The Art of the Unemotional Deal

THIL_Emotional

Home. Few words evoke so many emotions, whether good or, let’s be honest, stomach churning. This fact may make what I am about to propose seem contradictory, but trust me, this is good advice: When it comes to buying your next home, leave emotion out of the equation.

Time after time, we have seen people go into real estate transactions with love goggles on causing them to completely ignore any and all warning signs. They see the house online, then in person and fall head over heels. They then rush headlong into their “forever home” becoming a real nightmare.

Todd Vaughn, owner of Swat Pest Control here in Lubbock once told me about an experience he had with some love struck buyers. The house was eaten up with termites. One of the worst infestations he’d ever seen. From the foundation to the interior walls there was pervasive structural damage. Todd said, “I told the buyers the results of the inspection and they asked me, “Well, should we buy it?”  What else but love could cause someone to potentially ignore tens of thousands of dollars in termite damage?

THIL_LoveHomeOne of the bad parts of home inspection is that sometimes you have to crush someones hopes and dreams. Inspections can, and sometimes do uncover problems that the buyer is unwilling or financially unable to remedy. And when that person has allowed emotion to cloud their judgement, they can easily talk themselves or their spouse into a situation that can take not only a financial toll on the relationship, but an emotional one, as well.

We recently performed an inspection on a home that was extremely well decorated. I mean, this lady must have had a PhD in Magnolia from Joanna Gaines University. The thing that struck me, though, was that this was a very common floor plan from a very popular builder, and although it was a perfectly nice house in good condition, I knew once the buyers saw it without all the decor, they were bound to be let down. Without all the decorations, it was just like many of the other homes in that neighborhood. I couldn’t help but wonder if the decoration of the home had affected the sales price.

THIL_InvestmentHere’s the thing; First and foremost your house is an investment. Be prepared to walk away if that’s what you have to do. The inspection may go smoothly or it may throw an unexpected wrench in the works. The appraisal may come back without a hitch, or it may not. One of my friends was buying a home and the process was going very well. Till a week or so before closing when the appraisal came back $11,000 below the sales price! They may have become attached to the house at that point, but they were objective enough to know that they shouldn’t pay eleven thousand dollars over market value. They stuck to their guns even to the point of sending the seller’s Realtor a termination notice. The buyer then agreed to drop the price.

When looking for a home, don’t let the current decor and finishes be what holds sway with your decision making, whether they are good or outdated. Much of the decor will leave with the seller and finishes can be changed or updated. And if the house needs minor or cosmetic work, all the better! With a little work and a modest investment, you could have much more equity in your home very quickly. And if you can’t love equity, you scare me. Seriously. We can’t be friends anymore.

THIL_WinningTo recap, let’s hit the high points: reign in the emotions, look at the facts and the numbers and remember that you are making what may be one of the largest investments you will ever make, so keep your head in the game!

Thanks for reading this installment! If you haven’t signed up to follow The Home Inspector Lady, let me encourage you to do so now. If you are reading this on a phone and don’t see the email sign up, you can find in when you click on the “About” page. And please remember to Pin, Like, Share and comment below. And as always, email any home inspection related questions or comments and experiences to thehomeinspectorlady@yahoo.com . Have a great day!

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!

Home Inspections Save Lives… Sort Of

One of the things I like best about my job is being able to help people. Sometimes we help first-time home buyers understand how different parts of their home work. Sometimes we help them in the process of buying their dream home. But sometimes we help people avoid a costly mistake.

One young couple we met recently had already been dealt some tough blows. The husband had multiple sclerosis and was in a wheelchair. While the disease had taken it’s toll on his body, his mind had been spared and he could communicate and understand what was going on around him. His wife was a school teacher and his care giver in her off hours. To say they were on a thin budget would be kind. They had managed to save for a house and had put a contract on a home that had recently been renovated. They were very excited. Their Realtor asked us to check it out.

Unfortunately, it was almost all bad news. The house (a pier and beam home) was not attached to any permanent foundation. There were no plumbing vents. There was no insulation in the attic. The windows were new, but were too high and too small for exit in an emergency. There were not enough electrical outlets. The water heater base was a cardboard box! And these were the things were could see. With no insulation in the attic, who knows whether there was any insulation in the walls or whether the home was wired safely?

The buyers were crushed. After all, the house looked great on the outside. It even had a wheel chair ramp. Plus, it was within their budget and in the small community in which they wanted and needed to live. They thought they had found the perfect home.

I know what you’re thinking: How could a home be renovated and NOT be up to code? After all, it was in a municipality. Where was the Building Inspector? Well, this municipality didn’t have the budget for a Building Inspector. As a result, no one was making sure things like this didn’t happen to folks like these. The buyers were literally in tears at the end of the inspection. In fact, they confided in us afterward that they almost didn’t get the house inspected, since it was newly renovated and had looked to have been done well.

Fast forward a few weeks. Their Realtor called us back. The buyers had put a contract on another house in the same community and wanted us to take a look. After their first disappointment, they remained cautiously optimistic. The second home was a vast improvement on the first one. While no home is perfect, this second house was safe and, actually, a better fit for them, they said.

So… Do home inspections save lives? Maybe. Or, maybe that’s overstating it a bit. To be honest when I named the post, I was just trying to get you to read it. (You read it! I win!) However, at the very least, home inspections, or the lack of them, have the potential to have a huge impact on people’s lives, for good or bad.

  • They can help you determine where you’ll live and who your neighbors are.
  • Home inspections can impact the quality of your life in that home.
  • They can affect your finances, whether they catch the need for a costly repair before you buy or alert you to upcoming maintenance needs after the purchase.
  • They are a test drive of the structure where you’ll make your life, at least for a while anyway.

So, I’ll leave it up to you to decide. As for my opinion, Rob has pointed out that my objectivity could be called into question. I will say that anything that gives you as much information about one of life’s major purchases as a home inspection does, could at the very least be considered “potentially life altering”. It’s not “life saving”, but I’ll take it.

I would love to hear your experiences and/or feedback through the “Comments” section, or via email at thehomeinspectorlady@yahoo.com . As always, you are welcome to email me any questions relating to home inspections, home maintenance or anything that’s puzzling you (home-related, I mean.)  Thanks for reading, sharing, pinning and tweeting!

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.

The Home Inspector Lady

Hello, and welcome to the first posting of The Home Inspector Lady blog!

My name is Edie Sherwood (that’s E-dee, not Eddie) and I am a licensed Home Inspector and Office Manager for Area Wide Inspections in Lubbock, Texas. My husband, Robert, is also a licensed Professional Home Inspector and we work together to provide, among other things, quality home inspections.

I am a female home inspector in a 98% male dominated industry, so I will be posting about more than just the nuts and bolts of the industry, but also the human aspects of this business and how home inspections can affect people’s lives. The purpose of this blog is to help people understand the home inspection process, terminology and the practical realities of the sometimes confusing results of a home inspection. I will also be sharing with you some of the crazy and unusual experiences that come about in a home inspector’s job!

I invite you to email me questions about all things relating to home inspections and/or home maintenance. My hubby will also be available to answer questions, thanks to a wealth of knowledge from his background in code inspection, structure and construction. I will also be posting (hopefully) helpful information for buyers, sellers and Realtors alike.

So feel free to email your questions to thehomeinspectorlady@yahoo.com and I also look forward to your comments and insights as well!