Frequently Asked Questions

BUILDING INSPECTION by Russell Strahan, P.E.

My home/commercial real estate inspector recommended an engineer. Do you perform structural evaluations?

Yes. Structural evaluation is a large part of my work. Evaluations can be scoped for your specific concern, provided it is within my area of expertise. Scheduling is tight, but I do work for a few real estate buyers, generally returning clients or others they refer.

I want to modify a building. Can you advise me?

Yes. Some modifications are easy to evaluate. In more complex cases (notably where destructive removals are required), I can offer at least a list of things that need to be determined.

Do you carry insurance?

This is a frequent question in real estate and the answer is “yes”. But I caution you that my insurance is intended to protect me and not you. If I make a mistake I own up to it and I have not been sued (yet). In the event I am sued, both SCES and my insurance company are inclined to vigorously defend.

If you call our office and ask for insurance details, it is unlikely we will accept the work. Do people ask dentists, lawyers, or real estate agents this question before retaining their services?

What kind of tools and instruments do you use?

[List under construction, too busy paying for tools and instruments]

Why do you charge by the hour for engineering reports?

Some buildings are easy to evaluate, and others are a nightmare. If I charge fixed prices, somebody is going to get hurt. Hourly pricing also allows the client to decide in real time how their money gets spent. For purposes of comparison, I charge about the same rate as a really good master tradesman. It is a decent middle class living for honest work.

Do you want me present?

Definitely. My contracts generally require the client or a representative be present. If there is a “deal-killer” issue for you, we can look at that first. You can opt out and just pay for time spent at any point in the process.

What if I am out of town?

Not a problem. I can use online meeting software to review the whole process. It will add about an hour to the fee. But you must have an agent or representative present to open the building and be responsible for care and custody.

Why are you concerned with care and custody?

This process is inherently stressful to residential occupants. In addition to the occasional (and typical) seller complaints, this is a subtle consideration justifying an anecdote: In 1998 I walked up on a residence in the process of being burgled. After the “occupants” left I did my job. Think about it: The residents come home, their cash and jewelry is gone and my fingerprints are everywhere. Thanks to Providence there was a witness. Otherwise I might have spent the next few years sleeping next to a toilet with no seat.

How long have you been doing this?

Since 1994.

Do you work on Saturdays?

Yes, but for residential buildings, only if the property is vacant.

Do you work on Sundays?

Not unless your ox is stuck in a pit.

What forms of payment do you accept?

Checks or cash. Reports are not issued until payment is received.

Will you bill to my real estate closing?

No. Contingent fee arrangements are illegal for Professional Engineers.

What do you inspect for when you evaluate a building?

We inspect for what we consider to be material defects. The four major hitters in this category are foundation condition, roofing life, major mechanical systems and water penetration. Our guidelines for inspection include the Texas chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers (TxASCE) Guidelines for Residential Foundation Evaluation and the Standards of Practice of the National Academy of Building Inspection Engineers (NABIE).

Do you guarantee your building inspection reports?

I guarantee three things:

* I will diligently observe and report items within the scope of work.

* I will not lie or otherwise misrepresent things I cannot ascertain.

* It is unlikely I will find everything that dissatisfies you about a given property.

If you buy a property and don’t find anything which diminishes your satisfaction, just call our office and I will come break something at no extra charge.