Gift Ideas for New Home Owners

For first time and seasoned home owners alike, we get questions about the tools we carry to gifts  for their homes. 

Here's a list of our favorite tools and home items, all in one place. We've provided Amazon links to all the items.


We love the durability and versatility of the DeWalt battery powered products. The cool thing is you can use one battery to power drills, impact drivers, saws, and even worklights. There are a few different styles available. All of them are useful in their own way. 

Check it out on Amazon...

Telescoping Ladder

By far, the item that gets the most comments at our home inspections is our telescoping ladders. These are awesome because they're compact, and light weight. They are also adjustable so they fit in smaller spaces. 

Check it out on Amazon...

Water leaks can cause incredible damage in your home. The most common areas for leaks are: under sinks, at the water heater, and the laundry area/washing machines. Placing water sensors in those locations can alert you quickly and catch a leak before it spreads. This is especially important if your washer is located upstairs. 

Check it out on Amazon...

We're a bit obsessed with our coffee. Although we prefer the smooth taste produced by the famous AeroPress, sometimes quantity is paramount. In that case, we're all in on the Moccamaster. You can even pick your own color. 

Check it out on Amazon...

DeWalt Cordless Drill

When you find a cordless (battery powered) product line you like, it's best to stick with it. DeWalt is our favorite. And as far as drills go, this DeWalt cordless is awesome. It's compact and lighter than the standard size version which makes a lot of sense for most projects. 

Check it out on Amazon...

DeWalt Cordless Impact Driver

For projects that involve driving a lot of screws, impact drivers are AWESOME. We use this tool for a lot of weekend warrior type maintenance projects. Like the other DeWalt products we've recommended, this one runs on the 20V Max Lithium Ion batteries. If you're purchasing several DeWalt cordless tools, you can get bare tool versions of some since you won't need a battery and charger for each individual tool. Pick up one with the battery and charger and the rest you can buy as bare tools, which will save you money. Odds are, you won't need to use all your tools simultaneously. If you do, you can alway buy a bigger charging station and more batteries!

Check it out on Amazon...


Although not something used on a daily basis, thermal cameras can help diagnose water leaks, heating problems, electrical issues, and many more common problems. That said, one should get proper training before diagnosing problems conclusively. These FLIR C2 cameras are great because they have a normal photo camera plus a thermal version next to one another. So, when you take a picture, you get both versions. This makes it much easier to understand what you're looking at. We included a photo of what a water leak looks like from a recent home inspection. 

Check it out on Amazon...

These are special screw drivers. Kline Tools is one of the oldest, most respected tool manufacturers in the United States. And their screw drivers are nothing short of iconic. This set is sure to stand the test of time. 

Check it out on Amazon..

Killer Books for Exceptional Real Estate Agents

We've had the distinct pleasure of partnering with some of the finest real estate professionals in the world. It's fair to say that their high level of knowledge, artful negotiating technique, sheer marketing prowess, and unrelenting determination have inspired many. 

To get to that level you can't just expect to pick it up "on the job." 

Operating at a high level of competency in any profession takes more than one person. "It takes a village" as the saying goes. But, those words may be truer than you think...

If you've been frustrated with the results you've been getting from your business (whether it's real estate or something entirely unrelated), I can guarantee one of three things is true:

  1. You haven't read enough.
  2. You haven't read the right stuff.
  3. You haven't done either.

Those are your problems, simply put.

Reading great books is doing what the greats of all times have done--admitting you don't know it all, and seeking the wisdom of others in order to further yourself and realize a hidden gift or potential you were otherwise unaware of.

I always think of the KFC story, which illustrates that you're never too old to discover something amazing within yourself. Col. Sanders didn't become a professional chef until age 40 and didn't franchise a KFC until he was 62.

That's why I read--to discover new things about myself and unlock important insights into myself and my business.

For most of my career, I kept to periodicals (blogs, forums, magazines, news papers, etc.) and I thought I knew a thing or two about business and how to run a marketing operation. I was dead wrong about that and it hit me hard when I started my second company. 

Following some advice which I will begrudgingly attribute to my father :), I made a commitment to reading more books on a consistent basis. Since that turning point, I've been reading about 1.5 book per week. Some of them, I've read twice. 

I share this because I've been on both sides of a book (looking at the cover and reading the inside pages). I can tell you that the latter has changed me in dramatic ways that are benefiting me professionally as a home inspector and entrepreneur as well as personally. 

So, below I've put together a package of books that have made large imprints on me in the short time I've spent with them. 

I invite you to join me in expanding your knowledge and inspiring yourself to create a future you want for yourself and your family.

My goal is to have at least one new person pick up one of these books every month, read it, and have their life forever changed by the ideas in it. 

Here's the list:


Google My Maps How To

We use a lot of technology to make our business run smoothly and improve our efficiency so we can spend less time thinking about things computers are really good at. 

Sometimes, we stumble upon tech that is universally applicable, or at the least can help our referral business partners, real estate professionals. 

In this video, I walk through how I create my own custom Maps within Google Maps. The purpose I use it for is routing my marketing routes so I can meet as many real estate professionals as possible in a given day. But, the application of this technology is vast. 

Check out the video and the follow-up showing how it works on mobile devices.


A basic run-through of the Google My Maps feature, which allows you to create your own custom maps.

Important Info on Mold Testing

Important Info on Mold Testing

The first thing you need to know is that mold inspection is not included in the standard home inspection. DO NOT ASSUME THAT YOUR INSPECTOR WILL INSPECT FOR MOLD unless you order that service in addition to your home inspection. Mold Testing will usually run you roughly between $350 - $550, depending on the size of the home. The inspection and testing for mold goes beyond of the Standards of Practice and regulators of the inspection industry. 

3 Ways to Improve Indoor Air Quality During a Wildfire


Oregon is battling an intense wildfire. While the devastation is obvious near the fire, air quality is negatively affected for hundreds of miles. So, even if you're not in the direct path of the fire, the quality of the air you breathe and live can directly affect you. And it goes without saying that this can pose a serious hazard to your health. 

Wildfire smoke is a combination of gases and fine particles from burning trees and other plant materials. Exposure to wildfire smoke can cause eye irritation, respiratory distress, and exacerbate symptoms from asthma or heart and lung diseases.

What can you do to protect your home air quality when there is smoke present in your area?

  1. Pay attention to the news and local smoke warnings stay informed. It is extremely important to be aware of deteriorating air conditions and how the direction of the wind is affecting smoke traveling from wildfires. Even if you reside hundreds of miles away from a forest fire your air quality may not be at a healthy level. Winds can shift and fires can grow rapidly. Many major U.S. cities have been adversely affected this summer by smoke traveling from wildfires. The U.S. government’s weather website provides a daily air quality forecast and a smoke forecast. Use this as a resource to stay informed about the outdoor air quality in your area.
  2. Keep your home airtight when smoke is present. While letting fresh air in is usually a great way to improve indoor air quality, prevent outdoor air from entering into your home when smoke is present in the atmosphere. Keep windows shut, run your air conditioning during summer months but close the fresh air intake to limit outdoor smoke, and turn fans on to circulate air. Keep air filters clean or replace them frequently. Limit your exposure to the outdoor air and change your clothing as soon as you return indoors.
  3. Take steps to improve your indoor air quality. Houseplants help purify indoor air by emitting oxygen and absorbing carbon dioxide. Purchase several houseplants and place them throughout your home. Protect your indoor air from further pollution. Do not burn candles or allow smoking indoors. Limit the use of fireplaces and gas stoves.

Mold and Pyramids and Real Estate, Oh My!

Wise words found at an inspection.

Wise words found at an inspection.

In real estate, mold is a four letter word. We've heard real estate agents proudly announce that they've "never had mold [in a home they were selling/buying]." We've heard horror stories of $30,000 mold remediation projects. We've even heard advice that sounds something like, "Mold is no big deal! Just spray it with bleach and it will die."

If the scenarios described above are anything you may have heard or believe to be true, please allow us to set the record straight. It's no one's fault that there is so much bad information out there. Just like it takes knowledge to understand the ins and outs of a real estate purchase contract, the same is true for mold in the context of a real estate transaction. We're going to break this down into easily understood terms. We even drew a pretty pyramid and everything. 

The Basics

Mold is EVERYWHERE. We often joke "if you want to know if a house has mold, give us a dollar." Every building is 100% going to have some level of mold. The exceptions to this rule would be controlled facilities with HEPA filtration--aka clean rooms and other environmentally regulated areas. It's safe to say this does not apply to any living space unless there's a computer chip manufacturing facility in the basement.

Mold is NECESSARY. Without mold, our planet would be buried in trash, dead trees, and a plethora of all the organic material that ever lived. In short, we would be buried in trash if it were not for mold. Yay mold! A good working example of this is mulch. Mulch is made of shredded wood and other organic material. When it is spread over flower beds and other landscaped areas, it begins to break down. Within several months, it will be noticeably thin in some areas. This happens because mold literally consumes the mulch, breaking it down cell by cell. 

Mold is NOT THE PROBLEM. Someone may open a bathroom vanity to discover black spots covering a water soaked cabinet base and say "there's a mold problem!" That's just not true. The problem is the leaking drain that soaked the wood of the vanity. Mold is a symptom of the problem. The solution is to repair the leak and remove the mold. Simply removing the mold from any area is not addressing the real problem.

Mold is MICROSCOPIC. It's not lost on us that we used ALL CAPS on that word. But we digress... Because the mold spores are so small, no one can visually see the spores without taking samples and analyzing them in a lab under a microscope. It may be likely mold exists from a visual inspection, but there are a number of cases where dark spots that obviously appeared to be mold growth, except the lab report came back with a negative result, indicating it was only dried mud or a melted Snicker's bar. Who's hungry? 

Mold affects EVERYONE DIFFERENTLY. Mold spreads through the air in the same way dandelions do, only they are much, much smaller. As mold grows, it releases these tiny spores into the air, where they can hang out for as long as a week for some types--talk about defying gravity. We breathe these spores in without noticing, where they enter our lungs. In healthy people with strong immune systems, this is no big deal. If, however, an individual has a suppressed immune system (such as chemotherapy patients) or has asthma/respiratory allergies, certain types of mold spores can negatively affect their health. This is why cancer wards in hospitals are routinely tested for mold spores in the air. It's also the reason there are no standards for "acceptable" levels of mold from the State of California or the EPA--the range of reactions is too wide and the variables are too great to define an "acceptable level" for every circumstance. It's also pretty difficult to regulate a naturally occurring organism.


Mold is a little LIKE FIRE...kinda. Mold works a little like fire. Think about it this way: Instead of the fire triangle (oxygen/heat/fuel), mold exists in a pyramid. Just like the fire triangle, if you remove one of the components of the mold pyramid, it falls apart. That means it can't survive without the following 4 things: mold spores (they're everywhere), moisture (different mold types have different moisture requirements), food (think wood, drywall, organic material), and time (24 - 48 hours is all it takes for mold growth to begin.) Check out our pretty pyramid to visualize.

So What

Now you've got a good understanding of what mold is, why it exists, and how it can affect people. So what? 

Testing is IMPORTANT. Purchasing real estate requires a lot of paperwork. That's because it's complicated and noticeably devoid of any Costco-like return policies. For a deal to be successful, everyone needs to be on the same page, quite literally. That's why so much is described by different professionals like mortgage lenders, appraisers, home inspectors, and others--in writing. There is little to no consideration or recourse without proper documentation. So, testing is important because it produces a written report.

If there is suspected mold growth or if a buyer is very sensitive to mold, samples should be taken either using swabs or specialized air sampling pumps by an inspector. DIY methods should be avoided as there is usually a conflict of interest. These samples are accounted for on a chain of custody document and sent to a lab for analysis. The lab will write a report, signed by (in our case) a Ph.D Mycologist. This is crucial because of the lack of standards in mold testing. A high level professional like a Ph.D Mycologist will take many different environmental factors into account and make a call one of two ways: the level of mold found in the samples is normal or it's a problem level.

With this approach, there is now actionable documentation from a subject matter expert. 

If the report comes back normal, move forward with the transaction. Our reports actually come with a $3,000 accuracy guarantee.  If there is a problem level of mold found, then professional remediation is required. Often times, the mold growth is hidden behind walls, so some investigative actions may be taken by a mold remediation contractor to determine the full extent of growth before developing a protocol for removing it.

This is not a picture of mold. Just a great looking backyard.

This is not a picture of mold. Just a great looking backyard.

This sounds complex, but it can all happen in a very timely fashion. The collection of samples takes about 30 minutes and we turn around lab reports next day in nearly all cases.

There are, of course, a plethora of other testing that can be performed. This is especially true for indoor air quality. Similar testing can determine EPA designated Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs) and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are examples of other testing along with Formaldehyde, which was an issue with the recent Lumber Liquidator's case

The big takeaway here is GET IT CLEARLY DOCUMENTED so appropriate action can be taken. 

We really hope this helps clear up misunderstandings about mold. If you still have questions. Please feel free to give us a call (888) 788-4228 or email us and we'd be happy to answer them.

Home Safety Check-up: Aging Smoke Detectors

When we perform a home inspection, there are a number of safety related items we note and make recommendations to upgrade. This is often because standards have been increased over the years, new designs and practices have been adopted, and sometimes because old parts have worn out.

It's not uncommon for us to come across defects with a very common fire safety device: the smoke detector. Here are the two most common problems we discover.

  1. Placement – While manufacturers publish their own requirements for installation, a good rule of thumb is to place the smoke detector within 6 inches of the highest point in a giving area. This means if you have high or vaulted ceilings, you need to get out a tall ladder or call a handyman. The reason for this guideline is that smoke with naturally rise and a detector placed too low won't get good exposure to any potential smoke in the room. Therefore, it may not sound an alarm as quickly as it would when placed at the higher location. 
  2. Age – Believe it or not, sensors in smoke detectors don't last forever. Many manufacturers design the cases of their detectors to yellow over time, giving you a visual signal they are old and need replacement. You should replace your detectors every 10 years--and yes, even the fancy Nest Protect Smoke Detectors. It's cheap peace of mind. Just do it!

As Heather Yamada-Hosley recently noted in her Lifehacker Smoke Detector Post, there are tests you can conduct on your detector to make sure it's still working properly. But, it's best not to push the time limit too far.