Making complex wdo inspections simple

Recently I sent one of my techs out on a wdo (wood destroying organism) inspection and I was amazed that it took him well over 2 hours to perform. Normally I do all the inspections for my company because of the liability but this was a repo home so there were no issues of pesky homeowners, curious and paranoid buyers and the lock box gave him free access to fit it into his day wherever it would work best. When I asked him later why it took so long he simply said there was a lot to look at. Now, I know my town pretty good and the address wasn’t one that put it in an area of large homes, in fact this neighborhood has only older smaller homes but I took him at his word and went about my day. It wasn’t until a week later when we got approval to treat the termites he found that I actually saw the home and now I was really perplexed because it only took me about an hour to actually treat the house for termites so I couldn’t imagine why it took so long to inspect it.

First let me say that in this day and age of litigation a 10 minute breeze through for an inspection is going to come back and bite you someday but at the same time if it takes you hours on end to do a simple wdo inspection you better be charging appropriately or perhaps think about doing other types of pest control services because you’re not maximizing your earning time very well. This home in question was barely 1500 square feet and a crawl space. To me a crawl is such a great opportunity to see the belly of a home quickly which you can’t do for slab on grade. Add to this that it was empty and it really shouldn’t be an all day affair.

Some homes do take hours to look over and have many areas that need a lot of scrutiny. We do many mansion type homes all the time and

Each doorway represented a different addition on the home

these can be quite complex. Older homes that have additions, enclosed carports and garages and finished basements all fall into the complex category and will need your full attention. Mobile homes or simple spec homes for me are pretty easy to inspect and I can make quick work of it and be on my way. The trick for any home is to simply not be swallowed up in the complexity and break it down in to small areas that you can search completely and move onto the next area. To do this takes experience and time because you need to be able to recognize things like enclosed areas, add ons or construction faults or deficiencies.

For this inspection my tech did on that day, he just got caught up in going back and forth checking and rechecking and questioning locations from 1st floor evidence to the signs in the crawl. On top of this he was distracted by pesky fleas hopping all over him and one thing lead to another and 2 1/2 hours went by and still he was frustrated and unsure if his inspection was complete enough. His graph was fine and he had that done in no time, he found the subs and even some wood rot and again that was early in the inspection. It really wasn’t a great big deal but he was behind the rest of the day, had fleas popping up as he drove (very annoying) and in the end handed in his paper work with no real confidence in his report. He let a little complexity turn a simple inspection into a difficult one.

Each column was hollow & I had to repel from attic with rope to reach the bottom

Briefly what I do to simplify the inspection is to break the home down in sections. Crawl spaces, basements, attics, exterior etc. get checked all at once until I’m done and if there is more than I can remember I’ll take some notes as I go. Any add ons or enclosed areas like a garage or old carport get a real good once over and I try to imagine where old expansion joints might be that are now covered up etc. Areas that I simply can’t access like low crawl or attics may be a time when I’ll go back to say the first floor and quickly look again over the area that I couldn’t get to, make a note on the graph and forget it. Places that have ‘busy’ wallpaper or other wall coverings always get special attention because the evidence, if there, is visible just really well hidden so there’ll be no excuse in court. I also rarely use my 3 foot screwdriver handle to tap

Busy wall paper can hide a lot of evidence

the wood. Rarely is a strong word, let’s say probably less than most. I instead feel with my hands everything I possibly can. Window frames, ledges, door jams, baseboards, bay windows, drywall etc. etc. I’m like a blind man trying to feel my way out and believe me you’ll find more evidence this way than you ever will with the butt of a tool. I waste no time and move through the home and try to keep conversations to just chit chat. You can’t concentrate if you’re in a deep conversation so be polite but keep moving. I’m blessed with an excellent memory of what I see in homes and though I’ll forget your name, if you call even a couple years after I’ll be able to recall details about the place once my mind is jogged. (this amazes some people and has gotten me out of a lot of soups) Still I don’t rely on this and take notes or fill in my graph as soon as I’m done.

It’s really that simple and quite honestly I can inspect a home rather quickly and I don’t miss any more or less than most who spend 3 x’s as much time in the home. I don’t say any of this to boast and if you take more time that’s great but like I said in the beginning, charge for your time if this is the case. This is just the way that works for me and the biggest principle is to just make the complex inspection simple.

About The Bug Doctor

Jerry Schappert is a certified pest control operator and Associate Certified Entomologist with over two and a half decades of experience from birds to termites and everything in between. He started as a route technician and worked his way up to commercial/national accounts representative. Always learning in his craft he is familiar with rural pest services and big city control techniques. Jerry has owned and operated a successful pest control company since 1993 in Ocala,Florida. While his knowledge and practical application has benefitted his community Jerry wanted to impart his wisdom on a broader scale to help many more. Pestcemetery.com was born from that idea in 2007 and has been well received. It is the goal of this site to inform you with his keen insights and safely guide you through your pest control treatment needs.
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  • The one thing you didn’t mention, I would rather have my employee take his time and do it right. Now that being said he may have been a little intimidated with the complexity but wouldn’t you rather have him spend the time and not miss anything. I too have an employee that is thorough (I didn’t say slow but I could and when he does termite work – it may take him longer but I seldom have callbacks on anything he does. The older you are the wiser you become, we have seen more than they have and maybe one he will say – that Jerry really taught me a boat load of stuff and then those things will speed up some. Nut all in all – take your time…

  • The one thing you didn’t mention, I would rather have my employee take his time and do it right. Now that being said he may have been a little intimidated with the complexity but wouldn’t you rather have him spend the time and not miss anything. I too have an employee that is thorough (I didn’t say slow but I could and when he does termite work – it may take him longer but I seldom have callbacks on anything he does. The older you are the wiser you become, we have seen more than they have and maybe one he will say – that Jerry really taught me a boat load of stuff and then those things will speed up some. Nut all in all – take your time…

  • The Bug Doctor

    That is of course the best thing, I too don’t want him or any inspector to miss anything. Time however is a very important factor in business too. There comes a point when a inspector takes way too much and you end up losing money. On our normal charge for repo inspections, the break even point would be 3 hours I guess. That’s not figuring in that he could do 3 or 4 regular services in that same time if there was little drive time and that would be more than double the amount of production as the inspection. Add to that, even if he visually did not miss anything there is the lovely possibility of hidden termites in the wall which regardless of the statements on the state WDO/WDI forms or on the companies can bring unwanted trouble. At that point the slower inspection is salt in a wound. (if you’re even thinking about it at all once that ball starts rolling)
    This tech is VERY solid and a great guy but he does very few inspections which I mentioned. So that is on me and beyond asking him about it nothing more was said. I will take the time however and just “ask for his help” on a couple or ride with him and point out what I can.
    Hopefully it will turn out like you said and he recall some good things, that would be for the best.

    Thanks for an insightful comment

  • The Bug Doctor

    That is of course the best thing, I too don’t want him or any inspector to miss anything. Time however is a very important factor in business too. There comes a point when a inspector takes way too much and you end up losing money. On our normal charge for repo inspections, the break even point would be 3 hours I guess. That’s not figuring in that he could do 3 or 4 regular services in that same time if there was little drive time and that would be more than double the amount of production as the inspection. Add to that, even if he visually did not miss anything there is the lovely possibility of hidden termites in the wall which regardless of the statements on the state WDO/WDI forms or on the companies can bring unwanted trouble. At that point the slower inspection is salt in a wound. (if you’re even thinking about it at all once that ball starts rolling)
    This tech is VERY solid and a great guy but he does very few inspections which I mentioned. So that is on me and beyond asking him about it nothing more was said. I will take the time however and just “ask for his help” on a couple or ride with him and point out what I can.
    Hopefully it will turn out like you said and he recall some good things, that would be for the best.

    Thanks for an insightful comment

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