An interview with Greg Nock
I have been in the building industry since 1988 from an apprentice to owning my own Building Company. I have done some commercial projects but mainly housing from basic to high end so I have a good over all knowledge base. Now my focus is solely on building inspections which I have been doing since 2009 and have completed thousands of inspections.
At the HABiT we do pre-purchase house inspections, the basics of it are if someone wants to buy a house or sell a house we come in and tell them what they are buying. Looking at the house normally people want to see if their furniture fits but we tell them how it is constructed and how to maintain it and if there is anything wrong with it. It really clarifies what they are getting into as most people don’t have a clue how houses are made. They just want to know that it is going to be safe and sound and its not going to fall down around their ears in a few years.
It is crazy that is has taken us this long to getting around to getting houses checked, it used to be just buy a house and hope for the best. You don’t do that with a car, generally you get things checked out, you want to know what the motor is going to do, getting an expert in to check it out and know that it is going to last. Real estate agents realise too that they are going to get in trouble if they try and hide things by glazing over issues.
What do you do if you find an issue with a house inspection and how do you communicate this to the client?
Well the great things about HABiT is that we have got such a good system, it is high tech and we have all the help we need. We put it all on our phone, it prompts us as to what to look for as we go around a home and we don’t forget anything. We take lot of photos. Photos are a good way to show people what we have seen. Also once they have read the report, the best way for people to get a real feel is to ring us and go over it with us. Some people want to be on site at the time and we can do that too. It helps people have that one on one and get a real understanding. I think that communication is important.
Why should people use your home inspection services in Tauranga?
I am a builder and five years ago I thought I could do an inspection but no way, it is a totally different way of looking at a house. With the technology that we use some one has put in a lot of work to get it to the stage when we first got it. I think it was five years of work to get it to where we got it and another five years of continually changing it as we learn and as we grow. More and more detail and more and more accuracy. It goes through a list of things on the computer screen or on the phone, so we don’t miss anything. At the end of the job we go right, have we done everything and if we have missed anything we go oops and we go back. We then upload it into the cloud and then go through everything several times so everything is tickity boo and as it needs to be.
When you say you are constantly changing it do you mean the software or the report?
The way we word things. Also information if we find things are getting repeated. There are things that you learn as you go. Every different house has something different in it, no house is the same. So it is just getting it accurate for that particular house. Trying to keep away from the blanket things as much as possible.Being visual, you possible aren’t going to get a good idea until you go invasive, we can certainly point you in the right direction on which tradesmen to use if there is a problem. Giving the client an idea, a starting point of you like on where to go from now.
Why should people use your home inspection services over someone else?
There is no cutting corners with us. I’m not a big guy so I can get into every corner, just about anyway and I do. I can’t help myself I just do. The pictures can prove I have been into places, where some reports I know don’t have any pictures, well I’m sure they do but there is no proof of that, so it gives the client a piece of mind that you have been into those areas. I am a bit pedantic in that way. It’s not just what is wrong with the place, it’s what is it, what is the building? What does it consist of? Something might be good about it and we point that out as well. It is over and above. It’s in a language and format that people can understand.
What makes your skills and knowledge so important when inspecting a home?
Some inspectors have never been builders but they have gone through the inspector thing and they are qualified in that. I have been building for 22 years in this area so I know how these particular houses in the Tauranga region are done. I know what the problems and issues are. I know I built plenty of monolithic cladding houses so I know the ins and outs. So its like having x-ray vision I guess, people may see the outside of a house but I can see the inside of it as well and how it is built. If I am unsure I go out of my way to figure it out.
I can’t see everything but we can imagine what is going on or what could possibility happen. I have been inspecting for five years and I also had a one and a half year stint in Christchurch inspecting earthquake damage so that experience gives you an idea of structural integrity of houses and what goes wrong. They were perfectly good houses before the earthquakes and it is amazing what a bit of a shake can do. It was amazing how many of the houses weren’t done properly. It gave me an good test as it was a high stress environment and it gave me a chance to deal with people in all sorts of situations. I tended to get given the high stress ones as I seemed to be coping with it well. Buying a house and selling a house is high stress and if there is something wrong you all need to try and work together. You have got all sorts of people: real estate agents, you’ve got lawyers, you’ve got banks. You’ve got people who are cruisy, or stressed out or the first home buyer. It is important to be able to relate to them all, calm them when they need to be calm and just do it in a manner that is not going to panic them.
Communication is obviously a big one.
Do you weigh up customers before you give them a solution?
I just had a call from a client just before this interview and I explained to him that the particular house he was buying, you would have to be a certain type of person, some people wouldn’t be able to sleep at night.
For example I am a builder and we bought a rental recently and its a leaky building, we know that. Its something that we bought for the right price and we are willing to take that risk. But someone else you want to make sure that they know what they are getting and its up to them and their situation and capabilities. Are they going to maintain it? If they aren’t going to maintain anything or they haven’t got the knowledge or they are scared of getting ripped off by some builder who is going to do the maintenance for them, then perhaps they should buy another house.
I don’t tell anyone not to buy or buy, its just I tell them what is in store for them and make sure they are the right person for that house.
Why should people use a building inspector?
- What am I buying?
- How do I maintain it?
- Does it leak?
- Is it structurally sound?
- Is there anything wrong? What needs repair? or What needs replacing and when?
You can save heaps of money in the long run by spending money at the start. Its your biggest investment so why not.
Now what I see in nearly every house you would be silly not to get one. Even a builder you don’t have the moisture readers necessarily, you haven’t got that take on things.
For example we did a new house it was lived in for about a year, worth about a million. On the roof there was a valley flashing missing.A valley flashing, is where all the water goes into the valley and its directed into the gutter. There was only paper stopping this water coming in. It had maybe slipped down and taken off, I couldn’t find it. One wet day they would have been sitting in their lounge and their ceiling would have just caved in. That was the type of house you would have looked at and thought, oh that house doesn’t need a building inspection but hey that one did.
Also when you are selling a house you either just sell the house and someone else gets a building inspector in who says this is wrong and the intended purchaser get all scared and run away. Or as a vendor you get a building inspector in and then you know what is wrong if anything. Then you know that you can either fix it up or allow for that in your price and you reveal that at the time so that no-one is going to beat you down because you have already told them everything that you know. If they find something that you didn’t know then they are going to take some money off.
You are better off getting realistic now and its not a big panic. A lot of people are nervous when they are buying a house, if things aren’t relayed properly by an inspector they are going to freak out so its best to do it calmly and all out on the table so they know what they are buying.
Right from the start you are at the head of the game.
Five areas that should be maintained:
- The roof and gutters. The gutters are a big one. Autumn is a big one, the number of tennis balls I have found that are blocking the down pipe, they fit perfectly in a down pipe.
- The roof as well, there are the concrete tiles, the cracking in the mortar, flashings, there is the metal ridge capping, they can move and the rivets can pop.
- The cladding of course especially if it is monolithic, any cracks in that, that should be checked regularly. Gardening’s growing up next to cladding and against cladding.
- Window joinery inside and out, making sure it closes properly and if its timber joinery the paint needs to be looked after. Condensation what are you going to do to sort that out.
- You just take for granted that the gas and the fireplaces are always going to be good but they do need maintenance and your hot water cylinder. Not regular as such but they do need checking.
Do you provide a maintenance programme?
Yes, especially we recommend it for monolithic cladding, well it can be done for any house.
If you have bought a house and you own it for 10 years or so and you may have maintained it well and check it but no one knows about that. If you have the skills to do that. If you don’t have the skills or you don’t know what you are looking for then we can come in and say once a year, we recommend in the middle of winter when we can check the moisture readings, and check the cladding and write a report on that every year. Its just a part report we call it a Moisture and Cladding check, so the cost is down.
That gives you like a warrant of fitness check, so if someone comes to buy this place then you have had a warrant fitness check every year, either there has been something wrong and it has been fixed up straight away and you know its been checked regularly or it hasn’t needed a lot of work and you know it been good all those years and it hasn’t just been painted the week before you are selling it to cover up everything that was dodgy in it. It give people piece of mind and with monolithic cladding that is a huge benefit I think and definitely worth protecting your investment I think. It is going to add value to your house.
How do you deal with the leaky homes?
Well it is a touchy subject and unfortunately there is an unknown or a stigma about it which you can’t really put a price on but there is a price to pay. Unfortunately this is affected through the media and through maybe our education. It has affected all sorts of cladding including plaster cladding. It could be polystyrene on a cavity, it could be plaster over brick. Some people just won’t go near it. A lot of people see a plastered house and won’t go near it but if they know what it is made of and its all good then it just helps get one step closer. It is a touchy subject.
Maintenance, maintenance,maintenance is the key with monolithic cladding. Its a tough one. It comes down to the right people taking them on. I wouldn’t condemn any house but the client need to know the risks, they need to know what they are buying. Its a horrible situation and its been caused by a whole lot of reasons and you can’t point the finger at any one person or anyone thing and we just have to deal with it.
Are you able to provide solutions?
Oh yes definitely, if we are concerned the only way to be really clear is to get invasive investigation, that’s not even a 100% thing. People drill holes and they can check the condition of the timber they can get an accurate moisture reading. We also do a moisture reading on the outside of the cladding which is non evasive but it certainly gives us a picture and an idea of whether its worth doing evasive investigation or not. Then we have people we can recommend, guys that re-plaster it or do repair work. These guys do it all the time, that’s all they concentrate on as its such a big market out there and they have learn a lot and they are experienced as well.
You obviously have good contacts in other industries?
A lot of these guys we have used ourselves and they specialise in the areas that need addressing. We have roofers and builders, we don’t have any ties with them, they aren’t part of us but they are part of our team. If a client doesn’t know anyone, coming new into the area then they need some help with who they can trust. It is no benefit to us to recommend anyone but it is just a service we provide.
What advice you would give a new home buyer?
Basic things I suppose that they don’t think of like where is the sun facing. Tick all your boxes. Is it the right price? Have you done all your homework? Do you need a valuation? Is it the type of house that may have had p used in it? Do you need to test for that as that is another big cost that people don’t alway think about. It can ruin a house if it has been a p lab. We have people that we can use to test for this and it may be something we look at doing ourselves in the future as well. Unfortunately it is becoming a more prolific thing in New Zealand. Its shame I guess its like anything, like the building inspection thing, like what do you have an alarm for, to put someone off from burgling your house, its an insurance thing.
Check all the council papers. Is it legal, did it get signed off? That’s another service we offer, we do council file checks, for a small cost really its a good thing to clear up before you purchase it.
Do you do LIM reports?
No we don’t do LIM reports as they are somethings that your lawyer can organise or the council do themselves. The LIM report is a Land Information Memorandum and that got what is passed on file, it has more information on the land. The counter file is what we do, the property file check and we grabbed the council information which we go through and we write a report on what information the council have on that. We can see the plans, if there are any and we can note down that Joe Bloggs decided to take a wall down which was a structural wall, where the LIM report won’t show you that. It will tell you what has been permitted but not what hasn’t been. It is important and it also helps us with for example with plastering as to what type it is. It helps us with the construction of it, it may be able to give us an indication as to whether treated timber has been used and to be able to back up what we saw on site.Making sure that the house matches the plans. If there is anything out of whack then like work done without a permit then its is going to back fire on you when you come to sell later on.
Can you get retrospective consent?
Yes but that does depends on the council. Like the Tauranga City Council, they recognise it, Western Bay Council don’t necessarily recognise it. With the older houses you can get what is called a safe and sanitary or a Certificate of Acceptance depending on the age which really is a basic report saying yes the council will accept it as it is so they aren’t going to give you hassle and say hey you have to do this and that. Its not as detailed as our reports but its a basic report that the council give saying its not an unsafe or unsanitary place to live. It’s about as legal as you can get. The newer houses they can sign it off, it may just be the one last inspection they didn’t get signed off and they can come in and check it and sign it off.
What are the great things about living in Tauranga?
Wherever you go you are by the beach. You have got different types of houses, all sorts of different houses. We have the cheaper houses, the flasher houses, you can be by the beach or in town, lots of different suburbs. A great community place to live in I reckon. Its just the place to be.
At one stage it was the fastest growing city in New Zealand. I think probably unfortunately it was near the leaky building era. We have learnt a lot since then.
One thing I do like about the area is the variety of houses, its not like Coronation Street or anything like that. Everyone is coming here to retire so it’s the lifestyle so it’s pretty cool. Work and live the dream at the same time.
What do you love about being a building inspector?
Well compared to building I suppose the simplicity of it. My staff aren’t losing my tools every week which is a bonus and I haven’t got all the tools. All I carry now is my tool belt and ladder, its just so easy.
Pretty much every day I’m getting positive feedback. I guess it’s all my experience that you feel is untapped or hasn’t been used in the past or has gone unappreciated if you like. Now it seems to be getting appreciated. The knowledge and experience I have had is getting put to good use and also the work I do with people. Helping people in one of the biggest financial and emotional decisions of their life, its a big deal. The satisfaction of helping people ease through that process and just making it as easy as possible and as fruitful as possible.
All the hard years that I have done are coming to good use and I can share it. Before I was building houses and giving an end product now I can share my knowledge and everyone gets to have some of it.
Contact The Habit Tauranga.