no average joe
Ken Hoffman meets the tattooed, tough HGTV star who demolishes home sellers in advance of his Houston visit
Recently, I was in for my semi-annual teeth cleaning (Editor’s note: About time, Ken.) and nitrous oxide session when the dental hygienist leaned me back in the barber’s chair and asked if I’d like to watch the TV mounted on the ceiling.
I asked, “What channel do most people ask for?” She said, “HGTV by far, and that includes men and women.”
Okay, while you’re doing demo in my mouth, let me watch David and Hilary Love It or List It.
That was the first question I asked Joe Mazza, star of Home Inspector Joe, a new hit show on HGTV that follows Mazza conducting full cavity searches on houses for prospective buyers.
Mazza is a fast-talking, wise-cracking, tattooed-up, motorcycle-riding, hip New Yorker who searches high and low for hidden problems in a house. It’s fun entertainment watching him tear apart a house discovering structural flaws and safety issues. I’m sympathy sweating for the homeowner who’s praying, please don’t look in the attic.
Mazza will be the star attraction this weekend at the Houston Home + Garden Show at NRG Center. He will appear on the Fresh Ideas Stage at 6 pm Friday September 16 and 11 am and 2 pm Saturday, September 17. Mazza will offer tips and ideas how to make your house more attractive to potential buyers, plus demonstrate DIY tricks of his trade and conduct a live Q&A with the audience.
The Home + Garden Show runs through Sunday. Tickets are available online.
I caught up with Mazza in advance of his big appearance.
CultureMap: Before HGTV gave you a show and made you a TV star, you inspected homes and worked in construction for 20 years as just regular ol’ Joe Mazza. Did you have any idea how popular HGTV was?
Joe Mazza: It’s massive. It’s wild. Every office you go into, everyone I talk to says “it’s on my TV all the time.” Guys will tell me, “yeah, my wife is always watching it.” I’ll ask them, “and you don’t?” They’ll say, “well, yeah.” I’m super honored to be in the position I’m in now. It’s ridiculous, I can’t even explain it to you.
CM: HGTV must have a zillion shows pitched to them every year. How did Home Inspector Joe get their attention?
JM: They found me through Instagram, through social media. USA Today saw me in 2019 and said, “Hey, Joe, you want to do a video for us about first time home buyers? Whoa, that’s crazy, so I did it. The word got out. HGTV saw me. They contacted me and said there was an opportunity for me to possibly have my own show. Fast forward, here I am. It was all through social media. It was me being me, just doing home inspections. I have fun doing what I love and we go from there.
CM: There are thousands of professional home inspectors around the country. What was it about you that caught HGTV’s interest?
JM: My personality was a massive factor how I got the show. I watch all those videos about home inspection on social media and they’re very educational, but they’re very boring. You have to have fun with what you’re doing, even in bad moments. You can joke about things, say asbestos, but be very serious at the same time. It’s all about engaging your audience.
CM: Do people understand the role a home inspector plays in the home buying process? Who do you work for, the buyer or the seller?
JM: I work for the buyer 99 percent of the time. The real estate agent will refer me to the buyer or the buyer will hear about me through word of mouth. I work for the person who’s paying me and that’s typically the buyer. No one stands in my way, no one tells me how to do my job or what to put in my report.
CM: Are home sellers scared of you?
JM: Now they are, but not every one of them. I was at a house recently and the real estate agent and the seller were there. They saw me and went, “oh, crap.” To me that was flattering.
CM: How thorough is a home inspection?
JM: Certain things we can and can’t do. If a place is inaccessible, we don’t have to go in there. If we can’t get on a roof, we don’t have to struggle to get on the roof. What separates me from others, that roof that I can’t get on, I will find a way to get on it. You have to dig deep.
What keeps me out of trouble is, I make sure I’m on point 100 percent of the time. I inspect every house as if my wife and daughter are moving into it. If you go into an inspection with that mentality, you’re going to kick butt.
CM: How sneaky are homeowners at hiding flaws or potential deal breakers in their house?
JM: Very, very. I love it when they try, because I’m going to catch them. If I go through a basement and it’s freshly painted, that’s a red flag right there. “You just painted the basement. Why?” I start digging deeper, not just inside the basement, but outside to see what’s going on. A lot of problems in the basement start on the outside.
I’ll see if they put boxes or furniture in front of a moldy wall. They’ll say, “where else am I supposed to put the furniture?”
CM: What’s the most disgusting thing you’ve found during a home inspection?
JM: I had an inspection close to my house. I was in the crawl space and as I walking around the floor was crunching. I looked down and the floor was covered with teeth. There were thousands of teeth down there. It was gross and terrifying.
Was I going to find hundreds of bodies in the backyard? It turned out the guy was a tooth manufacturer and threw teeth in there a hundred years ago. No one warned me about that. The grossest thing, besides dead animals, people leave stuff out in the open — inappropriate personal stuff. I just keep working around it.
CM: Ever hired to inspect a house occupied by a hoarder?
JM: I’ve done a couple of houses where they were hoarders with wall-to-wall stuff. Usually I’ll just turn around and walk out. There’s nothing I can do.
I will tell the real estate agent that the house is a fire hazard and you’re putting people in jeopardy. If the house is just dirty, yeah, whatever, that’s fine. I’m okay if they have a lot of junk around. But a hoarder’s house, like on that TV show, that’s disgusting.
I had a house that had 15 cats and like 12 dogs. They didn’t clean anything ever. I walked in and the hit of ammonia slammed me to heaven. I got dizzy and started gagging. I went outside and the owner wanted to know what was wrong. She was scratching her arms. I told her, “for one, your arms are bleeding. Your animals are crapping and peeing all over your house. The house needs to be condemned.”
I told the buyer to get the hell away from this house.
Joe Mazza appears at the Houston Home and Garden Show at 6 pm Friday September 16 and 11 am and 2 pm Saturday September 17 at NRG Park. Show runs through Sunday, September 18. For tickets, full schedule, and more information, visit the official site.