In this episode, Reuben starts off by sharing exciting news about Structure Tech’s recent recognition as the “World’s Greatest Home Inspection Company” on a TV show called “World’s Greatest.” He explains how the company was featured and highlights its focus on providing high-quality services to home inspectors and supporting the industry.
Tessa then reveals her new venture, “Your House Coach,” a consulting business aimed at guiding homeowners, home buyers, and even professionals in the building industry through various house-related concerns and questions. She elaborates on her approach to offering holistic solutions and prioritizing projects, while also sharing personal anecdotes of how her consultation services have already benefited clients.
The hosts touch on the current state of the housing market and home inspection industry, discussing trends such as the impact of low inventory on home inspections and the high demand for homes. They emphasize the importance of consulting and providing valuable guidance to homeowners in making informed decisions about home improvements and repairs.
Overall, this episode offers valuable insights into the world of home inspections, building science, and personalized consulting services, showcasing the hosts’ passion for supporting homeowners and professionals alike.
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The following is a transcription from an audio recording. Although the transcription is largely accurate, in some cases it may be slightly incomplete or contain minor inaccuracies due to inaudible passages or transcription errors.
Reuben: Welcome to my house. Welcome to the Structure Talk podcast, a production of Structure Tech Home inspections. My name is Reuben Saltzman. I’m your host, alongside building science geek Tessa Murray. We help home inspectors up their game through education, and we help homeowners to be better stewards of their houses. We’ve been keeping it real on this podcast since 2019, and we are also the number one home inspection podcast in the world, according to my mom. Welcome back to another episode. Tessa, as always, fantastic to see you here on my computer screen. [laughter] How’s everything going in your world?
Tessa: Hey, it’s going well. It’s good to see you too. I look forward to seeing your face through the computer every week, Reuben. It’s actually, we missed a couple weeks, didn’t we?
Reuben: We’ve been missing a week here and there. We had some scheduling issues with some guests, some last minute cancellations, and like we said at the beginning of the year…
Tessa: We’ve been busy.
Reuben: It’s been busy. Yeah.
Reuben: I’ve been traveling. I was out of town, not recent… Not long ago out hanging out in San Diego, visiting some family. Got to go out there with my son Cy. The two of us spent, I don’t know, half a week out there or something like that. Good times, good one-on-one time together. Got to see the San Diego Zoo and do a bunch of stuff out there, but…
Tessa: Well, that sounds fun.
Reuben: It was, but you know what’s funny? It’s like you leave Minnesota and you arrive there, and it was a lot cooler there than it was here. We’ve been having a lot of hot weather.
Tessa: Yeah, we have. Well, they’ve got one of the best what, climates in the United States. It never gets too hot, too cold or too humid, right?
Reuben: It’s so perfect there all the time. Yeah, that’s a great place to be.
Tessa: That’s why everyone wants to live there.
Tessa: Has Cy been out there before? I’m sure to visit family?
Reuben: Yeah, we go there regularly. Yeah.
Tessa: Yeah. Okay.
Reuben: Yeah. Typically we go every other year. I’ll take my daughter one year. I’ll take my son the next year, kind of flip flop. Yeah.
Tessa: Nice. Nice. Well, that’s a good segue in because we kind of were brainstorming what we would talk about this episode, and we’ve got some updates that we wanna give, right?
Reuben: Yeah. Yeah. We’re not doing any deep dives into any technical topics like having the master electrician for the State of Minnesota on and talking about code updates. This one is a little bit more lighthearted, a little shorter episode today.
Reuben: But yeah, just some episodes on what’s going on in our worlds. For the listeners, let everybody know where we’re at. I guess, couple things for me, on the structure tech side, one is we recently… Well, we filmed it a while ago, we’re done with filming. It finally aired. We did this TV show, it shows on Bloomberg Television. They put it on Sunday afternoons or something like that, and it’s called World’s Greatest. The World’s Greatest. And on every episode, they feature a few companies on there, and they say, “This company is the world’s greatest diamond polisher or trucking company or something.” They find some obscure business and they feature them as the world’s greatest. It really reminds me of the show that used to be on, maybe it still is called How It’s Made. And they just kind of do a deep dive into one little topic. It feels like it’s kind of a low budget show, but they dig into this for one segment. And so we were featured on there, The World’s Greatest and we’re featured as the world’s greatest home inspection company.
Tessa: Oh my gosh. Congratulations.
Reuben: That was fun. Thank you.
Tessa: That’s huge. Yeah. I still have not watched it, but I really want to. And how did they find you? How did they find Structure Tech?
Reuben: They got our name somewhere. They do some Google searching and I’m sure they’re starting out with World’s Greatest, trying to Google that and looking for people with high stars. And they get a bunch of people that they end up reaching out to and they interview. It’s a long interview process. First you gotta submit an application and everybody submits their applications and they got these interviews and it’s a lot of going through it, a lot of processing for several months. And…
Tessa: So you’re saying it’s not easy to be the world’s greatest?
Reuben: They’ve got a vetting process. Yeah.
Tessa: That’s good. I like to hear that. [laughter]
Reuben: And it’s a long process. I feel like we’ve been at this for… It’s gotta be coming up on a year now for how long this has all taken. And they gotta come out and they gotta film. And you gotta figure out kind of what your script is gonna be loosely. ‘Cause it’s not scripted, but they wanna figure out what you’re talking points are gonna be, what’s gonna be the main beats, what kind of shots do you want? It’s a lot of work. It’s finally done. It’s aired. We will put a link to it in the show notes for today. And it’s fairly short. It’s somewhere between three and four minutes.
Tessa: Oh, okay. Yeah.
Reuben: Yeah. It’s like a long commercial, I guess.
Tessa: Well, that’s awesome. I was just gonna ask you how I could find that. So that’s perfect. Yeah. Put a link in the show notes, anyone that wants to watch that…
Reuben: Yep. We’ll definitely do that. And we’ve got it on our YouTube channel as well. If you subscribe to our YouTube channel, you surely have already seen it. And then along with that, back in… Similar vein at least, back in April, we were asking all of our clients, past clients, people who follow us on social media, whatever, to vote for us, because the Star Tribune, our local newspaper, has started doing this thing where they…
Reuben: They want people to vote for their favorite companies in all these different categories, and they call it Minnesota’s best. And it’s turned into a kind of a big deal here in Minnesota where…
Reuben: Companies advertise this, like you’ve got billboards saying voted Minnesota’s best.
Reuben: People put these stamps on their trucks and they put it on their business cards.
Reuben: Like it’s turned into what feels like Angie’s List Gold Award used to be 10 years ago or something. But the big difference here is that with Angie’s List, you win a gold if you just performed at some level and a whole bunch of companies would get gold. But for Minnesota’s best, there is only one gold for every category.
Reuben: So you can’t have several people saying they got gold. And the first year we were in the running, we didn’t even know about this thing. And we got second place, we got silver. Just organically. But then after that we started asking people to vote and…
Tessa: Yeah. And advertising it.
Reuben: Exactly. So for the second year in a row now we got gold, the big announcement that, yeah, that just came out. From the time this podcast airs, it would’ve been announced just over a week ago.
Tessa: Wow! That’s huge.
Reuben: Excited about that.
Tessa: That’s huge.
Tessa: Proud papa moments for you.
Reuben: That’s right, that’s right. Some good public recognition. Yep.
Tessa: And it’s well deserved. Yeah. Well deserved. Well, congrats. That’s huge. Two years in a row, man.
Reuben: Yeah. Yeah, that’s exciting for sure.
Tessa: There’s some steep competition out there. There’s some good home inspection companies in Minnesota.
Reuben: There are some fantastic companies here in Minnesota. Yeah.
Reuben: This is not easily earned. This is not a gimme for sure.
Reuben: And kudos to all the other people who are in the running.
Tessa: That’s awesome. Well, those are some really good, really good things. Thanks for sharing that. I was curious to hear kind of just how the home inspection market has been this summer 2023. We’re into mid August now, and are things busy. Have they slowed down? Like what has it been like for you?
Reuben: The best way I can describe it is 2022. It really feels like a repeat of last year. I’d say the market is very similar, maybe down a little bit from what 2022 was. That’s what all the numbers indicate when we look at the number of showings that are published by the real estate companies. When we look at the number of houses that go into pending status, the numbers are all down a little bit. And as far as people skipping the home inspection, latest numbers I’ve heard, it’s somewhere around a third of people are skipping the home inspection still.
Tessa: Really a third?
Reuben: Yep. Yep.
Reuben: And it’s ’cause of low inventory.
Reuben: There’s still a huge shortage in inventory out there.
Tessa: Yeah. Yeah.
Reuben: You want a really nice house, or you want a good house. If you got something that’s priced right, you’re gonna lose out on it. I mean, case in point, I saw my old house go up for sale just a few blocks from me. And in the end, I, well, I don’t know how I’m getting here, but we did an inspection for somebody else, for some neighbors of mine, and I happened to pop in at the inspection to say hi for, to these new people who are gonna be my neighbors.
Reuben: They said, oh yeah, we got this house. Although we really wanted this other house and it was a multiple offer deal and we lost out. We were so sad we didn’t get it. And I said, and I mentioned the address. So they’re like, yeah, that’s the one. I go, oh, that’s my old house, yeah, but…
Tessa: Oh my gosh!
Reuben: But it just, it’s just funny hearing about this, like…
Reuben: There’s still multiple offers getting out there and people losing out.
Reuben: So, yeah.
Tessa: Yeah. To be more competitive, they’re foregoing that inspection and hoping that they win the house.
Tessa: Yeah. Wow, wow. But it’s enough to keep the team busy hopefully the amount of inspections coming in and?
Reuben: Busy enough.
Tessa: Busy enough.
Reuben: Nobody’s starving. It’s…
Tessa: That’s good.
Reuben: It’s good. It’s not great. I wish.
Reuben: I’d like to say it was great.
Tessa: Yeah, like pre-pandemic days summer would be nice, but we’re not back there yet, sounds like.
Reuben: I don’t know if we’re ever gonna get there again.
Tessa: Who knows, if we had a crystal ball, but how are in… So you’ve got this white label company too that does a lot of additional services to just home inspections, right? That does mold testing. Sewer inspections.
Tessa: Radon, chimney, all that stuff. How is that part of the business going?
Reuben: It’s chugging along and, I’d say the same thing there. I’d like to say it’s great, but it’s good. We’re getting by. We’re not really making much money. That really hasn’t happened yet. And I think part of it is I talked to, I mean, we’ve got a big list of home inspectors who use us. I mean, it feels big for us. We’ve probably got about 30 companies using us for all these different services.
Reuben: But the home inspectors I’m talking to, a lot of people are saying they’re slow and they’re lucky if they can just schedule home inspections and they’re really not trying to sell any of these additional services, they offer the services when people come to them and ask for them, they’re not really being proactive about saying, Hey, do you want this?
Reuben: Not only that, but they’re just happy with the business they’re getting. They’re really, I don’t know. They’re letting people push them around sometimes I think.
Tessa: Okay. I know. Well, you know what’s interesting is you took a… You kind of took a unique approach, I think, with this white label company, is you decided just to purely market to other home inspectors.
Tessa: You’re not actually out there marketing to real estate agents or anything like that, so you’re just working one-on-one with the local home inspectors that are out there.
Reuben: That’s it. That’s it, exactly.
Tessa: And why… Why, what was your thinking behind that? Why did you decide to use that approach?
Reuben: We don’t want to undercut the home inspectors. We don’t want people to be arranging all of these other services outside of them. It feels like it could just get way too messy. Our goal is to support home inspectors with this company. And if we start offering it on the side to real estate agents or to home buyers, home sellers, whatever, it just gets messy. So we all wanna be very clear about who our customers are.
Tessa: Yeah. So you… That’s interesting. Your goal is to support the home inspectors.
Reuben: Yep. That’s why this business was set up, is that we want all home inspectors in the twin cities here to be able to offer these services. And if we’re offering it, then we’re competing with the other home inspectors, and that’s not the goal.
Tessa: I… Reuben, that’s what sets you apart because you’re so ethical and you want to, your main goal is to support these other home inspectors. I mean, you could be going out there saying, well, business is kind of slow ’cause home inspections are kind of slow for these smaller companies. And we could try marketing to all these different real estate agents we know, or to people directly because of your social media presence. But you’re not doing that.
Reuben: No. No. It feels like I’m trying to play the long game. Think about what’s gonna be the best in the long term. That’s really what it comes down to.
Tessa: I respect that. And you’re trying to do the right thing that feels right to you. So…
Reuben: Thank you.
Tessa: Kudos to you.
Reuben: So, Tess, what’s going on in your world? I want to hear what’s new with you, personal and business.
Tessa: Yeah, well… You know. Okay. So I have been kind of, I guess, debating when I might bring this up to our listeners. And I think now’s the time. So I have been working on kind of creating my own consulting business, and it’s called Your House Coach. And I have a website. You can check it out. It’s yourhousecoach.com.
Tessa: But basically what I am doing now is I am supporting homeowners or home buyers, even people in the building industry as well. And I am helping them navigate their house questions and their house concerns, basically. And it’s something that’s kind of, it’s a new thing. And I don’t think that there’s a lot of people out there doing this. And so what I’ve run across it’s tough to market something people don’t even really know exists or even really know that they need. [chuckle] So I have to kind of educate people on what it is first so that they understand and then they’re like, oh yeah, that makes sense. Well, everybody needs help like that.
Tessa: And so I’ll give you an example. One of the clients that I’ve been working with they’ve been living in this house for about five years. They moved in, they had a home inspection report. It’s a two storey 1920s brick home and it’s got a walkout basement. And they moved in and they had some comfort issues and certain rooms were cold in the winter and hot in the summer. And they had a few other problems that were going on in the house. And so, kind of step by step, they had different contractors to come out to look at these kind of concerns that they had. So they had an HVAC contractor come out to look at the comfort issues. ’cause they had a boiler system and, and it wasn’t heating the house as good as they wanted it to be. They had a another person come out to kind of look at this problem with their deck and do some different things.
Tessa: And like the list goes on and on of all these kind of piecemeal things they’ve done to this house. They added electric baseboard heat in certain rooms. They’ve done all these things, but now they’re in a position where their utility bills are through the roof…
Reuben: Oh my goodness. Yeah.
Tessa: And it’s like 800 bucks a month to heat this…
Tessa: Yeah. This house that’s under 3000 square feet. And and so they just don’t know what to do. They’re not sure. And so they found me and I came through their house and the first thing I wanted to do was just get an overall assessment of their house. So I walked through it, took a look at everything because it’s interesting, a lot of times people have a laser focus on one thing. They say, “Well, this is our problem and what do we do to fix this?”
Tessa: Like for them it was, you know, how do we reduce our heating bills and should we just add more insulation? But a lot of times I find that it’s a… You know you need to take a look at the house holistically to figure out what actually is the problem and what’s the most efficient way to solve that problem. And make sure that you’re not creating other unintended consequences.
Reuben: Yeah. Yes.
Tessa: In your route to making that improvement and that you’re not ignoring other things that might be even more important. Like if you’ve got safety concerns, electrical issues that are being ignored, things that homeowners may not even be aware of. So I kind of went through their house with them and we got an overall feel of what was going on and it turns out they’ve got some, they’ve got this walk-up attic that has no insulation in it.
Tessa: Minimal insulation. There you go. I mean, this is one of the reasons why their heating bill is so high. And they had, they’ve, the owners before them added a retrofit forced-air air conditioning system. So the air handler and all the duct work is located in that attic space. So that can make it difficult to, how do you insulate that attic…
Reuben: Oh, for sure.
Tessa: If you’ve got all of your duct work and air handler up there? And they also have a tuck-under garage that has all of… A lot of hot water pipes that service the rooms above going through that tuck-under garage that have to keep the garage warm so they don’t freeze. And they’ve got all these kind of different, additional like bonus rooms that have been hard to, that are not insulated and hard to heat and cool. And on top of it, this house was built out of structural clay tiles. There’s no wood framing so it’s brick, structural clay tile, and then lath and plaster.
Tessa: So walk-up attic, no insulation, no exterior insulation, lots of spaces that are kind of confused spaces both inside and outside the thermal boundary that they’re heating. And they’ve added additional like electric baseboard heat to certain rooms. So you can imagine [laughter] why their heating bill is so high and there’s not one simple easy solution to making this house more comfortable and reducing the utility bills. So kind of what I’m doing with them is laying out an approach of, here are the things that you could do. Here are the different options, and here’s kind of the priority.
Tessa: So it turns out they had a couple roof leaks that they weren’t really aware of that were allowing active water to come into the house. So before we even insulate, we need to tighten up the house, we need to make sure water’s not coming in. Right. [laughter]
Tessa: You can’t do a hot roof on a roof that’s leaking. Well, I mean you could, but that would be a disaster. Right? So…
Reuben: Definitely don’t do that. Yeah.
Tessa: Right. Right. And so I’m helping them kind of navigate, okay, what needs to be done? What needs to be done first? And then also helping them find contractors, like reputable contractors who can actually fix these leaks, and then help them get the bids, compare the estimates, understand what that means, and kind of see that project through. So, you know, and just helping them think through, if we do this installation, how much is it gonna cost? How long are you planning on staying in this house? Is it worth it? Will you see return on investment for spending this kind of money?
Tessa: What are the options for how you can insulate this space? What are the pros and cons of those options? You know, are we thinking about ventilation strategies once we tighten up your house? So kind of just being a guide and a consultant that’s helping them think through all these different options and find the solution that’s best for them.
Reuben: Yeah. Yeah.
Tessa: If that makes sense.
Reuben: It’s so great. So important. I mean, I know that some of the stuff, it just feels so overwhelming. And I think about, I mean, my wife and I have got this rental duplex, and I think about all the stuff that constantly needs to happen and stuff that needs to happen eventually, it doesn’t need to happen now. And I think, All right, a lot of moving parts, it kind of numbs my brain to think about this all, but I’m able to kind of put it down, create a timeline, because I have a very good understanding of how houses work. But I just think to myself, “If I wasn’t me, who would be doing this and who would be prioritizing all this?”
Tessa: Yeah. Yeah.
Reuben: Who would I go to?
Reuben: If you go to a roofer, they’re gonna tell you this is your priority.
Reuben: And you go to the window guy, he’ll tell you, this is a… Everybody says they’re a priority, but who’s coming in unbiased to give you the type of advice like this. And I mean, it’s a… We touch on this on home inspections. But we’re not getting down to the level of consultation, like discussing your living space and your comfort issues and what’s important to you because it’s all before somebody even moves in.
Tessa: Exactly. Yep.
Reuben: So I… There is so much value in what you’re doing here, Tessa, I think this is a fantastic idea.
Tessa: Well, thank you. You nailed it. I mean, there are a lot of people in this world that are not as lucky as your family to have someone like you that they can go to, to ask these questions or your dad. I mean, I’m sure your family members are constantly asking you these house questions, right? And if you’re someone who doesn’t have like an ex-contractor or someone who understands all the systems of a house in your family, who do you go to? So I’m hoping that I can help provide that guidance and that education to help homeowners live in a house that is, you know, what they want it to be, whatever that is. Whether they’re talking about, you know, improving it or fixing it or just maintaining it, helping them figure out a strategy and prioritizing it and helping them navigate all those kind of questions and things that make your head swim.
Tessa: So it’s been fun so far, and I’ve had a couple other clients here and there are just, you know, contacted me for smaller things. Like they’re buying a house and they wanna know kind of some things to look out for and some advice on a couple of different options they’re thinking about. Or someone who had air quality concerns in their house and they thought that their house was making them sick and had a mold sensitivity. And like you said, I mean, they had contacted about 15 different contractors and each contractor looked at the house through that specific lens. You know, the HVAC contractor wanted to sell them a really expensive filtration system, and the waterproofing company wanted to sell them a new drain tile system. And the list goes on and on and they’re just like, “We don’t know what to do. How should we… What’s gonna give us the biggest bang for our buck and what’s gonna fix this problem?”
Tessa: And so, yeah, it’s been interesting and it’s been really fun so far. And I’m hoping that I can also help other home inspectors in the industry that might come across building science things and they’re not sure what they’re seeing or what to tell their client or what’s causing the problem and help coach them through that. Or, even roofing contractors that aren’t sure, they’ve got a client that has water leaking in the winter and they think it’s a roof problem, but really it’s nice dam problem and helping them understand it’s not their fault, but how do we fix this problem? And the list goes on and on. So yeah, I’m just getting started on that.
Tessa: I have not made my official announcement yet on social media or anything. And if you know me, you know, I’m not super loud on social media, so that’s something that I’m working on. But I do have the website so you can can check it out if you’re curious, yourhousecoach.com.
Reuben: Well, this podcast isn’t gonna air for a couple more days, Tess. So you’ve got time. Maybe you wanna coincide your announcement with the release of this podcast.
Tessa: That would be great. Yes.
Reuben: Might be good timing.
Tessa: I think so.
Reuben: Let me just ask you real quick, what’s your process? So if someone’s got this pain in their house, they’re like, “Oh, I need to hire someone to come out.” They’d go on your website, they’d find your phone number, your email, they’d reach out to you and what happens next?
Tessa: What happens next? Well, so the first thing that I would wanna do is kind of hear them out and see what their main concern is and what their goal is. And a lot of times, you know, I can kind of get a feel for that with a brief phone conversation…
Tessa: And if it’s something that I think I can help them with, then I’d wanna set up a consultation where I actually come out, meet them and see their house and actually have some time to walk through their house and look at all these parts and pieces and get a feel for it, so that I can guide them through the best course of action. It’s kinda like, if you’ve… Let’s just say you’re feeling sick and you’ve had this chronic pain or something like that. You tell your doctor, well, I’ve got this pain. They’re not just gonna automatically prescribe you this pill that kills your pain. They’re gonna wanna come in you… Want you to come into the office and do a consultation and make sure they understand what’s going on and they’re prescribing the right solution.
Tessa: Right medication, it’s the same thing. It’s me coming out, taking a look at your house and I’m just gonna charge a flat rate for a 2 hour consultation of meeting with you, understanding your goals, understanding your concerns, and then understanding your house. And then from there it could just be, a conversation that, gives you the big picture and talks through priorities with you there on site. Or if you want additional consultation after that initial meeting, then I can work out, either an hourly rate with you to help guide you through these things or even potentially have a retainer where someone has me on retainer and they can call me, email me, have me involved in any step of the process.
Reuben: Sure. That’s fantastic. I love it.
Tessa: Yeah. Well, thank you. Thanks for allowing me to talk about that on this podcast. I appreciate that. And there are definitely situations I think where, I understand I’m not an expert in any one of these things, but I know enough about each system and building science and how the house works together or doesn’t work together to be able to refer people to the experts to get more information.
Tessa: So there’s situations where I would definitely say, okay, we… There’s a lot going on here and I wanna make sure we’re catching it all and I think you should get a full home inspection. And so referring people to get an inspection with Structure Tech or if they need to get additional mold testing or they need to have their boiler tested, referring people out to these experts in the industry to get more information.
Reuben: Sure. I love it, Tess. And again, if people want to get more information on this or look you up, they go to yourhousecoach.com, is that correct?
Tessa: Correct. Yes.
Reuben: Okay. All right. Fantastic. Well, I’ve been on your website, think it looks fantastic. Nice job on that.
Tessa: Thank you so much and thank you for your testimonial.
Reuben: Of course.
Tessa: I appreciate it.
Reuben: My pleasure. [laughter], that was easy.
Tessa: Thank you.
Reuben: And I think that that’ll wrap up our show today.
Reuben: I think that’s all we had on the docket. A couple…
Tessa: I think so.
Reuben: A couple little updates.
Reuben: And if you have any comments for the show, you wanna reach out to us, please email us. Our email is email@example.com and we will see you next week.
Tessa: Thanks. Good to see you. Take care.
Reuben: Thanks everyone.