Internet House Research

When looking at a house to buy there may be several things that can be learned while in the comfort of your own home.

I use the web to start the inspection process when the appointment is booked.  I can usually determine the age of the house which will tell me things like where the mechanical systems will be (water heater, furnace, electrical panel(s)), where the attic and crawlspace accesses are located.  Here is my process:

  1. First, I just do a general search on the address. This will bring up the real-estate-based pages like Zillow, Redfin,, Trulia, and any real estate companies that have had the property as a listing.  Most of these sites have the same information because they all grab the same info from the local listing service, but it doesn’t hurt to check them all out. There may be old photos from a previous listing that can give you some history of repairs/remodeling and sometimes agents will enter more information about the house on their own site than they enter on the MLS site.  This can be not-so-valuable when a listing agent does not do a good job of entering information, but if the listing agent does a thorough job of entering the info about the house there is quite a bit of info to be gathered.
    1. Year built: This is an important step because building styles and materials have followed patterns and almost everyone was building similar very houses with similar materials at any given time. Of course, there are special houses but if you are looking at the majority of what was built in a year range most houses will have similar features.  Such as: LP siding in the mid ‘80’s’80s to early ‘90’s’90s in the PNW. Crawlspace accesses were outside before the 1970s. ‘90’s’90s or newer two-story houses- crawlspace access will be under the stairs on the first floor and the attic access will be in the master bedroom closet. Electrical panels from the 1970s until now are mostly in the garage. The list goes on, but you get the idea. Here is a presentation on Age-Based Inspections.
    2. Pictures:  From my limited research of real estate in other areas I have found that, in this part of the world (west side of Oregon), real estate agents do a very good job at listing photos.  With a bunch of wide-angle and close-up shots you can learn a lot about a house. (Just keep in mind: wide angle lenses can make spaces look WAY bigger than they actually are. Sometimes the listing photos can be a bit misleading) 
    3. The area around the house: How does the driveway look? Does it slope toward the garage? What about plants and large trees? Although plants can be nice, they can also cause damage if they are touching, especially large trees touching the roof.  What does the yard look like? Will you need to be anticipating deck or fence repair? (The answer is YES, if it has a wooden deck and/or fence) How about the roof and entire lot? Aerial pictures? 

Here you can see the “meeting rails” where this triple-wide manufactured house came together.  Although it was not called a manufactured house in the listing, we can now be certain of the fact that it is a manufactured house and will be looking for other things like: how are the deck and garage attached to the building (hopefully they are not!) (update after the inspection: the garage was attached to the building and will require some serious rebuilding to repair the engineering!) and polybutylene plumbing if it was built in the ‘90’s’90s which it was. (update: it had PB plumbing!).

  1. Inside pictures:  Is there wear and tear on the walls, doors, floors, cabinets, counters?  Carpet in bathrooms? Skylights?  These pictures are not usually very helpful because no one wants to take a picture of an issue or a worn out system but sometimes some things can be spotted if you look close enough.
  2. General maintenance info:
    1. Does the house have a septic or sewer system? These components should always be camera inspected. Just get mentally prepared for this, we haven’t bought this house yet, we are still researching.
    2. City water or well?   Again, this is just a get-ready thing.  If it has a well there will be pumps, tanks, piping and wiring that will be your responsibility. If it has city water there is not too much to worry about with that system.
    3. Property tax estimate?  It might be good to know what those taxes will be!
    4. Homeowners’ association?  If there is an association, you should get some minutes from meetings or a copy of the by-laws.  Some associations can be over the top. I have heard of association reps measuring grass length with rulers to ensure compliance! These will be all things that can be important issues that should be further researched.
  3. Next, check out mapping services.  Google maps and Bing
    1. Satellite photos can give an idea of how close the house sits to the neighbors, or highway, or shared driveways. Do the neighbors have a huge garbage pile or a junkyard behind their house? (This can lead to rodent issues for everyone!) Also, how close is the house to the nearby parks, schools, and stores?  Looking at a map can quickly help you see that a cool little park is only 2 blocks away if you cut between two neighborhoods, for instance. Google satellite photos get “enhanced” as you zoom in and can get weird looking.  Google Earth is the best I have found for high-definition satellite photos.  It is a separate program that you download to your computer and there are a bunch of cool features with this program such as a “birds eye” view (which gives you an angle that can view the property instead of from the very top) and a timeline feature that you can scroll back in time and view old satellite photos back into the 1980s’ and 90s’ (although the older satellite pics are pretty grainy and low definition).
    2. Street view can be pretty cool for a view of the house that no one expects.  You can zoom around the neighborhood, 360° picture-by-picture. You can see the front of the house and sometimes different angles on the house. Also along the bottom of the screen is the date that the image was captured. Some areas that have had multiple years of the 360° Google cars will have a date scroll in the top left corner: This allows you to choose older dates to see what the house/neighborhood looked like 10 years ago or in the spring vs. fall.  Bing has its street view too, so that can give you another look at the house/neighborhood at a particular point in time. In the upper right of the Bing Street view, you can see the date the picture was taken.
    3. Bing also has a “birds eye view” setting.  While not very helpful for heavily treed lots, you can rotate the cardinal dial to view the house from the north, east, south and west.
South side "bird's eye" view
East "bird's eye" view
North "bird's eye view
  1. The G-terrain feature is not very helpful.  It is a pretty basic and hard to read topo map with some shading to indicate slopes and flats.
  2. The last place I might dig would be the local building official website.  It is not terribly reliable due to paper forms being/not being converted to soft copies and currently (12/2022) the site states that they only have records from 2005 (although I have seen permits back into the 1960’s on this site).  Also, you must jump through some hoops and get yourself registered.  But once all of that is done you can insert an address and see what has happened (or at least been permitted) in the last 15 years.

So I just picked a house I am about to inspect and pulled up 6 separate permits, dating back to 1999. 

In 1999 it had a kitchen remodel: Bob Hise was the contractor, and I can open each of the reviews for a little more information.

That is about it.  With the information superhighway at all of our fingertips, you too can start inspecting your potential property before you even leave the house!   Let me know if there are other handy resources that I didn’t mention.  As always if you have any questions, please drop me a call or email:  

Jim Allhiser



Seller’s inspections are good for everyone!

Buyer: “I do not want that home.”

Listing agent: “….but the defect in the roof is relatively minor, and can be fixed for a few hundred dollars.”

Buyer: “If the contractors did this wrong who knows where else they cut corners!”
fungus growing on roof sheathing on this new home Missing building paper on this home's roof in Dallas Oregon.  Noted on a home inspection.
This situation happens more often than you would think. A good home inspector is paid to enter a home and tell the client about how the home works and how the house compares to a perfect house. Home inspectors that have been in the business for some time rely heavily on professionals in the real estate field who refer us. Finding relatively small material defects that cause our clients to want to scrap the deal happens more often than most of us would prefer. Our client’s risk tolerance is not up for us to decide and a relatively minor defect in one person’s eyes can be looming shadow over the entire rest of the house in another’s.

To combat the dreaded “surprise defects,” seller’s inspections have become more and more popular. In my opinion these inspections are one of the best things that can be done by a seller to prepare their home to sell.

There is no such thing as a “perfect” home. This is one the first things that I tell a client, whether they’re buying or selling a home. The purpose of a good home inspection is to be a consultation. As a comparison I use a “perfect home,” as a fictitious example of the ways and a home could be better.

Every home has issues and as a part of preparing your home to sell, it should be in the best possible condition. Repair issues that can be easily taken care of, by a seller, can and do scare away buyers. This can only be prevented by discovering defects early. This early discovery allows you to take care of the issue on your terms.

Having your home inspected first can also attract buyers. If a buyer knows that there are no big issues with a home they will be more comfortable. Another benifit to consider……
Buyer’s agents may be more likely to show your home if they know that it will not be a waste of time.

Seller inspections are good for everyone involved in the transaction

Picture/Thermal Challenge for Salem Oregon home Inspections

I have been having so much fun with Perfection Inspection’s fan page and my picture challenge I decided to branch out and have it help me get some Google juice.

The idea is:  I post a picture, thermal/infrared or interesting visual picture that I capture on a recent home inspection.

Then you guess what the picture is.

  • I am toying with the timelines but for now I will post for 1 week and at the end of that week I will post the answer and the first closest guess gets a $5.00 Starbucks card.
  • Only one guess per person and the moderator will be the sole decider of the closest guess.
  • People that I think know the answer (because they were at the inspection where the image was taken) will be excluded

Now enough with the legal disclosures and on the the challenge:

What is it?

Work that Network to find Great professional Real Estate Agents and Inspectors

The state of Oregon has a regulation system for home inspectors and home inspections (check out the Oregon State Standards of Practice for Home Inspections). These regulations have created minimum levels of competency and insurance and this has been a very good thing for consumers.

In some states it is still possible to hire a home inspector that has no more training than to buy a flash light and a screw driver. There will be good home inspectors in most areas but weeding through the new screwdriver/flashlight business owners can be more challenging.

A good agent can still open doors

My number one source of business is referrals. I dearly appreciate the agents that are willing to put their good names and the safety of their clients in my hands. This level of trust is not taken lightly. Local Real estate can be a very small community and inspectors that make a habit of providing less than the absolute best can get known for that.

If you are shopping for a home inspector start with the real estate agents. State licensing is a good start but the reality of day in and day out performance will only be realized on the ground an in the community.

It just makes sense for a person that does not work in the field of real estate to trust a good advisor. A good agent is much more than a creature that can open a door for you.

Probably the number one thing a home buyer/seller can do to ensure a  trouble-free transaction is to- find a great agent. Through education, training, and plain old feet on the ground experience a good agent can help advise a home buyer/seller on every phase of a transaction.

Finding a good agent is not always easy. It will take time so start early. I spent about two years doing home inspections before I found a referral base that I felt really good about. Agents that cared about their clients more than the deal. Agents that realized that their job was that of an advisor and not a warm body to open a door. Two years of total immersion it took for me to find those agents. Most people don’t have two years to spend on the task of meeting an agent but a little more reasearch than calling the phone number on the sign should be considered.

First place to start is your circle of influence. Most adults have had experiences with agents. Ask local people like your doctor, repair contractor, and friends and neighbors. Get a few names of some good agents and then hit the web. Many good agents have blogs and a Google search for local agent blogs can turn up a lot of useful information.

The beautiful thing about an agent’s blog is that you can get to know that person before you actually meet! Face to face interaction is great but some times it can be difficult to get to know someone by having a few minutes if conversation in their office.

Google Docs people!!

Google Docs people!!

My little garden of irritation for Windows products has been growing and thriving lately.  I guess anything that you rely on day-in and day-out will let you down now and then.  I don’t really have any experience with anything else, but I have heard some wonderful things……

One of the fantastic little products that I have started using is Google Docs.  …Um, can you say, “suck-it ms Word?”  Not only does G.Docs work every time, it is on-line so that there are no formatting issues when I cut and paste a blog that I have written and to which pictures have been added.  Did you read that last part?  Yeah, things just cut-and-paste like you think they should, weird huh?

It is important that you take warning from this post.  As of today there are about 10 previously written blog posts on my computer that are locked in a bizarre ms Word purgatory.  I can only partially open them and I cannot highlight to cut-and-paste.  For me, there is little hope.  But for all of you that read this, please do something today.  Put down that widows pacifier and try the solutions that were created for the people!!

Hi, My Name Is Jim, I am a Home Inspector in Salem Oregon and I am an Addict

I think I may have an addiction. I hear admitting it is the first step to recovery.

I first realized I had an issue when I recently posted a blog about Home Inspections in Salem, Oregon and saw my standing in my town go from 10th to 9th. A few more blogs and a lot more time spent learning from others and commenting on their fantastic thoughts and ideas and I have moved up to 6th.

I am constantly thinking about SEO and how I can improve Perfection Inspection Inc’s web presence. I spend time at night brainstorming blog subjects that might be interesting for other people.

I am now starting to think about the copyrighting my blogs and other things I never thought would be concern me.

Yes I have a problem, but I feel that this network just might be the support group that will help me.