Crafting a Reputable Business with Charlie Bellefontaine
Episode 7025th January 2023 • Construction Disruption • Isaiah Industries
00:00:00 00:44:25

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With any professional, the three most important words we should be referring to is reputation, reputation, reputation. Value your reputation. All it takes is one dumb, rude, unthinking action to go ahead and ruin a perfectly good reputation.” -Charlie Bellefontaine, Licensed Home Inspector and Radio Host.

 

As a home inspector, you hold tremendous responsibility in making sure homes are safe and livable for clients. Homebuyers, homeowners, and realtors alike need to trust your judgment. Once you foster this base of trust, your reputation is critical to continued success and earning referrals.

 

Charlie Bellefontaine has been a home inspector for 30 years and holds reputation as one of the cornerstones of his business. If you visit his website, you’ll find several points assuring potential customers that their expectations will be exceeded and that each inspector is vetted for their experience and knowledge. 

 

Charlie and his company deliver a vital service that relies heavily on trust. So how does your business deal with trust? How will a good reputation catapult you to the next level? 

 

Topics discussed in this interview:

- Discovering a passion for home inspection

- A memorable inspection and the value of heeding advice

- What does it take to be a home inspector? And what should it take?

- Change in home inspection over the years

- The role of the realtor and their relationships with other professionals

- Advances in roof safety

- The ethics of contracting and home inspection

- The importance of reputation

- Rapid-fire questions

 

Visit Charlie’s website, thehomeinspectors.com, call him at 312-544-9180, or brush up on your home inspection knowledge at the Home Inspection University-Illinois at hiuil.com.

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This podcast uses the following third-party services for analysis:

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Chartable - https://chartable.com/privacy

Transcripts

Charlie Bellefontaine:

:

I think with any professional, the three most important words we should be referring to is reputation, reputation, reputation. Value your reputation, do something different, be better than everybody else. Let them chase you, your competition, chase you. Don't be chasing them. Find out what they do, do it better. Don't do it cheaper. Do it better and do it for more.

Todd Miller:

:

Welcome to the Construction Disruption podcast, where we uncover the future of building and remodeling. I'm Todd Miller of Isaiah Industries, a manufacturer of specialty metal, roofing and other building materials. And today my co-host is Ryan Bell. Ryan, welcome to the show, how are you doing today?

Ryan Bell:

:

Thanks, Todd. I'm doing great.

Todd Miller:

:

Good deal.

Ryan Bell:

:

Happy to be here. How are you?

Todd Miller:

:

Glad to have you here. You know, I'm doing well, also. We are recording this in the middle of Christmas season, so that's always fun. It won't air till a little bit after that, but a cool time of the year. So you have anything to kind of kick us off here today, Ryan?

Ryan Bell:

:

Always. I have a few dad jokes up my sleeve. Why don't other shapes talk to circles?

Todd Miller:

:

Why don't other shapes talk to circles? I do not know, Ryan.

Ryan Bell:

:

Because there's no point.

Todd Miller:

:

Okay, that's good.

Ryan Bell:

:

What do Olympic sprinters eat before a race?

Todd Miller:

:

I do not know.

Ryan Bell:

:

Nothing. They fast.

Todd Miller:

:

That's a good one.

Ryan Bell:

:

I told that one to the kids last night and it turned into this very long-winded explanation, trying to get Nate to understand it. He was like, I just, I don't understand. What do you mean? Why is that funny?

Todd Miller:

:

Ah, very good, good way to start us out. Well, I will also remind our audience that this episode, we will have some challenge words going. So both Ryan and I and our guest have a word that we have been assigned at random by some great computer out in the Netherlands, no, not really. But anyway, we've all been assigned a word that we are challenged to work into our conversation. So that gives our audience a challenge. See if you can figure out what our challenge word was when we say it, and we will let you know at the end whether we were successful and what our words were. So let's get rolling. Today's guest is Charlie Bellefontaine. Charlie is a home inspector and radio show podcast host based in Chicago. He currently develops and administers training programs for the Home Inspection University, as well as hosts the Homebuyer's Hour radio show on WCPT AM 850 in Chicago. Charlie has a long history in home inspection and considerable experience in the construction industry. Charlie, thank you so much for joining us today on Construction Disruption. I'm looking forward to what I know is going to be a great conversation.

Charlie Bellefontaine:

:

Thank you. It's a pleasure to be here. I appreciate everything. And, you know, it's probably my fault when I sent you the information, but the radio station in Chicago is WCPT AM 8-2-0, so that's 820.

Todd Miller:

:

That's probably a typo. Well, you know, I have to ask one other thing, too, and I meant to ask you this in advance. Am I pronouncing your last name correctly? Bellefontaine?

Charlie Bellefontaine:

:

You know what? You are perfectly on. Usually, I get Bella Fontaine or Bellafontanee or, you know. It's kind of nutty. And, you know, this might be a little inappropriate, but when I was in the firehouse, somebody asked me what that means, and I said, it's French and it stands for beautiful fountain. And then they started nicknaming me beautiful bidet. In the firehouse, your so-called brothers, they they like to mess with you quite a bit.

Todd Miller:

:

I love that. Well, one of the reasons I had to ask is we have a town very close to us here in Ohio that is spelled the exact same way, but it's pronounced bell fountain.

Charlie Bellefontaine:

:

I guess it's Americanized is what it is. And just a little add on to that, it's the first city that actually had concrete sidewalks in the United States of America.

Todd Miller:

:

That was going to be my next statement, I'm impressed you know that.

Charlie Bellefontaine:

:

Well, they named the town after me. I got to know a little bit of history about it, right?

Todd Miller:

:

There you go. Well, I'm curious, can you tell us a little bit about how home inspection became a passion for you? I mean, did you just grow up saying, I want to go poke around people's houses when I get old? How could you end up making a career in this? Was this something that started early for you or something you kind of fell into to? Tell us a little bit about that.

Charlie Bellefontaine:

:

I think in my life I was really early to figure out what I wanted to do early on, you know? So in high school, they actually had a a cadet program for fire science, right? So by the time I graduated high school, I was, there's three levels or there were three levels of firefighter certification in Illinois. So I was at the middle level. And then you had to be an EMT before you could be a paramedic. So I was able to be an EMT before I graduated high school and I got the paramedic. It looked cool, it sounded like fun. I did that for 37 years. I ended up, you know, working full time and I'm retired now from doing all that. But and I enjoyed it, don't get me wrong. But with the fireman business and, you know, going back a little bit, I did some pretty cool stuff. I delivered five babies. Not many people can say they did that. You know, I did jugular sticks, chest compressions. I put a needle in a person's heart, one time for a periocardiocentesis. I did some really cool things, but that was over 37 years. And then I saw in the back of a magazine one time, you know, be a home inspector, help people buy a house. And I love construction, I love concrete and all that. So I took this two week course back in 1993 when my son was born. And you know what? When you finish doing a home inspection, your clients, they they shake your hand with the right hand, they hand you a big fat check with the left hand. They look you right in the eyes and they say thank you. And then it's probably one of the most rewarding feelings that I've ever got. So I like building science. I like to figure stuff out. So because of which, I want to learn more and more about how buildings work and how the systems and components work together, and I found a passion. So I've been doing it since '93, you know? So we're coming up on my 30th anniversary for this. And yeah, it's a passion, it's rewarding and being able to, you know, take leadership roles in our state. As far as being the president of the Illinois Association of Home Inspectors, leading our lobbying team, doing the training program. These are all fun, enjoyable, rewarding things. And I can't encourage people enough, if you like to figure stuff out, this is a great profession.

Todd Miller:

:

Very cool. That makes a lot of sense, especially with coming out of, you know, fire science and so forth and, you know, having this fascination with buildings and how they're built and so forth would be a natural thing. So I'm kind of thinking back a few years ago, I was called in to do an inspection or somehow got involved with a house that they thought had a roof leak because the attic was completely rotting out. And I discovered in that process that the whole problem was they had a rather illicit horticultural operation going on inside the house that had caused all this moisture in the attic and rotted out the attic. The roof was fine. But I'm curious, any particularly crazy stories come to mind for you from homes you've inspected over the years?

Charlie Bellefontaine:

:

Yeah, there's a few. The one that I got a passion obviously, for fireplaces and protecting. I've been on more than a dozen house fires that were caused by poorly maintained chimneys and flues, right. So I learned a lot about them. We actually send 360 cameras up flues now. It's pretty fun to see the condition of these things. So I did an inspection in Libertyville, Libertyville, Illinois, and I can even put the street up there because it's all public record, you know. But the house was beautiful. It was a townhome and on Red Top Lane in Libertyville. You could search for house fires and Red Top Lane and yes, that is where this conversation is going.

Todd Miller:

:

Wow.

Charlie Bellefontaine:

:

The house is beautiful. Everything was in great shape. I got to the fireplace and bricks were loose, smoke chamber wasn't purged. You could just see damage from above. And I basically told my client, I said, This thing is unsafe to use. We need to get a sweep out here and they're going to be spending about ten or more thousand dollars to get this thing fixed. The sellers, they thought I was a big dummy and they didn't believe me, but my clients and the sellers went back and forth. They finally agreed to get a chimney sweep out there. One of the bigger companies in the Chicagoland area, they were planning on coming out there on a Wednesday and the Sunday before the Wednesday, they had a family over and they believed in their heart that the fireplace was okay. They lit a big fire and then the next thing they know is the lights started flickering. The smoke alarms went off. They went upstairs to investigate and the top floor was filled with smoke. And they got everybody out. By the time the fire department got there, it was through the roof. It was, they lost their home. It's sad. You know, my clients loved that house, they couldn't buy it, you know. So all this happened between the home inspection and taking possession of the house. So that was one of the craziest, you know, things that and I got chased by a raccoon in an attic, but you don't want to hear that story.

Todd Miller:

:

Yeah. I have my own raccoon stories; they are not a lot of fun.

Charlie Bellefontaine:

:

And even though I'm, like, ten times bigger than that or more, they scare the living bejesus out of me.

Todd Miller:

:

Yes, they do, they do indeed. So your other story reminded me of something, you know, reminds me of that importance of having a professional and taking them at their word and listening to them. Many years ago, I was at dinner and there was a doctor at the table with me, and he was telling a story and he was actually making kind of light of it, although it's a very serious subject. They said, you know, I had this patient come in and, you know, I told her, I said, if you don't do this and get this taken care of, you're gonna die. And my question was, well, what happened is he said, well, she's dead. And so, you know, you're absolutely right. You got to, if you're going to consult a professional, you ought to pay attention to it, that's for sure.

Charlie Bellefontaine:

:

I think that's one of the problems in our profession, though, since you mentioned that is our bar to entry is just too low. You know, in Illinois, we follow the number of licensees very strictly and we're involved with our state legislator, our legislatures, quite a bit and pretty intimate with the staff as well. And right now they're issuing in Illinois the 13th or actually just passed the 13,000th license since 2002. Yet right now we have roughly 1350 active licensees. So in 20 years, if you think about it, 90% of our population that got our license left the business. Most of the time it's because they just don't know enough. You know, in Illinois, it's 60 hours of YouTube watching videos and you get 70% on a multiple choice test. And I assure you that home inspecting is not multiple choice. It's fill in the blank. And then I go back to saying, what 30% do we not need to know when it comes up? And which is why I was attracted to you guys, you know, with more your roofing expertise that comes in there. And that's why I wanted to get to know you guys a little bit more.

Todd Miller:

:

No, that's awesome. Well, so, you know, talking about that as far as credentialing and certification, what in your opinion would be would be the credentials of a qualified home inspector?

Charlie Bellefontaine:

:

It's hard to say. I mean, the amount of knowledge and education is amazing. When I first started this, I was in my early twenties and, you know, just past my teenage years and in the teenage years, I knew everything, alright. And the older I got, the dumber I realized I became, alright. And you just don't know what you don't know. And, you know, granted, even with the training programs that we do, we cover most of this stuff, but it still doesn't retain in an adult's brain. So, you know, it goes back to the read it, write it, say it, do it, touch it, feel it, smell it. Use every sense that you can in order to permanently remember something. And then you take that and then you add in what it takes to be a licensed electrician in this state. It's five years of schooling and on the job training and I need to correct myself. Our state does not license electricians, Chicago does, and the suburbs, though. But that takes five years. HVAC is four years of schooling and on the job training. Plumbers are licensed in Illinois and they're five years of schooling and on the job training Then you add on there the roofers, the framers, the installation contractor, the concrete pourers, the window installers, door installers, cabinets, flooring guys, drywall guys. You know I could go on and on, we're talking years and years the knowledge and education to be able to communicate properly and identify issues where it comes to. So it doesn't come at 60 hours. So I really don't know what the right answer is. Everybody's different. What we did, was we lobbied for and got a field exam for people in order to get their license here in Illinois. Now, it's not implemented yet, but we're very proud of doing that. So we're going to have them go into a house and they have to find a certain percentage of issues that are present in that particular home in order to be able to pass this test. So it's still all being put together, but we're very proud that it's going to make our profession better.

Todd Miller:

:

Very good. Well, as I recall, there are some trade groups or associations of home inspectors. It seems to me I spoke to a group several years ago, might have been called NACHI or something.

Charlie Bellefontaine:

:

Yeah, there's an ASHI, stands for the American Society of Home Inspectors, and I pronounce it NOTCHE, you know, the National Association of Certified Home Inspectors?

Todd Miller:

:

That's the one, yeah.

Charlie Bellefontaine:

:

And, you know, and I'm a training partner with them, I'm actively involved with them. As far as ASHI goes, I used to be the vice president of that organization. I was a director, committee chair for a long time. But what I like about NACHI, and I'm not here to sell one over the other, but NACHI really goes out of their way to help people enter and remain in this business. They put a lot of value into their association membership, and I greatly respect that. You know, the best way to, the best way to improve our profession is for you to share as much knowledge as you can about what you own. So and they do that and I try to.

Todd Miller:

:

Well, speaking of which, I know that you do training with home inspectors. Curious, what is your favorite thing to train them on?

Charlie Bellefontaine:

:

Me, personally, it's electric. I just yeah, it's, you know, especially when you talk about grounding and bonding and the difference between the two and the similarities between the two and why we do it. And it's just fun to see the light go on over somebody's head, you know, especially when they have the passion to learn it and they want to learn.

Todd Miller:

:

Well over your years in this business, things obviously have been speeding along. I'm curious, what changes have you seen in home inspection or perhaps maybe things that you pay more attention to now than you used to or there been anything like that?

Charlie Bellefontaine:

:

You know, for me it's always water entry into the building. So we have ten inspectors in our company and, you know, we want to provide the best service, obviously, as we can to our clients. And we believe in making a big long list, you know, not the short list. And even if there is past water stains that are dry, we're going to document all those things. But you want to get the fastest complaint from a client, you let water come into that building and they're not aware that it might happen. You're going to receive a phone call and that phone call is going to start with, if you would have told me, you know, I would have done this. So it's our clients that choose us. They want to know. And and that's, you know, we try to focus as much as we can under the rooflines, under the bathrooms, kitchens, basements. We have a lot of those here. But then we run into a lot of condensation issues and people don't understand, you know, the theory behind bypasses, air movements and how you can go ahead and bring a whole bunch of moisture in the house just by a difference in temperatures and reaching dew point. It's amazing.

Todd Miller:

:

Yeah.

Ryan Bell:

:

So something you said there. So your clients are able to select you as the home inspector?

Charlie Bellefontaine:

:

Yes.

Ryan Bell:

:

Where you're at, because I think I could be wrong, but I think here in Ohio we are assigned kind of randomly and we don't get a say in who the home inspector is going to be.

Charlie Bellefontaine:

:

You know, it's a shame that you said that. I don't believe it's true. In Ohio, I do have a lot of home inspector friends. And what happens is the real estate agent community, they're the ones that build a relationship with the homebuyer first. So they have the know me, the like me, the trust me portion. They have that all built and if they built their trust with their client, then they pretty much guide them to the attorney, the mortgage broker, the home inspector and so forth. So maybe that's why you're feeling that way.

Ryan Bell:

:

Okay.

Charlie Bellefontaine:

:

But, you know, I'm going to start waving my flag here. This is the great United States of America and the the biggest freedom we have is their freedom of choice. And you could choose your home inspector as well. You know, the good news is, in the Chicagoland area, we have 7 million people in the surrounding area. So 80% of the referrals to homebuyers come from the real estate agent community. But 20% of 7 million is still a lot of people. And I was able to market directly to the consumer, and that's worked very well with us. And now I'm trying to build relationships with high-producing real estate agents that value the type of service that we provide. Does that sound sales-pitchy?

Todd Miller:

:

That was a good way to go, though, for you and then also protect the homeowner. Protect the consumer as well.

Charlie Bellefontaine:

:

Exactly, and I value each one of these inspectors that bought into this mindset because it is different than what most home inspectors do. I know this sounds rude and mean, but I'm not here to appease a real estate agent. I'm here to appease my client. And I want to... When the real estate agent wants the client to have as much knowledge as possible, now, I have a good business partnership, and that's going to work when we both have that same mindset.

Todd Miller:

:

Very good. I'm curious, as you've been out on inspections over the years and undoubtedly thousands of them, I'm sure you've seen some real egregious errors and mistakes iin construction and things. Do you think those mistakes were usually made by professional contractors or by do it yourselfers more often? Any thoughts on that?

Charlie Bellefontaine:

:

The sad thing is that the answer is going to be both. And, you know, I think the biggest difference is the definition that people understand. What does professional mean? And a lot of people hear the word professional, that means they're going to do very good work. But in all reality, professional means I'm getting paid to do this work, alright. As long as someone gives me money, I am technically a professional. And I've seen bad roof jobs by professionals, structure mistakes, concretes, you name it. You know, and these were so-called high advertising, high-rated companies. But you get one person to do one bad thing and there goes the reputation, you know. And reputation is a big, strong word in my mind, alright. I value that every way. It takes you years and years to build up a strong reputation. But it takes one dumb, rude, unthinking action to go ahead and ruin a perfectly good reputation. And that's a problem in our society a little bit. But we all need to do the best we can.

Todd Miller:

:

I remember many years ago I was in someone's house that, I shouldn't laugh about this, the house is still standing. I know the house.

Charlie Bellefontaine:

:

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Todd Miller:

:

And they were rewiring it. And, you know, I'm looking and I'm saying, well, what are you doing about the ground wires? And they said, Oh, I'm just snipping those off. They don't really do anything. I'm thiking, I'm not really sure that's the right thing to be doing here.

Charlie Bellefontaine:

:

I couldn't agree more. Which it, you know, brings me up. I know your expertise is metal roofing and that. Do you end up, you know, like putting lightning arresters or you end up bonding that roof to anything else or? Because I put a metal roof on my house and I did not run any sort of electrical binding wires to the roof. And then I'm questioning myself, should I get some?

Todd Miller:

:

You know, it's unusual to. You certainly can to the roof, the fact that the panels are all interlocking plays one factor in that. But yes, there are times too that folks have lightning protection and our general advice on lightning protection is if the house is out in the middle of no place, then the tallest object around it ought to have lightning protection on it. You know, I've seen a couple of jobs over the years where the roof did get hit by lightning and it typically hit at the ridge and caused a little bit of damage. But actually, you know, didn't really cause any fire or any lasting damage or anything, yes, fortunately. You know, I do think it's kind of funny. I've told this story a lot. I grew up and my mother was always whenever there was lightning outside, we weren't allowed in the bathroom or the kitchen. And you know that that house, the old plumbing stacks going through the roof were cast iron. So she was actually very wise in that. And of course, you know, now that's pretty much required to be PVC by code. But to some degree, she was very wise. And I don't think she even knew why she was telling us that. But it was what we were always told. So you stayed out of the kitchen and bathroom when it was lightning.

Charlie Bellefontaine:

:

I love it. I know I can make probably about four dirty jokes out of that, but I'm not going to.

Todd Miller:

:

Well, you know, we are always trying to get explicit ratings here on the show, that is always one of our goals.

Charlie Bellefontaine:

:

I will avoid that. Inspecting roofs, though, I got to say, that's like one of the more difficult, especially metal roofs.

Todd Miller:

:

Sure.

Charlie Bellefontaine:

:

I actually bought these cougar paws.

Todd Miller:

:

Oh, yeah.

Charlie Bellefontaine:

:

That have magnets in the bottom of my, you've heard of these, that's cool. And but yeah, when my roof gets wet, it's still slippery. I almost fell off my roof twice and trying to blow the leaves out of the gutters and stuff like that. And I'm like, okay, I'm not. The first time, oh, that was just, that was a fluke, you know. The second time, okay, that was stupid. You know, we're not going to be doing that anymore. So now it's I look for different avenues and, you know, to do inspections of roofs and I mean, low-slope asphalt shingles, we'll get up on those. But otherwise, yeah, we're droning. I remember we went for a hot air balloon ride in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and I saw a swamp cooler. So we lowered down the balloon so I could see what a swamp cooler looks like and stuff up closer. And then my partner, Corey and I, we said, Hey, look, we're inspecting the roof by hot air balloon. You know, so and you get all those unusual things. The next thing, and I did have another house that had a trampoline in the backyard. And I'm like, no, I'm just way too fat to jump on that thing. I'm not gonna do it. So you got to know your limitations.

Todd Miller:

:

You would see the roof in short bursts, I guess.

Charlie Bellefontaine:

:

Yeah, right? You know, I'd feel like Bugs Bunny going up and down or something.

Todd Miller:

:

Well, I will give a shout out, actually, since we're talking about, a little bit about roof safety. So there's a guy out there, a company and they've called themselves Steep Gear, Steep G-E-A-R. And he is coming up with a number of things for roof safety. One of the first things he came up with actually is incredibly cool, although I think it's, you know, a lot of guys haven't wanted to wear them, but it's actually actually shorts that you wear over your work pants and the shorts have this real, not really abrasive but a stickiness on your rump side so that it should start to slide. You roll over on your back and it pretty much stops the slide immediately. And I know that home inspectors and, you know, people who are on roofs, but maybe not on roofs all the time, they've been one of those target audiences for them, insurance inspectors and so forth.

Charlie Bellefontaine:

:

Oh, I'd love an introduction to them. I think that's a terrific product. You know, anything that keeps people from falling off. We did have one home inspector there was holding on to a chimney, leaning around the outside, and the chimney actually let loose. And he came down, broke both his legs. He, you know, thank God he was alive afterwards, but he was out of commission for probably a year, if not more.

Todd Miller:

:

Yeah, I'll see people go up on the roofs, too, and put their weight on snow guards and things that are on the roof and just always kind of scares me cause it wouldn't take much for one of those to let loose. So I'm curious, do a lot of home inspectors, I assume, had started as contractors themselves? And is that ethically okay for a home inspector to still be in the contracting business as well? I mean, is that is that a good add-on profit center for a knowledgeable contractor?

Charlie Bellefontaine:

:

I think so. And I think it's okay as well. So it depends on what association that you bring or that you join. Everybody has their code of ethics and then different states have different laws. So here in Illinois, if you do a home inspection on a property and you want to give a bid to go ahead and make repairs on a property, you can do that. But you have to, so you have to get permission from your client before they sign your home inspection agreement. So they say it's okay for you to get bids. Then it's okay for you to get bids. You know, other organization, they say you can't do stuff like that for a year. But you know, to really answer your question more accurately, I get to go back to that big, long list of trades that I have, alright. So if somebody is an expert in one of the fields because they have a lot of experience in whatever trade they're in, that's a bonus for their trade, you know, or for that discipline. We still have to learn the other ones because it's we encompass a humongous range of different expertises that come in there. And that's part of the reason why home inspectors tend to get to reduce their liability because instead of hiring the roofer, the framer, the insulator and so forth down the list, you're hiring one person who's going to have reduced knowledge in all those different aspects. But you get to get that person at a reduced rate, which also allows them to reduce their liability.

Todd Miller:

:

This question is entirely off the cuff, but I'm curious, have there ever been any GCs, general contractors who hired a certified home inspector just to kind of watch over their projects during the midst of them? Does that ever happen at all?

Charlie Bellefontaine:

:

Yeah, we actually have a few investors that, you know, do rehab properties, and that's when you deal with flipping homes or somebody watches a couple of episodes on HGTV or Do It Yourself network. I personally hate doing those houses because they are and they're just so bad of shape and they're just poorly. That's very prejudiced of me, so I apologize for that. But for the vast majority, the ones that we do, we find a lot of things wrong.

Todd Miller:

:

Yeah.

Charlie Bellefontaine:

:

So I decided to start building relationships with some of those people and talking with them. And now we have investors that hire us when they buy it, then they get their crews in there to do their stuff and then before they put it on the market, we go through it again. You know, just make sure that everything's good and they're thrilled with it because now when they get to the point where they got a buyer and there's a home inspector coming in there, their list is very short because they do take the time to correct the things that we tell them.

Todd Miller:

:

Well, I was going to say I think that's interesting and that even to the homeowner that brings, you know, a contractor that says, hey, we always have so and so, who is an independent come out and inspect our projects. That brings a lot of assurance to the homeowner and an extra value added part of the sale to the for the contractor as well.

Charlie Bellefontaine:

:

Yeah, a lot of people don't realize there's two rounds of negotiations in just about every real estate transaction. The first round is when you present the client or present the contract and you get their side right away. And then the home inspection comes through and then all of a sudden they didn't know that the furnace was 20 years old or the air conditioner and the roof and everything else. And they're looking at $20,000 worth of repairs in the next five years, ten years. That's a lot of money to some people. Most of our citizens in the United States do live check to check still and getting hit with a $5, 6, 10,000 bill is is harsh and finding somebody who's qualified, you know, a qualified professional to do your home inspection is important. And I, you know, right now the only way that I could tell people to find somebody good is start reading reviews, because everybody's going to tell you they're the best. I'm about to tell you we're the best, alright. But it's when other people come back and say, these guys are the best and then they go into great detail, that means a lot. So and of course, it's easy for me to say that, we got 1,500+ five-star reviews and we get roughly 5 to 10 a week, which I love.

Todd Miller:

:

Good stuff. I'm curious, are there any trends you're seeing out there in home building or design or maybe remodeling, you know, trends in terms of what homeowners want from their house that might be of interest to our listeners?

Charlie Bellefontaine:

:

I still think it mostly goes to the old standby, kitchens and bathrooms. Everybody likes all the fancy kitchens and seems that's where the money gets spent. But I do have a real estate agent who's working with the developer on the South Side of Chicago, and they're tearing down a lot of homes and they're building new homes there, and they're not connecting to the gas service. Alright, so everything in the house is electric. They end up putting a bunch of solar panels up on the roof. They're dealing with Misubishi heat pumps that come in there and those things work all the way down to -25 degrees. They're able to absorb heat from the outside and bring it to the inside. And they're able to produce enough power with, you know, feeding it back to the electric company. And, you know, they basically don't even have an electric bill. So no gas bill, no electric bill, you know, for the house at all. And all you're doing is paying a water bill. Super insulated, and I, I just hope that keeps growing on and on. You know, I'm a nerd when it comes to free utilities. So if I can get rid of gas and electric, I'm all over it.

Todd Miller:

:

Well, and I think a lot of homeowners, you know, think a lot about lower operating costs. I mean, we even see that with metal roofing a lot. They are looking for the energy efficient benefit or possibly the benefit of being able to put solar on it. But, you know, their long term goal, as you know, I want to control the cost of operating my home and living in my home. So makes a lot of sense.

Charlie Bellefontaine:

:

Another change I'm seeing more and more is people are now bringing the attic into the conditioned space.

Todd Miller:

:

Yes.

Charlie Bellefontaine:

:

And I like that. I did it in my house too, and I'm a big fan and I know it started with crawlspaces. They were used to be outside the conditioned space. So now we started sealing and heating those up, and it just makes a more comfortable home. I don't know what to say.

Todd Miller:

:

No, and that's that's been a real change I've seen over the years, too. But I think it's positive changes, no doubt about it.

Charlie Bellefontaine:

:

I agree.

Todd Miller:

:

So we believe that a lot of our audience members, Charlie, are younger folks, we kind of designed this podcast to appeal to folks who may be thinking about entering construction or design or remodeling as a career or perhaps they're early in those stages. Any general words of advice for folks starting out their careers in the broad industry of construction or specific to home inspection like you're doing?

Charlie Bellefontaine:

:

Yeah, especially for entreprenuers and real estate, they always say those three most important words are location, location, location. And I think with any professional, the three most important words we should be referring to is reputation, reputation, reputation. Value your reputation. Do something different, be better than everybody else. Let them chase you, your competition, chase you. Don't be chasing them. Find out what they do, do it better. Don't do it cheaper, do it better and do it for more.

Todd Miller:

:

Those are great words. Have your competition chasing you. I love it. And, yeah, I can't even improve on that. That's great. Well, Charlie, this has been really good. We're close to wrapping up the what we call the business end of things. Really enjoyed this. Is there anything we haven't covered today that you'd like to share with our audience?

Charlie Bellefontaine:

:

One thing about these podcasts, that I know you're aware of, there is six million hours of information you want to share that you're doing it in less than an hour.

Todd Miller:

:

Yes.

Charlie Bellefontaine:

:

So, yeah. But what it is, I don't know.

Todd Miller:

:

Yeah, you're right that the material is endless. That's for sure.

Charlie Bellefontaine:

:

Absolutely.

Todd Miller:

:

Well, before we do wrap up, I want to ask you if you're willing to participate in something we like to do on our shows called our rapid-fire question round. So this is seven questions we ask our guests. Some may be silly, some more serious. You have no idea, of course, what we're going to ask. Are you willing to participate?

Charlie Bellefontaine:

:

I am willing to participate.

Todd Miller:

:

Awesome. Well, we will go.

Charlie Bellefontaine:

:

Get the bleep button ready, though, alright. Just in case.

Todd Miller:

:

We can always edit. So we will ask you. We'll alternate. Ryan, you want to go first?

Ryan Bell:

:

Sure, I'd be glad to. Question number one: What is your favorite place that you have ever traveled to?

Charlie Bellefontaine:

:

Oh, we just went to Greece and we rented a sailboat out there and we had a private camp and private hostess on a catamaran. And it's beautiful part of the world.

Todd Miller:

:

Oh, that sounds wonderful.

Ryan Bell:

:

That sounds incredible.

Todd Miller:

:

Really does. Question number two: What was the first car you ever owned?

Charlie Bellefontaine:

:

A 1973 Pinto hatchback. It was orange with a black stripe going down the middle.

Todd Miller:

:

Oh, I remember those.

Charlie Bellefontaine:

:

And we bought it from a guy. It was a manual transmission and if I put it in third gear, I couldn't get it out of it. So I had to go one, two to four. And yeah, it was a chick magnet.

Todd Miller:

:

We just kind of learned what we had to do with those cars in those days.

Charlie Bellefontaine:

:

Live with it.

Todd Miller:

:

That's right.

Ryan Bell:

:

All right. Favorite Chicagoland restaurant?

Charlie Bellefontaine:

:

Chicagoland restaurant, my favorite place. Boy, I can't. Berghoff, that's what it is. And it's in the downtown loop. They have the first, they have the first liquor license issued in the city of Chicago. So the license number is number one. And I just like old places, alright. So you give me some place that was built in the early 1900s or late 1800s, I'm all in.

Ryan Bell:

:

Here's a little side question. When you go to places like that do you find yourself inspecting them in your head?

Charlie Bellefontaine:

:

Oh, my God. Yeah, it's a haunting, horrible side effect of, you know. And it doesn't matter where you go, your eyes are all over the place.

Ryan Bell:

:

I figured.

Charlie Bellefontaine:

:

The worst place to be is in your friend's house or family member's house. You just want to go, What are you going to do? What are you going to do about that roof leak? You know, and you just gotta bite your lip and shut up.

Ryan Bell:

:

It makes sense.

Todd Miller:

:

Good stuff. Question number four: What would you like to be remembered for?

Charlie Bellefontaine:

:

Helping other people, you know, just making an effect in someone else's life. You know, thankful that this person was here to help me, whether it's starting a new career, buying their home, you know, whatever it is, just somebody to remember that I helped them.

Todd Miller:

:

Awesome.

Ryan Bell:

:

How much would someone have to pay you to eat a sardine straight out of the water?

Charlie Bellefontaine:

:

$1,000,000. There's no way in hell I'm going to eat one of those.

Ryan Bell:

:

A million?

Charlie Bellefontaine:

:

We know there's a price. Now we have to negotiate what it's going to be, right?

Todd Miller:

:

Yeah, that's a good one. Okay, next to last question: What is, and I already mentioned earlier, we are recording this year in the Christmas season. What is your favorite end of year holiday tradition?

Charlie Bellefontaine:

:

End of year favorite? End of year holiday tradition? It's my family. I love these guys. You know, they are a pleasure to be around and it's amazing. You know, you hear a lot of people complain about their family members and even in the firehouse, you know, we would call each other brothers, you know, And I'm like, yeah, just don't treat me like my brother. Treat me like a friend. You know, I prefer that better sometimes. And but my family is wonderful. I love em and they love me. And just getting everybody together in one room is pretty cool. And I like the fact that we do that for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Todd Miller:

:

Awesome. Well, I hope you have a great Christmas coming up.

Charlie Bellefontaine:

:

Thank you, you too.

Ryan Bell:

:

Alright, final question. Name one person that you would want to have on your team in a zombie apocalypse?

Charlie Bellefontaine:

:

Well, one of my favorite movies was Zombieland, and rule number one was cardio. So I don't do cardio, so it really doesn't matter. Whoever their person is that's on my team, they're going to be alone because I'm going to be eaten by the zombies pretty gosh darn quick. But I would say that the gentleman's name is going to be J. Reardon. J. Reardon was the fire chief where I used to work, and he started up what we call our mutual aid box alarm systems. And he's got so much federally funded cool equipment that's locked up in a town called Prospect Heights over there. So if the zombies do come, I'm going there and I'm going to get inside one of those heavy duty tanks. And that's where I'm living.

Todd Miller:

:

Sounds like an awesome plan.

Charlie Bellefontaine:

:

The fact that I'm thinking about it is a little crazy. It should scare everybody.

Todd Miller:

:

Oh, so recapping our challenge words, we were all successful! Let's see, Ryan, you got yours in their last minute. Your word was?

Ryan Bell:

:

Sardine.

Todd Miller:

:

Good job, good job. And you said it in the question. I thought, where did he come up with that question? So that's awesome. My word was speeding. Charlie, you had the word?

Charlie Bellefontaine:

:

Trampoline.

Todd Miller:

:

Trampoline, and I didn't catch it either when you used it. I even commented on it, didn't realize that, oh, that was his word.

Ryan Bell:

:

Oh, really?

Todd Miller:

:

Yeah.

Ryan Bell:

:

But you worked that in so well. That was, that was great. I was very impressed with how you worked it in there.

Todd Miller:

:

Absolutely.

Charlie Bellefontaine:

:

Thank you.

Todd Miller:

:

Well, Charlie, this has been a pleasure. A lot of laughs and good times as well, thank you. So for folks, who may want to get in touch with you, What's the best way for them to do that?

Charlie Bellefontaine:

:

My company's name is Chicagoland Home Inspectors, and our website is www.thehomeinspectors.com. That's plural. That's O-R-S and it's a .com. Our telephone number is 312-544-9180. If you listen to the message on there, you're going to see that if you press number two, that you will be able to talk to an actual human being. And that actual human being is me that it comes straight to. So I do like to keep personal with our clients all the time. You're welcome to visit our home inspection site. Most of our online stuff we keep free to anybody. So if you're interested in learning more about what the home inspectors should be knowing, then that said, H-I-U-I-L, Home Inspection University of Illinois. And it's also a .com.

Charlie Bellefontaine:

:

Todd Miller: Very good. Well, thank you so much again for joining us. And I'd like to thank our audience, too, for tuning into this episode of Construction Disruption with Charles 'Charlie' Bellefontaine of the Home Inspection University, Chicagoland Home Inspectors and also the Homebuyer's Hour radio show. Please, I encourage you, watch for future episodes of our podcast. We always have great guests. Don't forget to leave a review on Apple Podcasts or YouTube. Until our next episode, though, change the world for someone. Make them smile, encourage them, powerful, simple things you can do to change the world. God bless, take care. This is Isaiah Industries signing off until the next episode of Construction Disruption.