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#619774 - 02/09/09 10:52 AM Paying for Inspection
StartingOut Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 02/05/09
Posts: 7
What is the normal arrangement for paying for inspection service of a piano that I'm considering buying- Hourly or just a flat rate to inspect?

I imagine there are degrees of inspection depending on the value of the instrument.

I am a complete beginner and my piano budget is very limited (2,500-3,000) After visiting various large and small stores I have found what seems like a nice instrument (for me) at a technicians/rebuilders shop.

How much inspection is appropriate to pay for in this situation?

My gut sense is that this person is honest and wasn't "selling me" which was not my gut sense at all of the establishments I visited. But everything I've read says get someone independent to have a look.

Thanks for any thoughts,

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#619775 - 02/09/09 10:57 AM Re: Paying for Inspection
guest1013 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/13/07
Posts: 1239
It depends on the technician. Did you look through the website www.ptg.org for an RPT? When I found a RPT to inspect a piano for me in fall of 2007 from a private seller, there was a bit of variety among technicians on rates, services, and fees, for example, depending on how far away the piano was from the technician. Or do you know any teachers or players who can recommend a technician?

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#619776 - 02/09/09 12:19 PM Re: Paying for Inspection
Jeff A. Smith, RPT Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/01/03
Posts: 476
Loc: Angola, Indiana USA
There are different levels of inspection and corresponding rates -- everything from a basic once-over with verbal report to complete written evaluation and estimate for repairs, regulation, voicing and tuning.

A lot depends on your own level of critique. Is it enough for you, at this point, to just make sure nothing outstanding is wrong with the piano, or do you want to know how much it'll take to get it to sound and play as well as possible, and have an idea beforehand what the instrument's ultimate potential will be?

Different techs have different policies on inspections. Sorry to not give you a more definite answer, but I'd say the most important thing for you is to have a clear idea how much you need to know before purchasing the instrument.

Jeff
_________________________
Jeff A. Smith
Registered Piano Technician
Indiana, USA

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#619777 - 02/09/09 02:06 PM Re: Paying for Inspection
JDelmore Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/10/07
Posts: 634
I think independent inspections are important for private sales. But, IMO, technician or store sales are a bit problematic. It's likely that everyone in the business knows him, and he knows them, and they either like him or don't...

I'm not saying folks won't try to be objective, but I think there's always some color, one way or the other.

If I were in your shoes, I'd ask him about "the warts". There are some, trust me. If he tells you about them and explains them, that's a very good sign. Make it clear that you will expect him to be your permanent tech/tuner--that's accountability. If he balks, that's a bad sign.

Good luck!
_________________________
PTG Associate Member

"There is always room above; there is only the ground below."....F.E. Morton (with props to Del F.)

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#619778 - 02/09/09 03:13 PM Re: Paying for Inspection
Ron Alexander Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/17/03
Posts: 1292
Loc: North Carolina
------------------------------------------------
quote:
If I were in your shoes, I'd ask him about "the warts". There are some, trust me. If he tells you about them and explains them, that's a very good sign. Make it clear that you will expect him to be your permanent tech/tuner--that's accountability. If he balks, that's a bad sign.
-------------------------------------------------

Excellent advice. JD you hit a home run, IMO. Store/Tech sales can be very tricky. Most people in this business in the area, know each other.

Anyone who in any way balks at servicing something they have for sale, is indeed not being upfront about potential problems.
_________________________
-----------------
Ron Alexander
Piano Tuner-Technician

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#619779 - 02/09/09 03:15 PM Re: Paying for Inspection
Silverwood Pianos Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/10/08
Posts: 4182
Loc: Vancouver B. C. Canada
“What is the normal arrangement for paying for inspection service of a piano that I'm considering buying- Hourly or just a flat rate to inspect?”
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Inspection/appraisals are done for usually 3 main reasons. Re-sale of an item, insurances purposes for replacement, or the settling of an estate. Usually there is a flat rated fee for this type of service because the inspection routine would be the same for every instrument.

There is a difference in inspecting an upright as opposed to a grand, so there might be a different fee attached.

You can contract any technician to do a complete appraisal for condition of the instrument previous to sale. One of the questions you would want to ask the person doing the appraisal would be: do you perform any contract work for this store/shop, and further, do you sell any used equipment yourself? A yes to either of those questions would demonstrate a conflict of interest. This would give the appearance of bias in the inspectors’ mind.

I do both jobs here… selling of used equipment and then inspections of other instruments for sale. It is difficult at times to remain detached and neutral on every issue let me tell you.

If this instrument is purchased from a technician/restorer like myself, there should be a written warranty attached to the instrument upon sale. For example, I provide a written 5 yr. warranty on all of the used equipment I sell here. Most technicians like myself that sell used equipment do not have the deep pockets to protect themselves like some of the dealerships do. You have very little chance of being shortchanged by one of these people, but again why not have a glance at some of the finished products? Or maybe he has a book of customer letters expressing satisfaction with his products….. referrals……

If the technician does provide a warranty I don’t foresee a problem with this, most problems will show up in the first 5 yrs. if something is amiss……

Dan Silverwood
www.silverwoodpianos.com
_________________________
Dan Silverwood
www.silverwoodpianos.com
http://silverwoodpianos.blogspot.com/
http://www.facebook.com/SilverwoodPianosDotCom
"If you think it's expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur."

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#619780 - 02/10/09 06:54 AM Re: Paying for Inspection
StartingOut Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 02/05/09
Posts: 7
Thanks to all for some perspective on this. I was a bit unsure of an RPT in this situation. In a private sale there is no conflict but here I also felt that they are sure to know each other.

I think I'll try JDelmore's "warts" approach. I got a very good feeling about the integrity of this operation which was a contrast to most of my experiences. I do want him to be the tuner/tech in the long term so making that clear is also a great idea.

There is a written warranty. He showed me that he had replaced all of the pins in this instrument and would warranty that for 10 years. I hope that's a good thing on a late 70's upright.

Thanks, Gary

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#619781 - 02/10/09 08:05 AM Re: Paying for Inspection
Larry Buck Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/27/04
Posts: 2313
Loc: Lowell MA
 Quote:
Originally posted by StartingOut:

I think I'll try JDelmore's "warts" approach. I got a very good feeling about the integrity of this operation which was a contrast to most of my experiences. I do want him to be the tuner/tech in the long term so making that clear is also a great idea.

There is a written warranty. He showed me that he had replaced all of the pins in this instrument and would warranty that for 10 years. I hope that's a good thing on a late 70's upright.[/b]

Thanks, Gary [/b]
$2500.00 - $3000.00 is not a lot for a piano that has had the pins replaced. Presuming tuning pins, does that also mean strings as well. For this work to be done on a '70's piano, I might be tempted to ask why.

Knowing some of the '70's uprights, I can see why the action center pins might need to be redone.

I suppose it might be good to know the piano we are talking about as well as what "pins" were replaced.
_________________________
Has Anyone Seen My Glasses ?

E. J. Buck & Sons
Lowell MA 01852
978 458 8688
www.ejbuckpiano.com
www.finepianodevelopment.com

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#619782 - 02/10/09 09:19 AM Re: Paying for Inspection
Dave Stahl Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/06/07
Posts: 1645
While you want to put your mind at ease when purchasing a piano, in addition to there being some conflict of interest, having an independent tech inspect a piano at a rebuilder's shop might foster some bad blood in the industry.

I shy away from evaluating pianos being sold by stores or other techs for those reasons. I ask the buyer about make, model, condition and exchange/ warranty policies, but won't charge for phone information.

I don't take commissions or any other kind of $ from stores for recommending pianos(I don't like seeing bribery in the government, and I want to hold myself to the same standard...).

Knowing what kind of piano it is and which pins were replace--and perhaps why they were replaced--would be very helpful for those of us who can'f see the piano.
_________________________
Promote Harmony in the Universe...Tune your piano!

Dave Stahl, RPT
Piano Technician's Guild
San Jose, CA
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JAniw3m7L2I
http://dstahlpiano.net

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#619783 - 02/10/09 10:08 AM Re: Paying for Inspection
JDelmore Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/10/07
Posts: 634
Just be sure to 'soft pedal' the warts discussion, StartingOut. If it's a nice little upright, and he's done his work conscientiously, there aren't going to be any BIG warts. It may take some gentle prodding to get him to discuss esoteric minutiae! A good approach may be to talk about the limitations of uprights, what could be done to make it "better", etc.
_________________________
PTG Associate Member

"There is always room above; there is only the ground below."....F.E. Morton (with props to Del F.)

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#619784 - 02/10/09 10:45 AM Re: Paying for Inspection
StartingOut Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 02/05/09
Posts: 7
It's a 48" (apparently Japanese built) Toyo (Fritz). Larry Fine has only two sentences or so about them as they are rare in North America.

I have the serial number but not with me. I believe it was 105xxx. He had a book and said it was about 1978.

It was the tuning pins. The strings looked pretty clean and new but I wasn't focusing on that. I'll pay more attention next time.

I do realize that 2500-3000 is the bare minimum for a piano that you aren't going to toast marshmallows on ;-)

I think his pianos were decent value. He seems conscientious. His place is outside of the City and in an industrial plaza. No pretty showroom. Fairly low overhead. Only open 4 or 5 hours on the Sat & Sun, the rest by appointment.

This was near the low end of his offerings. There was a 52" Samick with slightly better cosmetics (both are good looking) for about the same money.

I think I remember reading somewhere here that some Toyos (Apollo brand) had real Una corda pedals.

Thanks for all of the input. And I'll think carefully about the approach so as not to be insulting or calling his work into question.

Gary

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#619785 - 02/10/09 12:51 PM Re: Paying for Inspection
Jeff A. Smith, RPT Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/01/03
Posts: 476
Loc: Angola, Indiana USA
I have absolutely no experience with that brand. However, some Asian pianos have had issues stemming from the climate difference between the US and the country of manufacture. One of the more common issues is prematurely loose tuning pins. The companies sometimes encounter these issues when first exporting to the US, then work to remedy them.

Just a guess, but that may be what happened with this piano.

Jeff
_________________________
Jeff A. Smith
Registered Piano Technician
Indiana, USA

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#619786 - 02/10/09 10:06 PM Re: Paying for Inspection
StartingOut Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 02/05/09
Posts: 7
Thanks for that. So it's *possible* that new tuning pins are a sign of something to perhaps be cautious of in this case. That is, whatever caused that problem may cause a different one in the future?

The other piano that I was attracted to in his shop was a 52" Samick about the same price but I'm not sure of it's age (stop laughing;-) 10 year warranty. Samicks have been imported here for quite awhile so that may be an advantage.

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