A Blackfoot-based home inspector recently joined an elite group in his industry.
For Steve DeGiulio, being a Board-Certified Master Inspector is a testament to years of hard work with his business, Advantage Home & Property Inspections, which he has run since 2007 and serves all of Southeast Idaho.
To become a CMI through the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI), one has to have done at least 1,000 paid inspections, been in business for at least three years, submit to periodic background checks and abide by a strict code of ethics, in addition to completing 24 hours every year in continuing education and paying a one-time fee.
“I feel like I’ve done the education. I’ve done the work,” DeGiulio said of attaining the master certification. “I don’t do anything else but this 100 percent of the time. I do 350, 400 home inspections per year. I’m just one man. ... I’ve done my time. I have the education. I take my time and I do the due diligence to the clients. They’re 100 percent the most important, and I feel like I should be (a CMI). … It shows that you put in the time and the effort to become the best of the best.”
A testament to how rare it is to get this certification is the fact that there are currently only four other CMIs in Idaho — three in the Coeur d’Alene area and one in Eagle.
“All InterNACHI CMI inspectors, we’re dedicated to quality, to continuing education and being able to adjust that education into your experience,” DeGiulio said. “Another thing is we’re all vetted, so all CMIs are subject to criminal background checks every so often, whenever they want. You have to qualify through education, years of experience and paid inspections.”
Given his certified mastery of the home inspection industry, the East Idaho Business Journal recently chatted with DeGiulio to talk about his profession.
East Idaho Business Journal: How many houses do you inspect in a normal week?
Steve DeGiulio: I take my time and I do two a day. That’s because I don’t want to worry about being on time to my next one and take away from what I’m doing now. I don’t think that’s right.
EIBJ: How long does it take for each house?
DeGiulio: Depending on the square footage, usually about two and a half to three hours, and my reports are finished at the end of the inspection. That’s why I like my clients to get there, and I walk them through it and I go over it and answer questions. I encourage them when they get home to read it line for line and not just look at pictures, and they can call me at any time and ask any questions that they need. I also do consulting if they’re going to do changes later or they just want my opinion on something. I don’t charge anything for that.
EIBJ: What special services do you offer?
DeGiulio: I also do thermal imaging as part of my inspection and I do not charge for that. I’ve been doing thermal for almost seven years now. I believe I was the first one in Southeast Idaho to start doing thermal inspection. I think an inspection without thermal imaging is an inferior inspection because you can’t find water without being able to see it. Or any anomaly that comes up, I can verify what it is. … The first thing I do when I get to the house is I do a thermal imaging scan of everywhere and then I start running water and I run water for a long time and I keep scanning periodically, so if something starts to appear, we get the moisture reader and there we go, we’ve found the leak. … You wouldn’t see it without a thermal camera because it’s just dripping. It’s not running enough to make the ceiling fall in. … It’s above the standards of practice, but (thermal imaging is) a tool I think everybody should use.
We do have radon in Southeast Idaho. Some areas have a little more than others. You can have it and your neighbors won’t, and I believe in radon testing, but that’s a machine that has to be recalibrated every year, and that’s a 40-hour test, so you’re going back and forth to pick it up first and go back and set it and then pick it up. We do charge for that.
EIBJ: Would you recommend people hire their own home inspectors instead of going with whomever their real estate agent sends them to?
DeGiulio: That’s kind of a personal choice. Most people, they pick their Realtor because they believe in them and they trust them. All the Realtors I work with, they’re about, “Let’s sell a safe and sound home,” not, “We came back with a bad inspection, let’s find you another house and find you another inspector.” Trust who your heart’s with. Do your due diligence on who you’re hiring and you’ll end up with what you want. Unfortunately, we don’t have crystal balls so we can see the future. But sometimes there are tell-tale signs in the past of things that have went on.
EIBJ: Should you ever get a second opinion on a home inspection?
DeGiulio: Whenever we find something, that’s when we call in for a qualified professional, like a licensed electrician, a licensed roofer. And then we say, “We need this guy to come in here and take a look at this” and then he does it, and he does the repairs. And that’s where I say, “There’s no reason for me to come back and look at their work” because that actually turns liabilities over back to me because they’re saying it’s good, so I’m not going to warranty somebody’s else’s work. But there’s some little things of course I don’t mind going back and doing that. Myself, I don’t charge for that either. I do advise people to shop around. Realtors usually give you two or three names and they’ll say, “Hey, we like this guy because his reports are like this, or this guy does this, or this guy has that” and stuff like that, and that could sway it.
EIBJ: Should you look for an inspector with a certain certification over a different one?
DeGiulio: I prefer InterNACHI because they have strict education rules, but they also have a lot of education that’s free online. You can take online classes all day long. Plus, they have a really awesome once-a-year event. You can pick up a lot of good education there. Of course, I recommend someone that is certified. Maybe I’d recommend somebody that has a background in construction. Everybody has a strong suit in what they do. Some people (specialize in roofs), some people are structural, moisture, stuff like that. But if you do what a home inspector asks you to do, then you usually stay out of trouble.
EIBJ: Are there certain things that would come back in an inspection and maybe you’d recommend the person not buy the house?
DeGiulio: That’s a tough question. I will tell somebody that unless you have the money or the knowledge and can do this — are you buying a fixer upper or are you buying a move-in ready? There have been houses where I’ve told some people, “Unless you want to put out some money, I don’t think this is one you should probably get.” But I don’t know how much their offer is on the house, how much they beat them up on the price. That’s where we trust our Realtor because the Realtor, they’re experienced and they know what you can ask for and what you can’t. It depends on your price range.
EIBJ: What are the big things you’re looking for that could go wrong?
DeGiulio: Plumbing. Roof issues is big. Heating and air conditioning is big, especially when there’s issues with carbon monoxide. You don’t want anything that’s going to kill anybody and make you sick. Moisture is a big thing. That’s a big expense. Leaking pipes, moisture intrusions in the basement walls. … Most reports also have a summary page, and that’s usually an inspector’s opinion — safety issues and/or things that need to be repaired sooner than later. But there’s a lot of issues in a house that may be more important to you than they are to the inspector, so it may not be placed in the summary page. However, as long as it’s there, you can still ask for that to be repaired.
EIBJ: Should you get home inspected if you’re looking to sell it?
DeGiulio: You can have five different inspectors inspect a house or a property and you’ll get five different reports. I went to shool for this down in Utah, and they say every five to seven years a person should have their inspected just because there’s things going on that you’re just used to living with. Should you? You could. It’s called a pre-listing inspection. You could have that done, and I’ve seen people do it. … It gives the seller a peace of mind that they’re at least trying to do their due diligence and sell a good, safe house. But most buyers won’t trust someone else’s inspection and they’ll go with who they know.
EIBJ: What do you like most about your job?
DeGiulio: I like not being in the same place and seeing a lot of nice houses, and I get to work with a lot of great people.
I enjoy seeing first-time homebuyers when they see a house that they say feels like home. That gives me a kick, and knowing that I’m getting them into a good house. That’s one of my biggest satisfactions — finding big-ticket items that wouldn’t have been caught if they wouldn’t have done a home inspection. They would have gotten themselves in a financial issue and they wouldn’t know how to fix it themselves. It’s good to be able to help people out. It doesn’t always have to be about the money.
EIBJ: What’s the most frustrating part of your job?
DeGiulio: The hard thing about my job is trying to be at two places at one time, or one of the main things is crawl spaces. I’ve gotten four hobo spider bites over the past four years out of crawl spaces. Those are the things I dislike.
EIBJ: Is there anything you’d like to debunk about your job?
SD: Some people think that some inspectors are in cahoots with the Realtors. I don’t think so. Realtors like who they use, and you get used to using someone and that’s who they use. That’s why they’ll also give you three cards or a few different names of one that they do like.
It’s not as easy as people think it is. There’s a lot of education. There’s a lot of hands-on training. You can be book smart all you want, but I can go up to a house and know what year it was built, the style it’s built. There will be particular things I’ll know what to look for in that house, and that’s just over years of experience. Experience is a definite thing that you do what to look for in an inspector, or in anything you do in life. You always want the best doctor, the most experienced in what you’re having done.
EIBJ: Is there anything else you want to add?
DeGiulio: I do want to reiterate about how it’s set up for the day you’re there. I do encourage people to be there at least at the end of an inspection because you just get so much more knowledge on where things are other than a picture or just a sentence. I encourage them to get a hold of me and call me if you have any questions at all because that’s the dumbest question — the one that’s not asked.