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Monday, February 23, 2009

Home Inspections- one of the best deals available to you!

For most people, a home purchase is the single greatest investment they’ll ever make. If someone is willing to spend $200,000 to $300,000 or more for a home, a home inspection fee of $300 to $400 is small change by comparison. Yes, compared to the purchase price, an inspector’s fee is only a pittance. Yet, too many home buyers forego this vital service. Why? Remember the old adage  ” penny wise and pound foolish”?
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Too often, folks buying a new, never lived-in house assume nothing could possibly be wrong with a brand new house. This is a dangerous assumption! I recently inspected a beautiful, new house for a client and among my findings were these these:
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1.The framed walls were not anchored to the masonry foundation.
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2. The main water cutoff valve was located far under the house and could only be accessed with great difficulty.
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3. The main plumbing drain was not vented to the exterior.
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4. The two air conditioning condenser units had no electrical disconnects. These were all serious defects and the repair cost was substantial. Without a professional inspection, the buyer would have been completely unaware of these important and potentially dangerous deficiencies.

Generally speaking, older homes do present many more problems to the buyer. This is especially true if repairs by previous owners were substandard. Older homes are like used cars. With age, things break and wear out. The quality of repairs become a critical matter.
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Selection of the inspector is key to a competent analysis of a property. Ideally, the buyer will want to find someone with a significant background, preferably hands-on, in residential construction. How many inspections has he completed is a factor. A minimum of 1000 inspections under his belt is a good benchmark. Certification by a nationally-recognized organization of home inspectors is also important. The two best known such groups are the National Association of Certified Home Inspectors(NACHI) and the American Society of Home Inspectors(ASHI). Finally, the report form should be comprehensive yet easy to read and understand.
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1:50 pm est 

Friday, February 20, 2009

Realtor's CE classes coming soon to Hondros Cleveland South
I will be leading an inspection / building science geared series next month. Contact Cleveland South Hondros for details.
12:08 pm est 

GM class beginning next week
I will begin teaching a few classes at GM in Mansfield next week. I will be unavailable for inspections wednesdays and thursdays for the next several weeks.


12:06 pm est 

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Way to go Washington State! Finally, a realistic pov on realtor / inspector referrals.
Changes are taking place in Washington State real estate. These changes impact home inspectors, Realtors, brokers and their firms. I am, specifically, speaking of the new section of the WAC that says brokers must set an office policy for home inspector referrals. Today's article is based on information that has been provided to me by the Washington State Department of Licensing and interested real estate related businesses. I am not smart enough to come up with these interpretations and guidelines. Therefore, I am writing this as pure journalism, not as an opinion piece. It is my goal to cite information that can be substantiated and was gleaned from reliable or official sources. 

Deciphering legal language can be a big job. This task is easier for attorneys than it is for the general public. The Attorney General's office and the Department of Licensing have staff that not only enforces the laws but also helps the public understand the rules. Being on the home inspector licensing advisory board, I have been contacted by inspectors and Realtors who have asked me if I can explain the new language in the real estate law. This law went into effect the end of January and people want to know the practical impact of the law.  Due to the interest, among inspectors and Realtors, I have tracked down and compiled applicable information. First, read the new section in the WAC. 

WAC 308-124C-050 - Home inspector referrals. (new section)

"Each licensed designated broker will establish a written office policy that includes a procedure for referring home inspectors to buyers or sellers. The policy will address the consumer's right to freely pick a home inspector of the buyer's or seller's choice and prevent any collusion between the home inspector and a real estate licensee.

If a licensee refers a home inspector to a buyer or seller with whom they have or have had a relationship including, but not limited to, a business or familial relationship, then full disclosure of the relations must be provided in writing prior to the buyer or seller using the services of the home inspector."

The goal is to force disclosure if there are conflicts of interest. So, what might constitute a conflict of interest? What is a business relationship that would require disclosure? Will this language stop Realtors from referring inspectors who Realtors believe do a good job for clients?

DOL, real estate division, has said that is not the intent -- "The fact that an agent has referred the inspector in the past, or has included the inspector on a list of recommended inspectors, DOES NOT  constitute a "business relationship" requiring disclosure."  The interpretation, from which that was taken, is below. It is edited slightly, but it is information that was provided by DOL.

"Business relationship" means an agent has done business with the inspector previously. That business might have been unrelated to inspection services.  For example, an agent might have personally hired an inspector to perform an inspection at a property; the agent might have been involved in buying or selling property to, or for, the inspector; the agent and the inspector might have had some other, unrelated to inspection or real estate, business dealings. The fact that an agent has referred the inspector in the past, or has included the inspector on a list of recommended inspectors, DOES NOT  constitute a "business relationship" requiring disclosure.

DOL gave more examples of relationships that would require disclosure (1) real estate firms, or agents, who refer clients to a preferred list -- where inspectors "pay" to be included on the list. That is different than a realtor giving out a name, or a list of names of inspectors, who are chosen for their ability, not by their having paid a fee; (2) Easy to fathom examples requiring disclosure would be family relationships -- the real estate agent who has a brother, a sister, a husband or a wife who is a home inspector.

As real estate companies formulate policies, in response to the WAC, some interesting scenarios can be created. I am aware of a reported instance where a broker's policy, formulated to meet requirements of the WAC,  has led to a number of questions and complications. The policy, as was described to me, includes requiring that agents refer from a preferred vendor list. Again, as stated above, DOL says that when agents refer inspectors off of a preferred vendor's list -- known in the industry as "pay to play" -- that act in itself creates more, and not fewer, disclosure requirements. As it stands now, with the new section of the WAC in force, DOL staff has told me that real estate agents who are referring names off paid vendor lists must disclose that fact --that the inspectors paid to be on the list -- to their clients. Those paid inspector "vendors" are the business relationship!  A paid vendor list does not distance a realtor from the inspector. The opposite happens. The money, paid out by the inspector to be on the list, makes the parties more related (requiring disclosure) than is the case when an agent gives out the names of a few good inspectors (not requiring disclosure) who do not pay fees for referrals. 

There is another eventual outcome here. When the home inspector licensing standards of practice and ethics take effect, September is the scheduled date, any broker policy that requires referring inspectors from a paid vendor list will be a dead issue. The home inspection standards of practice and ethics, drafted by the home inspector licensing advisory board, slams the door on inspectors participating in paid or preferred vendor lists. It states that home inspectors may not participate in paid vendor lists. Period.

I will be writing another blog, with more information on preferred lists, in the future. This is my attempt to simplify this new WAC. Anyone wishing specific information should contact the real estate division at the department of licensing.

9:32 pm est 

Early Mold exposure increases risk of asthma

Newswise — Visible mold exposure early in life may be a strong risk factor for early asthma development, but exposure to mold components with no visible mold present may have an opposite effect according to a study published this month in Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, the scientific journal of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI).

Investigators from the University of Cincinnati and the Cincinnati Childhood Allergy and Air Pollution Study (CCAAPS) found children at age 3 years with high visible mold in the home during infancy, evaluated through home inspection, were 7 times more likely to have a positive Asthma Predictive Index (API) criteria. In contrast, those with exposure to fungal components – or (1-3)-β-D-Glucan, a measure of biologically active exposure – were at a decreased risk. The study included a birth cohort of children born to atopic parents.

Previous studies have shown that home dampness and visible mold are associated with the severity of respiratory symptoms in children, but few studies have investigated whether exposure to dampness or visible mold enhance risk for development of asthma in young children, Yulia Y. Iossifova, M.D., Ph.D., and colleagues report.

“The unique aspect of this study is that we did not rely on parental reports of mold,” said Tiina Reponen, Ph.D., professor of Environmental Health at the University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio. “Instead, the homes were evaluated by trained teams before the child’s first birthday. After this, the children were prospectively followed by annual clinic visits to evaluate their respiratory health.”

According to the authors, using standardized evaluation of visible mold, the study “prospectively demonstrates that exposure to high visible mold during the first year of life is associated with higher risk of asthma. This study also shows that an increase in exposure to high (1-3)-β-D-Glucan concentrations (>133 μg/g), component of mold, may decrease the risk of future asthma based on the API.”

Of the 483 children in this study, almost half (7 of 16) with high visible mold at home had a positive API, and one-third (4 of 11) had atopic wheezing. Of the total cohort, 203 children (42 percent) had aeroallergen sensitization and 19 (3.9 percent) had mold sensitization. Mother’s smoking was the second strongest predictor of future asthma based on the API.

Researchers conclude that “home remediation measures to remove visible mold and parental smoking cessation may prevent asthma development in high-risk children.”

Patient information on allergic diseases, including asthma, is available by calling the ACAAI toll free number at (800) 842-7777 or visiting its Web site at www.acaai.org.

The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) is a professional medical organization headquartered in Arlington Heights, Ill., that promotes excellence in the practice of the subspecialty of allergy and immunology. The College, comprising more than 5,000 allergists-immunologists and related health care professionals, fosters a culture of collaboration and congeniality in which its members work together and with others toward the common goals of patient care, education, advocacy and research.

Citation: Iossifova YY, Reponen T, et al. Mold exposure during infancy as a predictor of potential asthma development. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol 2009;102:131-137.

Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology is online at www.annallergy.org.
http://www.homewiseinspections.com

10:51 am est 

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Truss uplift

An Uplifting Experience

Truss uplift has nothing to do with plastic surgery or girlie under- garments. It is a phenomenon common in homes built with roof trusses as opposed to rafters. If a house suffers from truss uplift, the top floor ceilings literally lift off the interior walls in the winter. They drop back down in the summer. Needless to say, this is a bit disconcerting to the homeowner. At first glance, one might assume that the floors have settled. Actually the ceiling has gone up - sometimes creating a gap of as much as two inches where interior walls meet the ceilings.

What is a Truss? Trusses are prefabricated structural assemblies which hold up the roof and the top floor ceilings. Trusses tend to be a stronger lighter and less expensive approach to roof framing. Trusses are strong because they make use of the most efficient geometric shape we know of - the triangle. Trusses are a series of triangles fastened together with gusset plates. The outside members of a truss are called chords while the inner pieces are known as webs. 

Why Truss Uplift?

Houses have changed over the years. Attics of newer houses have lots of insulation and ventilation. They also have roof trusses instead of rafters and ceiling joists. The bottom chord of a truss is buried below a deep blanket of insulation. Even on the coldest days the bottom chord is nice and warm. The top chords however, are above the insulation and get very cold in a well ventilated attic.

While the bottom chord is warm and is drying out, the top chords are doing just the opposite. The cold winter air has very high relative humidity. The top chords absorb moisture from the air causing them to elongate. With the top chords growing and the bottom chord shrinking, the truss arches up in the middle causing the ceilings to lift off the walls. In the summer, the cycle reverses itself. 

The Problem?

No problem really - from a structural point of view. But cosmetically it's another story. No one has yet solved the problem, but some builders mask it by securing the ceiling drywall to the top of the walls and not to the trusses for a distance of 18 inches away from the walls. The drywall flexes and stays fastened to the walls while the trusses lift above it. Others use a decorative molding where the walls meet the ceilings. They fasten the moldings to the ceilings but not to the walls. As the ceilings move up, the moldings go with them hiding the gap.

http://www.homewiseinspections.com

9:14 pm est 

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Sticking my nose into the blogosphere
Well, it had to happen sooner or later. I'm not sure where this is heading, but perhaps I'll see you there!
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6:26 pm est 


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