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Unregulated Risks: The Perils of Home Building in Rural Texas

Mar 20, 24 • News

If you’ve encountered the poor craftsmanship of unregulated Texas home builders in a city setting teeming with municipal building inspectors, brace yourself for a rude awakening should you opt to relocate to the countryside.

 

In unincorporated areas of Texas where building codes aren’t in place, one can easily envision a scenario where builders have unchecked freedom to prioritize profits over quality and safety. With no prescribed standards to adhere to, it’s likely that many, if not all, builders will resort to cutting corners or employing subpar materials to save money, thereby jeopardizing the structural integrity and durability of homes.

 

This lack of oversight opens the door to substandard construction practices, ranging from flawed foundation work and inferior framing to insufficient insulation and faulty electrical or plumbing installations. Moreover, in the absence of enforced codes, there’s no mechanism for holding builders accountable for failing to meet even the most basic standards of workmanship.

 

In such a scenario, unscrupulous builders will exploit unsuspecting homebuyers, presenting properties that seem sound superficially but conceal significant structural flaws or safety hazards. This absence of transparency and accountability inevitably leads to costly repairs, safety issues, and potentially legal disputes for homeowners.

 

Furthermore, without building codes to address environmental concerns like floodplain management, wildfire prevention, and energy efficiency, rural homes in Texas become more susceptible to natural disasters and are burdened with higher utility expenses over time.

 

In sum, the lack of adopted building codes in unincorporated areas of Texas sets the stage for potential calamity, where the interests of builders and developers take precedence over the welfare and safety of rural residents.

Empowering Independent Professional ICC-Certified New Residential Building Code Inspectors with AI: A Vision for the Future

Mar 14, 24 • News

 

In the realm of new residential construction, ensuring compliance with building codes is a critical aspect that directly impacts the safety, quality, and legality of structures. Independent professional ICC-certified new residential building code inspectors play a crucial role in this process, meticulously inspecting construction projects to verify adherence to established codes and standards. As we look ahead to the coming decade, the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) promises to revolutionize the way these inspectors operate, offering a plethora of benefits that enhance efficiency, accuracy, and effectiveness. In this article, we’ll delve into how AI can empower independent professional ICC-certified inspectors and reshape the landscape of new residential building code inspection.

 

  1. Streamlined Code Compliance Verification

 

One of the primary challenges faced by ICC-certified inspectors is the time-consuming process of manually verifying compliance with intricate building codes and regulations. AI-driven systems can streamline this process by automatically analyzing construction plans, documentation, and inspection data to identify potential code violations. By leveraging machine learning algorithms, inspectors can quickly pinpoint deviations from code requirements, allowing for more efficient and accurate code compliance verification.

 

  1. Enhanced Data Analysis and Pattern Recognition

 

AI excels at processing and analyzing large volumes of data, making it an invaluable tool for ICC-certified inspectors tasked with assessing complex construction projects. By harnessing AI-driven analytics, inspectors can identify patterns, trends, and anomalies in construction data that may indicate potential code violations or areas of concern. This data-driven approach enables inspectors to make more informed decisions and recommendations, ultimately leading to safer and higher-quality residential constructions.

 

  1. Predictive Analytics for Code Enforcement

 

AI can enable ICC-certified inspectors to adopt a proactive approach to code enforcement by leveraging predictive analytics to anticipate potential code violations before they occur. By analyzing historical data, sensor readings, and other relevant information, AI systems can forecast areas of non-compliance and prioritize inspections accordingly. This predictive approach not only helps inspectors allocate resources more effectively but also prevents costly code violations and safety hazards in new residential constructions.

 

  1. Remote Inspection Capabilities

 

AI-powered drones equipped with advanced cameras and sensors offer ICC-certified inspectors the ability to conduct remote inspections of new residential construction sites with unprecedented precision and efficiency. These drones can capture high-resolution images and videos of building exteriors, rooftops, and other inaccessible areas, providing inspectors with valuable insights without the need for physical presence on-site. Remote inspection capabilities not only save time and resources but also enable inspectors to cover larger areas and identify potential code violations from different perspectives.

 

  1. Augmented Reality (AR) Assistance

 

Augmented reality (AR) technology, powered by AI algorithms, offers ICC-certified inspectors a powerful tool for on-site inspections of new residential construction projects. By overlaying digital information onto their field of view, AR-enabled devices can provide inspectors with real-time guidance, annotations, and contextual data as they navigate through the inspection process. This hands-free approach enhances inspectors’ efficiency and accuracy while enabling them to focus on critical inspection tasks without distractions.

 

  1. Automated Reporting and Documentation

 

Writing comprehensive inspection reports is a time-consuming task for ICC-certified inspectors. However, AI-powered systems can automate the report generation process by extracting relevant information from inspection data and generating detailed reports with minimal human intervention. These reports can include visualizations, annotations, and recommendations based on AI analysis, providing builders, contractors, and regulatory authorities with actionable insights into the code compliance status of new residential constructions.

 

  1. Continuous Learning and Improvement

 

As AI systems analyze more data and gain insights from real-world inspection scenarios, they can continuously learn and improve their performance over time. ICC-certified inspectors can leverage AI technologies to capture feedback, analyze inspection outcomes, and incorporate new knowledge into their practices. This iterative process of learning and improvement enables inspectors to stay updated on emerging code requirements, best practices, and industry standards, thereby enhancing the quality and reliability of their inspection services.

 

  1. Collaboration and Knowledge Sharing

 

AI can facilitate collaboration and knowledge sharing among ICC-certified inspectors by providing a centralized platform for sharing insights, best practices, and case studies. By leveraging AI-driven knowledge management systems, inspectors can access a wealth of information and expertise from their peers, enabling them to address complex code compliance challenges more effectively. This collaborative approach fosters a culture of continuous learning and professional development within the inspection community, ultimately benefiting inspectors and stakeholders alike.

 

In conclusion, the integration of AI into the workflow of independent professional ICC-certified new residential building code inspectors holds tremendous promise for the future of code compliance verification in the construction industry. From streamlining code enforcement processes and enhancing data analysis to enabling remote inspection capabilities and facilitating collaboration, AI offers a wide range of benefits that empower inspectors to uphold the highest standards of safety, quality, and compliance in new residential constructions. By embracing AI-driven technologies and methodologies, ICC-certified inspectors can position themselves as leaders in the field of building code inspection, ensuring the integrity and legality of residential constructions for years to come. As AI continues to evolve, the future of code compliance verification looks brighter than ever before, driven by innovation, efficiency, and excellence.

Beyond Bricks and Mortar: The Fungible Treatment of Homebuyers in Texas’ Booming Homebuilding Industry

Mar 3, 24 • News

In Texas, the homebuilding industry has experienced significant growth over the years, driven by factors such as population influx, economic expansion, and urbanization. However, this growth has also brought to light some concerning practices within the industry, particularly regarding the treatment of homebuyers by certain unregulated homebuilders.

 

The term “transactional” implies a purely business-oriented approach, where the focus is solely on completing the sale and maximizing profit, often at the expense of other considerations such as quality, customer satisfaction, or long-term relationships. When homebuilders treat homebuyers as fungible, they see them as interchangeable units rather than individuals with unique needs, preferences, and concerns. This can manifest in several ways:

 

  • Lack of Customization: Fungible treatment often means offering standardized, cookie-cutter homes without much regard for customization or personalization. Homebuyers may feel like they’re just another number in a long line of transactions, with little attention paid to their specific desires or requirements.

 

  • Neglecting Quality: When the primary goal is to churn out as many homes as possible to maximize profits, corners may be cut on quality control measures. This can result in shoddy construction, the use of subpar materials, and a general disregard for craftsmanship, leaving homebuyers with homes that are plagued by defects and issues.

 

  • Poor Customer Service: Viewing homebuyers as fungible entities can lead to a lack of emphasis on providing satisfactory customer service. Homebuilders may be less responsive to buyer inquiries, complaints, or warranty claims, further exacerbating the feeling of being treated as mere transactions rather than valued clients.

 

  • Limited Transparency: Fungible treatment can also involve a lack of transparency in the homebuying process. Important information about the home, its construction, warranties, or future developments in the area may be withheld or glossed over, leaving buyers feeling uninformed and vulnerable.

 

  • Short-Term Focus: Homebuilders focused solely on transactions may prioritize short-term gains over long-term sustainability. This can lead to unsustainable development practices, such as disregarding environmental concerns or building in flood-prone areas, ultimately putting buyers at risk in the long run.

 

  • While not all homebuilders in Texas operate in this manner, in my experience most do. The absence of stringent regulations and oversight in the industry has created an environment where such practices thrive. Addressing these issues requires a concerted effort from policymakers, industry stakeholders, and consumers to promote ethical standards, enforce regulations, and hold accountable those who prioritize profit over people. By fostering a culture of transparency, accountability, and customer-centricity, the homebuilding industry in Texas can better serve the needs and interests of homebuyers, rather than treating them as mere commodities in a transactional process.

 

 

How Texas Republicans Are Paving the Way for Unregulated Builders: Uncovering the Risks and Ramifications

Feb 28, 24 • News

The Republican-led government in Texas has historically advocated for limited regulation and government intervention in various industries, including the housing sector. While this approach is often framed as promoting economic freedom and individual responsibility, it has also created an environment where unregulated home builders and remodeling contractors can exploit gaps in oversight to the detriment of the public.

 

Lax Regulatory Framework: Texas has relatively lenient regulations compared to other states when it comes to home construction and remodeling. This lack of stringent oversight allows unscrupulous builders and contractors to operate with minimal accountability, leading to a higher risk of poor-quality workmanship, safety hazards, and fraudulent practices.

 

Limited Consumer Protections: The emphasis on limited government intervention means that consumer protections in the housing industry are often woefully inadequate. Homebuyers and homeowners have fewer avenues for recourse when disputes arise or when they encounter issues with builders or contractors. This lack of protection can leave consumers vulnerable to exploitation and financial harm.

 

Political Influence: The homebuilding industry holds significant sway in Texas politics, often wielding influence through campaign contributions and lobbying efforts. This political influence can shape legislation and regulatory policies in favor of industry interests, further eroding protections for consumers and enabling unregulated practices to persist.

 

Zoning and Development Policies: Republican-led governments in Texas have generally favored pro-development policies, which prioritize economic growth and property rights over environmental conservation and community interests. While promoting development can stimulate the housing market, it can also lead to unchecked expansion and urban sprawl, exacerbating issues related to unregulated construction and inadequate infrastructure.

 

Deregulation Agenda: The overarching deregulation agenda pursued by Republican officials in Texas has contributed to a hands-off approach to industry oversight. While proponents argue that deregulation fosters innovation and economic competitiveness, critics contend that it can result in a race to the bottom, where companies prioritize profit over public welfare and environmental sustainability.

 

Overall, the Republican government in Texas has played a significant role in creating an environment where unregulated home builders and remodeling contractors can thrive. Addressing these issues requires a reevaluation of regulatory policies, stronger consumer protections, and a commitment to balancing economic interests with the health, safety, and well-being of the public. Think on these things in the upcoming elections.

Protecting Your Investment: Why Hiring an Attorney Before Buying from an Unregulated Texas Builder is Essential

Feb 9, 24 • News

We’ve all heard and instinctively understand that purchasing a home is one of the most significant investments people make in their lifetime. That is why ensuring that the transaction is legally sound and protects the buyer’s interests is crucial. Here are several reasons why hiring an attorney before purchasing a new home from an unregulated Texas home builder is of utmost importance:

 

Legal Expertise: Attorneys specialize in understanding complex legal documents and contracts. They can review the purchase agreement, warranty documents, and other legal paperwork associated with buying a home to ensure the terms are fair and favorable to the buyer.

 

Contract Review: Home purchase contracts can be lengthy and contain legal jargon that may be difficult for the average person to understand. An attorney can review the contract thoroughly, explain its terms to the buyer, and negotiate any necessary changes to protect their interests.

 

Protection Against Fraud: Unfortunately, there have been numerous cases of fraud and misconduct involving unregulated home builders. An attorney can identify any red flags indicating potential fraud or unethical behavior.

 

Compliance with Laws and Regulations: Texas and each municipality have specific laws and regulations governing the home-buying process, including disclosure requirements, construction standards, and warranty obligations. An attorney can ensure that the builder complies with all applicable laws and regulations, protecting the buyer from legal issues down the line.

 

Negotiation: Attorneys are skilled negotiators who can advocate for the buyer’s interests during the home-buying process. Whether it’s negotiating the purchase price, financing terms, or upgrades to the home, an attorney can help the buyer achieve the best possible outcome.

 

Dispute Resolution: If disputes arise during the home buying process or after the purchase is complete, having an attorney on your side can be invaluable. They can represent you in negotiations, mediation, or litigation to resolve the dispute quickly and effectively.

 

Overall, hiring an attorney before purchasing a new home from an unregulated Texas home builder provides the buyer an added layer of protection and peace of mind. It ensures that the buyer’s interests are fully represented and they make a sound investment in their future home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canadian Showboat Springs Another Leak

Jan 31, 24 • News

 

Fans of Mike Holmes, dba the Canadian Showboat, might be surprised to find that it is all blow and no go with the popular builder/inspector. https://www.cbc.ca/news/investigates/mike-holmes-lawsuit-demolition-1.7091774

Unveiling the Cracks: The Hidden Challenges in DFW Home Construction and Why Your Inspector Might Not Cut It

Jan 26, 24 • News

 

If you haven’t already, you might want to check out the recent WFAA article discussing the declining quality of home construction in the DFW area. You can find it here:

 

https://www.wfaa.com/article/news/local/dfw-home-inspector-concerned-about-fast-new-construction/287-47695769-4e06-4c11-9a8b-3c39e4dcbd42

 

While the inspector’s concerns in the article are a step in the right direction, they may not be providing you with the full picture. His optimism in estimating that only 90% of new houses in the area have structural defects is questionable at best. In my 27 years of inspecting houses, I consistently find structural issues in every single one, and they seem to be worsening.

 

The recommendation to have inspections during the construction process, as suggested by the inspector in the article, is indeed sound advice. However, the problem lies in the fact that, like the inspector mentioned, almost 100% of the home inspectors licensed by the Texas Real Estate Commission lack the qualifications needed to inspect buildings under construction.

 

All houses built in Texas must adhere to standards such as the International Residential (IRC) and Energy Conservation (IECC) Codes, as well as the National Electrical Code (NEC). However, the standards of practice (SOP) for TREC-licensed inspectors explicitly exclude knowledge of building, energy, or electrical codes.

 

Builders are required to conform to prescriptive codes, which provide detailed requirements for the design and construction of buildings, specifying certain materials, methods, and dimensions.

 

In contrast, the SOP for TREC inspectors follows a performance code, which sets overall goals and objectives for buildings in terms of safety, functionality, and sustainability. Rather than specifying materials or methods, performance codes prioritize achieving desired outcomes over time.

 

It’s important to note that a house under construction, obligated to be built according to a prescriptive code, cannot be effectively inspected using a performance code. Since it’s new, no time has passed, and its performance over time cannot be measured. Due to the intricate nature of house construction projects and the multitude of factors involved, performance codes lack the detailed instructions necessary for proper construction. This opens the door to interpretations by contractors and inspectors that often serve as excuses for not adhering to proper procedures.

 

Think about it like this. Car and Driver, Motor Trend, Edmonds, et al., don’t publish reliability reports on automobiles that have just rolled off the assembly line, right?

 

Builders required to adhere to prescriptive codes are unlikely to address reported defects from an inspector operating under a performance code. Hiring an under-qualified and under-performing inspector will lead to wasted money and a house that does not perform as intended over time.

 

No inspector lacking a Residential Combination Inspector certification from the International Code Council is qualified to inspect new house. Check your inspector’s credentials (or lack thereof) here:

https://www.iccsafe.org/search-for-certified-professionals/

Titular Titillation

Jan 3, 24 • News

TITLE INFLATION

 

The practice of using more elaborate or prestigious titles to describe a job or position than its conventional or common name is often referred to as “euphemism” or “title inflation.” Calling a janitor a “sanitation engineer” would be an example of using a euphemistic or inflated title to make the job sound more sophisticated or important. This can be done for various reasons, such as to enhance the perceived status of the position or to make it more appealing. However, it’s important to note that the appropriateness and effectiveness of such terminology can vary, and some may view it as an attempt to mask the true nature of the job.

 

The home inspection industry is rife with these euphemistic titles. Inspectors with zero construction experience and little time in the profession will attempt to lure customers in using such puffery. For those of you in the market for an inspector I’ve made an attempt here to decode a few of these for you lest you fall under their sway.

 

Thermographer is the term adopted to glorify users of infrared cameras. I suggest “heat whisperer” or perhaps “infrared ninja”. Any inspector in the business for more than 15 minutes owns an infrared camera. They have limited uses. They are not magical devices used to see inside of walls. An infrared camera is just another tool in the box.

 

Sewer Scope Inspector is the grandiloquent term for someone who inserts a rather long endoscopic device into the sewer pipes of a building. I like the term “rotoscatographer”. Any plumber is qualified to perform this function. Home inspectors are not. Allowed by nonsensical Texas law? Yes. Qualified? Not a chance.

 

UAV Pilot (drone pilot) is the term used by people who play with drones when they should be working, exceptions being commercial drone operators like utility contractors, commercial roofers, law enforcement agencies, etc. I prefer “Sky Commander” or “Crashologist”. If the drone cost less than $10K it is a mere toy. Toys are not tools.

 

I could add a few of my own to the vernacular, but fear that they might actually become commonplace.

 

“Darkness Disruption Technician” – One who uses a flashlight.

 

“Elevation Engineer” – One who climbs a ladder.

 

“Fastener Manipulation Expert” – One who employs a screwdriver.

 

“Gravity Consultant” – One who uses a level.

 

“Hydraulic Scrutinizer” – One who uses a water pressure gauge.

 

“Doctor of Distance Divination” – One who utilizes a tape measure.

 

And finally, “Home Inspector” – This is a misnomer that has been promoted by the real estate industry brokers and salespeople. One cannot inspect a home. One can only inspect the house that has been made a home by its inhabitants.

 

And now off we go into 2024!

 

 

 

 

What is Causing the Current Housing Crunch?

Sep 20, 23 • News

 

Labor shortages, lumber shortages, supply chain issues, mortgage rates, etc. are not the real cause of the current housing issue.

Read this: https://www.futurity.org/buying-a-house-real-estate-2973222-2/

Letter to the Editor of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) Reporter

Aug 15, 23 • News

I recently sent this letter to the editor of the ASHI Reporter, the magazine of the American Society of Home Inspectors. Since I doubt seriously that they will publish it, I thought I’d post it here as well.

 

“Inspecting New Construction

 

While pondering over the idea of penning a technical article on new construction inspections for the upcoming December issue of the ASHI Reporter, I felt I should say this first.

 

If your business is not located in Texas – be happy. Properly inspecting new residential construction here is a serious challenge. Builders are not regulated, i.e. need not be licensed, bonded, insured, educated – nada. It may be similar in other states, but is certainly not as blatant as it is where I work.

 

Municipal inspectors are, I suspect, like they are nearly everywhere; overworked, under-paid, and questionably-proficient in building code enforcement. Even those who are in the know, well-meaning, and have a solid ethical base are often not allowed to be too strict, if they value their jobs. Builders are notorious for putting pressure on building officials, either via payola or by threat of moving their building sites to another jurisdiction where less enforcement will be encountered.

 

With both home prices and mortgage interest rates soaring it has become crystal clear to the home buying public that independent interim inspections are a must. In Texas, any inspector licensed by the Texas Real Estate Commission is allowed to inspect new homes under construction. This is certainly questionable, since they specifically exclude any building code knowledge from their SOP. This is also the case with the major inspection associations – including ASHI.

 

Where does this leave the home buyers? In peril. As professional inspectors it is our duty to inform clients of material and safety defects found during an inspection. If we are not ourselves intimately familiar with the minimum construction standards, i.e. the building, electrical, and energy efficiency codes, how will that work? It will not.

 

I think it is high time that ASHI makes the long overdue move toward requiring ICC certification for its members and assisting them in obtaining it. You cannot simply pretend to be the best, you must make proactive moves to ensure that you are indeed the best. One can spout all of the ethics one likes, but without action, it is just so much hot air.

 

Certification is the only way that one can prove knowledge of a process such as building. Without it, one is unaware of the very bones of construction regulations, not to mention the nuances that come by actually building homes – another prerequisite lacking for association memberships or state licensing.

 

The term “ASHI Certified Inspector” would take on a much broader and authoritative meaning if backed by more than the current minimalist SOP.

 

Flipping through the pages of the ASHI Reporter over the past few years gives me a clear view of the professional liability insurance industry’s influence that appears to be predominant. Insurance carriers do what is best for their bottom line by spouting fear-inducing mantras such as “do not exceed your SOP” or “do not quote codes”. In other words, be minimalists. Do the very least imaginable in order to protect your insurance company’s assets.

 

I apologize if the title of this article lured you in with the idea of discussing technical aspects of new construction inspections. I assume that, for the overwhelming majority of you who lack boots-on-the-ground construction experience and code certification, that might be a bridge too far.”