Review of Kemp Home Inspections, LLC, Maryland

I delayed writing this review of Kemp Home Inspections, LLC, because I wanted to provide an additional perspective available only after closing and now living in our new home for longer than a month.

Buying or building a home is a major financial investment, well at least for most of us. You certainly want to familiarize yourself with the process along with developing a list of qualities that are necessities, absolute deal breakers, plus, and minus style items, and determine what that personal lagniappe is to turn a regular property into your property. Also reach a firm determination on what you are willing and actually capable of spending. For us location did matter. Actually it mattered more to me than for my better half because she is quite comfortable living in urban areas and in colder climates. I need dirt and trees nearby even if they aren’t on my property along with some peaceful nature sounds filtering in through open windows. Still this Livingston Parish boy needs a sort of back way commute to reach the Metro because I really don’t like driving into DC or these multi-lane freeways here in Maryland. After those considerations, our primary interest was the best bang for the buck and being comfortable with the thought of living in the home and neighborhood for 30 years which as many know will probably be longer or shorter.

Regardless of if you are building a new structure or buying a place previously constructed I recommend everyone getting a home inspection. Some might feel that an inspection is a waste of money. I understand because I grew up learning to use what you have available to build what you need and then to keep figuring out ways to fix it. One of my most trusted friends has built a few houses himself from the ground up for his family. While I cannot make the same statement, I have built a barn, numerous sized sheds, and worked on additions to existing structures. I have friends who have worked years in various trades who don’t mind answering questions or offering opinions. I admit that I take things apart just to figure out how they work and at times it takes some tinkering to put it back together working again. I might not be the best, the most polished, or the most experienced building and repair person, but things work, friends seek my assistance for more than my free labor, and I had that the friend of a friend of somebody who works with a friend scenarios when they will contact me for my take on how to repair or install something.

For information on home inspections, the following links will provide some additional information

http://www.ashi.org/inspectors/ethics.asp

http://www.ashi.org/customers/faq.asp

So why do I recommend paying a home inspector?

Obviously nobody can know everything. Many of the repairs I made in the past have been onetime events as I learned through experience to recognize what actions prevented the need from having to make those repairs. My maternal Grandfather and Dad believed in routine maintenance and that adage of an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. My paternal Grandfather as a welder and Great Grandfather who repaired those large pipeline valves obviously believed the same which they instilled in Dad. I cannot quantify how much I learned just from observing and listening to individuals who have been there and done that. With a professional home inspection, it’s an advantage to have someone point out the signals to look for given how the specific systems are constructed and configured in your potential new dwelling.

More importantly a home inspector does not have an emotional investment in the property. Obviously the buyer does because they made an offer or are having the structure built so that does play a role in perception. It’s just too easy to downplay a major issue or to make a mountain out of a molehill about something minor just from the amount of financial investment you have in the property. I’m actually going to conduct a significant plumbing change at our new residence sooner than I anticipated. I thought that I could tolerate an inefficiency because the layout is functional. Daily usage, however, just has me itching to make the piping more accessible like my Grandfather used to design layouts.

For those wanting to learn about home inspections and home inspectors, I recommend going to the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) website linked here.

We chose Kemp Home Inspections, LLC, for our inspection.

 http://www.trustkemp.com/

I admit that I sought out someone with an engineering background for a couple of reasons. One is academic in that my graduate degrees while in history came from an institution with strong undergraduate and graduate programs in different engineering fields. Quite a few of my former students are engineers, and I know the rigor involved to obtain degrees at these types of institutions. Second, I have next to nothing experience with basements. We don’t have basements in Louisiana, and I had structural questions which I wanted answered in technical detail for these basements I think everyone in Maryland must have.

Of course a degree was not the determining factor on who to hire. I advise asking friends and colleagues for recommendations, looking at online reviews, and obviously verifying licensing information. I believe that I contacted 6 companies after considering perhaps 3 times that number using the friends and colleagues technique. Of those 6, I ruled a couple out immediately for different reasons and ultimately decided to hire Greg Kemp.

Out in the field, Greg Kemp is a one person show. Greg Kemp conducts the inspection himself and in my case answered every phone call himself. He may or may not have someone assist with preparation of the reports, scheduling, or other office based matters with the business, but you get him personally and not an unknown employee at your property. For me that is important because I wanted to know the qualifications of the actual inspector and not simply the business credentials.

I advise scheduling as far in advance as possible regardless of who you hire. With Greg Kemp, the majority of his routine inspection jobs will be in the ballpark of 3 hours in length so it does not take any type of degree to realize that a strong possibility of scheduling conflicts exists. In our case, the scheduling was ridiculously easy. He mentioned a couple of days where he would not be available and those days happened to be days when we were not available. I stated a couple of days, and he responded by asking about a particular time on one of those days. Verbal confirmation made, and I emailed him shortly after our conversation in case I stated the address incorrectly. Greg quickly responded via email so confirmation was now in writing.

Our Inspection:

We arrived at the property about 15 minutes before the scheduled appointment, and Greg was already there. We spoke while waiting on the Real Estate agent to unlock the property. Greg is professional but he is also an easy person with whom to speak. He is very willing to answer questions related to the inspection which honestly is something that I expect from someone I hired to do that type of job. He is also the type of person that seems at ease conversing in a friendly manner on a variety of topics. It felt like he was interested in learning about us, our expectations about the inspection, and thus making his inspection of what we wanted to become our property and not just some generic property. In other words, Greg seems to personalize the inspection to convey the findings in the manner to best inform the client so that they are aware of positives and negatives which any property will have. It was an excellent beginning.

He began with an inspection of the roof. I admit that I was astounded to learn that in Maryland many home inspectors do not physically go onto the roof. Perhaps my surprise results from my Southern background, or it is an example of my limited experience with hired home inspectors. Greg does physically walk on the roof. It did add a nominal charge for the inspection because I reckon some people don’t feel it is necessary and thus he gives an option.

Personally I wanted someone up there photographing the shingles and the granules missing. The age of shingles is merely a guide and does not reflect the actual condition which is determined by multiple factors in the specific location. I might know about Louisiana sun, hurricane winds, and tree branches as they affect a roof, but snow and ice are new weather conditions for me. Also I did spend one summer way back in undergraduate days working for a roofer that knew my Dad. I had hoped that job would alleviate my apprehension about heights, but it did not which I know today is really a part of my vestibular issues.

Greg took a number of representative photographs of shingles from different areas of the roof. He noted and photographed the cracking in the rubber boot on the plumbing vent which I expected would need replacing before the inspection just because I know that people often neglect them. He checked the anchoring of the gutters and noted that they were clogged from debris. While observing from below, it was evident that he also walked the roof checking for any soft spots or other deformities.

Once back on the ground, Greg made some general comments and showed a few photographs and then went to his truck to make notes while the residence was being unlocked.

His roof inspection met my expectations. I have enough experience with roofs to know how little I know but I do know enough to understand that I really don’t want to be making many repairs caused by neglect or material issues on a roof. Given that few inspectors seem willing to climb a ladder to get onto a roof, Greg’s work in that area is likely superior to what most people would expect. Myself, I wanted an idea on how long before I can install a metal roof (need to check these HOA documents which are also new restrictions for this Louisiana boy), make sure I have gutters with large openings (none of these no-clog type covers that can’t handle real downpours) and these basic leaf and debris guards available at many hardware stores that are relatively cheap, easy to install, sturdy, and work great in keeping the downspouts performing like a hose directing water about 6 feet away and continuing to drain away from the foundation.

Once inside, Greg went into the basement to set up the radon testing equipment. For more information to help you decide of testing radon levels is right for your situation, I’m linking the EPA Homebuyers and Sellers Guide.

Admittedly you could save a few dollars doing the testing yourself with a kit, but I had two major concerns. The first is the time table in the buying process as a whole. What if a problem happened in the laboratory which delayed results? Second, since we were not in physical possession of the property many of the short term DIY testing kits lack tampering safeguards. By tampering I’m not suggesting something like “voter fraud,” but merely someone going in to do some work and opening doors and windows.

When buying a property in one of the radon hot spots and that property has closed in lower levels, I will continue to have radon testing done with a home inspection. If I had physical control over a property, I would most likely opt for doing a self-test with a kit purchased from Kansas State University. If for some reason we sell this property, I would test and make the results known to potential buyers which they could accept or verify with independent testing. After living here for a period, we will test again just because mediation venting is highly successful when problems are caught early.

The physical inspection of the dwelling was thorough and efficient. Very quickly I intentionally asked a question to which I knew the answer just to see how Greg would respond. He passed that test easily with a thoughtful accurate answer and quick demonstration without any signs of condescension toward us or irritation, so my expectation of an inspector willing to field questions had been confirmed. If you’re curious, my question concerned a crack in what I generically call “pipe putty” or “pipe clay” used to fill a small void. Obviously it is not a structural integrity issue when the “crack” is sealed merely by spitting on your finger and remolding the clay in seconds. 

One thing I liked was that Greg gives a running commentary of what he is doing during his inspection which is nice as your view may be blocked temporarily which keeps you from actually seeing if he did in fact check for let’s say current in a wall outlet. He also made it a priority to point out the locations of items such as the various water cut off valves. I’ve done quite a few emergency plumbing fixes which necessitated unnecessary extra work because of the time spent trying to locate a valve. One of the reasons for the plumbing alteration I noted above is that I do not want to have to cut off water entirely to change out certain hardware when necessary.

He also offered routine maintenance tips on the different systems throughout the structure and noted both common and uncommon signs that signal the need for attention. This advice was lagniappe to the actual current condition of a given system.

Another thing I liked about the inspection was that he conducted both technical and practical tests. For example it is one thing to simply time how long it takes an oven to preheat to a set temperature and then confirm that temperature with a thermometer. Greg went beyond that test and pulled a small baking sheet from his bag, placed some dollops of cookie dough on the sheet, and baked a small batch of cookies. We had uniform browning, so we had real world proof of the oven’s performance at that time. 

We also had Greg do thermal imaging which he conducted following his physical inspection of each room. Thermal imaging does entail an extra fee, so I liked the fact that he used the camera following the inspection. Simply I did not want thermal imaging to be used as an alternative to physical style of inspection, but as an additional diagnostic tool which is how I view the technology. I wanted to see if hot spots existed around the windows and doorways and “to see” inside the walls. For us the thermal imaging did reveal an isolated cold spot in the ceiling on the main level which did suggest a leak from above which we later confirmed. 

Greg also conducted our termite inspection following the home inspection and thermal imaging.  With termite inspections, I do not have an overwhelming opinion on how I want that inspection done. Actually, I should say who I want performing that inspection. A termite inspection is necessary and after my single experience with Formosan termites back home, I do not take them lightly and ever since have looked for termite signs in any building. In our case it was less of a hassle for us and our scheduling to have Greg conduct the inspection since he is certified to perform termite inspections. One distinct advantage in having him perform that inspection is that he does not work in pest control. The reason I call that an advantage is that you will not be subjected to a sales pitch for a service contract because unlike a pest control company, he has no financial interest beyond the integrity of the structure.

Money? 

I know that cost plays a role in deciding upon any service.  Kemp Home Inspections, LLC, did cost more for the same services than many of the other potential inspectors I contacted. Those cost differences, however, were not astronomically different from his competitors. I’m of that school that you often get what you pay for and thus the cheapest route isn’t always the less costly in the long run. Also just because something costs more it does not necessarily mean the quality is better. 

With Kemp Home Inspections, LLC, I knew who would conduct the inspection and his credentials. I would verify the license of any home inspector and with Greg I also verified that his engineering licensing was up to date. Since much of his work is based upon recommendations by previous clients and not media advertising in that he is a one man shop, you receive a thorough and specifically focused inspection depending on your needs and the condition of the various systems within the structure and with the property. That justified the slightly higher costs in my opinion.

Soon after the inspection, we received an approximately 40 page pdf file with color images accompanying every point of concern. Greg’s explanations of his findings are detailed yet easy to follow. I may be mistaken, but I believe the form used is a standard form in regard to layout and checkboxes to be marked by the inspector.

One problem with the form which Greg acknowledged is that certain systems fall into different categories, and the form does not necessarily distinguish between assessments of the physical appearance versus an assessment of the actual operation of a component. For example an appliance may appear in working order but upon inspection of the electrical panel and the fuse you discover an improper fusing or wiring connection.

I emailed Greg asking for some clarifications on what might appear to be discrepancies in the actual conditions if someone only looked at specific pages of the form and not at the form in total. Greg responded quickly and asked if I could call as he was about to begin another inspection. He answered all questions posed and emphasized that if the seller or seller’s agent had any issues with the contingencies that we decided to request, he would provide greater detail or clarify any perceived discrepancies. I could not have asked for a better response.

The obvious thing that friends want to know is would I hire Greg Kemp to do another home inspection for me.

The answer is a definitive yes. I would especially seek him out if I purchased a foreclosure property, a property that I knew required a lot of work, or one with historical aspects.

To me the better question is would I recommend Greg Kemp to a friend who had no experience with any type of tools and would not know or want to do any repair work for themselves.

Again my answer is a definitive yes.

Greg is extremely knowledgeable, but he does not talk down to his customers. I asked him a question to which he easily could have answered with some type of attitude, but he provided a straight forward answer and demonstration. As the inspection continued, he took all the time necessary to explain things in manners that addressed our degree of knowledge or lack thereof. He is not trying to sell you anything, and he will offer advice on ways to address concerns, questions to ask if you hire someone, and give a rough guesstimate of what the material and labor might be based on his most recent experience.

The best question might be would I recommend Greg Kemp to my buddy back in Louisiana who built his houses or to my Dad or to my Grandfather if he were still living.

Again, my answer is a definitive yes.

If you wonder why I prefaced this with being the “best question,” my Dad and late Grandfather would be asking a number of questions to which they would expect accurate technical information. I can imagine my Grandfather asking something like “why isn’t there a cutoff valve installed here?” Greg’s answer I imagine would be along the line of: “per code one isn’t required, but it would make sense having that valve. Now in order to install one here, you would need to….” My Dad would engage in a discussion about how joints were connected, and he and Greg would most likely wind up in a back and forth conversation on the subject. In other words, both my Dad and Grandfather would be satisfied with Greg’s level of knowledge and enjoy talking with him in very detailed fashions.

If you are purchasing a home in the Maryland, Virginia, Washington DC area and need a home inspection, I’d recommend Greg Kemp of Kemp Home Inspections, LLC.  I’m happy that we made the decision to hire him. We received excellent service and value for our dollars spent.

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