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How Important is a Home Inspection?

How important is a Home Inspection? PJ Braun joins us to break down the importance of home inspections, the ways in which an inspection might be contracted for, what the process of negotiating a home inspection looks like in a fairly balanced market, and how a truly knowledgeable agent can pay dividends to buyers before, during, and after the inspection process.




Full Episode



PJ (00:00):

Because I think if a house has really good bones and it's been well taken care of, that's what's most important when you're purchasing a house.

Adam (00:16):

Welcome to Episode Six of Keeping It Real. I'm your host, Adam Tabaka. In today's episode we're getting into the nitty gritty of home inspections with P.J. Braun. PJ's a realtor with the Poole Braun team at Long & Foster in Old Town, Alexandria. A native of Alexandria, PJ graduated from Ole Miss with a bachelor's degree in real estate. He has five years' experience in the industry and specializes in buyer representation. In 2020, he personally closed $15 million in sales, and the Poole Braun team closed $66 million in sales last year. When he is not working, PJ loves to golf, fish, hunt, train his dog, and explore new restaurants. He's a third-generation agent, realtor to royalty if there is such a thing. It's my honor to introduce the one and the only P.J. Braun. PJ, thanks for joining us today.

PJ (01:07):

Yeah, absolutely Adam. Thanks for having me. I'm excited to do this with you. I know we've been trying to link up for a little bit here.

Adam (01:14):

It's great to have you on. It's great to. So we're going to get into home inspections today, but before we do that there's a couple of questions I like to ask each of my guests. So tell me what is kind of the biggest misconception among the general public maybe, about your profession as a real estate agent?

PJ (01:35):

Sure. Yeah. I think there's many, but the one that comes to mind is that people think this is a pretty easy industry to be in. There's a very low barrier to entry, so it's not difficult to get your real estate license. So I think a lot of people think that oh, I'll get my license and immediately start selling homes, and start selling 10, 15, 20 million dollars in your first year or two. And that's just not the case. It takes a lot of hard work and really work ethic, because you don't have a boss, you are your own boss. So it's easy to wake up and okay, I'm going to watch Netflix right in the morning. You can do whatever you want, but I can assure you, you're not going to make money that way.

            Or the people who get their license and say oh, I'm going to do this on the side as a part-time realtor. I've personally never met a part-time realtor. It's pretty difficult to do that. You get consumed in it. But to me that's probably the biggest misconception is getting your license and immediately selling homes. It took me two years to really start building trust with clients and building a client database, even with the name recognition of being on a team that is successful.

Adam (02:55):

Okay. Well, so tell us a little bit about that. So you're a third-generation realtor. You come from a line of a lot of success in your family. What was that transition like? So it sounds like you weren't just kind of handed on a platter, here are a bunch of clients, go work with them. You had to earn, it sounds like.

PJ (03:12):

Yeah, I did. So, the third generation started with, or the first generation was my grandmother, Claire Braun. She started in 1977, I think she got her license. And then both of my parents were licensed in '99 and then 2000. And then here I was in 2016. So I've always known I wanted... I always knew I wanted to get into real estate, that's why I got a bachelor's degree in real estate. But it was tough. When I first joined I thought it was going to be easier, as I think a lot of people do. And especially being a younger agent I think that it was hard to breakthrough trust in clients. They kind of see that I'm young, so they assume that I'm unexperienced. And I was. I mean the first year, I just totally, the saying fake it till you make it is exactly what I did.

            I just tried to immerse myself in as much education as possible, going to seminars, talking to successful realtors, and just trying to get as much knowledge as I could. And it took a while to be able to go to an inspection or go to a showing and not be kind of nervous about sounding like I know what I'm talking about. And I tried not to BS people like, hey, I know everything. It was like, if somebody asked me a question and I didn't know it, I was very honest. I was like, look, I'm not as well-versed in that topic, but I can assure you, with a great support team and I'll make sure to get that answer for you. And I just think it is pretty important to be honest with that. You want to sound like you know what you're talking about, but don't say things that you don't know you're talking about, because somebody will call you out pretty quickly.

Adam (05:02):

Yeah. Yeah. They'll talk to somebody else who'll say, what is he talking about? Yeah. I mean your experience and mine mirrors it very much in terms of, yeah it's a lot of education that first year and then just it is a lot of hard work. What do you think is probably the most under-appreciated aspect of what you do?

PJ (05:25):

As a whole, as an industry as a whole, I think you're really like a therapist I would say, because we deal with in one transaction there could be six people involved in that transaction. Two sellers, two buyers, the listing agent, the buyer's agent, then you have the buyer's parents, and then you have his uncle who flips houses. And so there is a lot of personalities that you have to manage, and really just trying to keep everything together. So I think a lot of people don't realize that. I mean, you're a realtor, but I joke around like I'm a part-time therapist. A lot of people in real estate, they're buying a house or you're selling a house, and they want to tell you everything about their life. All of their drama and finances and everything else like that.

            So just trying to kind of manage the transaction, especially when you're faced with some adversity. Most of the time that comes from an inspection. Things coming up, repairs, buyers wanting them repaired or asking for money. And just trying to keep the deal together and keep the peace. Because I think especially, reputation is all you have in this industry, so working well with others is what I really try and pride myself on. Becoming the best friend of the listing agent so they want to work with us. I think that's probably under-appreciated too. A lot of people don't realize how much weight that carries. Having a great relationship with the other agent is super important. I think a lot of agents don't put enough stock into that and you should.

Adam (07:04):

Totally agree. Totally agree. I mean, at the other agent on the other end, it can make a world of difference one way or another.

PJ (07:11):


Adam (07:13):

So let's get into the home inspection process a little bit here. So, in your opinion, how important is it for a buyer to get a home inspection during the process of buying a home?

PJ (07:29):

It's extremely important. I don't care if it's your first time buying a house or it's your tenth house that you've bought. Each house is different. Especially in different states. We have different issues with homes in this area as you may in Florida or any other state. So I think it's super important to get an inspection. Whether it's before you write an offer, whether it's part of your offer or it's a home inspection contingency, or even after you've purchased the house, which I know we're going to get into that later. But regardless, the answer is, it's very important.

Adam (08:08):

So with that in mind, what are the things that are most key for buyers to look for, ask about, during the home inspection process? Because there's a lot of things that go into that.

PJ (08:21):

Yeah. There is a lot of components in a house. And I think that the biggest things to look for are your big-ticket items. So we will call those anything that costs you more than a thousand dollars to repair or replace. So off the top of my head, roof, windows, HVAC, your water heater, and then usually throw in structural stuff there. Because all of those items are costly. If you had to replace a roof, depending on how big your house is, you're looking at 15/20,000. Windows, could be more than that. HVAC, same. So those are all 10 to $15,000, give or take. So it's important to know the age of those and whether they're in good shape? Have they been maintenanced? Do they need service? Do you have to replace them or things like that. So those are the biggest items.

            Of course there's a lot of small things that can add up, but I tend to try and tell my clients look, those are what we're really concerned with. Anything else that's less than that should be something that is normal maintenance on a house. You know things break. Houses, it's just, they are unpredictable. But the small things. I think a lot of people get hung up on the small things, but it's important to try and look at the bigger picture and look at the bones of the house. Because I think if a house has really good bones and it's been well taken care of, that's what's most important when you're purchasing a house in my opinion.

Adam (09:55):

Well, so talk us through now, for anybody who hasn't purchased a home, or maybe anybody who's bought a home and waved the contingency or waved the home inspection. What does the process look like throughout the process of buying when you're getting a home inspection? Talk us through from start to finish what that entails.

PJ (10:17):

Yeah. So I mean, typically where two years ago, three years ago, it was very common to have a home inspection contingency in the contract. I mean that was just normal. Now we've been in this ultra-competitive market, where houses are getting 5 to 25 offers, and you can guarantee that whoever's going to win it are waiving all of your contingencies. I know we're just going to talk about the home inspection right now. So I think it's important to try and utilize some different options that you have with an inspection, because there's three different inspections you can really do or not do.

            I'll say the two. You have one that's right to negotiate. So you do an inspection, it's in your contract, you have a certain amount of time to conduct the inspection and a certain amount of time to negotiate it after that. That's the normal one that you would hope to get in there that gives you the most protection, that you do the inspection and maybe some things are wrong, you try and negotiate with the seller whether they're going to repair them or they're going to give you a credit. Which I typically tell my clients to go for the credit, because our idea of fixed might not be the seller's idea of fixed. They may go with the cheapest contractor they can find just to get the job done and satisfy the contract. But I personally like to be able to pick those contractors to do the work.

            Then, the next level would be right to void, or a lot of people call it information only, which our intent is we're just going to do an inspection and unless something major comes back then we'll void the contract. You still are protected. You're not going to lose your deposit.

            And then not doing one. Which has happened. I mean, some people are very comfortable. If this is a house that they purchased, they've purchased many houses, then they're like, okay, you know what? We looked around and everything looks solid, anything we find we're willing to take on. So I think, when you're talking about the actual process, you identify a house, you get the contract accepted, you identify a home inspector that you want to use. I know we're getting a little off topic there, but we'll kind of get into that-

Adam (12:35):

Oh we're good. We're good. No, we're good.

PJ (12:37):

So now we'll talk about that. So inspectors. I always love to give my clients three different inspectors and let them choose like hey, these are who we've worked with, we've had great experiences with before, usually let them look at the reviews online and then they schedule it. And these are not just inspectors we just picked off of Angie's List or Yellow Pages. These are people we've worked with before and that we trust. And I think it's really important for inspectors to educate the buyer on the house.

            The home inspector's job is not to find out like what's wrong with the house. If an inspector comes up and says, oh yeah, we're going to find everything wrong with the house. That's not what I want because then immediately red flags are raised. I want somebody who's going to walk into the house and tell them the maintenance that you need to do on a house to extend the life expectancy of your big-ticket item. So showing you where the water shut-off is, showing you where your hose bibbs shut-offs are to winterize in the colder months. Things like that. So that's typically how I get my clients to pick an inspector. It's giving them some options.

Adam (13:50):

It's smart. So, when we're in a hyper-competitive sellers' market, and everyone's waving home inspections like we've talked about just to win the deal, what can a buyer do to protect themselves as best they can?

PJ (14:09):

Sure. So this past couple years we've seen a ton of pre-offer inspections. And what that looks like is generally, you go to a house, you see it, you fall in love with it. You know it's going to be competitive, you've talked to the listing agent, they're like we have three or four plus offers coming in, so we can pretty much assume someone's going to waive it. But you still want to do an inspection and know what you're getting into. Then if the agent's allowing it, which most people do and most sellers do allow it, they'll allow you an hour or a time period to go in with an inspector and do a pre-offer inspection or a walk and talk. So you pay a couple hundred bucks, anywhere from 2 to $300 is what I found, to do a walk and talk.

            So you're with the inspector. It's going to be very similar to a full inspection, but you're not going to get a report at the end of it. So oftentimes they'll tell you, look, bring a notebook with you, record it, take pictures. And that way you can go through and look at those big-ticket items and know what you're getting into before writing an offer. So what you would hope is, you do the pre-offer inspection and there's maybe a couple small things or maybe it's just perfect, and you're comfortable waving your inspection. So that gives you another layer of protection, and comfort really, because buyers want to be comfortable with their purchase. They want to make sure they're not getting a house with mold in it, with termites, with whatever else can go wrong in a house. So I think that's a really great option and we've seen a ton of it lately. So inspectors are very used to it, getting in in a very short period of time and just trying their very best to educate you.

            Even if you do that, let's say you end up getting the contract, and you go to closing and... I always recommend to my clients, look, I probably would still do a full inspection, not necessarily to find more things that are wrong but to get a report that you can look at maybe a year to five years down the road. You're thinking, oh, what did that inspector say? About the roof? Was it brand-new or was it on the end of its life? And you can go look at that report and see, oh okay, five years ago he said we had about five years left on our roof, so we should look into replacing it. So that's why I really like to do an inspection even after you've purchased the home. It's a great education process too. And I think it's just a great way to get as much knowledge as you can.

Adam (16:41):

Excellent. Good advice. So once a buyer has settled on the house, and if they want to have work to be done that maybe came up during the home inspection, but they didn't negotiate it out as part of the settlement, the home inspection contingency, who can they turn to at that point?

PJ (17:02):

Yeah. So, I mean, us personally on the Poole Braun team, we have a list of preferred contractors that's probably seven pages long. Anywhere from a general contractor if you want to update your bathroom or your kitchen, to a plumber if you got a clogged drain, electricians, lawn care, that's always important too. So we have a really vast list of contractors that we've worked with, and that our clients have worked with and given great feedback that they've done a great job and that they were professional and that they had reasonable pricing.

            So I tell my clients look, a transaction may end but that's not where our relationship ends. We have a ton of resources that we can offer up. Of course there's a lot of resources online, but it helps to know people that we've worked with before and that our clients have worked with before. So I think it's really important to utilize those resources that we have. And like I said, I tell people, it could be two, three years down the road, give me a call if you have a question about the house or you need a recommendation. We do it all the time. And I love to give business to those contractors because they know what they're doing. And then I know personally that they're going to give the best service that they can to my clients. And I think that's really valuable information to have.

Adam (18:30):

And even if somebody hasn't worked with you before, if they need a contractor they can go to you?

PJ (18:36):

Believe me. I've had a number, especially on social media, people that have maybe a relative that's a realtor or their best friend's a realtor. So I obviously understand there's going to be loyalty there. I'm never upset by it. Maybe I'm a little upset by it, but I understand. So then they'll come out, I'll see they bought a house six months ago with one of their friends or relatives or whatever the case may be, and then they ask me for a contractor recommendation. I'm more than happy to give that out to them. Again, I just want them to get the best service possible and the best price and somebody who does good work. And in this area there's hundreds of hundreds of contractors. So it's hard to kind of pinpoint one picking a random one off of a website.

Adam (19:27):

Yep. For sure. So before we wrap up here let me ask you, what is the craziest thing that's ever turned up at one of your home inspections?

PJ (19:39):

We've seen a lot of wild things. I think a lot of the crazier things happen when we're the listing agent, because we work with an estate attorney and we do a lot of distressed properties. So sometimes our investor clients look at these houses that been vacant for five years, they're filled with black mold or whatever the case may be. So one of the crazier things that I found with my investor client when we were inspecting a house, there was a fire in the house, there was a really bad fire. So pretty much 90% of the house was affected by it, half of the house was basically just caved in. And we knew that, we were looking at it as a tear down. We were just looking at the lot, looking at the foundation to see if it can be salvaged. And we go in the property and there were dolls, ceramic dolls and porcelain dolls everywhere, with charred and burnt faces. And to this day I've had nightmares about that property. That was one of the crazier ones that I've seen.

            It usually has... crazy things that we find usually have to deal with properties that are abandoned or seriously neglected. So everything is left in the house, like as somebody lived there yesterday, it's just been moldy and mildewy forever. So to me, I love those type of properties though because it's always exciting for me to go to see that. There's never a dull moment in this career. And so I really love that part.

Adam (21:13):

You like the nightmares, is what you're saying.

PJ (21:16):

I mean, essentially, it's good stories, it's good marketing posted on social media, and everybody responds like there's no way that actually exists and I'm like that's yeah. And we see crazy, we've seen coffins in attics before. Somebody who worked at a morgue, and to my knowledge they were empty, but still you walk in there and they're like, okay, let's get out of here. But that's fun.

            And then the inspection too. I mean, I'll kind of just touch base on that really quick. For me, I love to go to inspections. It's one of my favorite things to do because I get so much knowledge from these inspectors. The more you go to, the more you know what to look for. So I think it's great as a realtor, as a buyer's agent, to know what you're talking about. Not like you're a professional inspector, but you can kind of give them some insight on what age the HVAC is because you can see that in the manufacture date or the serial number.

            So as many as you can go to, go to, because you learn so much. And if you live in a house or you own a house, you're inevitably going to come across problems that you need to address. And there's a lot of times I'm like, ah, I remember. My inspector told me about that a couple years ago. But yeah, never a dull moment with inspections.

Adam (22:31):

Awesome. Well, PJ, I really appreciate you coming on today. Love to have you back again at some point in the future. Good luck with all of your future inspections, and go out there and and make another 15, 20, 30 million this year.

PJ (22:46):

Trying to. It's a competitive market, but we're managing as best we can. Just fortunate to be busy.

Adam (22:53):

Awesome. Take care now, PJ

PJ (22:55):

Thanks Adam. Thanks for having me.

Adam (22:57):

You betcha.


Adam Tabaka

Long & Foster Old Town Alexandria, VA - Realty
400 King Street
Alexandria, VA 22314
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