Tuesday, September 25, 2018

  Fall is finally here ...

...and it won’t be long before the first frost. 

If you live in Colorado, you should know that it’s a coin toss on whether the first snow will be a drizzle or a blizzard.

Let’s be smarter this year and get ahead of the coming cold weather and prepare for the inevitable winter that’s just around the corner. A little preventative maintenance now and we can enjoy our winter activities without worry later.

Please, please, clean your gutters.

If you were one of my Home Inspection clients, you’ve already endured my lecture of the importance of clean gutters.  It’s the single most effective way of keeping your home in good shape.  Hire someone to clean them – don't risk injury by taking my advice to clean your gutters! Falling from ladders is more common than you think.

Adding insulation and caulking around windows can make your home more comfortable and cheaper to heat.  Now is a great time to do those tasks while the weather is nice – you won’t want to do it once the cold wind starts to blow.

Instead of raking your leaves, consider buying a “mulching blade” for your lawn mower. You'll be amazed at how one of these can turn a pile of leaves into valuable organic matter for your lawn.

It’s time to clean your chimney if you haven’t had it done in the last three years, . If you enjoy frequent fires in your fireplace, or if you burn pine logs, consider having your chimney cleaned every year.

Order your firewood. If you’re new to the neighborhood, ask neighbors for a good firewood supplier.  Hardwood, such as oak, maple, or elm, are your best choices as long as they are seasoned for at least a year. Speaking of firewood, now is a good time to have the trees trimmed. You can have the trimmings cut and stacked for next year’s firewood – but make sure you let it dry for a year before you burn it.

Remember when you bought your home and your Home Inspector recommended an annual HVAC Maintenance contract?

Now is the time you want to schedule your furnace Clean and tune. 

You don’t want to beg for service if your furnace conks out on a freezing February night. There is no better time than now to start a relationship with a reputable HVAC company. Annual service contracts are worth it.

Once you take care of your home, you can count on your home taking care of you.  This winter, let’s enjoy the wonders that winter brings to us and know that we’re prepared to make the most of the season.

Did you find this article helpful? Visit My Website or Like Me on Facebook to follow my blog.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

How to Save Money on Your Home Inspection

How to Save Money On Your Home Inspection

You've finally found "The One"
Great home. Great neighborhood. And now the work begins. You still have some hurdles to get over before moving day. Now that the sellers have accepted your offer, you still have to get an appraisal, arrange your mortgage and get an inspection.

But How do You Save Money on the Inspection?

Are you trying to save on the cost of the fee that the Inspector charges, or do you want to save real money? If you want to make sure the home you're buying doesn't have hidden expenses that will really cost you after you move in, trying to find the Inspector with the lowest fee is taking the wrong approach! 

The "cheapest" inspector is the cheapest for a reason. 

They are either inexperienced or they will rush through your home because they have two more inspections scheduled after yours! In either case, there is a real likelihood that they’ll miss important and potentially expensive issues. 

The Best Inspector is a Certified Professional Inspector.  

But even that certification isn't enough. Your Inspector should have a well-rounded construction background. Not just in one trade, but as a contractor that has a working knowledge of all the trades. Talk with your Inspector and make sure they can effectively communicate their findings to you. The most important part of the Inspector's job is to supply your Realtor with the information they need to negotiate on your behalf. An experienced Inspector will know how to put a priority on any issues with your home in terms of how much the corrections are likely to cost you. That's where the real money is.

Where do you find the Best Home Inspector?  

If your Realtor knows an Inspector they trust - and you trust your Realtor - you can be comfortable with their recommendation. Good Realtors really do look out for you. They know the long - term liabilities of hiring a "soft" inspector. Problems with a home will reveal themselves sooner or later, and knowing sooner is best - because you can negotiate a solution with the seller - therefore saving you money! If the problems surface after the sale, that will cost you. You won't be happy with your Realtor and they won't be getting referrals from you. 

If you'd rather find an inspector on your own, make sure that whoever you choose is an experienced Certified Professional Inspector.  You can start with a simple Google search for Inspectors in your area.  

Skip the ads.

Go to the Inspectors with the highest organic results on Google.  They got there by working hard and being recommended - not by paying a fee. If you use a service like Home Advisor or Angie's List, keep in mind those Inspectors pay a hefty fee to be listed on those sights as well. And naturally, the cost of advertising gets passed on to you if you hire them.

Are you hiring a Salesman, or an Inspector?

Many Inspectors use gimmicks or "freebies" to entice you to use them. They may offer 90 day guarantees to make you "feel good" about hiring them. Any warranty that a Home Inspector can offer you for "free" isn't worth the paper it's written on. There are good Home Warranty programs, but the ones that will actually offer a degree of protection will cost a bit more than "free" - and usually can be obtained through the seller or your Realtor. Don't be tricked by a worthless warranty. Hire an Inspector that sells Inspecting.

You've come this far, Let's finish strong.

I know you've been negotiating offers, adding up closing costs, shopping for mortgages, and trying to get the best deals. Don't stop now. Don't skimp on the Home Inspection.  What an Experienced Home Inspector can save you in costs far exceeds the fee that they charge.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The Inspection

Getting a Check-up For Your Home - Before You Buy

When you go to the doctor for your annual physical, you get professional feedback on your health. You learn if you have any medical issues that need to be fixed. A home inspection is like a physical examination for a house. An Inspection Report simply describes and identifies what might need repair or replacement in the home you want to buy.

The difference between a good inspection and a bad inspection is the Inspector – not the condition of the house. The house is what it is – and you will find out what its condition is sooner or later. Sooner is better.  Later is a surprise that you don’t want to have.

But How do You Find the Best Inspector?

There are 3 types of inspectors. New inspectors are enthusiastic, hungry, and cheap. If you’re lucky, they have some training and at least follow a Standard of Practice, but often they’re employees of a larger company and what they're trained to do is run through a house as quickly as possible and get to their next job – because they're expected to do 2 or 3 inspections a day! New inspectors come with two strikes against them: 1) the likelihood that they’ll miss important issues because of their inexperience, and 2) the very real possibility that they will misidentify things as problems where none exist. Bad information from a new inspector could cause you to miss out on the Home of your dreams.

Then there is the Over-zealous inspector.  Often, they specialized in a trade before becoming inspectors. They have a nasty habit of making mountains out of molehills – especially in the trade they used to be in. Many don’t have a holistic understanding of homes and how the various systems interact. They tend to only focus on their one area of expertise and they often miss the “Big Picture”.

The Best Inspector is an experienced Certified Professional InspectorThey have a well-rounded construction background  and the ability to effectively communicate their findings to you. They won’t miss a thing and they’ll supply your Realtor with the information they need to negotiate on your behalf. They’ll get you the facts that will help you to make a good decision now – and be comfortable with that decision in the future.

How do you find the Best Home Inspector?  
Your Realtor knows who it is! But why do so many Real Estate agents not give you the name of that best Inspector? It’s because of a very persistent myth. Realtors are terrified of a Negligent Referral lawsuit. The most common way Real Estate agents protect themselves against this unlikely event is they give you a list of three home inspection companies because they've been told it reduces their liability. But the reality is, the chance that referring an experienced Certified Professional Inspector will result in a lawsuit is about the same as being struck by lightning the same day you win the lottery. 

I understand where this seems to make sense. If they tell you to hire an inspector that disappoints you, it can come back to bite them in the form of a lawsuit. But Realtors actually create liability for themselves in referring three Inspectors instead of the best one they know. They’re asking you to play the lottery when they already know the winning number!

Do you trust your Realtor? If you don’t, fire them and get another one.  If you do, ask them who the Best Inspector is that they know, and trust in that Realtor's expertise and the Inspector they recommend will be the best choice to work hard on your behalf.

Your Realtor is like a General going to battle for you.  The Inspector you hire is their Forward Observer who gathers intel so they can best fight that battle. If you get the home you want for a price that is fair, you will be their customer for life. Of course they will help you pick the best Team to serve you.

What do you hope will be the best outcome of your home inspection?
You may hope that the inspector finds nothing wrong with the house, the negotiations go smoothly and you live happily ever after. One can dream, right? Yes, I’ve found that 4-leaf clover. If there’s nothing wrong with a house, I turn my focus to showing you how to maintain and monitor your home to keep it good condition. 

But almost every home has some issues. Honestly, the best outcome is to find and identify all the issues with the home, and to document them in a fashion so your Realtor can negotiate skillfully on your behalf.

What do you fear could be the worst outcome?
Buying a home is always stressful, especially at the time of the inspection. You’ve invested so much time and energy to find this home and now you worry that the inspector will find a “show-stopper” like a bad foundation or a sacred burial ground in the basement and the deal will be killed.

These are even rarer than the “perfect home”, but they do happen.  Sometimes it’s best to run – not walk – away from a home with serious problems. That’s why you’ve hired a Realtor you trust. That's why you insist on the Best Inspector.

You’ll find a better house, and when you get through the inspection and finally settled in, you can sleep well, because you know that you hired the best team that wasn't afraid to go to battle to find The Perfect Home for You.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Halloween Is Home Maintenance Time:

Don't Be Afraid!

Spooky sounds and strange odors are part of the season. They are your home's way of telling you that it's ready for some care.

Monsters in the Attic

The fall is a time when many creatures are looking for suitable places to spend the winter. Make sure your roof vents are covered with screens or you may have creepy critters move into your attic where they can create real havoc. Raccoons and squirrels can chew wires and potentially start a fire! It's a good idea to trim trees that are close to your home so that these little "Monsters" don't have an easy path to your roof.

What is that Ghastly Smell?

Now that it's cooler out and our windows are closed, you may notice strange odors that you've not noticed before. Identifying them is key to having a healthy home that doesn't become a graveyard. Let's put on our sleuthing hats and take the mystery away.

Many smells are obvious - like the smell of burning dust coming from your furnace. It's been awhile since it's been used and that burning dust smell is an indication that you should have your annual HVAC tune and clean. A clean and lubricated furnace is much less likely to have an untimely death.

If it's more of a rotten egg smell - don't go down in the basement! Natural gas is odorless, but they add butyl mercaptan to give it that distinctive smell to alert you to any leaks. Go to a neighbor's house and call your gas utility to check on your gas lines and connections. Most utility companies will perform a safety check for little or no cost. Better safe than sorry!

The Haunted Fireplace

Have you smelled burnt wood, but there's no fire? It could be your fireplace. This Ghost Odor may be caused by a poorly sealing damper. The outside air can come back down the chimney, bringing old burnt wood smells with it. Have a qualified fireplace service person clean your chimney and make sure that your damper is in good working order. You’ll get rid of the smells and you might save on your energy bill, too.

Creaking and Groaning

Is it a Ghost wandering the halls?  Goblins trying to open the windows? Most likely, it's your home shrinking and settling.  Wood is dynamic, and it will grow and contract with temperature and humidity changes. Pops and squeaks happen when different materials expand or contract at different rates. This is a good reminder to check your caulking and weather stripping.  Caulk seals will fail because of this movement and will result in a drafty home.

Some noises come from vents for bathrooms and clothes dryers.  They often have dampers at the sidewalls of the house.  These flaps sometimes move and rattle in the wind.  Often, they are held partially open from the buildup of lint.  A good cleaning and lubrication will often stop them from scaring you awake in the middle of the night.

Rest In Peace

Winter is coming, don't let it be a frightening time. Your home can keep you safe and warm. All it asks in return is that you give it a little TLC. Most maintenance can be done by yourself, some should be deferred to a specialized tradesperson. But don't forget, an ounce of prevention equals a pound of cure. 

Thursday, September 7, 2017

There's a Nip in the Air...

You can feel the seasons changing.

With the coming of Fall, your mind turns to Home and Hearth.

My mind turns to inspecting fireplaces!

Most modern fireplaces - whether they're wood burning or Natural Gas - are pretty safe and trouble free. As a Home Inspector, the type that gives me the most issues is a wood burning fireplace that has been converted to gas.

These are popular because they are relatively inexpensive and, if you're handy, fairly easy to install. But all too often I'm inspecting a home where these logs have been installed by someone who is less than handy, and the result can be disasterous.

I find the gas line is frequently pulled in through the wall of the firebox by way of a jaggedly punched hole. This is a recipe for disaster. Flames or super-heated gasses can be drawn back through the hole and start a smouldering fire inside the wall cavity that may not ignite into a full blown fire for hours or days! That pipe line has to be sealed tight!

Another common issue is the damper on the original fireplace must be clamped into the "open" position. This prevents dangerous Carbon Monoxide gas from coming back into the living space. A wood fire would warn you that the damper is closed by causing the room to fill with smoke, but that doesn't happen with gas logs.

An Automatic Damper
  for Gas Log Fireplaces
A big down side of your damper being locked open is that precious warm air (and the money that heated it) flows out of the house through the chimney whether there is a fire or not. This will create cold drafts throughout your home as well.

Not exactly the "snuggly fire" scenario you had in mind, is it?

An option that will help is having an automatic damper installed. This little wonder will set you back a few dollars, but by sealing off the chimney when not in use, you'll save money in the long run through lowered heating costs.

A better option may be to have a Glass Front installed.  The best kind is a sealed unit, but you will have to allow for combustion air for your gas logs to burn.  A more affordable (but less efficient) option is purchasing a glass door that is opened while the fire is burning, but closed when the fire is out to keep unwanted drafts to a minimum.

Before you settle in for a romantic evening of hot cocoa and cookies, make an appointment with a fireplace specialist to make sure your fireplace is ready for the season. There's a lot of options out there for a safe and cozy fireplace, and the first step is to know your fireplace is a safe one. 

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Waive the Inspection? Not So Fast...

"Honey, I've got a friend that knows a lot about houses..." 

"Let's get him to come look this house over and we can save the cost of a Professional Inspector. We can pay my friend in pizza and beer!"

Sounds good, right? We all like to save where we can. But getting a Cheap Home Inspection can be the most expensive purchase you make - or worse.

Last week I inspected a home for a young couple and it turned out well.  I didn't find anything of note to be alarmed about.  Newer water heater, well maintained furnace, a roof that was less than a year old - this was a perfect starter home. As part of my inspection services, I always walk my clients through their homes and teach them how to take care of the various systems so that they can save money down the road through preventative maintenance.  I show them what I look for in my inspection, so they can be on the lookout in the future and head off issues before they become serious problems. This alone is a good value that you will receive from hiring a good home inspector.

I was thrilled when I got a call the next day from my client's mother, who was buying a home as well (the whole family was relocating from California). She initially had waived her inspection (at the advice of her Realtor!), but she told me that her daughter had such a good experience with me that she thought she'd benefit from what I could teach her about her new home.

Similar scenario.  The home looked well maintained.  A recently cleaned furnace, a new kitchen remodel, a newer roof - all things that show well and give confidence to a buyer.  But what I found still gives me nightmares.

This is the exhaust from the furnace.  It had become separated and deadly Carbon Monoxide laden gas was being pumped into the crawl space.  No CO detectors in the home.  Imagine moving into your new home, turning up the furnace and going to bed after a long day of moving in - only to never wake up.  Unbelievable scenario? It could have been all too real.  If there were any survivors, they could spend the rest of their heartbroken lives suing the Realtor for negligence in their advice to forego the inspection. 

Secondly, I discovered this - way back in the crawl space.  Not deadly, but left undiscovered it could have resulted in thousands of dollars in flood damage.

The Sellers disclosed that they had a new water line brought in from the street.  Good, right?  But the new copper was attached to the 50 year-old galvanized water lines, and in many places they were so corroded that they could have literally burst just by looking at them too hard.

I'm not going to go over the other 40 pages of discovery in my report, but let's just say that it contained a wealth of information that any homebuyer would want to know, regardless of whether or not it would have raised an inspection objection at the closing.

So next time you are tempted to save $400 by forgoing an inspection - think twice.  Even if there are no problems to be discovered, the value of the walkthrough with your inspector and the peace of mind of knowing the condition of your new home are worth the minimal investment in a Professional Inspection, don't you think?

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

A Hammer Treats Every Problem as a Nail

Who is the Best Home Inspector for You?

I performed a condo inspection that was attended by the client's Realtor (the client was not present). I asked if he had any more sales coming up (I was fishing for more referrals). He told me that he only had houses - not condos, and that he always referred an Inspector who was also a Structural Engineer to inspect houses. He went on to explain that when inspecting "he doesn't charge for being an Engineer unless he finds a structural problem. Then he'll contract the client for his engineering services."

Then he tells me "I've got a few homes right now with structural issues…"

But several homes – all with structural issues?

I’m not here to deride his Inspector / Engineer, but the Realtor’s last comment about having a few homes with structural issues – all “discovered” by this Inspector – leaves me wondering. Out of the last 150 homes I’ve inspected, maybe five have had structural issues. Some were obvious, like a concrete porch pulling away from the main house. Some less so, for instance a crack in a foundation that had been “repaired” with caulk and the crack appeared to be still enlarging. In my report, I noted the appropriate action to be taken (call a concrete contractor for the former and consult with a Structural Engineer for the latter).

Let’s compare it to a different scenario. Let's say the Inspector also was a licensed HVAC tech. That’s fine and good – most Inspectors have some sort of construction background. But wouldn’t it raise your eyebrows if a large percentage of the homes he inspected were determined to have defective furnaces and the Inspector offered (for an extra fee) to fix or replace the furnace?

Home Inspectors are Generalists. We are trained to look at your home as a system. We note problems as we see them. We know where to look for trouble spots in all the systems of your home. When we see an issue with a specialized system, our report often advises calling in a specialist. We discover and advise – and we adhere to a strict Code of Ethics so that there is no chance there could be – or appear to be – a conflict of interest between what we discover in our inspections and our ability to repair them for profit.

Having an Inspector with specialized skills can be a plus, but keep in mind the old saying: "A hammer treats every problem as a nail". Make sure that he or she is also a Certified Professional Inspector. The best skill your Inspector can have is an ability to accurately and objectively communicate to you and your Realtor the condition of the home you are about to purchase. A Certified Professional Inspector is trained to look at your home as a system and to give you an unbiased and objective analysis of your home that you and your Realtor can use to negotiate the final cost of your investment. So be very skeptical of any problems "discovered" by your Inspector that he or she offers, for a fee, to fix.

Visit Metro Home Inspection's Web Site