Don't wait until the last minute.

1. Have a Level One Inspection to protect your sellers.

2. Have a Level One Inspection to protect your buyers.

3. Have a Level One Inspection to
protect your

Most Recently - An $80,000+ "repair" on 2 fireplaces in Calabasas.
(majority of repairs not necessary.

This is a warning for those in real estate sales.  It applies to contractors,
inspectors and anyone just having their chimney swept as well.  But I
see it more in real estate sales.

There are several chimney sweep companies going around doing
inspections during real estate sales.  There is one company that is
notorious for giving what to me amounts to fraudulent repair estimates.  I
cannot name these companies due to liability issues but they are
becoming well known to some real estate agents, inspectors and
general contractors.  I am putting this here for those of you who are not
aware of these companies and their tactics.

One company that does chimney sweeping, inspections, repairs and
rebuilds is probably the worst offender in giving people inspections and
telling them that they need major repairs for $3000, $15,000 and even
$25,000.  Here are some examples:

#1  The $3000 estimate was an estimate to have a chimney relined.  
The chimney did not need relined.  It actually had a liner intact.  Also,
many older chimneys do not have a clay "tube" liner and the "inspector"
will say that it is not to code and that it MUST be lined.  It is correct that
it is not to modern code, but it is to code as to when it was built. The
term the city inspector uses is "acceptable noncompliance"  which is to
say that it is "grandfathered".  Of course if it is damaged or has major
deterioration then that is a different story.

#2  The $15,000 estimate (scam) is fairly common as many chimneys
were damaged during the Northridge earthquake.  The top of the
chimney is completely torn off and rebuilt, usually from the roof line up.  
This is  sometimes needed, but the chimney must be fairly damaged.  In
this case the chimney did not need repair.

#3  I did a cleaning in Santa Monica and told the buyer that the chimney
needed a chimney cap and that the chimney had a few minor hairline
cracks that were insignificant.  He informed me that the inspector he
used during the sale told him the chimney needed to be completely torn
down and rebuilt for $25,000.  The seller "bit" on this and lowered the
sale price $25,000.  The buyer was happy because he was "flipping"
the house and basically put $25,000 in his pocket.  The seller lost
$25,000 and the broker lost money on the commission.  This was the
big company that is fairly well known these days for giving highly
inflated repair estimates and what to me are false estimates for repairs
or rebuilds that are not needed.
#4  A contractor called me to do a Level One inspection in Studio City.  
He had received an estimate for repairs for $2,500.  I did the inspection
and not one of the repair items that the inspector wrote down were
needed.  He said the fireplace damper was inoperable.  I reached in the
fireplace and opened the damper and then I closed it.  It was perfectly
fine.  They get that blatant.  The contractor saved $2,400.

#5  I even had a lady tell me that she just had a chimney sweep come to
clean her chimney.  She did not ask for an inspection.  It was a fairly
new home and had been cleaned yearly with no problems.  The sweep
informed her that he did an inspection and that it needed major repairs.  
He refused to clean it (red flag) and charged her for the inspection
which she had not asked for.  I told her she should not have paid him
but it was to late.  We do have to inform you of any problems we see
while doing a cleaning but major repairs are rarely needed in newer

There can be many things wrong with a chimney/fireplace and many of
them need to be done,  It is also fine to point things out as being
borderline and in
your opinion it would be a good idea to have a repair
done, but it is still just an opinion.  For example, lining a very old

Here are some things you can do and some questions you can ask if
you get an inspection with a large estimate for repairs.  Repairs in the
$100 - $500 range are fairly common and are usually considered minor
in the chimney business.  Usually a chimney cap, a cleaning, some
mortar joint repairs, cracks, etc.  I'm talking about repairs for 1000's of
dollars up to $3,000, $15,000 and even $25,000.

1.  Watch them do the inspection if it is a video/camera inspection.  
Don't just let them hand you a big report with a couple of photos and a
huge estimate.  I just did one on Friday, July 24th where the "camera
inspection" was a bunch of cell phone photos that you could barely
make out and a $15,000 estimate for repairs.

2.  Have them explain everything.  i.e. what is the problem and why
does it need repaired.

3.  How dangerous is it or how extensive is the "problem".

4.  Ask them if it is "grandfathered" (acceptable noncompliance).

If you need an inspection I suggest getting at least a Level One
inspection which is a visual inspection.  If I see some major issues or
red flags I will suggest a Level Two Inspection.  This is not usually the
case and a Level Two Inspection costs up to $400.  Many of these
companies are also "motivated" to up sell as well.  For $99 you, your
buyer or your seller can be at ease and you won't have to have an
emergency right before escrow is closing.

Call me:  Mark
T H E   L. A.   S W E E P