- The Washington Times - Friday, January 11, 2002

Home inspector Daniel Blum doesn't miss a detail.
When Mr. Blum examines a house, almost nothing escapes his scrutiny. He looks at the things you would expect a home inspector to examine such as plumbing, wiring and the roof but he also makes sure doors open and close properly, window blinds go up and down, and electrical outlets work.
He even checks the mail slot in a home's front door.
"I try not to miss anything. This job requires an eye for detail," says Mr. Blum, founder and owner of Integrity Homes Inspection Services Inc. in the District.
Home buyers hire Mr. Blum to inspect a house before they purchase it. Sometimes, he inspects homes that need so many repairs that his clients cancel their contracts on the property.
Yesterday, Mr. Blum started his day by inspecting a small, two-level house in the District. The person who plans to purchase the 62-year-old house is a first-time home buyer.
Mr. Blum arrives at the site about 8 a.m., where he meets the home buyer and the buyer's real-estate agent.
He begins his work by walking around outside the house, and then quickly scans the rooms inside.
Then he begins a more in-depth inspection. He starts in the kitchen, where he fills the sink with water and checks the pipes below to make sure they don't leak.
Next, Mr. Blum checks the burners on the stove. He also checks the oven, and opens and shuts the refrigerator door to make sure it works properly.
Mr. Blum also pulls the refrigerator away from the wall where it sits to make sure the rollers beneath still work.
He scrutinizes the labels on each appliance. He tells the buyer that the stove was manufactured in 1978, and the refrigerator was made in November 1988.
"They have a few more years of life left in them," he says.
After inspecting the kitchen, Mr. Blum heads to the home's basement.
He examines the furnace, fuse box, water heater and washing machine. He also explains to the home buyer how to use a humidifier that is built into the house's ventilation system.
"That's one of the things that I most enjoy about the job, the customer education," Mr. Blum says.
Next, Mr. Blum checks the windows, closet door and fire alarm in the living room. Upstairs, he examines the doors, windows and electrical outlets in the bedroom.
Mr. Blum makes an important discovery in the bathroom: the toilet doesn't work. He lifts the lid off the back of the commode and finds a broken valve.
"This isn't good at all," he mutters to himself as he handles the valve. He recommends the home buyer call a plumber to have the problem fixed.
He then climbs into the house's attic. A few minutes later he emerges covered in coat of black dust and tells the home buyer he discovered a spot where the roof once leaked.
Mr. Blum is an inspector with gadgets. He wears a flashlight and an automated screwdriver on his utility belt, and carries a device that plugs into electrical sockets to show whether or not they work.
He also carries a folding ladder, which he uses to climb on the roof outside the house. The roof is holding up, but the home buyer will probably have to replace it in the next few years, he says.
It's about 10 minutes past 11 a.m. when Mr. Blum hands over the thick blue binder he has been making his notes in to the home buyer. The book also serves as a how-to guide for homeowners, with preprinted pages on preparing a new house for occupancy and fixing common household problems.
After the home buyer writes Mr. Blum a check for $250, he is on his way to his next appointment. The buyer thanks Mr. Blum, saying his advice has been helpful.
"Every buyer's situation is different. A lot of people say as long as a house is not falling down, it's OK," Mr. Blum says.
Mr. Blum provides an important service, the buyer's real-estate agent says.
"Buying a house is an emotional thing. You see something you like in a neighborhood you like and you want it. You don't think about the details. You don't think about whether or not everything works," the agent says.
Mr. Blum's next appointment will take him to an upper Northwest neighborhood, where he will spend most of the afternoon inspecting a larger home.
He will wrap up his work at 4:30 p.m., and then head to his home in the District, where he plans to work on a book on international food that he hopes to get published one day.
Mr. Blum has been a home inspector for 15 years. He estimates that he inspects between 450 and 500 houses a year, and says he can work as many as 12 hours a day during the spring, his busiest season.
Most inspections cost between $265 and $435, depending on the size of the house, he says.
The job has changed a lot since he started in the late 1980s, he says.
Inspectors must now attend intensive training classes a few times a year, which helps them become more familiar with changes in plumbing, electricity and home construction.
Mr. Blum says he likes the job because he gets to meet people from all walks of life, including young couples buying their first home and older people who purchase smaller homes after their children leave home.
Rich or middle-class, virtually every home buyer needs a home inspector at some point, Mr. Blum says.
"We're just as useful to a first time home buyer as we are to someone who purchases a house just for an investment," he says.

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