Archive for 2013

6 Questions to Ask Your Potential Home Inspector

Posted on: December 19th, 2013 | No Comments

inspector_smiling_while_looking_at_a_water_heaterWhether you are buying or selling, having an inspection is the first step to understanding the condition of any residential or commercial space. This information can influence whether you make an offer or how high or low you set the properties price. Inspections can also point out safety hazards and other concerns. That is why it is important to find an inspector who is going to be thorough, knowledgeable and honest. There are many questions to ask a potential inspector to determine if they will exceed your expectation. Here are six that will give you a realistic expectation for service and hopefully narrow down the field for you too.

 

Are you state certified and compliant?
This question should always be your first. These certifications require extensive training and qualification that are necessary for any inspector to do their job effectively. Being compliant is the second part but just as important . Many inspectors will be certified but do not take steps to renew as this certification expires. An up to date certification means an inspector has proven their knowledge and are providing top notch inspections and reports. Since these reports can make a huge difference in price and buyer consideration, having a certified inspector also adds weight to the inspection report.

 

What was your training?
There are many way to become a home inspector. Unfortunately, online courses that provide certification same week are available. These courses are not recommended as they provide no hands on training. When deciding on your inspector be sure to ask for proof of certification, hours of training completed, field experience and continued education. By ensuring your inspector has all of this, you can be assured they are well qualified and competent to perform a top notch inspection.

 

Do you carry insurance?
There are two types of insurance every inspector should hold. The first is Professional Liability Insurance or Errors or Omissions Insurance. Inspectors occasionally may miss something in the chaos that usually accompanies an inspection. This insurance protects you and you inspector from future costs that may be incurred by these errors or omissions. Additionally, General Liability Insurance protects from damage incurred or injury sustained during an inspection. Ask for proof of both of these insurance to ensure you have an inspector who will stand by their report.

 

What type of report will I receive?
Reports can vary between inspectors. Insist on a detailed report including photographs and descriptions. This will be immensely helpful when it comes time to make the necessary repairs and adds accountability and value to the inspection report.

 

Are you an independent inspector or a franchise?
Independent inspectors may not require as much training or continued education as a franchised branch. Be sure to look into the requirements of your state as well as any companies you are considering using to determine their level of training and education. When choosing a franchised inspector you are more likely to find more rigorous training, continued education and insured inspectors. Franchises also tend to hold high standards of customer service and inspection because they represent a larger organization.

 

Do you have any referrals from past inspections?
The opinions of former customers can mean a lot. No referrals should be a red flag to anyone because even though it might mean they were not terrible, it also means they did not provide a stellar inspection. So, do your research and find out what other consumers are saying about the company, services and employees. These can help you narrow down the last few inspectors and find your winner.

 

You may not have known there were so many steps to choosing an inspector but keep in mind, these men and women are catching safety hazards and other concerns with your home. By asking these questions early, doing your research and insisting on education, certification and insurance you are more likely to receive the most thorough report possible. These reports can greatly influence buyer interest and price so the more information you have the better. Don’t settle for anything less than the high expectations set by the questions above.

 

Having trouble finding an inspector you can trust in your area? Check out the Inspect-It 1st website to locate a franchise near you, research services and get your inspection questions answered all in one place.

 

Insights in Real Estate – A Webinar with Dr. David Lereah

Posted on: December 6th, 2013 | No Comments

dr_david_lereah_webinarReal estate can be a stressful and uncertain business. Ups and downs are the name of the game. So, how can a realtor be successful through all of this? Insights are the first step to understanding and planning for the upcoming year. By analyzing the market, influencing components and factoring in unexpected changes, realtors can begin to predict the upcoming year and it’s challenges. These insights are invaluable when it comes time to strategizing for your business.

Inspect-It 1st is proud to announce a webinar for realtors with Dr. David Lereah, former Chief Economist for the National Association of Realtors and Mortgage Bankers Association. His extensive years of experience allow Dr. Lereah to provide insights into the 2014 housing market. Specifically focused on:

  • Factors influencing supply and demand
  • Assessment of existing home sales, new construction, home prices, foreclosures, housing inventory and mortgage rates
  • The impact of current and future housing policies

Join Dr. Lereah for this valuable webinar on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM EST.

 

To register for this webinar, click here.

 

About the Speaker

 

David Lereah is a recognized economic expert in the financial services and real estate industries. He is president of Reecon Advisors which provides insight and advice on the U.S. real estate markets to real estate companies, investors and some of the largest financial institutions in the world. He is also President of SMH Tranche LLC, a real estate acquisition company, based in Florida.

 

Dr. Lereah is the former Chief Economist for the National Association of Realtors and the former Chief Economist for the Mortgage Bankers Association. He has appeared regularly in the national media, including CNBC, Fox Business, CNN, NPR and the Wall St Journal. Dr. Lereah began his career on the faculties of Rutgers University and the University of Virginia teaching economics and financial markets theory. He earned his BA in Economics from American University and a PhD in Economics from the University of Virginia. Dr. Lereah is available for presentations/speeches, customized research projects and advisory consultation.

 

 

Moisture, Mold and Mildew: How to Combat the 3 M’s

Posted on: November 14th, 2013 | No Comments

peeling_wall_with_mold_growthMoisture, mold and mildew, three words that can make any homeowner cringe. The idea that moisture can grow mold and mildew in a home causing unreachable smells and irritating allergic reactions is immensely frustrating. So, how can you avoid these three dirty words and keep your home fresh and dry? Here are a few tips and tricks:

 

Moisture:

  1. The culprit and cause of mold and mildew, moisture can seep into walls and floors causing damage to structure as well as a perfect environment for fungus to thrive. There are a few things you can do to avoid moisture being trapped in your home.
  2. Check your plumbing and gutters. Leaky pipes, a burst or even ineffective gutters can allow water to leak into your home and collect. Simple maintenance will help prevent this from happening.  Clean up spills. Should you find a spill, burst or leak, clean it up immediately. Mold and mildew will start to grow within 24-48 hours so a quick dry out is the easiest way to keep that from happening. A small fan placed in a wet room will help move the air around and speed the drying process. For larger leaks and bursts, industrial fans are available for drying entire floors or basements.
  3. Dry surfaces where you see condensation. The insides of window sills and air conditioning drip pans (among other things) may collect condensation. By wiping them dry or dumping stand water, you reduce the chance for mold to form on the surface.

Mold:


Mold will not grow without moisture. That being said, it is impossible to eradicate all mold spores from your home. There are a few ways to remove it. Don’t forget, always take steps to avoid coming in contact with mold spores. The EPA recommends wearing an N -95 respirator, gloves and goggles when removing mold.

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Home Heating System Safety

Posted on: November 4th, 2013 | No Comments

a_hand_adjusting_a_radiator_dialHome inspectors are usually hired when someone is looking to move and wanting to ensure the house they are buying or selling is up to par. This means these inspectors are the last line before a sale to point out any problems or safety concerns. In this series of blogs we will talk about a few of the most frequently discovered safety hazards that certified home inspectors come across and how to handle them.

 

One of the most common and dangerous problems found is an old or poorly maintained heating system. Broken or cracked pipes, blocked exhaust flumes and unusable control knobs should all be fixed. These can cause fires, carbon monoxide poisoning and other health issues that can be detrimental to you and your families health.

 

To prevent these problems keep your furnace and other heating system part in good working order. This includes regular service, cleaning vents and other parts of any dust buildup that could catch fire and updating when necessary. Replacing your central heating system can be expensive however, a more efficient system will save money in the long term and a safe heating system will provide peace of mind.

 

Selling your home? By repairing and updating these systems, you give yourself another selling point on which to base your homes price. A home’s safety can be a large deciding factor to potential buyers so replacing unsafe systems is a good investment. By replacing potential hazards you can also protect yourself from legal action should anything go wrong after the house has been sold.

 

Homes require a large amount of upkeep. By maintaining your home’s heating system you take steps to protect your family as well as become more appealing to future buyers.

 

Five Tips to Boost Your Home’s Appraisal

Posted on: October 16th, 2013 | No Comments

appraisalA home appraisal is certainly high on the list of awkward and potentially frustrating life events.  Some random stranger walks into your home, takes a peek around, and then tells YOU how much YOUR home is worth.  Whether the process is fair or not is certainly open for debate, but one thing is not:  the price the appraiser sets can make or break a real estate deal.  Appraisers are paid by lenders to make sure that they don’t approve loans for more than the properties are worth.  So, whether you are looking to refinance your mortgage, apply for a home equity loan, or sell your home, you need to turn that stranger into your new best friend by following these five tips.

 

1.     Appearance is everything

The sight of tacky lawn ornaments, dirty dishes, or a stack of books on the kitchen counter is not supposed to impact the appraisal, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.  Even the most objective appraiser may be influenced by external factors.  So, make sure to mow the lawn, trim the hedges, rake the leaves, wash your dishes, vacuum, clean the bathrooms, call the exterminator…you get the point.

 

2.     Keep (or make) a list of all upgrades

Take the time to put together a spreadsheet of the dates and costs of any upgrades, updates, additions, or other home improvement projects you have completed over the years.  Do you have any photos that can showcase the updated look?  What about receipts?  Don’t forget to point out structural or electrical improvements that may be hard to see with the naked eye.  Make sure to highlight features that separate your home from a comparable home.  Did you put in a pool or hot tub?  New roof or insulation?

 

3.     Location, Location, Location…

Ask the lender for an appraiser that lives in your area or has worked in the area before.  If that doesn’t work, do your best to convince the appraiser that you live in Pleasantville.  Mention the new restaurants in town, the dog park, the playground, the organic grocery store.  Is Tom Hanks your neighbor?  Find some selling points about the neighborhood or town that you live in and SELL.

 

4.    Spend Wisely

If you want to make a few upgrades to increase the price of the appraisal, make sure you spend your money on projects that are known to provide a solid return on investment.  Fresh paint, hardwood flooring and a new front door are all minor upgrades that usually add value to your home.  If you’re looking to upgrade larger spaces, kitchens and bathrooms generally provide the most bang for your buck.

 

5.     Do your own research

After finishing the inspection, the appraiser will find similar homes in your area (comparables) to help determine market value.  Check the web (zillow, trulia) and find at least 3 homes similar to yours that have favorable sales prices.  Don’t show any research to the appraiser that shows homes with prices (or circumstances) that are unfavorable to you.  Who knows, he/she may be so lazy that they simply use your research instead of doing their own.  Plus, you can use this research to challenge in the unfortunate case of a low appraisal.

Indoor Air Quality: How to Ensure Your Family is Breathing Easy

Posted on: October 7th, 2013 | No Comments

Indoor air quality is not always the first concern and is often a last consideration. This is harmful because aside from carbon monoxide detectors there are very few a_person_changing_an_in_home_air_filterways to monitor the air in your home. Poor indoor air quality is typically caused by a lack of circulation of air inside with air from the outside. There are many pollutants that can build up in indoor air and will be potentially harmful if they are not diluted by outdoor air. Proper ventilation and circulation is the key to introducing outdoor air into your home to dilute any pollutants that may be building up.

 

So, what are the biggest concerns about air quality and how should you fix them? Here are the top five contributing factors to air quality and how to manage them.

  1. Sources of combustion are one pollutant to watch out for. Gas, kerosene, wood, all of these give off pollutants as they deteriorate.
  2. Asbestos is also a dangerous pollutant that must be dealt with properly. Should your house contain any asbestos, seek professional help to dispose of it safely.
  3. Moisture can cause air pollution problems as well as mold and mildew. The spores released by fungus can cause health problems if the air is not filtered out properly.
  4. Most cleaning products recommend air circulation. The inhalation of harsh cleaning products can cause irritation in the eyes, airway and allergic reactions if not properly circulated out of the area.
  5. Humidification devices can put pollutants back into the air of your home. Make sure to use distilled water in these devices.

Ensuring that your home has proper ventilation and circulation is important to its air quality. The effects of poor air quality can range from irritation to severe respiratory problems. To prevent these, make sure your homes heating, cooling and ventilation systems are clean and in proper working order.

 

Have questions about your home air circulation? Contact your local Inspect-It 1st for a home inspection including your heating, cooling and ventilation systems.

 

Buying a Home? Five Reasons You Really Need a Realtor

Posted on: September 24th, 2013 | No Comments

realtorYou might be tempted to buy a home on your own.  Don’t – it’s a bad idea.  Would you represent yourself in a legal battle?  Would you try and fix the brakes on your car?  The risks far outweigh the potential reward.  While most homes do have a listing agent that will help the buyer through the home buying process, their priority is to the seller.  You need to hire your own agent to protect your interests.  Plus, the idea that you will save significant money by doing the work yourself is false.  In fact, hiring an agent is….

 

Free… It’s the seller that pays the commission to both agents, not the buyer.

 

Resources – The agent does not have to spend hours and hours searching random real estate websites or driving around trying to find “for sale” signs.  Realtors have access to the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), which essentially is a shared inventory of homes.  They can match your needs or desires to the homes in the MLS or to homes of listing agents in their network.  The best way to get the best deal on a house is to know about it before it hits the market.

 

Negotiation – You finally found your dream home after months of touring open houses and scouring the internet.  Don’t celebrate.  That’s just the beginning.  Now, you need to figure out how much the home is worth, whether you are dealing with a hot or cold market and what repairs you would like the seller to make.  Or….you can let the agent determine all of that and negotiate on your behalf.  They have experience making offers backed up by market research.  Their experience will help ensure that you don’t lose a deal and start back at the very beginning of the process.

 

Contracts – Real estate contracts can be very verbose and confusing, not to mention legally binding.  It is important that the contract includes the proper contingencies to allow you to walk away from the contract if there is an issue during the inspection or transaction.

 

Network – You will need a lot of help from professionals to make it to the finish line: lenders, inspectors, surveyors. Most agents have a network of the best in each profession and can refer you to them when the time comes.

 

Finally, buying a home is an emotional experience.  You may overlook the shotty plumbing in the bathroom if you can imagine giving your future child a bubble bath in that new tub.  You may want the home that has an additional bedroom, even if you can’t afford it.  An agent is trained to stay objective, keep you on budget and mitigate emotions.

Five Home Improvement Projects for the Fall

Posted on: September 10th, 2013 | No Comments

gutter

Fall has the perfect temperatures for checking off a few to-do lists on your home repair checklist. Start with these to improve your home.

 

Roof Repair

Replacing or repairing a roof on a hot summer day is bad for the guy doing the job and the guy paying for the job. Sunburn, heat stroke and dehydration are all in play and the elements will likely lead to a longer job. The longer the job, the more money it costs. On the flip side, you want to get the work done before the remnants of winter storms, be it rain or snow, wind up inside your home . Winter winds and precipitation (think ice) can prevent a roofer from stopping a large leak that can cause serious damage to your home.

 

Duct Cleaning

This seemingly small project can provide some big savings in energy costs. The build-up of debris prevents air from freely flowing throughout your ventilation system, forcing the system to work longer and harder to heat (or cool) your home. Plus, the service will significantly improve the air quality in your home. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) estimates that homes with dirty ducts can lead to indoor air quality that is two to five times more polluted than outdoor air. Gross. Finally, ask the technician to clean your dryer vent to improve the efficiency and lifespan of the unit and help prevent a dryer fire.

 

Install a New Front Door

Lots of home improvement experts will tell you to replace your windows to improve energy efficiency. While that is true, replacing your front door will also help cut costs, plus you will likely get most of your money back when it’s time to sell your home. In fact, a new steel entry door will return the most money (86%) of any home improvement project, according to the 2013 Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report. Simply light a candle and hold it up to the door to see if there is a draft entering your home.

 

Clean the Gutters

Moisture wreaks havoc on a home. Clogged gutters in the fall and winter will lead to water and ice build-up that may eventually turn to mold and damage to your foundation. Carefully climb up on the roof and discard all of the leaves, sticks and debris that have collected in the gutters. Seal any cracks or leaks by caulking with gutter sealant. If you want to save yourself the time and energy of cleaning, install gutter covers to keep the debris away.

 

Interior Painting

The humid weather of the summer often prevents paint from properly drying and painting in the winter often leaves your family susceptible to paint fumes. Warm fall days are perfect: you can open the windows to get rid of the fumes and help the drying process.

 

5 Overlooked Areas to Check for Energy Loss In Your Home

Posted on: August 23rd, 2013 | No Comments

EnergyAre you sick of receiving inflated energy bills? Have you already tried fiddling with your thermostat?  Replacing your light bulbs? Unplugging your appliances and electronics? Are you looking for an alternative to paying a professional several hundred dollars to figure out what’s wrong with your home? You’re in luck. Here’s a list of 5 often overlooked culprits and ways to find out if these issues are sucking the energy from your home and money from your wallet:

  1. Fireplace damper – Warm air from your home is often drawn into the chimney flue, and it can sneak out if you have an ineffective damper.  You can test the damper by closing it and holding a lit candle inside the firebox.  If the flame gets blown out, or close to it, you know air is flowing up the chimney.A chimney sweep can clean your fireplace and replace your damper.

  2. Drafts – Close doors, windows, and fireplace flues and turn off combustion appliances (gas-burning furnace, water heater).  Turn on exhaust fans (usually located in the kitchen and bathrooms), or use a window fan to blow air out of the home.  Light sticks of incense and stand near areas you suspect have drafts.  The smoke from the incense stick will waver or flow in the direction of the air leak.  If you have air leaks around your windows, consider replacing them or winterize them.
  3. Switches and outlets – Behind those light switches and outlets is a gaping hole that, if not properly insulate, allows air to escape.  To check the problem, remove the plate covering the outlet and place a tissue over the opening.  Tape the top edge of the tissue to the wall.  If the bottom half of the tissue blows, you have a sizable leak that needs to be addressed.  You can combat the problem by buying pre-cut foam gasket or an outlet cover at a hardware store.
  4. Ducts – In an average home with forced-air heating and cooling systems, 20-percent of the air that moves through the duct system is lost due to leaks or holes.  To check for leaks, turn on your heating or cooling system fan and feel for any air seeping out from the duct work.  Also, shine a flashlight through the vents to spot disconnected or kinked ducts.  Seal the leaks or holes with mastic or foil tape.  Do NOT use duct tape.  Use foam to seal areas where ducts connect to vents and registers or where they pass through walls and floors.
  5. Attic hatch – You can check to see how much air is escaping through the attic hatch by applying the same incense test you used to look for drafts.  Seal the hatch by installing foam weather stripping on the edges of the opening and then put foam board insulation on the back of the hatch door.  You can also buy a pre-insulated hatch cover kit.

Five Home Improvement Projects You Should Never DIY

Posted on: August 12th, 2013 | No Comments

Move over BRB, LOL and BLT, make room for DIY. The popularity of the acronym and the projects that it describes has exploded in recent years. Flip through the television channels or peruse the magazine rack and you will likely stumble upon some type of story focusing on the do-it-yourself phenomenon.

 

Successfully completing a DIY project can save you money, boost your pride and score some bonus points with your better half. However, success is hard to come by. With that in mind, here is a list of 5 don’t do-it-yourself (DDIY) projects:

 

1. Electrical Work – You may be capable of updating electrical fixtures (light switches, ceiling fans), but don’t mess with electrical circuits or electrical wiring. That can be a deadly decision, literally. Faulty electrical work can result in electrical shock or an electrical fire. Plus, electrical work is governed by very strict codes that must be followed and many insurance policies require that you get a permit and hire a licensed electrician to do electrical work.

 

2. Roof Repairs – Another project where the risk outweighs the reward. Once again, the biggest risk is your health. Climbing up and down ladders and standing on an angled surface is not exactly safe, especially when you are not used to doing it. In addition, a professional roofer is trained to identify structural weaknesses and other potential problems that may pop up in the future.

 

3. Plumbing – Go ahead and change a showerhead or the handle on your toilet, but don’t attempt to fix your water heating system or re-route the supply lines. Mistakes can lead to leaks, damaged pipes and water damage within the foundation of your home. As a rule, don’t try any repairs that will be hidden by walls, floors or ceilings.

 

4. HVAC Installation/Repair – The HVAC system is much more complicated than it appears. There are many facets to consider; electrical components, air flow, duct work, adding vents, potential for mold. If you make a mistake, it will likely cost you money in the form of utility bills, and/or cost you your health (mold, poor ventilation).

 

5. Tree Removal – Way too many potential problems. One, the chain saw can slice off one of your body parts easier than it can slice off a tree branch. Two, the tree may fall on your house, you neighbors house, the dog. Three, you can fall off the ladder or a tree branch can knock you off the ladder.

 

Before starting any DIY project, do some research and make sure you understand how much money, effort and skill it will require. If you underestimate the project or overestimate your skill, your idea that started as a money-saver will quickly turn into a money pit.

Our home inspection company's history began in 1991 with the establishment of American Home Inspection. Over the course of the following seven years, a home inspection business prototype was developed that could be implemented anywhere in the United States. Our founders believed they had a unique methodology of providing homebuyers and sellers with consistent, professional and unbiased home inspections.

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