Has Your House Had a Check Up Lately?

THIL_StethoscopeIt’s cold and flu season again and I don’t know about you, but this area was hit HARD. The hospitals were full and had people waiting for beds. Your neck of the woods was probably much the same, so while maintaining your family’s health is front and center in your thoughts, I want to urge you not to neglect the health of what shelters your family… your house.

While we commonly refer to a home’s “condition,” it is really the same as talking about the health of your home. Just as we can break our bones, our home’s structure can need repair as well. The human body uses electricity, just as your house does. And plumbing… well, let’s not go there. Suffice it to say that whether it’s a human or a residence, when a plumbing system is not working correctly, the whole family can tell!

THIL_RoofYou may think you only need a Home Inspector if you are buying a home, but having a yearly home inspection can help diagnose issues that you may not be aware of. Really, how many people regularly walk on their roof? Or inspect their soffit and fascia for wear from tree branches, gaps that water and pests can use to invade your home and chipped and peeling paint? How many people examine the exterior walls for cracked caulking around windows and doors? These issues are easily and cheaply fixed if caught early, but deferred maintenance increases the likelihood that items will have to be replaced rather than repaired and that, my friend, can cost big money.

And that’s just a few items on the exterior.

THIL_ChecklistA Home Inspector can examine and test your heating and air conditioning system, duct work, plumbing and plumbing fixtures, water heater, attic structure and insulation, fireplace and chimney, windows, doors, ceilings, floors and appliances. And while no Home Inspector can guess or guarantee the remaining life of any system or appliance, he or she can alert you to visible signs of possible impending problems. Like the home we inspected yesterday. Built in 2006, it was a lovely, clean, well maintained home, but like most homeowners, they hadn’t looked at their 66 gallon water heater in a while, so they had not seen the rusting that had developed at the base of the unit. See the photo below.

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It was like that all the way around the base of the unit. Of course the buyer wanted the unit replaced, so it was just one more thing to negotiate and complicate the process.

THIL_LaughingSo don’t neglect the health of your home. Let a Home Inspector be the chicken soup for your home’s soul! Get your home a check up today! And if you figure out the “flue shot” joke I couldn’t quite come up with, leave it in the comment section below.

Please Pin, Like and Share on your favorite social media and feel free to email me with any questions you may have about homes and/or home inspection at thehomeinspectorlady@yahoo.com . Thanks, and I wish you a healthy, happy home!

Just the Facts: When Inspector Opinions Don’t Matter

THIL_FactsI have a recurring nightmare. Well, I have more than one, but just one about work. I have a home buyer asking me any or all of the following questions:

  • Am I paying too much for this house?
  • Would you buy this house?
  • Is this home’s value likely to increase or decrease?
  • Is this a decent neighborhood?

There are more, but you get the picture. Sometimes I wake up screaming. Think I’m over reacting? Read on.

Just like sea shells and finger prints, no two Home Inspectors are alike. Some may have a higher level of education in structure, while others have more experience with electrical systems. Some may be able to do appraisals, while some others have training in mold or asbestos testing. Right now you may be asking yourself, “What’s your point, Inspector Lady?”

My point is this, before you ask your Home Inspector about listing prices or the prospective return on your investment, you should first be asking if they have any specialized licenses or certifications. Asking someone who isn’t qualified to do real estate appraisals whether or not you’re paying a fair price is kind of like asking your mechanic to look at a suspicious mole.

THIL_ConfusedWhile it may seem puzzling, there are differing levels of education and certifications for Home Inspectors, even Home Inspectors working in the same state. Here’s how it goes: Even if (and yes, I do mean IF) a state governs the licenses of Home Inspectors, they likely will have a minimum number of requirements to qualify for this license, but these professionals can, and often do, choose to exceed that minimum. Depending on the area of focus, this gives Home Inspectors a wide range of services they can offer and you should definitely inquire about any specialized knowledge that is important to you.

THIL_RelievedBut even if you don’t feel the need for any specialized services for your particular transaction, this is something to keep in mind when talking with your Inspector. I and most Inspectors I know absolutely refuse to answer questions like, “Would you buy this house?” It’s not my job to make judgement calls like that. It’s my job to help give you as much information as I can about the condition of your prospective home at that time, so that you can then combine that knowledge with all the other variables and make that decision for yourself.

Believe me, there are few things that Realtors hate more than offhand comments about something outside an Inspector’s wheel house that can unduly influence a buyer and tank a deal. So before your inspection, get some background on your Inspector so you know the areas in which they are qualified to speak. Knowing whether or not the Inspector has the expertise to offer that opinion or advice can help you determine how much weight the comment should carry.  Also, don’t be afraid to ask your Inspector or Realtor for referrals for people properly qualified to give you the information you require.

Thanks for stopping by! Please feel free to use the box at the top to sign up to follow this blog and please remember to Pin, Like, Tweet and/or comment below and please email any home inspection questions or experiences you’d like to share to thehomeinspectorlady@yahoo.com. I hope you had a great Thanksgiving!

5 Common Electrical Problems

Be honest: What is the part of your home that scares you the most? The part that you understand the least? There are a few possible answers, depending on your life experience, but I think most people would say, “Electricity”. That’s why we shove those plastic covers into every outlet the moment our children are conceived. It’s why we buy surge protectors for our valuable electronic “babies” like our computers and our gigantic televisions. It’s the system that we use the most and understand the least.

In my experience, I would estimate that, overall, electrical issues rank #2 in home buyers top concerns when buying a house. First would be structural issues. No one wants a house that might fall down around their ears. But frankly, people find electrical issues to be, well… scary. And with good reason. Between fires and shock hazards there’s a lot of potential for problems. But not every electrical issue should be a panic inducing deal breaker.

Following are the five most common electrical items we find during the home inspection process and what to do about them.

Outlets with Reversed Polarity (or “Hot and Neutral Wires Reversed”)

This is an extremely common issue to find in a home inspection report, particularly KODAK Digital Still Camerawhen a non-professional has been installing outlets. What does this mean? An outlet is meant to be wired in a very specific way. The hot wire is attached to the outlet in one place and the neutral wire is attached in another place. Reversed polarity occurs when these two wires have been installed in the wrong places on the outlet. While this is common, that does not mean that it is safe. In some situations there is the potential of a shock hazard, even though the outlet will still operate in this state.  You should have an Electrician sort it out for one very good reason: The swapped wires may not be at every outlet that has tested as having reversed polarity. It may just be on the same circuit as an outlet with this issue. So let the professionals handle it, just to be safe.

Electrical Junctions Outside of Junction Boxes

When two wires, or conductors as the Electricians call them, are connected, they are suppoDSCN6035sed to be connected with a wire nut (the small yellow plastic cap you see in the photo to the left) and be inside a junction box. In addition, this junction box should have a cover. Many times my husband, Robert, will go into and attic or a crawlspace and find electrical connections that have been joined together with wire tape and nothing more. There are couple of problems with this. First, this does not meet code, so there is a chance the work was never inspected. Second, a junction in this condition can easily be pulled apart if someone is working in the attic and catches the conductor on their clothes or shoes. Then not only would you have an electrical item in your home that stops working, but you potentially have live, loose conductors in your attic.

The solution is easy. All electrical connections should be in junction boxes with covers and junction boxes cost about a dollar at most home improvement stores.

Low Service Lines

In many older homes, the service lines, or the lines that bring your electrical service from the alley to the house, are much lower than what is required today. Many times DSCN4822they are also running through tree branches on the way from the house to the alley. Current requirements dictate that these lines be a minimum of three feet above the roof, or ten feet above the ground, so as to be out of reach to a person in the yard. Sometimes there is confusion about who is responsible for remedying this situation. Some people feel it should be the utility company’s responsibility, but the utility companies are only responsible for the lines at the alley. From the alley to the house, the maintenance of  these lines is the homeowner’s duty. And keep those branches trimmed away from the lines! One falling branch can cause a world of problems for a homeowner if it takes out your service lines.

No GFCI Outlets

GFCIGFCI stands for “Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter”. Here’s the way a GFCI outlet works: It detects very small changes in electrical currents, as small as 6 milliamps. So, for example, if you are holding an appliance that is plugged into one of these outlets, and that appliance comes into contact with water, a GFCI outlet will, as it’s name implies, interrupt the circuit and cut the power to that outlet, saving you from a nasty and possibly fatal shock. The power is easy to restore when conditions are safe: simply press the “reset” button and the outlet should be functioning again.

These types of outlets are required in kitchens (above a counter top and within 6 feet of a water source), bathrooms, on the exterior of the house and in the garage. Many homes built prior to the enforcement of this requirement do not have these outlets, however, they are not expensive. They can be purchased at home improvement centers or online for as little at $7.00 and for someone with the proper skills, they can be easily swapped out with non-GFCI outlets on grounded electrical systems. Ungrounded systems would require a consultation with and Electrician.

Missing Knockout Covers at Electrical Boxes

DSCN6097Anytime there is a gap at an electrical panel or junction box, it should be sealed to keep out pests and/or water depending on it’s location. I can’t tell you how many crispy critters Robert has found after removing a panel cover. You also don’t want water in your panel for any reason, whether it’s from rain or from a poorly aimed sprinkler head. These are cheap (less that $5.00 for a three pack at home improvement centers) and simple to install.