15 minutes so I want to wrap up . If there are people have questions of when they are getting an inspection and they want to know that cost for that specific house. Can you let us know how they can reach out to you to get it scheduled and know the pricing? (19:33)
Jeff: The best way to get a hold of me is definitely by phone, either by call or by text. 817-791-2605. You can go to my website which is www.northstarhi.com . My website is not the greatest; it is there to take up space. I do need to get it better. I am not looking for business off the internet; I am looking for business form close contact referrals. That is where 80-90% of my business comes from. When someone says they found me from the internet, it freaks me out and I say, “You saw that bad website and you still decided to call me?”
Jason: Turns out good for them. I have one last question. You mentioned being in the service, thank you for that. There are some of my clients who have been in the service as well. Do you offer a discount for veterans for home inspections? (20:50)
Jeff: I do. Sometime when they call me, I ask them if they want to pay extra because I was in the military as well. They say, “Touché” but I will definitely knock money off for inspection for people who are in military as well as; teachers, firefighters, police, and civil servants. For politicians and lawyers, I might charge extra. I have much more friends that are attorneys than I ever though I would have and two of them were in my wedding party.
Jason: Thank you Jeff for joining us!
Jeff: My pleasure Jason.
Jason: If anybody has questions, you guys have his number so please reach out to him. We will talk to you again sometime soon.
Jeff: That sounds good.
Jason: Thanks, Jeff.
Jeff: Thank you, bye.