Reuben Saltzman

Mandated Energy Audit (with George Ury)

Today’s episode features George Ury, a licensed Truth in Sale of Housing evaluator and one of the finest home inspectors at Structure Tech. Today’s focus is on Minneapolis Truth-in-Housing Evaluations, and the whole new energy component that was added last year. George discusses how the new TISH evaluations are going and shares some of the inspections he has participated in. He also shares how this is related to the company’s new service, the walk-through consultations.

Reuben then shares the feedback he is getting from the Walk-through Consultations. He shares how thrilled clients are with this new service and mentions some of the questions asked.

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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.

George Try: I think in our meetings, we’re not trying to leave things out of this, but we’re certainly not going to test outlets, we’re not going to open electrical panels, we’re not doing anything like that. I love the walk-through consultation in the simplicity of you have a flashlight.

Bill Oelrich: Welcome, everybody. You’re listening to Structure Talk a Structure Tech presentation. My name is Bill Oelrich alongside Tessa Murry and Reuben Saltzman. As always, your three-legged stool up in the north plane. We have one of our finest home inspectors on the whole entire Structure Tech team today, his name is George, and George is gonna spend some time talking with us about Minneapolis truth in housing inspections and the whole new energy component that was added what… How long ago was that, Reuben? 18 months?

Reuben Saltzman: I think so. I think it was like January 1st of 2020, I believe.

BO: Yeah, so we’re gonna dig into…

RS: Man, there’s a lot that happened in 2020.

BO: So we’re gonna dig into George’s head about how the new TISH evaluations are going, and then we’re gonna talk to George about our new walk-through consultations. But before we get to George, Reuben, I wanted to ask you about the new walk-through consultations. You wrote a blog last week. I’m curious about the feedback you’re getting.

RS: People love this, it seems like people have been clamoring for this, a lot of agents have been wanting it, a lot of home inspectors had a ton of questions for me about this. There is a private Facebook group that I’m a part of, and we had another home inspector asking about this in a different part of the country, and I shared what we’re doing, and man, that turned into long discussion with a lot of other home inspectors. People are very interested in this and agents are thrilled that we’re doing it, and so are home-buyers, because it’s a new service like we do with any new service that we roll out, we’ve really been digging into what people think about this, so we’ve been making phone calls to every one of these clients after we do a walk-through consultation, we’ve been calling them the next day or a couple of days after saying, “Hey, what did you think of the service? We want your unabashed feedback. Was it good? Was it a waste of money? How do you like it?” And it has been 100% raving positive. The only downside that people have said is that I wish it could have been more time. I mean, it was limited to a half hour, but that’s no fault of yours, it’s a showing, so I think we’re providing the best possible value we can in the short time of 30 minutes, so it’s been good.

BO: Excellent, so let’s bring George into the conversation.

George: Hey.

BO: Unveil those sweet pipes of yours.

George: Sure. They’re right here, ready for you, Bill.

RS: So George, you’ve done a bunch of these in a different form, we officially unveiled this new program that we’re doing, but in reality, over the years, we’ve done tons and tons of these things, and more commonly, we would call this an investor inspection or we just call it a walk and talk. And this new program, we’re not even using the word inspection because we are so limited in time, but for an investor inspection, it’s similar to this in that we’re not producing a report and we’re hurrying through it. I’d just like to hear your thoughts on what your experience has been doing those investor inspections.

George: I guess I would hesitate to say hurrying through it. Yes, we’re limited on time, but we also wanna be as diligent as we can, I’ve always said the best part of my job is that I get to show up, criticize the work of others and leave. And this, now I get to do that and not even produce a report for it. With the investor inspections, there is was a slight adjustment when I first started doing them to speed things along. You guys know me, I can talk a little… Some might say too much, and I get that. There is an adjustment, but I’ve got 30 minutes to get some sort of point across, or I need to now look at something and say that, that’s not that big of a deal, this is a bigger deal. It was a bit of a ramping-up process, for me at least, but the client was always appreciative, they got the high-level view, they knew that the house wasn’t going to tip over, more than likely things weren’t going to catch on fire, more than likely electrical was okay, things like that. All three of you would probably agree that sometimes it’s not finding that one thing, it’s finding four things that lead you to that one big thing, and we can usually do that fairly quickly, with just… Just with experience, we know that there are probably a dozen things that we’re going to need to look for.

George: And with walk-through consultations, we could do it pretty quickly. And then if something is big we’ll know to focus a little more time on that. And I think in our meetings, we’re not trying to leave things out of this, but we’re certainly not going to test outlets we’re not going to open electrical panels, we’re not doing anything like that, I love the walkthrough consultation in the simplicity of… You have a flashlight… When we first started talking about this, it was like, flashlight, maybe screwdriver. Maybe we should do this, like No. How about just a flashlight and that is truly it. I like the fact that someone is getting something rather than nothing, I know that maybe you’re not even asking this question yet, but I just sold my house this last November, and it was me selling it… I’m a home inspector. I wouldn’t want to accept an offer based on the fact that there was no inspection contingency, I needed to be strong enough to say everybody should inspect this house, and it did come down to… They had it inspected, I was just as concerned as any other sellers, like go, “What are they gonna find?” They did find the three things that I thought they would find, it’s like, Well, good. Good for you.

RS: And what were those three, George? You can’t just leave it at that.

George: Nothing Reuben, nothing you need to know at all.

BO: The furnace filter was three years old.

George: It may have involved an air admittance valves, but I’m not entirely sure.

RS: Oh I don’t blame you at all for that, George. You don’t obey the rules just because they’re rules, man, you’re a rebel.

George: You got to know the rules before you break the rules, so even though it’s gonna go pretty quickly with walkthrough consultation, I think it’s going to be… Like I said, it’s something is better than nothing, and what I’ve kinda been comparing it to is… And then Reuben, you’ve done thousands of Tish evaluations and you know that if the owner is there, more than likely, you’re probably gonna give them a little more advice, maybe a little outside of Tish, what the buyers are looking for. And we’ve been doing that for years. So I’m kind of drawing a parallel to that sort of relationship as far as the information that we can give people in 15 minutes, it’s a surprisingly large amount of information that we take for granted, it’s like 15 minutes, it seems like there’s nothing in that, but there’s a lot of information that can be conveyed pretty quickly in a short amount of time.

RS: Yeah, yeah, and a lot of home inspectors concern with this, they kept saying, “You’re cannibalizing your home inspection business, we do not want this to be the new norm, you’re short changing home buyers with… Pardon my French, you’re giving them a half-ass product and this is not nearly as good as a home inspection, so why are you telling people it is?” And the whole thing is, we’re not. We’re not saying that at all, we’re telling people that this is way better than doing absolutely nothing, this is a replacement for doing nothing, not a replacement for getting a home inspection.

George: Oh yeah, it’s a market adjustment, is that this is what the market is doing and this is what the market is giving us, so we need to make an adjustment to bring satisfaction, some satisfaction to the real estate market.

RS: It’s trying to answer a need. That’s really what it comes down to.

George: Oh, yeah. I don’t see this being a long-term thing, I don’t think this is really sustainable, I think the market, like markets always do, they get probably even out, this is an excellent… It’s a fantastic plan B, but I don’t think anybody wants this to really represent a home inspection, and we’re not. We’re just saying, “We just wanna give some people a little piece of mind going into a transaction.”

RS: Yeah.

BO: I think that’s what’s interesting about this conversation because people right away wanna go, “You’re replacing… ” It’s like, “No, it’s an option when the other better options don’t exist, so would you rather wear socks and run in the snow or just go barefoot versus having your snow boots on?”

RS: And you know what, just help people appreciate where the market is that I was talking to Jenny our ops manager about this, and she just sent me an email today talking about some statistics in the market right now, in the city of Brooklyn Park in the last 12 months, there have been 1,371 homes that have closed in the last year, 1300, almost 1400. Today, there are 15 homes available for showing. 15, and out of those 15, there are only three single-family homes priced under 460k, so you talk about somebody trying to buy a starter home, single family home in Brooklyn Park, there are three of them on the market available today.

George: Pick one.

Tessa Murry: Wow.

RS: Yeah, which one do you want? And similar statistics, Maple Grove, there’s 36 houses available for showing today. Plymouth has 46 houses available for showing, The Pickings are extremely slim out there, so yeah, like you said, I don’t think this is gonna stay this way. This is a stop gap. I wanted to also talk to you today, George, about the Minneapolis truth in housing energy disclosure. We had you on… I think we talked to you on the podcast about this, I know we covered it on the podcast back in 2019, when the City of Minneapolis was first looking at rolling out this program, and for anybody who missed that podcast, when we were in our podcasting infancy, it’s basically, a required energy audit that’s done at the time that a home goes up for sale, it’s something that Minneapolis put into practice, the official date was January 15th of 2020 when this took effect, and it’s a mini energy audit that’s done with the city inspection. And we’ve got a handful of licensed Minneapolis truth in housing evaluators here on our team, I’m one of them, except I don’t really count.

RS: I’m only licensed because I don’t wanna drop my license, it was a huge pain in the butt to get it. George, George is the real deal. George is actually out in the field doing these evaluations day in and day out, and you have done probably, I don’t know, dozens, maybe hundreds of these energy audits in Minneapolis by now, does that sound about right?

George: Probably close to 100 and dozens, but yeah, I’m not here to brag. I guess I don’t count them, but as you were kind of intro-ing this, I’m sure anybody that actually does energy audits on homes would be insulted by what we do.


RS: Yes, I didn’t have another word for it. What’s a better word than energy audit?

George: I think just energy energy disclosure.

RS: Okay, alright.

George: Is probably…

TM: One of the biggest differences is that like an energy audit would do a blower door test, right? And we’re not doing those.

George: No, although it was the first shot across the bow from Minneapolis that they wanted us to do full blower door tests, and yeah, that could be a different podcast, but if I had to think about it, they were like this… A list of six items that they wanted us to capture that we as buyer inspectors and Tish evaluators have no problem. It’s like, “You know what, that’s good. Yes, we should be getting this information, that’s great. But then when it came down to, “And we would like you to drill a two-inch hole in an exterior wall,” that was where it was like, “I don’t… Wow, that’s weird. We’ve never done… ” Even as a buyer inspection, we don’t do anything nearly that destructive, and that took a little… Boy, everybody had this kind of shift and of course, we pushed back on it, we don’t wanna drill holes in walls, but Minneapolis, the city has the final say. So that is what we do.

RS: I heard a rumor, a little birdie told me that the city of Bloomington was talking about doing something like this too, and from what I’ve heard, it sounds like they’re talking about doing the exact same thing Minneapolis is doing, where you’re evaluating the same points and you’re drilling a hole in somebody’s wall. I don’t know where they’re at in this whole process, but I did wanna bring this up again and just say, “George, you’ve done probably about 100 of these now.” I wanted to get your thoughts. How big of a deal is this drilling a hole in a wall, because that was the biggest thing that people were up in arms about. Now that we’re into it, is it that big of a deal?

George: I have to admit, my rage has tempered, it isn’t that big a deal. The big deal now is like how many bits we go through. George is this deductible, is my question. No one explained why, and this might be just me being dense, but why does it have to be a two inch hole? What if it were one inch?

RS: Yeah, that’s…

George: There might be smaller, and drilling a two inch hole, it’s so large, I’m thinking that drilling a hole in the wall is becoming less and less ideal, as we do it more often. Speaking for myself and a lot of the other inspectors, we do our best to make sure it’s in an area that’s not completely visible all the time. So, front entry closets. We’re not gonna go through a living room wall, if I really can’t find a place to drill a hole, I will go to alternatives. So a couple of them have been, I’ve taken the plate off an electrical outlet and see if I can kinda dig around there, see if I can see any sort of installation there or underneath the kitchen sink, but I really don’t think that there’s a lot for homeowners to be worried about as far as anyone marring their property. Ultimately, it is exactly what a full home energy audit would be doing anyway. So if you do have a full energy audit, maybe they don’t need to drill an additional hole. There’s the benefits.

RS: Sure.

George: So when we were first given the news and we had to drill two inch holes in walls, we sort of all collectively gulped, because we were not used to doing that, but I think we’re used to doing it now, and it’s just… It’s seeming like the actual process isn’t that a very big deal, I haven’t drilled in anything that I didn’t wanna drill into, I haven’t damaged anything that I didn’t wanna damage.

RS: Now, what about drilling a hole in the wrong spot? I’ve got a photo I’m thinking of that you may have shared with our team internally.

George: Well, now it’s not internal anymore, is it?

RS: Well, I wouldn’t be able to share it externally and have people laugh because nobody would have any idea what it means, but I got a really good laugh out of it.

George: You know now, it’s dumb, I can’t remember. I remember the punchline. So, for some reason I just felt like I thought it’d kind of interesting if I just put a sticker on the cover as I put it in, just saying when it was done and who did it, and I drilled the hole that was too low. I think I ended up drilling kind of into just structure. Yeah, that is it.

RS: Yeah, that was it.

George: Yeah, I drilled the hole too low, so I had to drill another hole above it, and I just… I think I titled it “Mistakes Happen,” but the label, I had crossed out George and I put Milind.

RS: He wrote Milind in magic marker on the plug.

George: And now there’re two plugs in this house, both of them say crossed out George and it just says Milind. So feel free to contact structure tech on that one. You know what’s funny? The home owner was there and I said, “So here’s the thing. Yeah, mistakes happen.” She just shrugged. She didn’t care. It was in a back entrance, no one cared about it fortunately, but yeah, sometimes you think you’re going to drill in the right spot and then it just doesn’t happen. When you realize that you’re drilling the wrong spot, my advice is to stop drilling, so that’s where that’s…

RS: That’s good. That’s good. I’m gonna write that down.

George: Yeah.

BO: Alright guys, we should put a wrap on this episode, thank you, George, very much, we appreciate you spending some time with us and kinda walking through the ins and outs of both the Minneapolis Tish and our new consultation program.

George: Glad to do it.

BO: Awesome, thank you for everybody for listening. You’ve been listening to Structure Talk, a structure tech presentation. My name is Bill Oelrich, alongside Tessa Murry and Reuben Saltzman. We will catch you next time. Thank you for listening.