Chasing a Dream
It all started, as it usually does, with a dream: To move my family out of the city, provide my parents with a reliable forever home, and allow my wife and children space to wander, explore, and create. During a brief visit to West Tennessee, we fell in love with the area and returned to Houston committed to making the dream happen.
We promptly put an offer on a 7 acre farm in Tennessee and put our own house up on the market. This wasn’t our first out-of-state home buying experience, so we knew it meant trusting a “professional” to inspect our potential investment, using his findings to make a clear decision several states away, and hoping it works out. We casually chose a home inspector from our realtor’s recommended list and eagerly awaited the report, knowing the nearly century old behemoth we were interested in could very well hold some dark secrets.
Making the Move
We had our hands full in Houston with a high demand market, nit-picky buyers, and dealing with tedious home repairs with each offer that fell through. After the third home inspector came traipsing through our house in a 2 week period, we were weary with the redundancy of the process. Putting a home seller through what we were going through just seemed cruel, so we determined to make our dream home work “as is” as long as the inspection report didn’t come back with any major red flags. When our inspector called, we were relieved. There was very little concern in his findings except for a few “minor” areas of damage to the original hardwood flooring that could “easily be patched”. Our real estate agent echoed his notes, sharing that she had to replace a few boards in an older home she purchased in the area and it was an easy fix. In hindsight, it should have seemed too good to be true on a 94 year old house, but compromised by our desire to move forward (since our home had finally sold), we took the report at face value and pushed on. The chaos that usually accompanies the moving process soon swallowed us whole, as we attempted to pack up my parent’s home as well as ours, while simultaneously balancing the process of a home sale in town and a home purchase 700 miles away. The dream was very much alive and we were eager to hit the road.
A Wake Up Call
Weeks later, after mountains of paperwork, 100s of moving boxes, and a 2 day drive, we finally arrived in Weakly County, Tn. The drive was surreal. Rows of corn and towering Maple trees were a welcome sight for this city slicker and I was overcome with peace. We pulled in to the driveway of our new home, sure of our decision and hopeful for the future. We made an enthusiastic dash through the front door, even with travel-weary legs.
Our hopes crumbled in minutes when I promptly fell through the kitchen floor. (Didn’t see that coming? Yah, us either). Discovering a live termite nest, water damage, and rotten floor joists, we scrambled to reach out to our realtor, suddenly very aware of how blindly we had trusted the home inspector’s report without question. Our great dream suddenly felt like a big mistake. The moments and days following were a blur of chaos and survival. We had a termite company treat the home in its entirety and we hired help to remove 300sq feet of rotted floor (4 layers in some places) and non-salvageable cabinetry before my wife even had a chance to unpack, let alone prepare a meal in her new kitchen. It was sickening.
More Like a Nightmare
Once the demolition started, there was no turning back. We were soon down to bare dirt in a third of the house, “indoor camping” in the dining room with a George Foreman Grill, and washing our dishes in the bathtub. Thankfully, we enjoyed the hospitality of many of our new neighbors who provided meals, moral support, and a very warm welcome. When the moving vans arrived (that’s another adventure for another time) we piled the boxes up in the back half of the house, still living out of suitcases. My parents soldiered on, mostly on adrenaline I would imagine, and my wife smiled through gritted teeth, but it was a mess. I blamed myself and I was determined to “fix it” somehow. Unfortunately, my 20 years of retail and banking experience left me feeling helpless. I didn’t know the first thing about construction, structural engineering, or even simple home repairs. To be frank, I was a white collar home owner staring at a blue collar problem, and I was red with shame. Not exactly the all American dream I was going for.
As more of the house’s issues came to light, I begrudgingly realized this was just the beginning. So, I decided to seize the opportunity before me to learn the trade skills I would need to put the rest of the house in order for my family’s safety. I shadowed our hired handy man like a gnat, asking questions with eager ambition. I hauled the termite infested rubbish to the dump by the truckload and learned everything I could about the foundation structure, joist placement, and flooring assembly. The kitchen floor was carefully rebuilt and eventually cabinets, cook tops, and a sink was put in to place and ready for use. A proud feat, but as I said, only the beginning.
Our first month was also peppered with burst water pipes, leaky roofs, and a broken well pump – each a learning process for me as well. I became fast friends with the local hardware store clerks and pestered the electrician like a curious toddler. I gained an intimate understanding of our home, inside and out (and certainly underneath). It became glaring how very little I knew about the previous homes I had lived in, on a primative level. I was soon replacing corroded plumbing lines, rewiring light switches, and hanging floor joists with confidence, and even built an entire in-law apartment for my parents! Although I came to enjoy some of the projects, they were relentless, expensive, and the renovation lifestyle took a great toll on our family.
In fact, the next 4 years were spent reliving scenes from “The Money Pit” while desperately holding on to the belief that despite all of the cost, labor, and stress, it would all be worth it. We tangled with thoughts of feeling cheated, duped, and ashamed, wondering who to blame. We tried not to allow the experience to make us bitter. And eventually, we resolved to find a way to ensure other unsuspecting dream chasers didn’t step in to the same fate. But, how? Where did it go wrong?
A New Dream
It was during one of those Tom Hanks dangling from the second story, cocooned in a Persian rug moments when it dawned on me. The home inspector was the lynch pin. He was the fail-safe we relied on. His was the voice we trusted. And he failed us. Of course, I could still kick myself for not researching his credibility, hiring a “second opinion” on such an important investment, or finding a way to attend the inspection myself, but when it comes down to it –A home inspector has the power to protect a client from expensive surprises, the responsibility of providing information essential for fair negotiations, and the honor of speaking for the home, honestly and objectively – and he failed. With no promise or guarantee, we trusted him. So, we failed.
It was then that I decided that home buyers deserve better than that. They deserve to know exactly what they’re buying when they’re buying it. They shouldn’t feel vulnerable to surprise after they’re handed the keys. And, just in case, they should have some assurance to stand on if surprises do come up.
I know our story isn’t unique. Sellers don’t always know what fundamental issues they are offering to buyers. And buyers don’t always know what to look for. That’s why the role of home inspector is such an essential part of the process. They are the lynch pin: The fine line between a satisfying home buying experience and complete devastation, the difference between hope realized and hope lost, and the unsung hero (or inescapable villain in our case) of real estate. When this truth became apparent to me, I sought out the education, training, and license requirements necessary to become a professional home inspector and started my own company. (I would have even bought a cape and tights if my wife would let me). I truly feel called to stand between home buyers and the heart-wrenching mess we endured. Our dream is still very much alive, despite the rocky path we took to get here. But, I have a new dream now. I started Tennessee Inspection Services, LLC. because I believe there is a better way. And I aim to make that way available to those in our community.
The job of a home inspector is simple: “to identify and document any significant structural or mechanical defects”. But, I didn’t become a home inspector to fall in line with minimum professional expectation, but rather to set a NEW standard of service.
I believe the process needs transforming.
I believe the decision to buy a home should be empowering.
I believe real estate investments should be made with confidence.
And I believe a home inspector who truly has your best interests in mind is the key to making that happen.
Inspecting houses is my job.
Assisting those who have the courage to chase a dream is my passion.
Tennessee Inspection Services. Dresden, TN. 731-699-0676