First Person Singular: Arthur Pavis, home inspector

Arthur Pavis wants to protect people from money pits.
Arthur Pavis wants to protect people from money pits. (K.K. Ottesen)
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Sunday, October 31, 2010

My job is to go in and spot problems, expose them, so people can make an informed decision and not buy a money pit. So you can't just go in mundanely, like: Okay, this outlet's working; these windows are fine. You have to really look around.

It is detective work in a way. Are there stains anywhere? Is there any deterioration that might indicate water? You want to protect people from the big stuff. So I look not just for the dripping faucet but for a roof that's shot or a termite-infested beam.

You've got to look past all the pretty granite, because sometimes you just get blinded by all that stuff. You've got to turn your head and go back to work. Stop worrying about the river views, all the great furniture, the piano, how these people live. Get back to your senses, Arthur, and do your job. I have to distill all the nice, new, shiny stuff with the problems that the buyer doesn't see.

When I find something big, I feel good. I feel like I've done my job. But yet you're thinking, Oh, that's unfortunate for the prospective buyer. If the seller may give a credit, that's one thing. But if it's sold as is and is going to weigh on this one family, my client, each thing is another brick piled on their back. I have empathy for them, you know. I'm right there with them thinking, Damn, this might not be good.

It's tricky, because buying a house is an emotional thing. I mean, you have to live there. You want it to be a certain way, and if you start realizing there's problems with it, it's hard. But I'm never negative about it. My philosophy is: Everything can be fixed.

I did a house in Bethesda a couple weeks ago. It was a nice, big house, but it had gone to hell, pretty much. It was sort of weird, because this house in this wonderful location that had a big yard had stuff leaking and dripping, gutters falling off, plaster coming down from the ceilings. I'm thinking: How does this happen? A lot of people are just so inundated in their lives already -- from their careers and whatnot, and maybe kids -- that they do let things go, and they don't mean to, or they just don't know better. And we see the symptoms of that when houses have issues.

Maintaining your house is important. I've even said to clients, "Promise me you'll take care of this place." You know, 'cause it's a beautiful old house, and you want it to be here another hundred years. It's the right thing to do.

Interview by KK Ottesen

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