Thursday, May 10, 2018

Why do you need a home inspection?

A home inspection is an inexpensive way to discover the universal condition of a home.   It is important to conduct a home inspection to avoid a costly mistake by purchasing a property in need of major repairs.    A good home inspection will assist a buyer in understanding exactly what they are about to acquire.  

A home inspection is a non-invasive, visual examination of the accessible areas of a residential property, performed for a fee, which is designed to identify defects within specific systems and components defined by these Standards that are both observed and deemed material by the inspector.

The standard home inspector's report will cover the condition of the home's heating system; central air conditioning system (temperature permitting); interior plumbing and electrical systems; the roof, attic and visible insulation; walls, ceilings, floors, windows and doors; the foundation, basement and structural.

A home inspector inspects the roof, pokes at the foundation, and crawls into attic space looking for water condensation or penetration.   So it is important to insure beforehand that any blocked or secured access ways are clear of storage and/or furnishings.  The home inspector does not own the house or the belongings in it and there is nothing in the state law that allows the inspector to move belongings or unsecure hatches.

How long does a home inspection take?  A home inspection for an average house typically takes between 2 to 3 hours.   But at Aggressive Inspection we put no time limits on the inspection.  We give our clients all the information they want, we are not there to get in and out as fat as we can.  And children are welcome.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

How To Pick A Home inspector

My research has shown the majority of information on this subject comes from people who are not home inspectors.  So I am going to give you my opinion on the subject.  Who am I?  I am a licensed home inspector in the state of New Jersey for over ten years.  This is my condensed list of what I would look for in a home inspector when in the process of finding one.

·         What you have to address first, is cost your main concern?  The process of buying a house is expensive and I do understand you have to save where ever you can.  But think about it.   Is the inspection really where you want to cut costs?  This is going to be your home for you and your family. You’re spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy it.   You will find cheap inspection companies out there.  But just like any other business there has to be a tradeoff for a cheaper price.  Will quality of the inspection be that trade off?

·         One important question I think should be asked is how long you have been inspecting homes.  Experience just like in any other business will make you better at what you do.

·         The majority of home inspection companies are small.   Just one or two inspectors.  If when you call you get a feeling you are talking to an answering service, think twice.  I personally like talking to my potential clients.  Because it’s a two way process for me.  They are interviewing me and I am doing likewise. If I’m calling a lawyer I don’t what to talk to the secretary I want to talk to the lawyer.   So whoever you call and they don’t answer, leave them a message. Give them a few hours to respond.   When I am doing a home inspection I do not answer my phone. My client hired me to do a job for them and their inspection is what I’m concerned with at that time.

·         If you have specific concerns about a home inspection this is the time to ask.  Example: a lot of my clients are concerned about the roof and water in the basement.  Hey, let’s talk.  I have clients who have asked me am I going to do the inspection myself, because they interviewed me.  They’re not interested in someone else being sent to do the inspection.

·         This last item I will bring up is personal to me.   If I hire someone to do a job for me,  I want them 100%.  Our current president demands complete loyalty.  And why shouldn’t you?   You’re paying.   I am an independent home inspector.   That means no one will influence my findings in your report.  My clients and their families are my only concern.  

I hope this helps someone out there buying a house.   I bought my first house 35 years ago.  It was an estate sale that was vacant for a year.  Then there was no such thing as a home inspector.  At that time you didn’t touch anything; you just walked around and looked.  I trusted the professionals involved in the sale with their input.   I got screwed.   And I have never forgotten that.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Signs of Frozen Water Pipes and What to Watch For

When the temperatures drop, one major issue that could come up is a frozen water pipe.   Know why frozen pipes are so dangerous, the types of pipes that are most vulnerable to freezing and signs that a pipe is actually frozen.

Why Are Frozen Pipes Dangerous?

They can create an inconvenience but, more seriously, can cause major damage to your property.

Lack of Running Water– The most obvious danger of a frozen pipe is the inability to access running water.  This can interfere with your everyday tasks such as washing the dishes or taking a shower

Potential to Burst- The second problem that can occur when a pipe freezes is that the pipe actually bursts.  Once the actual water in the pipe freezes, pressure is created between the closed faucet and the blockage that can build up to a point that causes the pipe to burst.

Pipes That Are Vulnerable to Freezing

There are some pipes that are more vulnerable to freezing than others:

Southern Climates- Pipes that are located in climates which rarely see cold temperatures may be particularly vulnerable to freezing as we just learned with this Januarys freeze.  This is due to the lack of insulation around the pipes.  Since these areas rarely see temperatures around 32 degrees Fahrenheit, water pipes are more likely to be located in areas of the property which are not properly insulated against the cold. 

 •Exterior Walls- Water pipes that are located along the exterior walls of a home can be vulnerable to freezing.  This is because they may not have the adequate amount of insulation protecting them from the exterior temperatures.

Attics and Basements/Crawlspaces- Pipes that are located in attics, crawlspaces or in basements may also have a greater tendency to freeze.  These pipes may not receive the same amount of heat as the rest of the property.  If these areas are not used as living space, they also may not be properly insulated.

Signs of Frozen Pipes

There are a few clues which can help you determine if you have frozen pipes:

The Temperature Is Right- Pipes cannot freeze if it is not cold enough outside for them to do so.  Water does not freeze when it is 60 degrees Fahrenheit outside, and neither do pipes.  When the temperature falls to 32 degrees Fahrenheit or lower, you should begin to take precautions to prevent vulnerable pipes from freezing.

There Is Frost on the Pipe- For pipes that can actively be seen, such as those under sinks, you may be able to see frost that has accumulated on the exterior of the pipe.  This can serve as a warning sign that the pipe is frozen before you ever try to turn on the faucet.

No Water Is Coming Out of the Faucet- Another sign that you may have a frozen pipe on your hands is lack of running water.  If you turn on a kitchen or bathroom faucet and only a slight trickle of water or no water at all comes out, the water pipe leading to the faucet may be frozen.
Strange Smells- Another potential sign of a blocked pipe is an odd smell coming from a faucet or drain. If the pipe is partially or completely blocked, the only way the odor can escape is back up in the direction of your property.

Act Quickly

Once you are aware that a pipe is frozen, you must act quickly to thaw the pipe.  Depending on the location of the pipe and your level of expertise, you can attempt to thaw the pipe yourself or you can contact a licensed plumber to thaw the pipe for you.  It is imperative to thaw the pipe as soon as possible, because it has the potential to burst and cause extensive damage to your property.

How Much Does a Frozen Pipe Cost to Fix?

It is very difficult to estimate the cost of fixing a frozen pipe because each situation is so unique. Two factors that play a huge role in cost are the location of the pipe and whether the pipe has burst.

If you are able to easily access the blockage, such as a pipe under a kitchen sink, you might be able to thaw the blockage for free using hair dryer or hot rags.

If the blockage is buried in a wall, fixing the issue will become more expensive. You may spend a few hundred dollars cutting open sheetrock to find the problem or more than a thousand if you need to hire a plumber find and thaw out the blockage.

If a frozen pipe bursts and you have a flooding issue on your hands, you could be faced with thousands of dollars of damage. You will have to hire a plumber to fix the burst pipe and then you will have to deal with fixing any damage the water has caused inside your property. 

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Don’t get all your inspections done on the same day

I recently had a client who was purchasing a newly renovated house (flip) in Plainfield.   Plainfield now a day is usually out of my travel distance.   But this client was special.   He was the seller of a house I did an inspection on a few months back for the buyer.   Since the travel distance was too far I had to tell him I could not do a radon test (which meant two round trips to the location).   He had no problem with that, he just wanted me to do the inspection.  On that day I was doing the home and termite inspections.   There was a tank sweep going on and a radon test being placed.   Multiple tests and inspections happening the same day (approximately $1000).  At the end of my inspection my client and their realtor were in a heated discussion the floor above me.   My client came down, I told him I was finished and he says that’s great, I’m not getting the house.   What had happened the lawyer had just called and told him not to do any inspections this day.   It seems his lawyer never received the signed agreement from the sellers lawyer.  The sellers accepted a higher offer from someone else.   I have discussed this with others multiple times.   I have an old blog entry and Youtube video about this same scenario.  “Don’t get all your inspections done on the same day”.

Monday, October 9, 2017

A Home Inspection and A Home Warranty

A home inspection is a limited, non-invasive examination of the condition of a home, often in connection with the sale of that home.   Home inspections are usually conducted by a home inspector who has the training and certifications to perform such inspections.   But a home inspection is no guaranty the systems in a house will operate for ever with no problems.

A home warranty is a one-year service agreement that covers the repair or replacement of many major home system components and appliances that typically breakdown over time due to normal wear and tear.   The home inspection is no crystal ball.  It will tell you the condition of the house and its systems the day of inspection only.

Unlike homeowner's insurance, a home warranty is a service contract that covers essential applications and home system components when they break down due to normal wear and tear – items that most homeowners insurance plans do not cover.   Consider it the perfect complement to this standard insurance, not a substitute for it.

The question isn't whether or not a breakdown will happen; it's if you'll have a plan to deal with the associated expenses and headaches.  The home inspection was a great fist start but it only goes so far

Friday, July 7, 2017

Home Inspection: What is a Town home/Condo?

Recently I have been getting requests to inspect a town home/condo.   My question to the potential client was what is it?  Is it a town home or a condo?  To my surprise most didn’t know the difference.  So let’s understand what each is.   

What is a condominium?

A condominium, or condo, is a building or community of buildings in which units are owned by individuals, rather than a landlord.  Condo owners only own the interior of their unit. All other areas, including the building exterior, lawn and communal areas are property of the Homeowners Association (HOA).

What is a town home?

A town home is defined as conjoined units that are owned by individual tenants. They are architecturally similar to row houses in that owners usually share at least one or more walls.  In most town home communities, owners own their unit’s interior and exterior, including the roof, lawn and driveway, but not the communal areas.

The problem at hand is there are condo’s on the market that look like town homes and the buyers are not being instructed as to the difference.  So to summarize the difference and make this as simple as possible to understand.  No matter what it looks like, a condominium is walls in only, which is all that is being purchased.  Also when you call a home inspector for an inspection be sure what you ask for, you may be paying for more than you need.  Know what you’re buying.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Spring Has Sprung

Here are a few tips to get your house back into shape after the cold winter.   Now is a good time because the weather is accommodating, with very little debris from plants and trees being blown around.

1.      Masonry:   I always say, “Anytime you see a crack fill it”.  Take a walk around your house.  Look at everything that is made of masonry.   Your brick house, sidewalks, stairs, and foundation.  If there is a crack fill it.  When the weather gets cold again, water in these cracks can freeze, expand and cause more damage.

2.      Gutters:   Check the condition of your gutters.   Gutters are used to control water run-off from the roof.   But when it is cold, water can freeze and the weight of the ice over a long period of time can cause damage.

3.      Driveways:    Black top (asphalt) driveways last about fifteen to twenty years in our area.  But you can extend that life expectancy by tarring any cracks, preventing moisture from doing any more damage.   And sealing the whole driveway to extend its life expectancy every year.  Now is a good time to do this because leaves and debris are not being blown around.

4.      Drainage:    Does the ground around your house slope away from the foundation?  By directing water away from the foundation can help keep a basement dry.  One way to have this addressed is by having a grading and drainage expert take a look.  He or she will guide you to a dryer basement. 

5.      Furnace:   Your heating system has been working hard during the colder months.  Now is a good time to have your heating expert or PSE&G do any needed maintenance and cleaning.  Their demand for service is lower now and you can avoid the rush when winter comes again.

6.      HVAC (Cooling):   Preventive maintenance is the key word.  Have the HVAC system checked out before the heat comes.   This is especially true if your system is older.  The outside compressor is good for 15 years in our area.   Then it needs tender loving care.   Also make sure the trap on the air-handler in the attic did not crack during the colder months.  You don’t want to wake up to your wife yelling “the ceiling is leaking”, (it happened to me).

7.      Radon Test:   What is radon?  Radon is the natural decomposition of radioactive material in the ground.   The long and short of it is.  Long exposure to high doses can cause lung cancer.  Did you already have a test done?  Things change.  It is advisable to test every two years.   And did you know that thermal frost of the ground can affect the results of a test.  Cold weather testing can be different than warm weather testing.

8.      Home Inspection:   Last but not least, a home inspection.  You don’t have to have a home inspection done only when you’re buying a house.  By having a home inspection done in the spring will tell you how your home weathered the winter.  And the report will provide you with a list of issues that can be addressed.