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We Build To the Minimum Standard Required By Law - Part Two

Why is there no time to do it right the first time, but enough to come back later and try to fix it? How profitable can that be? Why, on a final walk through, does a builder create a list, sometimes a huge list, of things they agree they will come back for later? Why not give it your best shot the first time?

Interestingly, when I do an inspection on a house that was built by a builder for himself, I usually say, “Why are you getting an inspection?” It is said only half tongue in cheek. Is it unfair to say that? Not in my experience… those houses are different!

Consider the blog title. How would you respond to these ads?

Sparkle Water Company, “Our Water Meets the Minimum Standards Required By Law.” How much of that would you store in the basement for emergencies?

Bob’s Bridge Builders, “Our Bridges Meet the Minimum Tolerances Required By Law.” What if this was the most-used bridge in the city?

R&R Cruises, “Our Boats Are Equipped With the Fewest Life Boats Required By Law.” Okay, we’ve heard that story… I missed the movie though.

Dudley Do Right’s Deli, “We Use the Lowest Grade Meats Money Can Buy.” Can I invite you out to lunch?

I can tell you, companies that consistently apply minimum standards do not stay in business long. We consumers drive them away. Why, then, do we accept what many builders are putting out? THAT is the question of the hour.

Why DO we accept the minimum in the houses we buy? Why should we have a need for home inspectors on a new house? When my clients ask me if this or that is a good builder, my answer always is, “It depends on the supervisor on site every day and the subs they use.” The same builder in two neighborhoods – the siding is great on one and lousy on another. Why is that? We all know.

But, WHY IS THAT? Because the Golden Rule in business is not consistently applied. I log into a number of home inspector message boards, nationwide. I can say unequivocally that all of us experience the same things. We all see the same things. We all wonder about the future of home building. When a doctor sees a runny nose he thinks a dozen things you and I do not. When home inspectors see certain practices, over and over, we think things that do not occur to buyers. BUT THE BUILDERS ALL KNOW!

Here is something else I am reading. It goes like this – the builders have been losing money for a while. When the market rebounds, imagine all the cuts they will be making to insure a profit! I think they, the collective of home inspectors, are right!

Centuries ago I spent a couple of years in South America as a missionary. I lived in a mud hut and slept on a grass mat. Took ICE cold showers and baths. Ate things you would never imagine. And had a wonderful, life-changing, life-molding experience. I learned two languages, Spanish and Quichua, an Andean Indian tongue, essentially Inca. It was VERY hard to learn. I taught them to read, do first aid, arithmetic, profit-making business practices and the Christian Gospel. The people were industrious and terrific. They came from a different background than I, and parables were the easiest way to communicate some principles.

This is one parable we came up with (remember, this is high in the mountains of South America):

The Master of the finest House advertised to build a new house. Many applied to build it. He selected his builder and began.

The Master’s plans were carefully drawn. He demanded that only the best materials be used. His House was to be the finest ever. The builder agreed and started out. He was to carefully select the finest stone, and wood, and clay for bricks. The thatch for the roof was to be thick and long.

Upon clearing the land the builder found that there was a large rock under one corner of the house. It would make the stone corner weak. The builder thought, “It is under the surface and no one will see it.”

Upon drying the bricks he discovered that the clay was a little loose and they might crack easily. “Well,” thought the builder, “perhaps only a few will crack. And they will be easily replaced.”

Upon stripping the bark, the logs he found were not the width the Master wanted, and not quite as straight and long. But they were almost so! “They will probably last, and the roof will probably be strong.” The builder wasn’t sure, but hoped so.

Upon weaving the thatch, it was not as thick as he knew the Master wanted, nor as long. But it seemed to weave okay. “Maybe it won’t leak. If it does, well, thatch is easy to get and it can be woven again.” He stepped back to look – you could hardly tell it wasn’t quite what the Master wanted. He probably wouldn’t notice. The builder was the only one to know the truth.

When he was done, the builder called the Master to come see His new House. The Master hardly looked at the House. He looked instead at the builder.

“Did you build it according to the plans I gave you?” “Yes.” “Did you use the finest materials, use your very best skills, and build a house you are proud of and could happily live in?” “Yes, you can see that I did Master. It is my best effort.”

“Very well. It is yours! I intended all along to give it to you! I wanted you to have the very best, and to do for me what you would have done for yourself. And you have done that!”

WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER! In the end, we will get back what we have given. It will come back and be given to us. What is important is NOT about money.

My recommendation: That we demand more. That we don’t accept minimum standards. That it begins with us. We home inspectors really, really try to help our clients. We study, and learn, and apply, and continue in all that to be better and more able. Give us a shot! DO NOT assume that since it is new, it is okay. You know what happens when you assume?

Want to join a great national group? Homeowners Against Deficient Dwellings. http://www.hadd.com/

 

 

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560

www.jaymarinspect.com


Comment balloon 44 commentsJay Markanich • January 06 2009 03:10PM

Comments

Hello Jay, as a former home builder (40 years experience) and with a love affair with the people of the Andes, I can identify with both aspects of your post.  Of course, it's not just builders; the problem seems pervasive throughout our society. It's based partly, I believe, in the attitude of "I'm in it for me, and what ever works in the short haul is okay. It's unfortunate, but all too true.  Having worked for large construction companies as well as having run my own company, I know the stresses builders face, but that's no excuse to cut corners in the way it's often done. The problem lies in how we respect both ourselves and others. And, we all need to respect "Pachamama."

 

Posted by John Mulkey, Housing Guru (TheHousingGuru.com) almost 10 years ago

Hi John - thanks for the response!  I think what you say is so very true.  And you would know!  Did you mean Pachacamac or Pachamamagu?  Either way, Alipatcha taytaku!

You might appreciate this - my basement fun room is full of Redskin paraphrenalia and colors.  I had a sign made calling the room "Cuchihuasi."  That translates, loosely, Hog House.  Not bad, huh?

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 10 years ago

Couldn't we all learn a lesson from the wise man and the foolish man when the rain comes tumbling down? If you want an instance of cutting corners and finger pointing for culpability, just take a look at the recent arbitration between Clark County (Nev.) and AF Construction on the Clark County Regional Justice Center. Knowing all the shortcuts taken on that building and its next door neighbor, the county's detention center, I'm glad my work doesn't take me anywhere near either building.

Posted by Lanna Broyles, Construction Claims Advisor almost 10 years ago

Lanna - So, the inmates are running the asylum?  Or did the asylum run the inmates next door?

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 10 years ago

AHHHHHH!!  So money IS time:)

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 10 years ago

Charles - It seems to be an inverse relationship - the less time spent doing something, apparently, the more money one makes... some companies think so.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 10 years ago

We have had about a century of this

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 10 years ago

line of thinking and I am thinking

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 10 years ago

look at us now:)

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 10 years ago

Charles - You are the master

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 10 years ago

of short and sweet! 

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 10 years ago

have to stay under 8 words:)

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 10 years ago

Charles - Let's see - yep, six words and a smiley face.  You made it!

Any relation to General Don Carlos Buell of the Union Army?

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 10 years ago

Supposedly----Buells first came here in 1632

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 10 years ago

Charles - you should check into all that.  You appear to have a long, and likely very interesting, family history.  I have some real cool people, and scoundrels, in my family history.  It is very fun to find out.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 10 years ago

Jay, Google "Abel Buell"

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 10 years ago

Charles - THAT was terrific!  You have your own Honest Abe...  I love reading family histories, especially when the writer is not a family member (at least the author of that piece did not come down with the Buell name - he appears to be some local historian).  I was glad to read that he was no Cain Buell... hey, every family probably has a couple of those!  This guy was a real thinker.  And way cool he got his ear to grow back on - cropping was a weird practice to say the least.  He probably told everyone the "F" on his forehead was from his mother's side.

Apparently the mind for inventive masterpiece and creativity made its way down a few generations and to the west coast!  Blogging style...

Had Abel been a builder he likely would have found a few ways to improve construction practices - HE was a guy who did not cut corners ... he said, gently returning the thread to the topic at the fore.

 

 

That is NOT to diminish the fun I had in this exchange with you!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 10 years ago

Jay,

It's the same old thing; get in, get it done, move on to the next one. It's the production mentality of everything these days. Squeeze as much out of a day as you can andworry about the problems created later. I have seen this thinking first hand in my last job in a Fortune 100 company. Corporate America business philosophy. Bottom line thinking driven by profits and share holders ($$$).

I'm not a religious person at all, but isn't there something in the Bible about greed and money. I mean those stories are there to teach people to live right. Here we are back to the Golden Rule.

Hey Charlie,

Read the history on your relative, prettycool stuff. Killingworth is a bout 10 - 15 minutes from me here in Wallingford. It is Connecticut though, you're never far from any where here the State is so small.

I guess the apple didn't fall far from the tree. You seem to embody some of those talents, not the felonious ones:)

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) almost 10 years ago

Thanks, James.  I agree with you.  I watch CNBC nearly every morning and all of the recent disclosures of "corporate greed," "individual greed," etc is a big wow-er!

Biblical principles are just that - principles, something on which the rest is built.  The Biblical suggestions about money are not that money is bad, it is the LOVE of money (see "corporate greed" above...) that is the "root of all evil."  If you want something bad enough, you begin to covet and it is the coveting that leads to other more serious, dark, deep sins.  And, human nature as it is, where does it end?  When someone gets caught, killed, imprisoned for life, etc.

I think Charles is quite Abel in many regards, though, as you say, not the bad ones!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 10 years ago

James and Jay, there was book written about him that is in the family---my aunt in Conn has it.  I have read it, so I am familiar with him.  He was quite a character for sure.  Did you see where he invented a diamond polishing machine while he was in prison?  I have some of the Connecticut coins he designed.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 10 years ago

Charlie, You are truly a Connecticut Yankee. That is cool. Do you have any pictures of the coins?

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) almost 10 years ago

I will come back later and post some pictures.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 10 years ago

Charles - I did see it!  In those days people in prison were to perform public service(s) as part of their payment of their "debts."  This guy, however, seemed to go way above and beyond that.  It seems like he picked what he would do as a form of petition to those he thought would be most helpful.  He is the ultimate schmoozer, and it served him well!  That's a pretty cool family story.

I collect numismatic coins.  Those are probably all in a museum somewhere, or in a tin box in someone's attic and maybe in a few collections.  There couldn't have been that many pressed.  Their numismatic value would lie in their small population.

Still, I say Charles, you are quite Abel!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 10 years ago

Jay here is a picture of one side of one of his coins.

Abel Buell Coins

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 10 years ago

Is this the copper penny he created? It sure looks old.

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) almost 10 years ago

This is very fun Charles!

The coins were struck over a period of time, 1785 -1788 and authorized by the state of Connecticut.  They were sub-contracted out to New Yorker merchants carpetbagging in Connecticut, however, with Abel Buell and James Atlee as the "probable" principal die-sinkers.  There were 15 different set varieties.  They are all similar with a bust on the obverse and sitting warrior on the reverse, but with many differences among them.

It's hard to tell without seeing the obverse, but this appears to be the reverse of the 1787 horned bust variety.  The populations are not listed.  What you show would be considered "good" condition, the lowest grade, and at that grade the series current values range from $50 to $200.  This coin above would be worth about $50.  In Extremely Fine condition this coin would be worth about $1300!

Abel was a talented boy!

A penny for your thoughts?

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 10 years ago

Yes James---yup pretty old.

Jay, the date is very difficult to determine----if I had to make a guess I would have said that it was 1887.  The other side is virtually all worn away with only a ghost of the original bust.  Has a lot of sentimental value:)

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 10 years ago

Charles - they were produced between 1785 and 1788, so if you can read an 87 I must have been correct in my thinking about it being the horned bust.  Any way you look at it, you have a real piece of family history in there.

My great, great, great, great grandfather was the aide de campe to the Duke of Wellington.  His name was Richard Harding.  I have his shaving kit, which only contains a couple of original implements.  Richard, and presumably this kit, was present at the Battle of Waterloo.  Inside one of the little drawers (the whole box is about 4"x5"x9") was a small oval wax seal of the Harding family crest.  It is the only example we have of that crest.  The box and seal is a very cool family artifact.  This would have been in Abel's era!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 10 years ago

Great post Jay.  You guys are fairly lucky, if all reports are correct my ancestors, about the time of the penny, were serving ale (of their own making) in the Gill Tavern (Gill County - not really a county, but a holding of an Irish Lord) while ogling waitresses. 

Posted by Jack Gilleland (Home Inspection and Investor Services, Clayton) almost 10 years ago

Didn't they all make their own ale then?  That's why the Mayflower stopped in Massachusetts - they ran out of beer.  They were actually on their way to Virginia.  True story.

Geez, Jack, go to bed!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 10 years ago

Hey Jay, your signature line says you made that comment at 4:02 am.  Your telling me it's late.

Posted by Jack Gilleland (Home Inspection and Investor Services, Clayton) almost 10 years ago

Jack - I get up every day between 3 and 4am.  It is my quiet time to get things done.  I go to bed about 9.  I think Poor Richard had something to day about that...!  Early to bed, early to rise...

YOU, my friend, made your comment at 230am - and had not been to bed yet!  Hence my comment...

I am just getting home now from a long day - my first one this morning was at 7am and the house was a good hour from mine.  So, I had to get things done, to get out of here to get things done, so I could get home to get things done, so I can go to bed early and get some real cool brain waves going!  Kinda getting things done...

Where was the Gill Tavern?

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 10 years ago

Map of N. IrelandJust to the east of Derry.

Posted by Jack Gilleland (Home Inspection and Investor Services, Clayton) almost 10 years ago

I do my first inspection (if I have 2) at 9 am and the second one a 1 pm.  Different strokes.

 

Posted by Jack Gilleland (Home Inspection and Investor Services, Clayton) almost 10 years ago

Jack - I can kind of extrapolate your name from Gill, which seems very Irish like Gilleland - both very Celtic.  I am Scotch mostly, with English and Irish in there.  I have never been over there.  Would love to go.  I'm sure it's much the same with you.

Saturday was unusual.  I usually start at 9 or even 10, due to traffic around here.  These folks on Saturday needed it early for their own reasons.  When there is a combo box on the door, like with many of these bank-owned deals, we can get in early.  Most agents program their supra-key boxes to 8 or 9am.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 10 years ago

Yeah Jay it obviously means from land of Gill. Very Celtic. Third generation old sod on dad's side and Irish, French and German on Mom's.  I would love to go.  Relatives still own Gill Tavern at a cross roads. Have written back and forth a few, but really would like to see it.

 

Posted by Jack Gilleland (Home Inspection and Investor Services, Clayton) almost 10 years ago
Well maybe its because that the minimum standard or requirement is more objective than subjective. Maybe its because there are more choices of building materials at the minimum standards. Is 2x6 construction better than 2x4 construction? How come 2x5 construction didn't catch on? I wonder if this is the year 2x8 construction takes off? To make it more interesting. The home is part of the American dream. America is has a lot of wonderful innovators as well as artists. The homes that reflect the American dream cover the entire spectrum, as we have all seen, not all the dreams translate well into reality. I admire the home inspectors that just tell it like it is. When they see an area that conforms to a standard they confirm it meets standards. When it doesn't conform to standard, the also call it out, give their best professional opinion on better or worse than standard, then recommend bringing in an expert to confirm or deny the suspicions of the home inspector.
Posted by Jim Mushinsky (Centsable Inspection) almost 10 years ago

Hi Jim - yes, good points!  As to 2x4 vs. 2x6, I guess the latter is stronger and allows more room for insulation.  There are applications that 2x6 walls are absolutely essential because of load needs.  But I had never considered 2x5!

Of course we know, in a modern context, 2x4 does not mean 2x4...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 10 years ago

:)  - Glad to see you got my 2x5 humor -  Reminded me of that old Audi commercial for their 5 cylinder engine, 4 is not enough, 6 is too many. 

Posted by Jim Mushinsky (Centsable Inspection) almost 10 years ago

I prefer 5 x 2's myself:)  I remember how when I moved to the West Coast I could actually buy 1x5 and 1x7's in the lumber yard----I thought I was in the twilight zone---never heard of such a thing in Upstate NY.  Do you guys have those dimensions in your areas?

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 10 years ago

Sorry guys - I have been so busy I have not even gotten on AR or any other site, except to answer things like this.  Booked solid now through next Tuesday, and drabs beyond that. 

I have never heard of a 2x5's - I was just a' joshen'.  As to the 1 by's - when I have needed them I just rip them down on my table saw.  I cannot get those sizes pre-cut in the stores around here.  You west coasters are weird...   So, what is a 1x5 or a 1x7 really - 1x3 7/8 and 1x5 2/9?  When I cut my own they are really 1   by whatever I need!

Using a 2x5 is probably like drinking skim half & half...

Jim - I did get your humor, and Charles's above, although I pretended not to (I think he's dyslexic and didn't want to hurt his feelings).

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 10 years ago

Jay, 1x5's are 4-1/2" (give or take), 1x7's are 6-1/2" (give or take)-----there is an old joke about 4x2's---I will see if I can remember it and get back to you.  Here are some more readily available sizes that were not common back east:  3x3's, 9' and 10' plywood, 4x14's (given way to paralams, gluelams and microlams now)

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 10 years ago

Charles - you are the man!  As for me, I am glad I am not on the lam...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 10 years ago

OK, Jay, my kitchen pipes froze this morning (gotta love the cold snap), meaning the builder "forgot" to insulate them properly ... or was just performing to code. What's the statute of limitations for builder stupidity?

Posted by Lanna almost 10 years ago

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