Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Prior to Inspection Check List

You never heard of a “Prior to Inspection Check List”?    That’s because home inspectors don’t want you to have it and realtors don’t want you to have it.   What is it?   It’s a list that Aggressive Inspections has been giving to its clients for years.             It states;

  • Access hatch to crawlspace(s); if secured have it unsecured.  Any storage or furnishings blocking access to hatch have removed.
  • Access to attic(s); if secured have it unsecured.  Any storage or furnishings blocking access to entrance have removed.  Example;  clothing blocking access in a closet.
  • Interior hot tubs or Jacuzzi; request the access panel be removed and or not blocked. This is so we can verify if the tub is GFCI protected a safety issue.
  • Remove any storage or furnishings blocking access to the furnace, water heater or electric panels.  
  • Ask to have any storage placed in the dish washer, micro wave or oven removed so that they can be inspected.
  • Any locked doors have unlocked example; garage doors, any entry door to the house or interior rooms.
  • If house is not occupied it is very important to assure all utilities are on (electric, water, gas) and the furnace(s) and water heater(s) are lit.  Also there are batteries in the thermostat (s).  Utilities are supplied to all appliances.   A home inspector cannot turn any utility on or lit any appliance.  Simple reason we do not own the house and do not know why they may have been turned off.  The last thing that we want to do is put in your report “We were unable to inspect”. 
  • Radon testing; if you’re having a radon test done there are a few important rules that have to be adhered too.  Where the radon canister is placed it cannot be moved.  If it is, the test will be “Invalid”.   Must have a closed house condition for as long as the canister is in place (no open windows), if not, test is “Invalid”.   If the US postal Service or UPS delay the delivery of the canister to the lab, and the lab state’s the “test could not be analyzed, received late” the result is “Invalid”.   If the test is “Invalid” that is the result of the test.  And any re-testing will be an additional fee.
  • Fireplace or wood stove; they should be free of all debris and storage and it is helpful if there is not an ongoing fire.

We give this check list to all our clients before the inspection happens because we hate to put in our reports “We Could Not Inspect”.   Why have a home inspection if you can’t inspect the whole house. We do our best so our clients are not left wondering about what was not inspected.

Why don’t other home inspectors do this?  It’s less work and less responsibility.  It’s the same with realtors.  The less problems found in the home the less work has to be done and it betters the odds of the deal not falling through from additional problems. 

Monday, May 24, 2021

The Dreaded Dual Agent

The practice of representing BOTH the seller and the buyer in the same transaction.  

New Jersey is among the states that permit “dual agency representation,” in which a seller's agent may also represent a buyer who simply shows up at an open house or calls the telephone number on a sign without already having found his or her own agent. 

In many states this practice is ILLEGAL in hopes of protecting the buying and selling public from this very gray area of Real Estate. 

Think of it like a football game:  There are two teams, each with their own coach; and a referee to ensure rules are adhered to on each side of the ball.   Imagine a game where the coaches have been removed and the referee is the coach of both teams.  Knowing each team's strengths and weaknesses.  Knowing exactly what play the teams will do in every situation.  Now imagine that the referee had a favorite team of the two, and with all that information about both teams, giving them the inside scoop.  The score would be 100-0.   And to top it all off....that referee gets paid the salary as if the head coach on both teams.  Yep, a double paycheck. 

If a broker is a dual agent in a transaction he/she is the ONLY winner.  I don't see how it benefits anyone but the realtor.    

Buyers agents are free to buyers...sellers pay the commission.  A buyer’s agent should represent and fight for ONLY you. 

Sellers, you are already paying both hire your listing agent to represent you and fight for ONLY you. 

So my point is even if you don't work with an agent, make sure you have your own representation

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Thirteen Questions To Ask A Home Inspector

1. What is the inspector’s experience?

Were they cleaning carpets or fitting you for shoes last week?   Experience is very important in all trades, and especially when it comes to home inspectors.


2. How long have they been performing home inspections in state?

Issues in states can be unique.   A home inspector with experience from down south may know boilers and ice damming, but may not know about synthetic stucco (EIFS), heat pumps or mold.


3. How many inspections have they performed?

The more inspection experience someone has, the greater probability you have of finding a professional.


4. How long does the inspection take?

Someone who has done 4,000 inspections, but has only been in business for four years, means they are doing four inspections per day. In other words, you are getting a one-hour inspection.  Their inspection software is setup to just fill in the blanks.  Aggressive puts no time limits on an inspection.


5. What kind of tools do they have?

A good inspector will have the state required tools that help form an educated and reliable opinion, not just a guess.   It also shows commitment to the profession.


6. Do they use infrared?

Many entry level cameras have come on the market, making it easier for an inspector to purchase one. Someone using a camera and doesn’t understand building science can provide false and misleading information.  Infrared can only tell the differences in temperature.  The tool is sometimes used just to verify the readings of a moisture meter. 


7. What type of report format do they use?

If you are from out of the area and the inspector uses multi-part carbonless forms that can’t be emailed, there may be an issue.  There are multiple report programs that anyone can click and check.  How custom is your report going to be?  Will you receive a copy for future reference?


8. When will you receive the report?

If your closing is quick, you may not be able to wait a day, or two, or three, or even much longer.  But beware, a rushed report with unverified information can be a disaster.   Aggressive guaranties the report in 24 hours and has never been missed in 15 years.


9. Do they have a written service agreement outlining their scope of work?

Never enter into an agreement to have something as expensive as a house inspected without having a written contract (pre-inspection agreement) specifying what the inspector is responsible for.


10. Do they perform repair work on houses they inspect?

This would be an obvious conflict of interest.  Other conflicts include paying or accepting commissions for inspection work, collusion with third parties, oil tank, septic, pools, etc.


11. Are they familiar with historically defective building products and building practices?

Do they know about EIFS, aluminum wiring, lead based paint, Chinese drywall, etc.? Often, inspectors dependent upon check lists fail to include or mention these.


12. Are they familiar with building science?

In Jersey, a good working knowledge of building science is critical. Problems can often be detected before they become worse if the inspector understands building science.




13. Does their price reflect the complexity of the inspection?

You will no doubt discover a wide difference in price between home inspection companies. Why is this? Two reasons: complexity of the inspection and qualifications of the inspector. Old, large houses with crawlspaces and problems cost more than small new homes on slab foundations. Also, when talking quality, you get what you pay for.


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.  The inspector prepares and delivers to the client a written report of findings.  The client then uses the knowledge gained to make informed decisions about their pending real estate purchase.  The home inspector describes the condition of the home at the time of inspection but does not guarantee future condition, efficiency, or life expectancy of systems or components.  Wikipedia

Monday, January 18, 2021

Selling Your Home in 2021

You have evaluated your situation, finances, lifestyle, family, work and have decided to sell your home. Whatever your reason is, it’s time to move on.  With the advent of the pandemic, working from home has become the norm and companies are realizing the cost savings of eliminating or downsizing their offices. You now have the opportunity to expand your horizons and move just about anywhere you what to go. The home buying season is expected to start earlier this year due to the low interest rates.  We all know nothing lasts forever.  So I have listed below some points of interest to help you out with the home buying process.


1) Hire a home inspector

Years ago when I first started my home inspection business, my clients (buyers) wanted to know the condition of the house they were buying.  They wanted to be educated as to what to expect. But that has changed. Not only do they want to know the condition of the house, they now want to negotiate for credits (money) due to the deficiencies the home inspection found. But by you (seller) hiring a home inspector to do a pre-inspection of your home, you will find yourself in a better advantage before entering into negotiations. 

You will be able to fix the issues found by the home inspector. Repaired by a contractor of your choice using the materials you pick, and most of all at a price that fits your budget. When issues are presented at the time of negotiations, you’re placed in the position of stress and anxiety.  You only have an allotted amount of time to do repairs which can cost you thousands more or lose the deal completely. 


2) Make as many repairs to your house

Your home inspector should give you a two part report.  A summary report and a detail report.  The summary report should have all the issues found and the detail report will provide a detailed list of everything inspected (walls, ceiling, floors, doors, windows etc.) in the house.  Now you can start doing repairs yourself or hire someone. 

Over the years I have met thousands of realtors and buyers.  If you have a high end house most buyers are looking for walk in condition.  Meaning they don’t want to put any work into the house.  But then there are those who want to completely renovate everything.  They even bring their own architect with them.  But on the other hand, the average home buyer I have worked for will take the house as it is.  And then there are those who tell me don’t bother inspecting the kitchen or bathroom.   We’re going to rip them out anyway.  

You can take the advice of others.   Upgrade the kitchen, bathroom, designate a room as an office.  But this is 2021, a seller’s market.   There are more home buyers than inventory on the market due to the low interest rates.  By all means I am not saying do nothing.  The problem doing nothing is you may not get as much money as you can.   But to make money you have to spend money.  Is it worst it for you in this market. 

Curb appeal has always been a good selling point. Curb appeal is exactly what it means.  When you pull up in front of the house what do you see.  Nice mowed lawn, trimmed trees and new flowers.  Clean up all debris around the house.   This is the first impression the buyer will get of your home. 

Brighten up your house.   Clean and paint the inside.  Dirt turns people off.  Replace any burnt out bulbs.  Clean window hardware so the windows open easily.   A good home inspector will put these little issues in their report which will make the summary (error) report bigger.


3) Declutter the house

Decluttering your home is something I believe in.  A home inspector struggling to open a window or test an electrical outlet always catches the buyer’s attention.   Take as much as you can, box it up and store it in the attic.  Buyers should never be allowed to enter an attic with a home inspector (liability). Storage units are another option.  Remove as much as you can.   Give it a Spartan look (simple).   This will allow the buyer to image the house with their belongings in it.   You have now started your moving process.


4) Find a real estate agent

I have met thousands of realtors and finding a good realtor, putting your interests first, will be a challenge.  Here are some questions to consider asking any potential candidate:

·         Have you ever had a complaint filed against you?

·         How much do you charge?

·         Take care when offered services beyond negotiations and escrow?  If you need other services find them yourself.   Oil tank co., water testing, septic, electrical, contractor, roofer, home inspector, etc.  The problem here, these services may be pleasing the realtor for more referral work, leaving your interests second. 

You and your agent should be on the same page at all times and a plan of action will help ensure that.  You should have a plan of action for how to sell your house including a timeline, pricing the house according to the area and similar houses.  Getting it listed on MLS to open house showings.


5) What’s your house worth

Your realtor should be able to accommodate you here.  They should know what same homes in the same area around the same time went for.  You yourself can always use online tools like and compare this with what your realtor has.   Also a home appraiser can be used.  They will look at the exterior, interior, upgrades, size of rooms, property size etc. then calculate your homes worth based on the local current market.   Remember this is a sellers’ market but market conditions change all the time and so does the buyers behavior.


6) Make your home ready to sell 

All this you can do yourself. But if you feel for whatever reason you can’t, you can always hire a professional home stager.  In person or virtually.  Below is a list of things to consider making the buyer feel welcome;


  • Clean up the clutter on countertops and tables. Everyone’s, yours and the children.
  •  Clean the house. Kitchens, bathrooms, bedrooms etc. anything glass.  Windows, shower doors and the trim.
  • White is always a turn on for accents such as flowers or towels.
  • Limit the number of furniture pieces in any one room. Then re-arrange them so as to invite the into entering the room
  • Bring that light in.   Remember it’s all about making the house welcome to the buyer.  Pull up the blinds and open those curtains.   Remember if the home inspector is having a hard time accessing the windows, the buyer is watching.
  • When the buyer enters the house for the first time, the first thing that is observed are the floors.  This is because they are entering an unknown and by looking down will familiarize them to the new environment.  It you have wood floors make them pop.  If you have rugs have them cleaned as if they were new.
  • Tidy things up. Closets, kitchen cabinets and drawers.  This way they can imagine there belongs occupying these areas.  Especially clean up the sink cabinet.  Again you don’t want the home inspector digging through stuff.   Some inspectors will not dig.  They will state in report could not inspect. 
  • And clean those hard to get at areas like ceiling fans, baseboards, appliances, etc.


7) Advertise your house with professional photos

These days the internet is used for just about everything.    This is especially true for buying and selling a house.  A perfect example of this is   The first picture you see is the front of the house (curb appeal).   First impressions are important.  Then you tour the individual rooms, bathrooms, kitchens etc. 

A 3D walkthrough where you point and click through a home from your computer are very popular.  Buyers who don’t have easy access or may be from out of town may even make an offer. 

Aerial photography (drone’s) that shows a bird’s eye view of the house and its surrounding area is increasingly popular with buyers looking online.  


8) Price the house to sell

Don’t let your emotions get involved here.  You put a new roof on the house ten years ago.   You installed a new furnace at the same time.  This does not mean you have a new roof or furnace.  Your realtor will list the house on MLS (Multiple Listing Service), so it will show up on real estate websites. Market your house yourself.   Tell your family and friends.  I sold my last house to my neighbor’s daughter.   Use social media.    For a minimal amount of money you can sell your house with an Ad which will be displayed in the surrounding areas.  How many buyers love the area they live in and don’t want to upheave their children into new schools, just need more room?  


9) The house doesn’t sell as fast as you expect     

This is a situation no one likes.  Your real-estate agent has gone through their bag of tricks and nothing.  I hate to say it but the obvious has come.  Lowing the price of your home or have more open house.

Many factors are at play and depending on the condition of the housing market for your area

10) Negotiation time, it’s all about money    

At this time you and the buyer are both doing the same thing.  The buyer wants the absolute best price, while you’re doing exactly the same. There will be multiple factors to consider, as each home sold and purchased is different.   For example, if it’s a sellers’ market, that means the seller.  Don’t get greedy here.  A buyer may be maxed out with their finances or waiting too long for counter offers, can give the buyer additional time to locate another. 

This is where your agent should be able to assist. They will help you navigate the negotiation process, and will give you their advice on how to proceed when offers are being made.


11) Sign and close

It’s just about done the price has been agreed upon.  All inspections and appraisals of your home have been completed, and you are now ready to sign the papers.   At this writing, Covid-19 is still with us. Some states are now allowing completely electronic closings, called eClosings.   

Friday, December 11, 2020

Winter Time, Check That Chimney

 Home Inspectors do level 1 (visual) fireplace and chimney inspections only.  Winter is here.  If you have a fireplace make sure the chimney and flue are in good working order.  You can check yourself or call in a chimney professional to diagnose the chimney and fireplace for any problem (level 2) before it gets big, expensive and potentially dangerous.

  Visually assess the chimney from the outside.  Is it leaning?  Are there any chipped bricks or masonry joints?  Do you see any cracks or holes?  If your chimney is factory-built metal, look for any corrosion, stains or loose sections.  If your chimney is exposed to your attic, make sure to check there as well.  Look for any signs indicating repairs are necessary.
Chimney cap
  A good cap can reduce damage caused to a chimney by water and wildlife.  Rain and snow can enter an uncapped chimney, and subsequently freeze and thaw, causing expansion damage.  Small wildlife can nest in chimneys, creating clogs and potentially introducing fleas, ticks, worms and other disease-causing pests to your home.  A chimney cap with screen mesh will keep animals out while shielding your roof from embers and sparks.
Leaks& stains
  Inside the house, check the area around your chimney for any stains or dampness.  These could be caused by faulty flashing around the chimney at the roof line, or by a damaged flue liner.  If you see signs of water around your chimney, call a chimney professional right away.
  Open the clean-out door from the base of the flue, located either in your basement or outside the house.  Using a small mirror and flashlight to see up the flue, look for buildup of soot and also any cracks, holes or separations.  If in doubt, give your chimney professional a call for a good checkup and cleaning.
  Check the brickwork in your fireplace for wear.  Check the damper as well, it should open and close easily.  Look into the smoke chamber above the damper to check for buildup of soot.  Again, call your chimney professional for service if you see any of these telltale signs. 

  Chimney safety should be a high priority for every homeowner.  With regular maintenance, your fireplace and chimney can give you years of wonderful service.  A chimney professional can spot things that even a diligent homeowner could miss.  Call on a pro to do regular cleanings and safety checks as part of your home-maintenance routine.  Then throw another log on the fire, sit back and enjoy.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Winter Is Here Again

 Everyone puts off those last minute maintenance chores until the weather turns cold.  So we felt bringing back this previous blog entry, a list of items that will make the transition into winter mode that much easier.

Furnace Inspection;  Having your furnace inspected and is operating at peak efficiency is a wise investment.  Typical cost for a technician to inspect and clean your furnace is around $80 to $100.00.  This is a small price to pay to avoid a costly repair on the coldest day of the year when your furnace won’t start.  Change your furnace filter every 30 days or so, if you have animals who shed hair a more frequent replacement might be required.
Check or have your chimney checked for any cracks, missing brick or mortar or loose rain cap.  The freezing thawing action of water penetrating small cracks can do a lot of damage over the winter season.  If you have a wood burning fireplace you should consider having it cleaned prior to use and have the flue tiles inspected for any cracks or deficiencies.
If you have ceiling fans now is a good time to clean the dust and lint off the blades and reverse direction of motor.  Forcing the warm air down will make your living area feel much more cozy.

Windows & Doors
Caulking Windows;  Clean your windows and doors inside and out.   This is a great time to check your seals and exterior caulking.  Ensuring your seams on brick and concrete window sills are not open can save you a lot of money on needless repairs later on.   Water can enter your exposed seams cracking mortar and eventually damaging the brick below.  This “spalling” as it is known, happens when clay style brick absorbs moisture, which then freezes and blows off part of the brick surface.
Check all your door closures to ensure they all operate smoothly.  Screen doors should have glass panels lowered or installed on older models.  Basement windows screens in window wells are susceptible to damage from rodents and other small animals.  Screens should be removed and stored for the winter.  Replace any damaged door seals or sweeps to prevent drafts from entering home during the cold months.  Operate your garage doors and lightly grease track for smoother and quieter operation.

Roofs & Gutters
Flashing Not Sealed on Roof; Inspect your roofs shingles for any damaged or missing tabs.  Pay close attention to any flashings on walls or chimneys to ensure that they are completely sealed.  Caulk any suspect areas to be doubly sure of preventing any roof leaks.   Clean out any debris in gutters and ensure your downspouts and extensions are in good condition.  If you have an older home using heating cables for eaves or downspouts, now is a good time to ensure that they are in good working order.   Put away your rain barrels and ensure your splash pads and extensions are directing water away from your home.

Draining Exterior; Tap Drain all your exterior water lines to prevent freezing.  I personally always leave the exterior tap open and have never had a freeze up problem.  If you have hose reels installed, now is a good time to store them after draining out the water.  On older homes with crawlspaces now is a good time to close ventilation vents and cover with insulation in preparation for winter.  Any in ground sprinkler lines should have already been blown out by your sprinkler maintenance company, if not call them immediately.
Wrapping your hot water tank and hot water lines with insulation can save you money all year long.  Check your sump pump by either lifting float or pouring water into unit to ensure it is in operating condition.

Drafts & Air Leaks
Energy experts estimate about 30% of the heat in your home is lost to leaks and drafts.  Adding foam seals to exterior wall outlets can stop and lot of heat loss.  Check any penetrations on the exterior wall of your house and seal any gaps with caulking, this stops both cold air and moisture from entering your home.  Check you interior for leaks and missing insulation at penetrations.  Most contractors will not replace your vapor barrier or insulation when they install electrical or heating vents.  Replacing insulation and re-sealing vapor barrier can save a lot of heat loss over the course of a winter.

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Frozen Water Pipes Are Dangerous

 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 p