Testimonial – Karen Young

Mike Connolly is one of the finest whole house inspectors I have had the pleasure of using for buyers and sellers in my 20 years as a real estate agent.

He does a complete and thorough inspection and I have recommended hi to well over 100 buyers and in some cases the sellers thought he was so good – they used him for their own purchase!  I also used mIke when I purchased my personal home.  He is honest and dependable and he would be a an asset to any home buyer.

-Karen Young
Sales Executive, Huff Realty

Testimonial – Joe Mock

I have utilized Smart Move Inspections, Inc.  for over seven years and have never been disappointed. I say this from both my perspective as a full time Realtor and from the point of view of my clients, the homebuyers themselves. In the multitude of time I have procured the services of Mike at Smart Move Inspections for my clients they have all been satisfied and rated Mike and his performance what I would term “Top Block Satisfaction”. Believe me, I would not continue to recommend Mike and Smart Move Inspections if this were not the case…. I have endless options available to me for my buyers.

Mike is always through, professional and extremely competent. He communicates well with all types of buyers and his reports are both easy to read and reference, yet at the same time incredibly in depth with accompanying photographs and documentation.

-Joe Mock

Testimonial – Ann Keller

I have known Michael Connolly and Smart Move Inspections, Inc.  since 1996 and he has done an exceptional job for my buyers and sellers on 75 transactions. If there is a problem at the inspection, he can show the buyers the pictures taken of the issues and is able to accurately describe the issue and possible solutions. The photographs are extremely useful when working for my buyers and the seller say “there is nothing wrong with our house”. Pictures don’t lie !

I have found Michael’s character to be impeccable. He is always on time, pretty fantastic in our 12 year relationship. He is totally objectionable and is just as tough on me no matter which side of the transaction I am on (Listing or Selling Agent).

-Ann C. Keller Licensed since 1973
Circle of Excellence

Testimonial – Pat Chrysler

I have personally been a real estate agent for 18 years and Mike is by far the most thorough inspector that my clients have ever used.

Mike is experienced, trained and very professional in his demeanor and communication with all parties. Mike’s inspection reports have color photos and an easy to understand narrative style. This helps in the negotiation process, proving to the seller that the issue is in fact a real issue that needs to be repaired. The professional report and detailed photos also helps insure that the buyer knows that the home was thoroughly inspected, provides credibility to all parties involved and helps ensure that no major issues develop with the home after closing causing unexpected financial hardship to the new home owner.

Mike encourages buyer(s) and their agent to personally attend the inspection. While on the site, he points out to the buyer and their agent the things he has found in the home that needs some attention, or he will teach the buyer how to use a particular appliance or which way to turn the water on and off.

I have had MANY MANY very satisfied buyers and highly recommend Mike’s services.

– Patricia K. Chrysler
ReMax Unlimited

Observations of a Home Inspector, Part 2

LIVEVALUATION , May 2010 Issue.  Submitted by Michael Connolly, CI  Smart Move Inspections, Inc.

Last month’s installment touched on how a home inspector might address sections of the Uniform Residential Appraisal Report (URAR).  Having already addressed the Subject Property, we will continue on into the Contract and Neighborhood sections of the form in this installment.


In a perfect world and from a home inspectors view, it is advisable to review the purchase contract.  However, it goes without saying, the real estate transaction world is not a perfect one, so it is not surprising that it is uncommon for the home inspector to obtain a copy of the purchase contract.  It is even uncommon for the inspector to know the contract price of the home.  However, it is important that the inspector know some details, which are relevant to the inspection.  Sellers sometimes agree to complete repairs based on disclosed defects as a part of the purchase agreement.  For instance, the seller may agree to repair a crack in the basement wall or replace an old roof.  The presence of any deed restrictions on the property may also provide valuable information to the inspector.  For example, neighbors may have a maintenance agreement on a shared driveway.  Some properties may also have sewage ejection stations to pump sewage up to a main public sewer.  While many of these items would be excluded from a typical home inspection, it is necessary to list these items in the inspection report as limitations (items not evaluated during the inspection).

Seller concessions listed in the purchase agreement may include items relating to the inspection.  Sometimes Sellers agree to pay for the home inspection, WDI (wood destroying insect inspection), Radon testing, etc.  It is important that the inspector clearly define the client (usually the buyer) and should stay away from accepting payment from anyone other than the client.  You cannot serve two masters!

Neighborhood & Site Sections

Neighborhood Characteristics
Urban properties, generally speaking, are required to comply with local zoning and building codes.  They can span a wide spectrum related to condition, with some homes displaying deferred maintenance, usage changes over the years, and structural failures and/or repairs, while others are well maintained and professionally remodeled in the more desirable neighborhoods.  For this reason, it is difficult for an inspector to anticipate conditions in urban neighborhoods.

Suburban homes are usually more uniform in building design, construction, age and condition, and as such are the easier properties to inspect.  Often these are grouped in subdivisions consisting of homes of comparable age, size and quality of construction.

Rural Properties can be (and often are) a wild card because they are less likely to conform to zoning and building codes.  In my service area, some counties have not adopted building codes, and if they do have them, they are not compliant and there is no enforcement thereof.  In these areas, the quality of construction will vary.  Rural properties may also have hidden issues such as underground fuel oil storage tanks and private waste disposal systems.

The characteristics of the neighborhood can provide clues about the age and condition of the subject property.

In some urban areas and in many suburban subdivisions, the homes are of similar age, price range and may have even been built by the same builder.  When driving into the subject property’s neighborhood, I observe closely.  Are the neighboring houses in good general condition or displaying deferred maintenance?  Are there any promotional signs in the yards from contractors (siding, windows, roof, remodeling)?  If many of the houses in the neighborhood have newer looking roofs, perhaps the subject property will have a new roof or will need one soon.  It is not uncommon for a neighborhood to have suffered a weather event such as hail or high winds, which warranted widespread replacement or repair of the other roofs.

Observations of a Home Inspector, Part 1

LIVEVALUATION , May 2010 Issue.  Submitted by Michael Connolly, CI  Smart Move Inspections, Inc.

In a prior life, I spent ten years working for a prominent Midwest appraisal firm.  Between this experience and running my own home inspection business for the last 16 years, I have found that inspectors and appraisers share some common issues. I have acquired a special appreciation for the similarities and differences between them.  Mostly, our professions are related through the real estate process (perhaps cousins, twice removed)—we both visit the house and ascertain the general condition of the property.

I read Steve Papin’s article in the April edition of LiveValuation, entitled “Joe Appraiser”, and chuckled at his descriptions of inspecting the property and avoiding “Fido’s droppings”.  Inspections and appraisals share the pitfalls of evaluating a property.  For example, after setting off an alarm in a home, I once spent 30 minutes in the back of a police cruiser until the police were able to confirm that I had permission to enter the home.

Most people believe that a home inspector just evaluates the home and report its condition to our clients—but not many people realize the true purpose the inspection serves in the real estate process.  It provides affirmation.  Yes, affirmation. Hypothetically, if a buyer has contractually agreed to purchase a home, they are most likely in love with it and the surrounding neighborhood.  They want the house!  They hire a home inspector to uncover any issues, but hope there are none.  The client wants to be prudent and protect their personal interest, thus they are happiest when their inspector tells them the home is in good condition with limited deficiencies.  Ultimately, they want the inspector to shake their hand and congratulate them on their purchase: affirmation.  Of course, in order to satisfy our client, we, as inspectors, must be diligent in our evaluation of the home.  We must use all resources available to provide a thorough analysis of the property.

Home inspectors fill out a variety of inspection forms to report their findings.  Unlike the appraisal industry, there are no national standard inspection forms.  It may be interesting to see how an inspector addresses sections of the appraisal form URAR 1004.  In this article, I will use the URAR as a general outline of points in order to demonstrate some of the tricks and techniques used by a home inspector during the inspection process.

Section 1: SUBJECT

Property Address:

I often “Google” the address of the subject property to see what shows up.  I once found that the subject property I was searching had suffered a fire in the previous year.  (Many fire departments now publish fire reports and any emergency runs to a specific address.)  Of course, there was no mention of this in the property disclosure form that, by state regulation, the home owners had to fill out.  Internet searches may also reveal listings of the property, both active and prior, that have valuable information concerning the age of major systems such as roofs and furnaces.

Assessor’s Parcel Number:

In my market, it is easy to look up a property tax record and description from the county auditor.  Besides the usual information on square footage, there can be some valuable information gleaned from the records.  For instance, a tax card might list a family room addition to the rear of the property, which was built in 2001.  From this I can assume the addition was completed with the benefit of a municipal inspection and therefore probably met the local building codes at the time of construction.  At the property, if I notice the roof on this addition is in the same shape (condition, color, style) as the roof on the main house, I could conclude the age of the roofs are 9 years old.  Knowing an asphalt shingled roof in my area lasts approximately 20 years, this roof probably has 11 remaining years of service life.  If the main house roof does not match and appears to be older, then it may have a lower remaining service life.  But, if I arrive at the home only to find there is an addition which was not listed on the tax card, then I can assume it was built without a permit and inspections from code officials.  I would then closely evaluate this addition and disclose to the client that it may have been built without a permit.

House Inspector Adds Twist to the Task: Photos and Videos

Enterprise insight
By Jenny Callison, Enquirer contributor

HAMILTON – Mike Connolly has embraced technology to give his home inspection business a distinctive edge.

“I’ve taken a business that I believe is nontechnical in nature, in terms of how an inspector works, and used technology to deliver an audio-visual product that has benefits to the client and to me as the business owner,” said the owner of Smart Move Inspections.

Mr. Connolly started his home inspections career working for a company that used a checklist format to identify concerns. Many companies have since shifted to a more complete narrative description, but Smart Move has gone further.

“My original intent was to provide a product that had more dimension to it,” Mr. Connolly explained. “I started with a 35mm camera and a roll of 24- or 36-exposure film. But the limitation there was financial: the cost of developing was an obstacle to the number of pictures I could take.”

So as soon as digital cameras became readily available. he switched to the new technology.

Recalled Mr. Connolly: “It was very difficult for my company to do. Cameras were very expensive, about $1,000 each, and then we had to purchase a computer to download to, software to handle the process, and a printer to print. It was a huge initial investment, but after about three or four months when we learned to use it, we never looked back.”

Nowadays, a customer receives a binder that contains the written inspection report accompanied by black-and-white photos. Each photo is keyed to its description in the narrative. The photos are shown in color on a video with a narrative accompanying the photos.

“The advantage to the client is that everybody – the seller, the purchaser, the Realtor and even contractors who might be performing repairs – can see exactly what I’m talking about,” Mr. Connolly said.

“The advantage to me as a business owner is that it protects my company from liability. The photos document that I actually did the work, and have been to those places. Many times in the home inspection business you’ll get a client who might call you six months later and say, ‘You inspected my house; now I find there’s something wrong.’ The photos document the condition of the house or structure when I inspected it.”

“Here’s a person who likes what he does and also likes technology. It’s a good combination,” said Karen Young, an agent with Huff Realty in Montgomery. “I think he has done over 100 inspections for me.

“I can’t tell people whom to use, but I can give an opinion on why I like a particular inspector. What I say to people is, `What he gives me that no other inspector gives me is the best negotiation tool, and that’s a picture.'”

From a buyer’s agent’s standpoint, Ms. Young explained, that photo-documented report provides the specificity needed for effective negotiations, giving the seller complete information about the nature and location of needed repairs. For the seller, too, a visual report clarifies problems.

Even after the sale, Mr. Connolly said, his reports provide valuable information.

“It’s a great document to refer back to for maintenance, and in the future when they’re ready to sell the house, it provides some history. They or the future buyers can see the home’s baseline condition. Are there leaning or bulging walls? The photos may show that the problem has gotten no worse over time.”

After developing the audio-visual capabilities, the next problem was how to produce reports quickly. While his wife, Karen, handles administrative details, Mr. Connolly does the inspections. To be competitive, his reports must be available quickly – usually within 24 hours.

The solution was a mobile office, in which he could at least draft his reports.

“I built a small one-person office in the back of a Chevy Astro van by removing most of the seats and installing a computer, TV/VCR, color printer and laser printer,” Mr. Connolly said. “It’s powered with an inverter, an electrical device that takes 12-volt current from the alternator and converts it to 110 volts. With the motor running, I can run them indefinitely, or by battery, for about 30 minutes.”

Not only did the mobile office help streamline the reporting process, it provided an immediate way for Mr. Connolly to show clients problematic findings.

“If need be, we can even e-mail a client the report, including digital pictures, as soon as it is done,” he said.

Said Ms. Young: “He’s able to e-mail the report to me, usually that day, so we can get going on negotiations. Mike gives me tools that make my job easier.”