Hello my name is Allen Collins, manager and owner of The Habit – Home & Building Inspection Team Kapiti.
Having spent all my working life from the age of 14 in the building industry in many different forms, I have gained huge experience in the evaluation of homes for inspection purposes. I have also been, in the last few years, contracted to BECA as an inspector for property improvement programmes in the Wellington region and have spent some time with BECA in Christchurch evaluating quake damaged homes. This has added to the experience that I bring to the house inspection role.
Kapiti HABiT Building Inspections are proud to bring to the Kapiti Coast/Horowhenua area, a system that is now being used all over the world. Our system allows quick and accurate inspections of a home for purchasers to make an informed decision, using the latest computer based software and equipment. You have visited this site to find a company that will give you the confidence to make an informed decision without too much in-depth building terminology or an over the top explanation of what is required to remedy an area of concern. I have spent a total of 40 years in the building industry and I look forward to working with you to make your dreams a reality.
An interview with Allen Collins
My name is Allen Collins and I am a builder by trade. I have been in the industry for 45 years. The last 4-5 years, I have been in the inspection industry. I spent some time down in Christchurch, evaluating homes for the earthquakes, with BECA consulting who have a contract with Housing New Zealand and specifically housing New Zealand’s rental homes that had earthquake damage to them.They kept me very busy and from an experienced point of view I learn a lot about how houses can be damaged and the different ways they are affected. Seeing how houses were affected by the earthquake Kapitiwas a real eye-opener because it gave you a real insight into houses you didn’t think could possibly be damaged to the extent that they were.
I’ve been able to use those skills up here on the coast as we have earthquakes up here as well and a number of times I have been asked “is this earthquake damaged”, and because you got the experience to be able to confidently give advice on what you see in front of you.
Why should customers use our building inspection service?
What I have found with the HABiT is that we can offer a professional service and provide value for money, I don’t think it’s terribly excessive and its relatively accessible to everybody.
The process is fairly simple it just requires a phone call, and we can schedule a suitable time and have a report turn around in 24 hours from visiting the site. So it’s a very quick process in supplying a building report. Customers will received it on the same day and people always appreciate the service. I really think it’s the communication that stands out for HABiT as we talk with the client and not just provide them with a piece of paper with a whole lot of stuff on it, that’s barely understandable. Its a very good way that we can help people down the track to buying a house.
Are you solutions based?
Yes that’s what people want, and the few houses that have had an inspection completed on it and we have found a potential issue they say “okay then if we are going to buy this house, then what do we do?” And that’s where communication is very important, we can provide a solution based on what the potential problem is. This will generally happen in the afternoon with a phone call to the client to say that this is what we found but in reality it’s not such a huge problem and if you did this and this, or you dealt with the vendor and have a chat with him, quite often those problem areas disappear quite easily and is not such a big deal.
I think most people find the process of buying a house pretty daunting so this is one of the things that we can provide that person.We can go and have a look at property and find anything potentially wrong then we can talk about it alongside our written report.So we can say okay if you do something along these lines and we can mitigate that problem or provide a solution for it.
What makes your skills and knowledge so important when it comes to inspecting houses?
I think it’s experience personally, the ability to pick up problems that other people will generally miss and that’s not because they are not looking.It’s actually having the experience of looking at houses, probably thousands of homes now both for Housing’s New Zealand and BECA and other programmes we’ve doing now at the HABiT. You know the areas and you’re not buried in the minor details of the house, so for example you’re looking for the major problems in the house and they could be subsidence or uneven floorboards, I could be anything in a form that points to a problem and that comes from experience and that’s one of the biggest things that we can offer when buying a house.
So how long have you been in the building industry for?
I’ve been in the industry for 45 years. I started at the age of 13 with my future father-in-law before I left school I did my time with him at a very early age, and that was an age when you learnt very good fundamentals of the building game. You were able to do everything that was required to build a house right down to the joinery. So a long time in the industry and just over the last five years I spent have spent time in the inspection role with HABiT and as mentioned before BECA down in Christchurch and some of the Housing New Zealand homes in Wellington.
It must be very satisfying to use all of that knowledge you have picked up over the years to teach or help people out when it comes to buying homes or even selling them?
It is very satisfying to know and pass on knowledge when you’re talking to the buyers and quite often vendors. We are just there to look at what’s in front of us and quite often you can communicate that to the vendor and they appreciate that because they didn’t know the problem was there in the first place. It is quite rewarding to be able to bring problems to their attention which are easily fixed in most cases.
It’s great to be able to convey confidence to a person who is relying on you to give them advice they need to guide them in the right direction, talking through a solution to a potential problem or simply telling them that it’s a great house and they should buy it.
Do you have a network of specialist that you work with or can refer potential problems onto?
We do have network of specialists, and quite often it is necessary to use them for example you might recommend the house be looked at more closely by a relative trade i.e. an electrician or plumber that can inspect any area that requires a more professional opinion.In some cases it can be fixed by that person and it will generally be in the case where someone is putting their house up for sale which is more important especially in minor cases.
I think it’s important to be impartial and have another opinion, this is potentially something that could cause problems down the line Instead of me is walking through a home and saying I think the switchboard needs to be replaced, I’ll say I think there are a few issues with the switchboard and it’s probably a good idea to get an electrician to have a look and to give his advice. So working with the team does have its benefits.
I cover all of Kapiti and Horowhenua, from Paekakariki through to Foxton so it is quite a big area to cover.
In saying that, most of the work is between Paekakariki, Levin, Foxton, and a lot of the beach front like Waitarere and Otaki beach. A lot of people are looking for holiday homes so a lot of those areas are high in demand.
How well do you know the Kapiti / Horowhenua area?
I grew up on the Kapiti coast, further down towards the Plimmerton area, I think it’s very important to know your area as each area is individual and has its different problems.Having a knowledge of it can be useful as you will know what the cause of the problem is in most cases.
Why should people use of building inspector?
Well I think that you need an independent person an unbiased person,someone who is impartial to give you another set of eyes.The more houses I see and the more people I meet that haven’t got an inspection done and say I wish we did as it would have shown up a lot of problems. One of the things I have found is quite often people buy their house with their heart or emotions, so it is actually taking that emotion out of the equation and having someone independent go in and just evaluate the house as a house taking all the emotion out of it. There have been many occasions when I have been able to go into a house after talking to a client who has described it as a lovely home saying they can’t see anything wrong with it and I’ve gone in and found the basic bones of the house type problem, a major problem and there is no way this person should really buy this house. So a HABiT home and building inspection is actually taking that out of it and saving a lot of problems further down the track.
If there is a major problem do you advise your clients not to buy the house ?
I certainly don’t tell the client not to buy a house, what I try and do is put the information in front of them that sums up the house and if the information in front of them is worded correctly then the client will understand that, its not the house for them.
But as far as actually saying to the client don’t buy this house or its a bad house then no I don’t do that. I try and put all the information in front of them. This is where making all the information clear and concise and unbiased is the way to go. It is not up to me to tell them not to buy the house. With all the right information a person can see what needs to be done and make that decision. It is all about information and communication.
What do you see as your areas of expertise?
I think we do the older homes well, the problems homes are the ones we can be the most value in. Obviously if you get a new home or a brand new home which are well built, we do occasionally find something but they are relatively minor. It’s when you’ve got problem areas that’s where I can be the most value. Again its from an experience side, its where you can look at the house and know from experience that this type of house or this construction or the way this has been built has led to problems in the past. We can go and look at that house and either give it a clean bill of health or say that this area has got a problem in it.
I think from a home and building inspectors point of view, the more problems that could be in a house and that we can pick up is the best area of expertise we can give to a client. That’s not to say that if a person wants to get a new house done that they shouldn’t, they should, they absolutely should. It is amazing what you do pick up, generally it is relatively minor, its just getting that house up to a level it should be at.
I had one the other day which was a lovely old villa and it had been moved on to this property about 30 years ago. When you looked at the whole thing it was like wow what a lovely house, having been redone etc but then you went underneath it and looked at the piles and foundations it had been put on it was terrible. That’s one of the things that our expertise can do, is to actually focus on an area that actually matters and that’s the bones of the house.
We get feedback all the time from our reports is the clients, that is fantastic I wasn’t expecting that, the thorough breakdown of the bigger problems etc if there are any. Some times it just gives them a little bit of a list or an idea about what could be the maintenance areas of the house further down the track which is just normal maintenance on a house but a lot of people need that direction.In a report we can provide that and the client will know what to look out for and maintain.
Any advice you can give vendors that are looking to put their houses on the market?
Well a lot of people are looking at getting an inspection done from a vendors point of view.I think that gives people confidence when people are looking at a house if a vendor has gone out and put a report together and is quite prepared for someone to look at it and know its faults. It is a very powerful tool for selling a house as well. Its quite often a good heads up. There is nothing worse than getting half way down the track, getting an offer and you think your house is sold, then the client comes in with an inspection and it comes up with a reasonable problem and they say they aren’t going to carry on any more.That can be quite soul destroying to a vendor especially if it happens a couple of times. I think it is better to deal with the problems first.
Exterior if you can maintain the roof and guttering and the cladding then you are a long way to keeping you home safe and free from water getting into it and leaks occurring . So keep the roof checked, get up there or get someone else up there and have a look at it, is it rusty, has it got holes in it, is the fixing in the roof good.
A lot of flat roofs and those with butynol the glue can come unstuck and people don’t know that. If you don’t know about it you can’t fix it.
Keep the gutters clear of debris, there a lot of problems that come from the gutters. Once they are cleaned out and the downpipes are running and everything is good then a lot of the water problems do disappear.
Thinking about the cladding of your house,is it in good condition, are all the sides of the windows sealed up so water can’t enter, is there a crack in the plaster cladding of your house or in some brick work and do I need to do something about that if there is a crack because they are all areas where moisture can get in.
Moisture seems to be the biggest problem down the track and that comes down to plumbing, so if you have a leak underneath the laundry tub and its been dripping down there for ages and you have meant to fix it, what you will find is that if you haven’t fix it after a time then you are going to have a reasonable problem with the floor rotting out, replacing vinyl and the cabinet etc. Where as if you had just fixed it in the first place you would have saved a lot of money.
Keeping on top of electrical. Broken fittings for example, you don’t want a fire inside your house and try not to overload stuff. Just keep an eye on it as if something is broken it can cause a fire.
As we go around most of the problems you see are maintenance problems. Clearing trees away from the house to get air and sunlight in and around the area is another one. If you just leave it to overgrow, it will rot out in quite a short period of time.
Any advice for a new home buyer?
If you are going to have a look at a house first time up, just look around the house. Traditional is good, you know, if you looking at a new house that is a way out architecturally design, that has got peaks and valleys sometimes they can be harder to maintain. I’m not putting people off its just that way it is. Traditional is good. One word of advice is if you have found a home that you have an offer on and you find a problem, negotiate. For example if you find the roof is going to cost a bit of money then talk to the vendor, he wants a sale too. If you have found a problem someone has to fix it so it might as well be him.
What is the housing like on the Kapiti Coast?
Generally they fall into a couple of distinct areas, it is a very go ahead area as there are a lot of new housing so we have a good housing stock of great houses and very very nice houses as well. Because it is a beach area it has been a long standing bach area. The New Zealand beach bach. A lot of those houses have been added on to over the years and a lot of them are getting knocked down as well and great big houses being put in their place but there still a lot of those houses around. Nothing wrong with them but they are what they are. They are not a huge edifice they are great little houses. So have the 2 sides of the housing area and that is great for the area, gives people a great lot of choice. There are quite a few different areas on the coast so you have a great choice of where you want to go, what type of housing you want to get into and the age and condition of the houses as well. There is a huge variance.
What do you love about being a building inspector?
Generally getting a result for the client. Now that could either be saving them money and grief. I go and look at a property and give them all the information on that property that I can, that I think is relevant, that evaluate that and decide that it is not the property for them. Quite often I don’t know that has happened until I get a call from the same client to say they want me to have a look at another house because they chose not to buy the first one. I always say to them there is always another house. If there is a problem quite often the best thing to do is walk away and find another.
The other side of that of course is to help a client and the vendor and the agent to complete the circle, a happy circle and have a sale with everybody going, hey that is cool, we have had the house inspected, we know of any issues we are going to go ahead with the sale and in a few weeks time we are going to move into our brand new home.
That can be very satisfying.