right thing, no matter the cost
Do the right thing You Get What You Pay For
Electricity in your Home Inspection Realtor Saved By Home Inspection
Water - Your Home's Enemy Preparing for Winter
Is My Home Inspector Licensed? Make Your Own Decision About Radon
The One-stop Shop Can anyone take asbestos samples
New Construction Project Manager/Inspector Inspector vs Appraiser
Pre-offer Inspections Curb Appeal - Ready to Sell
Realtor's Choice Buyers' Market
Crawlspace - Home and Health? The Biased Inspector
Your Inspection Style Your Inspector's Reporting Style
Beware of the Franchise NEW HOUSING needs a Home Inspection
Home Safety Tips How old is this Roof?
Grading, Drainage, and Erosion
In a previous article we told how water is a home's worst enemy. This article will look at water destruction in a different way – a preventative perspective.
Houses are often built on mountainsides, in valleys or on flood plains. These all are perfect situations to send water into your home. Water follows the topography. Not just surface water, but ground water also, as a general rule of thumb, follows the topography. Look out your window. Is there a hill beside your house? Is the ground sunken next to your house? Do you see mountains nearby? Is hour home lower than the others nearby? Does your driveway or walkway slope toward your house or garage? All these could be a potential problem.
For all these potential problems there is more than one solution. One of the most common fixes is drain tile. This is actually very old technology. The Romans used this technology in their day. Drain tile is basically a ditch to collect water and channel it away from the structure. Modern drain tile is underground next to your foundation. Not all homes have this, however; most built since the seventies do and all modern houses should. There are often no visible signs of its installation without excavation. Ask the owner or builder before you buy.
Another commonly used method to keep water out of the structure is to “waterproof” the foundation. This term is often misused. There are many different products used to “waterproof”; however, not all are water proof. Many are only a thin coat of paint-like products with some petroleum additives. These often become brittle over time and crack, allowing water to seep into the structure.
Other methods include swales, gutters, french drains (similar in technology to drain tile), etc. These methods all attempt to divert water away from the structure. The best person to give you suggestions for their installation is a drainage and grading contractor or engineer. The most common diversion method is proper grading. This means the ground should slope away from the house.
If you are looking at new construction and the soils near the foundation have sunk or eroded and maybe even pulled away from the foundation you may have some issues to deal with. The soil may not have been engineered properly (tested, compacted, etc.) for this project. Again, call on the experts to analyze this for you.
Often professional Home Inspectors are knowledgeable in these areas and competent ones will point out these potentialities during the Home Inspection process. If you think you have one of these issues do not hesitate to call on a Home Inspector to inspect or consult you on this.
Whether you are buying a home or you own it – knowing the condition of the roof is important – the replacement cost is significant. Financial institutions and realtors alike are always anxious to know the answer to the question: “How old is the roof?”
Each roofing material is unique and has a different warranty and lifespan (usually found in the original packaging or by contacting the manufacturer). Trying to guess the age of the roof covering is can be futile and can lead to erroneous assumptions. Some factors to consider are; exposure to the elements (e.g. sun, snow, tree drippings, etc.) and installation procedures. Improper installation of roofing material, including flashings around roof penetrations, installation during less than ideal weather (e.g. rain, snow, heat), can all contribute to premature aging and cause accelerated deterioration. Persons not familiar with correct methods of walking on roofs can also cause damage.
A certified roof inspector is the most qualified to give a professional estimate on the age of the roof. It is a possibly detrimental assumption for a Home Inspector to form such an opinion. It can lead to great unnecessary expense of time, money, and comfort for a homeowner or homebuyer to rely on an unqualified opinion.
Things to take into consideration when evaluating a roof; condition of the roof, any extended damage in the interior of the house and current or future repair or replacement costs. These things will be much more important to the person “footing the bill”.
Here are a few things an inspector looks for when evaluating the condition of roofing material. Curled shingles, chipped shingles, cracked shingles, exposed roofing nails, loose or popped screws, rusted metal,loose or improperly fastened material, improper flashings, shingle debris in gutters, repair, moss, weather damage, etc.
Before you get your roof inspected, decide what you are looking for; age or condition, condition or repair/replacement cost, etc. Then decide on the best professional for the job.
1.The Certified Roof Inspector is the best choice for a determination of age.
2.The Home Inspector (one who walks on the roof and/or uses high powered binoculars or a zoom lens), is a good choice for determination of condition.
3.The installer or
contractor can give you the cost estimates.
"Home Safety Tips"
Slip, trip, fall, burn, shock, fry! Most home related accidents causing injuries can be prevented. The words; slip, trip, fall, burn, shock, and fry bring to mind an image of pain and suffering and sometimes even death.
With this article we will attempt to help you to be safer and prevent those words from coming into your home. We will introduce a list of items and tips (there are too many to list all) to consider to keep your home a safer home. Always keep in mind the best assurance is a Safety Inspection.
Handrails; the purpose of a handrail is to render support to a person moving up or down a set of stairs. If the handrail is loose, full of slivers or nail pop-ups, or there is no graspable rail to fit your hand around, ask yourself - what good is it? Handrails are recommended anytime there are three or more risers on steps or stairs. Whenever you are thinking stairs and safety (whether exterior or interior), think small. Look around and analyze the component. Picture a crawling baby; where can it slip through - block it! Warn visitors of any steepness or low head clearance.
Guardrails; guardrails are not just for aesthetic appeal. Their purpose is to keep one from falling off of a platform. Guardrails should be installed on decks, porches, lofts, and balconies. Again, (with all building codes aside), think small, high, and the elderly. If your porch is real close to the ground you may not be required to have rails, but will your grandmother, with less than perfect vision, be able to discern where the edge is? Again, get the image of a crawling infant. If you see any air spaces (unguarded openings), surely a child will seek them out, block them! Remember the built-in benches. Will a child climb over or under?
Electrical; GFCI's (ground fault circuit interrupt), protected outlets have a purpose. Their purpose is to save your life. Just because the outlet button pops out does not mean every thing is working properly. Exposed wiring, improperly terminated wires, outdated wiring, outdated and obsolete outlets and fuse boxes should be analyzed and made safe. Do not take chances with electricity. If you are new to your residence, or thinking of purchasing a home have the electrical system checked out. A home Safety Inspection can usually detect if your property needs further evaluation.
Fire; Fire Season - during fire season it is crucial to keep your property clean and green. If you dwell in a urban wildland interface ask for a Fire Safety Evaluation. Wood burning units need to be kept clean and monitored. Have a safe zone under and around them. (e.g. hearth, firewall, screen, etc.) Smoke detectors - install and check regularly. Egress windows - make sure all occupants can exit the windows and a fire/rescue person can enter including their gear.
As a general rule we are unaware or overlook unsafe conditions in our homes. The best way to get an objective understanding of unsafe conditions is to hire a professional inspector. Your safety is their concern.
You have made a major financial decision and purchased the land. Now you are ready to build your dream home. You hire an architect/designer, then find a builder/contractor. From this point on, you just sit back and relax. Wrong! Many that have been at this point know the truth - the stress is just beginning.
Let us look at another scenario: To avoid the building hassle, you want NEW construction, already-built. You find a realtor. They casually agree, "NEW construction does not need an Inspection". Wrong! The smartest move to make is to find your Home Inspector first. Make sure you choose a Certified Home Inspector. (InterNACHI.org).
"Be aware, city inspectors, or any other government inspector, will only check for safety issues on new construction. They are not trained nor paid to check on the quality of work", said Nick Gromicko, founder of the National Association of Certified Home Inspectors, at a recent interview.
"A brand new home is not perfect. It was built by human beings. Many general contractors sub-contract some or all of the project to other tradespersons (i.e. plumbers, masons, framers, electricians, etc.) Often the general is only a businessman, not a builder," stated Bruce Kirby, InterNACHI's Western States Director and Inspectors Consultant. "Therefore, it does not have the quality control people believe. With the housing projects going up at a rapid pace many short cuts are taken."
There are many excellent contractors. There are also those that do not build to code or to any standard. As a consumer it is your right to hire the best Inspector, not emotionally attached to your project. Get a punch list from your inspector and have issues corrected before closing. It is your investment.
Here are some real life new housing situations;
#1) New home, construction not complete – 1.5 mil – Crawlspace wet – Inspector is brought on site (a little late), says to builder, “So, Bob, what did you use to seal your foundation?” Bob to Inspector, “Oh, I don't believe in that stuff.”
#2) New home, construction not complete – 745K – Main floor beam resting in soil, home on hillside. Inspector is brought on site (a little late), says to builder, “So, Bob, did you purposely not place that beam in a beam pocket?” Bob to Inspector, “Beam pocket?”
#3) New home, construction not complete - $600K - The skilled artist finishes covering the drywall with texture and glaze only to notice now all of the seams stand out in an obnoxious manner and ruin the desired effect. Inspector is brought on site (a little late), says to drywall contractor, “So, Bob, you did the minimum three coats and finished this so as to make the seams disappear?” Bob to Inspector, “Three coats? Well, I didn't know they were gonna' gloss it! It's the way we always do it!” Inspector, “Well, you might try doing it right the next time because this has to be redone.”
Remember, as with everything, "You get what you pay for". You should expect an inspection and report to be a minimum investment of $375.00.
"Beware of the Franchise"
You are hungry, on a budget, and in a hurry. Where do you go if you desire a consistent, fast, inexpensive, and yet a tasty burger? You go to your favorite franchise (e.g. McDonalds). You get what you pay for. You get what you expect. Fast friendly service and of course, most importantly, you satisfy your craving.
In the real estate game, using this same principle could be your biggest mistake - or your worst nightmare. The same scenario can be applied to both realtors and Home Inspectors. The "Franchise" (or home office) has its own code of ethics and standard of practice, sometimes these are also part of an association.
Many realtors and Inspectors use these codes as an excuse to NOT serve your needs or to lower their performance level. One example might be; realtor speaking to buyer, "We don't do pre-offer inspections around here" or "The seller has the home winterized and you cannot inspect the plumbing in such a short notice, of course they won't guarantee the plumbing works for a time related period". A common one you may hear from Inspectors is; "I don't have to walk on a roof" or "I don't have to go into a crawlspace".
While traveling through life each of us faces a pivotal point, (sometimes more than once), where we have to choose between right and wrong. If a professional says their "hands are tied" and they are afraid to "Do the right thing" (as in God's will), maybe that person is not the best person for the job at hand.
Here are some more familiar phrases; "It is company policy", "Just doing my job", "Just following orders". If you are hearing these and prefer to hear this, "We just want to do the right thing" or "What will work for you?" you might want to shop around before hiring the wrong person to work for you.
Note: Please be aware, not all professionals working in a franchise situation fear using their own set of ethics and morals and some franchises have very high standards.
Remember, as with everything, "You get what you pay for". May the Lord guide you in your choices.
"Your Inspector's Reporting Style"
What style of inspection report is right for you? Here is a quick overview to help with your decision making process. Please remember there is a wide variance of quality within each of these groupings and the more expensive company for a similar service is usually better and more qualified (i.e. "You get what you pay for!")
The Verbal - Does not include a written report. No documentation or photos are available for your negotiation or repairs. This could be considered a consultation possibly no more than an hour total and is generally inexpensive.
The Checklist - This is a single or multi-part form with items and systems checked off and categorized as to whether they are an issue in need of service or not. There will generally be no photos available with this type of report and the entire process may only take an hour, two at the most.
The Narrative - Is generated after the inspection from inspector's notes and photos. Sometimes hand written but often produced through the use of a word processor with detailed comments, explanations and inserted photos. This inspection and report turn around time may be 12 to 24 hours and the fee is often greater than a checklist report. The Computer Generated Narrative - It is universally accepted in the real estate industry that this is the most sophisticated reporting method. Generally this report is initiated on site through the use of a PDA or computer. The inspector will easily spend two hours on site. There are dozens of elite software programs used to compile an easy to read narrative report with captioned and annotated images. This process may take a day or even a week depending on the size and condition of the property inspected. Research and consultation with other professionals is common during the report writing process. These reports are accessed or delivered in a variety of formats; 1) e-mail attached, 2) server with security codes, 3) full color printed via mail, 4) downloads and 5) CD via mail.
As a consumer you will want the The Computer Generated Narrative performed by a competent Inspector. With a report like this you will be able to make the most informed purchase decision and have the greatest understanding about your new home. Across the nation this type of Inspection and report will usually cost a minimum of $350.00. Remember, as with everything, "You get what you pay for".
"Your Inspection Style"
What style of Inspection is right for you? Many companies offer only one style or type of Inspection. Some offer a vast array of Inspections and Inspection services. We all have different needs and wants, so it is only logical you may want a different type of Inspection than your neighbor. Here is a quick overview to help with your decision making process. Please remember there is a wide variance of quality within each of these groupings and the more expensive company for a similar service is usually better and more qualified (i.e. "You get what you pay for!")
The Draw/Progress Inspection - These are most commonly used by banks and lending institutions to keep track of how little or how much of the construction project is complete so they can determine the amount of funds to disperse. These are quick, normally taking a half an hour or less, and usually the report is one page or less listing percent complete with or without photos.
The Walk-Through - Here the Inspector breezes through the house, usually taking less than an hour. It may or may not include a written report. If you do get a written report it will be short (most likely a page or less) with no pictures.
Ordinary Home Inspection - Usually, not always, the Inspector will spend a little more time (over an hour) and look at things a little closer. Often this will include a check-list style report and possibly pictures.
Superior Home Inspection - The Inspector generally takes notes and pictures while at the house (this normally takes a minimum of two hours) and writes the report later at his home or office. The report is most often a narrative style with photos. The highest quality reports are computer generated including many photos. This process may take a day or even a week depending on the size of the property.
Ancillary Inspections or Testing; Radon, Asbestos, Mold, Forensic, Structural Narcotic, Single Components (roof, foundation, plumbing, HVAC, electrical, etc.), Well, Septic, Environmental, etc. Many of these necessitate taking samples and sending them to a lab for further evaluation. There are a wide variety of reporting methods used due to qualifications, regulations and Inspector's preferences.
“The Biased Inspector”
In days gone by - you took along your dad, uncle, big brother, or someone else, who’s knowledge, experience, and opinion you trusted, to look at your potential property purchase. This person was there to look out for your best interests. This person was very biased for you. In this day and age it is difficult if not impossible for those same persons to learn and be aware of all the systems and components, old and new, that make a safe and comfortable home. The professional Inspector spends countless hours studying and keeping abreast of past, present, and future methods of construction and home maintenance. Today you put your trust in your Inspector to be that objective, knowledgeable and biased person.
Many articles have been written criticizing Inspectors for being too picky. How can that be possible? Does the Inspector know the importance of each item to you? Our company has many repeat clients and we have learned what is especially important to them. For first-time clients one question we like answered is; "What are your special concerns?".
With the biased Inspector your health, safety and future are important. The purpose for which the property will be used (e.g. rental income, aged or disabled persons, children, refurbishment, resale, etc.) is taken into consideration. A property Inspection is for your protection and comfort.
If it were my future property or financial investment, I would want everything possible inspected and would want to know every little detail. I would then be able to judge the importance of each item for myself before making my final purchase decision.
Inspectors are often pressured (or even bribed) to overlook items or report them in a less- than-accurate manner. An Inspector should be working for the buyer (or the seller in the case of a pre-listing inspection), with their clients' best interests first and foremost in mind. Similar to other professionals (e.g. psychiatrist, lawyer, etc.), professional Inspectors observe a client confidentiality.
We are moving into an economic time in real estate commonly known as a "Buyers' Market". Your best tool for these times is a biased Inspector. The best Inspector you can hire is the one most biased for you, the client. You deserve the best Inspection.
“Crawlspace - home and health? ”
Whether or not to ventilate a crawlspace is controversial. Crawlspace vents, introduced in the 1950s, were intended to lower humidity levels. Inspectors realized they helped to increase the humidity level in most cases by allowing hot humid air into the cool environment which would condense and create higher humidity. Today we are seeing more homes constructed with conditioned crawlspaces (without vents). Conditioning the crawlspace involves removing factors which raise the humidity.
What is the big deal about having a humid crawlspace?
High humidity, along with other factors, can create conducive conditions for mold and fungus to thrive. Mold can be a serious issue for your health and home or office. Mold and fungus often start growing on the interior walls or in furnace vents. Frequently mold is suspected because of odor and found by a qualified Inspector. A Certified Mold Inspector (CMI) looks at conducive conditions for mold-like substances, possibly taking samples for lab tests, and helps give ideas and suggestions to prevent re-occurrence.
A humid crawlspace causes pipes to sweat and
combined with other sources of moisture you may end up
with a wet crawlspace.
Water in your crawlspace is a serious concern for your health and home or commercial building. To prevent this water must be diverted from your home.
When all factors are addressed and there is still water in your crawlspace you should consider a Forensic Inspection. There could be an undiscovered spring or a high water table involved.
Other than humidity, moisture, mold-like conditions and water, what else does an Inspector look for?
The Crawlspace Inspector looks for debris, which mold, rodents and insects utilize for food and homes. Sometimes insulation which has become wet and fallen down is part of this debris.
If your furnace is located there, the Inspector will explain it is important humidity is monitored and addressed so the furnace can run more efficiently and increase its lifespan.
Holes and cracks in foundation walls will be noted, along with broken crawlspace doors, which allow access for weather, rodents or insects to intrude. Improper clearance between crawlspace soil and wooden structures will be noted which can also allow intrusion of pests.
Crawlspace: A type of basement in which one cannot stand up — the height may be as little as a foot. Generally there is a small access opening large enough to gain entry.
A Crawlspace Inspection is the practice of looking at every aspect of concern that exists in the crawlspace and how they relate to one another.
“Buyers' Market ”
You have been waiting to buy your home. Your finances are in order. You have chosen the neighborhood you desire and have been watching the prices soar. The wait is over.
Now is the time. Many professionals in the real estate field, including financial institutions, are saying the housing market is leveling out. Some say it is becoming a Buyers' Market. (Do a Google search on buyers' market).
This means, in most cities, there are more homes for sale than there are qualified buyers in the market. Listings stay on the market longer than they did a year ago. Home prices in many cities are still rising while home sales volume is declining.
It may be something as simple as supply and demand at work. Fewer buyers are in the market today, due to rising mortgage rates, the volume of sales last year, etc.
How does this affect you? This change may give you, the buyer, the edge you have been waiting for, more power to bargain. A professional Home Inspection is your best tool. Your Home Inspector, hired by you, will be biased to your needs.
Call your Home Inspector first. Find out how that company can assist you. Hire the best one to suit your needs. All Home Inspectors are not the same. Some are labeled as "light switchers" or "patty-cake" inspectors. You want the best value for your money. You want the Home Inspector that looks at everything possible. You want a comprehensive professional report and you will want consulting.
Home Inspection: The act of inspection; careful and critical examination of all systems and components for faults or defects.
As we watch the property market swing to a “Buyer's Market”, you the buyer are in the drivers seat. You have the power. You want the best property Inspection to assure you are getting the most for your money. For maximum results, similar in all financial investments, one is urged to imitate the experts. Realtors are the experts in buying property.
Ever wonder why the sharp Realtors do not end up with lemons? They get the best Inspection money can buy. There is something to be said about the “nit-picky” Home Inspector (as opposed to the “patty-cake” Inspector). The nit-picky Home Inspector is the one professional Realtors choose when they buy a property. Smart property buyers want the best Home Inspection. Realtors are in that category of shrewd property buyers.
Of course, you will personally want to interview your Home Inspector and when you do, here are some excellent questions to ask;
Have you ever inspected a property a Realtor is buying? Were they pleased with your report? Do you have repeat clients? Do you offer consulting? Do you belong to any Inspector's Associations? Can I get my report on the web and pay you on the web? Can I be with you during the Inspection to see things for myself?
Some Realtors are learning to use the pre-listing Inspection before listing their personal properties. This is one of the best kept secrets and gives them an edge on the market. This pre-listing Inspection shows the potential buyer, the seller has been diligent in seeking possible issues with the property as in a full disclosure.
Our Inspection team prefers to have the seller present during the inspection.
“Curb Appeal - Ready to Sell”
Many potential home buyers are “going to the web” in search for the perfect property. Others peruse the neighborhood they would like to reside in. With either method they are looking at listed properties from the outside before inquiring with the listing agent to show them the inside. First impressions are very important and if the prospective buyer does not like the house from the outside, they may not inquire at all. To get them past the front door, you need to analyze your curb appeal. Here is a list of items to add value to your home.
You have done all of the exterior “Curb Appeal” touch ups. Now let's focus on the interior. Potential buyers view your home as their new home. Small cosmetic improvements and cleanliness make a difference.
With all this in mind you may want a consultant to walk you through these steps. A professional Home Inspector is your best choice for a consultant. A Pre-listing Inspection will give you the whole “honey-do” list inside and out. This will help you to sell fast and get the most for your home.
"More Control – More Freedom”
father looked at used, (previously-owned), vehicles, he
checked them out before he made the seller an offer. Often
he took them out-for-a-spin, kicked-the-tires,
and looked under the hood. Sometimes he even had a
professional auto mechanic look them over.
Does this sound familiar? Does it seem like a good practice? You bet it does! It is not only a good idea but quite common to get a second opinion when making an important purchase. One of the single most high-value purchases you will make in your lifetime will be your home, your business, or your investment property.
Obviously you cannot test the home, building or land by living in it first. Weigh the value of a professional second opinion. A good Inspector, could prove to be an invaluable investment. You may save yourself hours, days, and most of all hundreds or thousands of your hard earned dollars, by knowing the true condition of the real estate you are planning to make an offer on.
With the Pre-Offer Inspection completed, you now know more about the property and if it is exactly what you are looking for. Things are often brought out in an inspection which may turn out to be a real plus. These same items may be an inconvenience you are not willing to put up with. Factors which may have a bearing on your decision could be roof, siding, heating system, mold, radon, asbestos, etc. Now having the most knowledge available on your purchase, all that is left is to make that reasonable offer. No waiting on one more of those high pressured contingencies with deadlines.
This practical action makes so much sense real estate investors all over the country are using this tool to retain more control, more freedom and have quicker transaction turn around in the real estate market. If it made sense to Dad – doesn't it make sense to you?
“Apples to Oranges”
Your mortgage consultant, real estate sales agent or best friend, (you know the one – the one with all of the world's knowledge gifted to them alone), advises 'you need to make a choice'. Home Inspection or appraisal. You say, “What's the difference? The reason you may not get a clear answer is: it is like comparing an orthodontist to an optometrist. While they are both doctors; they are not the same. They are not even similar. Both are necessary to do the task required. Both are important to your investment. Do not cheat yourself.
A wise consumer will always choose to get a Home Inspection when buying real estate. Interview and choose your Home Inspector and your appraiser as you would any other professional you hire. Why let someone else make that choice for you? It is your investment. During your interview with each, ask the professionals, “Why choose you – what makes you different?” Your choice should be based on the value you receive - not the price you pay.
A good Home Inspector helps you to determine the serviceable condition of all of the components of your prospective new home. A good appraiser helps you to determine the market value and finance-ability of your new home.
Why get an appraisal to determine an estimate on value without checking the components and systems? (i.e. electric, plumbing, roof, foundation, attic, etc.) You need to know its value and serviceability. Once you are living in your new home and things start to go wrong – it is too late. Even a home warranty may not cover you and your family if there were conditions not discovered prior to closing.
Many Home Inspectors can test for radon levels, air quality (mold), water quality (pH, bacteria, nitrates, etc.) Appraisers do not do tests or inspect these components. They do a visual and may advise to call an Inspector. The Home Inspector is just the opposite. They determine the serviceability but will not tell you the value.
Often the term appraisal inspection is used and can be misleading. Comparing the two professionals is like comparing apples to oranges.
Definitions: appraisal: An appraising is an official valuation, as for sale, taxation, or financing of property, etc.
Home Inspection: The act of inspection; careful and critical examination of all systems and components for faults or defects.
“New Construction and Project Manager/Inspector”
You have made a major financial decision. You have purchased the land. Now you are ready to build your dream home. What is the first thing on your list? You hire an architect/designer, then find a builder/contractor. That's it right? From this point on, you just sit back and relax. Wrong! Many that have been at this point know the truth - the stress is just beginning.
Whether you are living down the street or across the country, this is a big project and you need to find a project manager. Someone to look things over for you – your eyes – on the project. Someone knowledgeable to represent you, with no vested interest, in the project. Someone to read the prints, follow the project, explain things in layman's terms, and to make sure you are getting what you paid for.
There are many good contractors, however; there are also those that do not build to code or to any standard. There are many good architects, and there many just calling themselves architects. As a consumer it is your right to hire the best, within your budget and hire a project manager (not emotionally attached to your project).
You do not want to pay for items you do not understand. Ask your project manager to lay it out clearly and give you the options. Do not hesitate to do change orders. Remember above all, you are the boss! Everyone you hire is working for you.
Communication is the key to bringing the whole project together to your satisfaction. A professional builder/contractor, architect/designer, or sub-contractor will welcome a project manager on the site at any time.
Here are some scenarios we have come across for our clients;
#1) New home, construction not complete – 1.5 mil – Crawlspace wet – Project manager/Inspector is brought on site (a little late), says to builder, “So, John, what did you use to seal your foundation?” John to Inspector, “Oh, I don't believe in that stuff.”
#2) New home, construction not complete – 745K – Main floor beam resting in soil, home on hillside.
Project manager/Inspector is brought on site (a little late), says to builder, “So, John, did you purposely not place that beam in a beam pocket?” John to Inspector, “Beam pocket?”
#3) New home, construction just underway – 545K – Footings are poured, most concrete work appears to be finished, columns leaning substantially, home on hillside. Project manager/Inspector is brought on site (a little late), says to builder, “So, John, your columns are leaning.” John to Inspector, “Yeah, must be frost upheaval.” Inspector, “Yeah, must be redone.”
“Can anyone take asbestos samples?”
That was one of the questions on the Certification test for “Accredited Asbestos Inspectors”. Most professionals in the real estate industry, along with many Home Inspectors, have been under the delusion anyone can “reach up in there and grab a sample and send it to the lab”. Well, this may be true in your own residence, it is not recommended. According to the EPA and the MDEQ the person doing a “Asbestos Inspection”, including collecting samples, on a commercial building must have taken the 24 hour class and passed the Certification Test to be an Accredited Asbestos Inspector. There is a proper way to collect these samples and a chain of command in getting lab results.
With that said, Asbestos is serious business. Public safety must come first. Before profit margins. So please be informed before you begin to remodel or demolish. A commercial building must have an Asbestos Inspection prior to renovation, remodeling or demolition. Building materials and other products containing asbestos number in the thousands. It is often impossible to be sure without the proper number of samples taken and lab test results. Building materials containing Asbestos must be abated and transported according to the rules and regulations of the EPA.
Libby Montana is defining future methods in asbestos cleanup and material handling. As a home owner or commercial building owner you should always assume the vermiculite found in your insulated areas does contain asbestos and should be treated as such. The State and local laws are constantly improving in this area. Diligently ask questions before you take actions.
As Americans and Montanans we want the future homesteads of our children and grandchildren to be safe. Their health and the health of the environment is in our hands. Do the right thing.
Some diseases associated with Asbestos exposure are; Asbestosis (a scarring of the lung), Mesothelioma, (tumors in the pleural lining) and lung cancer (which is 50 to 90 times greater if a person smokes tobacco). For more information on these diseases as related to asbestos and facts about asbestos.......www.epa.gov/asbestos/
If you would like an Asbestos Awareness Class for your group or an individual consultation regarding asbestos and your property contact BJCC Inspections, Accredited Asbestos Inspectors and Consultants.
“The One-stop Shop”
Life is full of conveniences and all of us like things to be convenient. Often we sacrifice something for the sake of convenience (e.g. Quality, value, customer service, longevity, etc.). Have you ever bought a soda or candy bar out of a vending machine? Did you notice it cost more? When you stop at a convenience store and get groceries – did you notice they are more expensive and your choices are limited compared to the grocery store?
There are a number of one-stop shops popping up in many industries and the real estate industry is no exception. Most professional inspection associations (e.g. The National Association of Certified Home Inspectors) frown on this. Many professionals in the real estate industry believe this is unethical, deceptive, an unfair trade practice, or even downright dishonest.
What is a one-stop shop for real estate? That is an office or group of offices working together in a mutually exclusive relationship with each other. An example would be a real estate that office gives you the choice of one Home Inspector, one Appraiser, one mortgage company, and one builder. Some go so far as to demand you use the company or person they connect you with. Some companies require fees to be associated with them, some pay for each lead. Depending on the way the fees and payments are set up this can be illegal. Many Home Inspector associations will revoke your membership for involvement in such practices. Many Appraisers and loan officers have found themselves involved in litigation for working in an exclusive relationship with each other.
The main point is to ask questions of the professionals you hire. Laws will not protect you from unethical practices. Some individuals are able to wear more than one hat and provide honest service in more than one field. This is often not the case. It is usually a conflict of interest. How many lawyers are both the defense attorney and the prosecuting attorney on the same case? How many union representatives own the company? As always interview your Home Inspector, Appraiser, Realtor, Builder, Lender, etc.- call more than one, and make your own decision of who to do business with.
“Make Your Own Decision About Radon”
The United States Environmental Protection Agency advises radon testing of your home. Some states require radon testing on all residential real estate transfers. Radon is reputed to cause cancer. Radon scares most of us.
What is radon and what are our choices? Radon is a gas produced from the decomposition of uranium in the earth. Most often radon finds its way to the surface through fissures (cracks in the underground rock layers). Radon invades our basements, crawlspaces, and even our homes. The radon level can change from minute to minute, day to day, week to week and from house to house.
There are many methods of testing for radon (scintillation, charcoal, electronic, etc.). These different methods have varying degrees of accuracy. Some have an acceptable error factor as high as 25%. You can purchase radon test kits from many sources (i.e. Internet). It is important to follow the directions closely. You can hire a Home Inspector to perform a radon test. Some use electronic equipment – some use test kits. I have used both. The EPA accepts results from both.
Different countries have different cut off limits for remediation (fixing the problem, i.e. lowering the radon level). In the United States the level is 4 pCi/L (picocuries per liter) of air whereas in Canada the level is nearly 21 pCi/L. Some countries are even higher.
One of the most unusual schools of thought is that radon is actually good for you. There are places such as “radon caves” where individuals go, just to sit in a radon filled environment for the health benefits. I read an argument by one doctor from the far east that actually claimed some exposure to radiation helps prevent cancer ( similar to tanning rather than burning when exposed to the sun).
The bottom line is decide for yourself if you want a radon test and what method of testing you prefer.
“Is My Home Inspector Licensed?”
Is My Home Inspector Licensed? This question may come to mind when you are choosing a Home Inspector and it is a worthy question. Some states have licenses for Home Inspectors; many do not. Montana is one of those states which have no such licensing available at this time. Do not confuse the terms; registered, licensed, and certified. Your Home Inspector may be a certified Home Inspector, which is recommended. There are various national associations (i.e. National Association of Certified Home Inspectors - NACHI.), which have certain stringent criteria for membership. (Such as, a lengthy “Standards of Practice”, “Code of Ethics”, and continuing education requirements for membership. www.nachi.org)
If the Home Inspector you interview advertises they are licensed, you should ask them what kind of license he/she has. This person may be licensed as an electrician, plumber, realtor, etc. or may just have a state drivers' license. This does not lend any credibility to being a qualified Home Inspector.
Being a licensed professional in a related field may be helpful in that particular area of knowledge concerning a Home Inspection. However, if they are currently active in that profession for income, it may be difficult or impossible, as humans, to walk the ethical line of looking after your best interests. Especially at the end of the month when the bills are due and the money is short. Example, “This is broke, but I can fix it”.
Many national and state associations do not allow a Home Inspector to do remediation, repair, etc. for a minimum of one year after the inspection.
Some inspection companies inspect and remediate or repair issues. (i.e. mold, radon, roof, etc.). Some will even offer a “free” inspection but charge exorbitant amounts to fix what they find. This is considered by most a conflict of interest.
Bottom line – you, the consumer – the client – the customer – the home buyer/home owner, owe it to yourself, to get the facts and make the best choice for you. It is your money, your home.
“Preparing for Winter”
This is a common, but important theme. As Home Inspectors we look at preparing a home for winter a little differently than the average consumer. Our first concern is safety, next is preserving the house, then energy efficiency, and lastly comfort.
As you have noticed the temperature is dropping and if you have not yet used your heating system you will be soon. It is advised to have your heating system thoroughly checked by a qualified heating professional. A system in poor condition will not only be inefficient, but can also allow noxious gases to enter your living space. Carbon monoxide, often called “the silent killer”, is odorless, tasteless, and kills without warning. Many people install a carbon monoxide detector to alert them to the presence of this deadly gas. These detectors are inexpensive and readily available.
Dust, dirt, pollen, mold, and other organic and inorganic material can build up in the ductwork and filters of your heating system. These can cause irritation to the respiratory system of most individuals and possibly serious reactions in persons with allergies or weakened immune systems. Ductwork should be cleaned as necessary and filters replaced. The best time to do this is before you turn your heat on for the first time each fall. Chimneys should be inspected and cleaned as necessary. A build up of creosote and other bi-products from burning various fuels, such as wood, can cause a chimney fire.
If your home has poor insulation, or spaces around doors or windows, where cold air can enter, condensation may form - at times turning to frost - then back to moisture. This situation creates a conducive condition for mold growth, which many consider a health risk. These same situations may decrease your heat efficiency and increase your fuel consumption whether it be electricity, wood, gas or other heating methods. All of these situations can be evaluated prior to the winter season, corrected, and save you money down the road.
Autumn is a good time to test your smoke detectors for proper operation and replace the batteries. Most newer homes have interconnected detectors and you may want to upgrade to this system.
“Water - Your Home's Enemy”
Water is something we need to survive. We drink it, bath in it, use it to grow our food, play on and in it, and die without it. The importance of water is undeniable; however, when it comes to our homes water is the number one enemy.
A house is supposed to provide shelter from the elements; including rain, snow, wind, and cold. These same elements attack the structure of a house – especially water. One form of water damage results from direct intrusion, like a hole in the roof, a flood, or a leaking pipe. Other forms of water damage are less obvious – high humidity, condensation, or wicking.
A simple hole, the diameter of a pencil, can allow water to rot a roof, wall, or foundation. A hole in a water pipe, the diameter of a pin, can cause a pipe to leak enough water to destroy a floor, wall or foundation. There have been documented reports of a dripping hose bib or gutter causing uneven settling, tipping, or even crumbling of a foundation wall. Leaking roofs have been responsible for entire walls collapsing from deterioration of the studs.
Many decks have crumbled under their own weight or worse – collapsed when full of people because the posts were rotted from being in moist soil. It is truly amazing how fast certain types of wood deteriorate when in contact with moist soils.
One of the biggest concerns in buildings today is mold. Mold is a direct result of moisture. Mold needs water to live and grow. Crawlspaces and attics that are humid or wet are a breeding ground for this possibly life threatening organism. Everyday I see crawlspaces and attics without any sort of ventilation.
A Home Inspector is trained to uncover these conditions in your home. A quality Home Inspection can save inconvenience, lower repair costs, alert you to future issues or even save your life.
“Realtor Saved By Home Inspection”
Realtor Bob told his client, “The house is only two years old. It doesn't need a Home Inspection.” Sally Smith took Bob's advice, waived the Home Inspection, and signed the buy-sell agreement. The closing took place, without delay, right on schedule and Bob got his commission.
Sally and her three children excitedly moved in and started to enjoy their new home. After six months, Trisha, Sally's fourteen month old daughter, started having trouble breathing, coughed a lot, and was feverish. One night Sally rushed Trisha to the emergency room – only to find out Trisha was dying. Mold was growing in her lungs. The doctors worked franticly to save Trisha, but her immune system had been weakened and Sally had to bury Trisha nine months after moving into their two year old dream home.
Sally called an attorney, who in turn called a Home Inspector. The Home Inspector was also a Certified Mold Inspector. The Inspector did a thorough examination of the house and found large amounts of mold in the crawlspace and high concentrations in the air.
Sally's attorney immediately sued Realtor Bob and won the case. Realtor Bob lost his real estate license, his house, his car, and his boat. Realtor Bob moved to a different state and became a telemarketer.
In a similar situation, Realtor Johnson advised his client Peggy to get a Home Inspection – which she did. The same Home Inspector was called to do the inspection. He found nearly identical mold conditions. The homeowner and the homebuyer worked together with a remmediator. The mold was removed and the crawlspace was ventilated. Peggy and her children are happy and healthy in their new home.
Realtor Johnson, in an effort to do the best for his client, avoided litigation and was praised by both Peggy and the seller. He received a healthy commission and took his family to Disney World for a vacation.
"Electricity in your Home Inspection"
Sixteen year old Suzie rushes to prepare herself for this evening's junior prom. She grabs the blow dryer with her still damp hand. There is a loud crackling sound followed by a hiss and the smell of burnt flesh. In a panic, Suzie's mom hurries to the bathroom to find Suzie lying lifeless on the bathroom floor. She immediately dials 911, but help is too late. Suzie missed this prom, the chance to grow up, marry, have children and fulfill her dreams. This could have been prevented.
The Smith's just bought this home and yes they had it inspected. The GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupt) outlet was in place and looked new. Since this house had just been built, the Inspector neglected to test the outlet, which turned out to be defective. A good Inspector attempts to test every outlet they have access to. A visual once-over is just not enough.
Electricity is one of the most common causes of fires in the home. Electricity can and will, shock, burn, and kill. Unlike other concerns, defects in electrical components often cannot be seen. Competent Home Inspectors use some sort of test equip to determine the function-ability of electrical components. Even the best test equipment is useless if the Inspector does not use it.
One of the most common concerns cited in a Home Inspection is an electrical issue. Often these are easy and inexpensive to correct. Due to the nature of electricity these are almost always a safety concern. When shopping for a Home Inspector be sure to ask about the electrical portion of their Home Inspection. They work for you and your safety should be their number one goal.
"You Get What You Pay For"
Getting a cheap Home Inspection is one of the most deadly mistakes a home buyer can make.
For most of us, buying a home is the single most expensive purchase we will ever make. Do not settle for a cheap Home Inspector. The cost of a Home Inspection is very small relative to the money it may save you. As a home buyer, you have recently been crunching the numbers, negotiating offers, adding up closing costs, shopping for mortgages, and trying to get the best deals. Don't stop now. Do not let your realtor, a patty-cake inspector, in-laws, or anyone else talk you into skimping here.
This is your home. You will be living in it; not your agent or inspector. Hiring the best Home Inspector you can find is vital. As an informed consumer you should interview the Home Inspector yourself. Ask questions of importance to you. If you are unable to communicate with the Home Inspector, before your inspection, you probably will not receive the consulting you deserve after your inspection.
Never, ever, allow your realtor to “shop around” to find you a cheap Home Inspection. You may get just that. Best intentions and best interests are not always the same.
A good Home Inspector will encourage you to be present during your inspection; to see issues for yourself and learn more about your home. Be there if possible.
Remember, you get what you pay for. The higher priced inspectors earn their fees. They do more, (often above minimum standards), and yes, they may take a little more time with you. Do yourself a favor: pay a little more for the quality Home Inspection you deserve.
One fine winter day, I think it was in January, we were leaving our mountain home, which can be quite an adventure at times. As we cautiously crested one the steepest portions of the icy road, we were very surprised to see a person, barely able to stand on the slippery slope, flagging us down. Thankfully our tire chains gripped, allowing us to stop. The lady told us a tow truck had been called to rescue them and they hoped it would be there within the hour, (they had already waited 45 minutes). Moments later we sighted a SUV pointed sideways sliding toward the dangerous mountain slope.
It was a pretty typical day for us, 40 degrees, sunshine, wet icy steep mountain back-road. We had put chains on our inspection vehicle, (4x4 Suburban), before leaving our driveway, which is not unusual for most of the year and part of what makes our remote home a challenge.
Our schedule did not really allow time to wait for a tow truck and we were dubious if a tow truck could even do the job. In a routine manner, as if we had done this once or twice, we grabbed a logging chain from the storage part of our truck and used it to drag the little SUV until it was facing the right direction. While still chained to the smaller SUV we eased it down the road, about one mile, to safety. The image made you think of a rescue operation on a ski slope.
After the situation was resolved, we spent a moment in conversation with the three grateful females, only to find out they were looking at properties to buy. We talked about the fact that these were normal conditions on this road and how they were lucky to have not gone over the edge. It turns out one of the women was a Realtor. We exchanged cards and business information and bid them a good day.
A few weeks later we got a call from that very same Realtor saying she had a couple of clients that needed inspections. It turns out these were the same women that were in the SUV that day. We ended up inspecting houses for both of them and soon they will be our neighbors. We were not out marketing or looking for business. We were just running to town. You could say we stopped just to, “Do the right thing, no matter the cost”.
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