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COVID-19 and Home Inspections 03-31-20

Home inspectors in Minnesota received some great news on Sunday evening; we're essential. Minnesota received a stay-at-home order on 3/25 that took effect at midnight on 3/27, but home inspectors weren't specifically listed as an essential service. My assumption was that this included home inspectors, and I recorded a video on 3/27 sharing my thoughts on the matter, but there was still some uncertainty in the home inspection community. I received numerous phone calls, text messages, emails, and FB messages from other Minnesota home inspectors asking for advice last week.

To help get home inspectors in Minnesota onto the same page and to answer a lot of these questions, I reached out to a couple of my finest colleagues here in the Twin Cities, Jeff Blixt at Inspecta-Homes® and Vicki Hoeppner at Heartland Inspections. We hosted a Zoom meeting for other home inspectors on Friday evening, and we invited as many home inspectors as we could reach. It was a good meeting. We live-streamed it via the Structure Tech Facebook page, and I also posted that recording to YouTube. If you're a home inspector, Realtor®, home seller, home buyer, or a service provider who enters other people's homes, this discussion might be helpful to you.

But back to my point, the state notified us on Sunday evening that we do indeed qualify for a Critical Sector worker exemption. So that's that.

Business is weird

Business is anything but normal at this time. We've seen a major drop in business this week, as showings continue to drop in the real estate market.

ShowingTime showings graph

Our schedule is typically booked to capacity about one week out at this time of the year, but that's not the case today. The good news (said with a huge fake salesman smile) is that we have plenty of same-day or next-day openings in our schedule! Operators are standing by!

But seriously, we're no longer allowing anyone at the home inspection other than our inspector(s). We're offering phone consultations with our clients after delivering the inspection report. Our inspectors typically spend about 20 - 60 minutes on the phone with our clients going over the reports to help make sure that everything is properly understood and put into the right context.

To comply with the Governor's order, we're also no longer offering any type of inspections that aren't related to real estate. No more home maintenance inspections, annual property reviews, single-item inspections, etc.

We lost one job on Sunday because we don't offer live video streaming during our inspections. We've tried doing that in the past, but walking around streaming the inspection via mobile phone proved to be too distracting. Also, the constantly moving image leads to a severely pixelated video... but we're reconsidering other methods. We might end up using a GoPro mounted to our head to stream the inspection live. I'll probably have an update on that next week.

Sorry for journaling

I'm sorry for turning my home inspection blog into a newsreel update or online journal on the status of home inspections in Minnesota, but that seems to be what people care about right now. My Zoom usage has skyrocketed, and I've been spending more time hanging out with my family than ever before. My kids and I are even building a treehouse. We're making the best of this, and I hope you are too.

Author: Reuben SaltzmanStructure Tech Home Inspections

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COVID-19 and Home Inspections

Things are crazy and unprecedented in the home inspection world. Last week brought some major changes to our everyday lives, and I expect to see more changes this week. To answer the #1 question that our client care coordinators are being asked, the answer is YES. We're still open for business, we're still inspecting houses.

The new standard of care for home inspection attendance

I recorded a video 10 days ago and released it with last week's blog post, where I mentioned that we'd prefer for our clients to not attend the home inspection. I didn't want to prohibit our clients from attending the inspection, but that has changed in the last week.

I've been in close contact with several other large home inspection companies* throughout the country as well as here in Minnesota, and we're all in agreement; the new COVID-19 standard of care is to have the home inspector perform the home inspection alone. We'll call our client immediately after the inspection to discuss our findings, and we'll conduct another review with our clients after we've sent out our report.

We implemented this new policy on Saturday evening, and all of our clients and their agents have been very understanding of the situation. It warms my heart to know that people are so willing to adapt.

*These companies include Super Inspector in Dallas, Residential Inspector of America in Atlanta, The Real Estate Inspection Company in San Diego, ProTec Inspection Services in Washington D.C., Bryan & Bryan Inspections in Houston, InspectaHomes here in the Twin Cities, and Heartland Home Inspections, also located here in the Twin Cities.

Safety precautions

While on-site, home inspectors throughout Minnesota should be following these steps to help maintain a sanitary environment in people's homes:

  • Wash hands multiple times during every inspection, especially after touching things like faucets and door handles.
  • Bring hand towels or paper towels for drying our hands. 
  • If available, keep hand sanitizer nearby and use it when needed.
  • If available, use disinfectant wipes or the equivalent on faucets and door handles.
  • If any inspectors have a fever or cough, do not conduct the inspection.
These steps apply to all home inspectors, chimney inspectors, radon technicians, and sewer inspectors.

With schools closed and kids potentially being left home alone, it's also important to note that no home inspector should enter a home without a second adult present. The home should be empty at the time of the home inspection.

Here at Structure Tech, we will continue to monitor things on a daily basis, and we'll adjust any of these policies as needed or recommended to help ensure everyone's safety.

People still need home inspections

At the time of this blog post, the market in the Twin Cities is still hot. Or at least warm. To get a good idea of how COVID-19 has affected home sales, check out ShowingTime's chart that shows daily showing activity.

Minnesota Showings

The chart above just shows Minnesota, but if you click on the link or the image, you'll see that the numbers started to plummet throughout the nation on March 11th. They didn't take nearly as big of a plunge here in Minnesota. In fact, showings were up over last year until March 19th.

Not only that, but pending sales in the Twin Cities were up last week, and so were new listings. The chart below is courtesy of Sharlene Hensrud at HomesMSP.com

In short, people are still buying houses here in Minnesota. As long as that's happening, home inspectors are needed. 

If Minnesota sees an executive shelter-in-place order, things will probably change for us. Some parts of the country have decided that real estate sales are not essential. Other parts of the country, such as our neighbors in Chicago, have deemed real estate services an "Essential Business and Operation". There's a lot of uncertainty with all of this right now, but we'll be ready to pivot if and when that happens.

Related post: COVID-19 and Home Inspections (published 3/17/20 at https://structuretech.com/)

Author: Reuben SaltzmanStructure Tech Home Inspections

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