Home inspector finds faults, but also gives buyers a lesson
By Maria Burnham
February 20, 2006
Before he even had a home to buy, John Thompson found the home inspector he wanted to use. Thompson and his wife sold their Cordova home a year ago and the buyer brought in Larry E. McCalla of Larry’s Home Inspection Service.
“He was very thorough,” Thompson said. “The house was in great condition and he found things even we didn’t know about. I told my wife if we ever bought a house we would be smart to use him.”
And they did – last week for their newly built home in Cordova.
McCalla, who has been in business for 31 years, gets about 90 percent of his business through referrals and repeat customers. He’s never advertised and isn’t listed under Home Inspection Service in the phone book, but that hasn’t stopped him from inspecting 23,000 homes since 1975.
“I’m still an old-fashioned home inspector,” McCalla said. “I still prepare my reports on-site, hand-written. Everybody gets a copy while I’m there, and I’m there to explain it to them.”
He prefers for the buyers to be present, so they can walk with him and take notes on their new home.
“I show them where the water cutoff is, how to change the furnace filter, when to change it. … I try to teach my homeowner all they need to know about their new home while they’re there.”
McCalla got into the business by chance. He was in home repair and maintenance when a real estate agent he knew called, asking if he would look over a house she was selling.
Those two people told two other people who told two other people and “next thing you know, I was getting as many calls to do home inspecting as I was to do home repair.”
In 1986, after a rigorous testing process, he became a certified member of The American Society of Home Inspectors, a highly respected professional organization with strict criteria for membership. (There are only six members in the Memphis area, according to the society’s Web site.)
Members are required to receive 20 hours of continuing education per year to keep their membership.
“I love my work because, first, it’s like an Easter egg hunt every day; and second, I know I’m helping that home buyer get a good, safe, trouble-free home. It’s a rewarding job. When I go home at night, I feel good about what I have done.”
McCalla has “a level of brilliance unparalleled to any home inspector in the industry,” said Jeff Pope with Jeff Pope Home Inspections in Alpharetta, Ga.
“I find him to be witty, knowledgeable, highly respected, and his integrity is impeccable. He is a hard worker with unquestionable work ethics.”
His advice, especially to new homeowners, is invaluable, Pope said.
His advice to frequent home buyers is just as invaluable, said Glennys Bryant of Memphis, who buys and restores old houses around the city and has been using McCalla for 20 years.
“I use him on everything I ever do. He knows what he’s doing. He’s very thorough. Sometimes I hire him even when someone else has already inspected the house, or after I close on a house, just so I can know what all needs to be done.”
Bryant just closed on a 1911 house that she knew, because of its age, would have some issues. She called McCalla because he doesn’t sugar-coat problems.
He talks plainly with the buyers, she said, letting them know what’s a deal breaker and what’s significant but shouldn’t affect the sale.
“I don’t trust anyone else.”