Managing Risk in a Red-hot Real Estate Market

Screen Shot 2016-04-24 at 4.24.28 PM

Did you miss out on a home inspection when you bought your home?

With the real estate market in the lower mainland on a steady rise with too little inventory and excess demand, it is no secret that homebuyers are facing the domino effect of challenges.  The “dance” unfortunately includes skyrocketing prices, tight closing dates, and bidding wars.

Under normal market conditions, homebuyers submit an offer and make a decision to buy the home, subject to a home inspection. The homebuyer has more control over the buying process. They are clear on their perceived value of the home & the investment that they are about to make based on the condition of the home. They can also identify, should they proceed with the purchase, what needs to be done following the transaction.

However, under the current extra-ordinary conditions of the market, homebuyers have been forced to change the way they do their due diligence as a consumer.  Many buyers are arranging home inspections before they even submit offers for sale, while others are choosing to do inspections after the home has been purchased.

In cases where inspections are arranged prior to making an offer, ideally the inspection goes well, they submit a clean offer and get the deal done. Now they can start on a budget and prioritize the “fix it” list before moving in.

However, this gamble is more often met with frustration, because buyers need to move and buy another home quickly. In addition, they have been put in a position to compete for a new home only to get outbid by a higher offer. The cycle can go on and on.

Anticipating the repetition of these experiences on subsequent properties, buyers will need to set aside more funds for inspection services.

Even more concerning are scenarios where accepted offers have unrealistically short time frames or are subject to “no inspection”, putting buyers in a vulnerable, risky position.

 

What if you find yourself unable to have a home inspection done prior to closing?

Until the conditions that are creating this market change, this is the inevitable reality.  So what is a homebuyer to do?  What if you find yourself unable to have a home inspection done prior to closing?  Is it worthwhile to get an inspection post-purchase?

Absolutely. All homes need repairs and maintenance. It is better late than never.

Should you wait a few months, or get it done sooner?  I recommend having it done as soon as the current homeowners move out. This way, all of the storage and furniture will be out of the way and the home will be easy to view, with few limitations (areas that cannot be seen due to carpeting, furniture, appliances, wall hangings, etc)

Further, it makes sense to know what repairs are necessary before you move all of your furniture and belongings into the home, especially if you plan to renovate. Your inspector will be able to give you a report, detailing what needs to be repaired, and ideally, list the priorities.

If you missed out on an inspection and have already taken possession, then it would be wise to arrange a maintenance inspection. Again, this should be done as soon as possible.

 

New Home Purchases:

Should you get a brand new home inspected? If so when?

With newly built homes, there is usually a warrantee program provided by the builder. Often, home buyers will wait until just before their first year expires before they go ahead with the home inspection. After the inspection, they can go back to the builder and have the deficiencies fixed.

Yes, it is wise to have a new home inspected. However, I believe it is best to arrange the inspection when or shortly after you take possession, in case there are any conflicts, which need to be resolved between you and the builder (this happens quite often, unfortunately).

 

Buying and older home?

If the home is older, (before the 1980’s) your risk factor can be significant… Any safety or environmental issues like faulty wiring; structural flaws, asbestos or mold can be dealt with before you move in. Expensive environmental concerns, such a leaky oil tank will need to be addressed as soon as possible, along with a sizable budget.

As with all inspections, see if you can get your hands on permits, paperwork and receipts for new boilers, furnaces, water heaters, roof replacement, renovations, testing for asbestos documents and a scan for a hidden oil tank, if possible.

At the end of the day, regardless of market conditions and risk factors all homes will need to be inspected whether they brand new, old or in between.

For more information on this topic, or anything mold related feel free to contact me at 604-729-4261 or sean@homeinspectorsean.com and I’ll help you out.

Read More

Thermographic Inspections… Are they necessary?

 

The first thermographic cameras were extremely large, expensive awkward machines.

Over the years, the technology has improved, much reducing the size and prices of these amazing cameras.

Although still considered expensive as tools go, they are more affordable each year, so inspectors are beginning to add them to their arsenal of inspection equipment.

Throughout the article, I will also call them by their other common names, infrared thermal cameras, infrared imagers and thermographic cameras.

Essentially, infrared thermal cameras detect & measure temperature patterns on a given surface. The temperature differences are assigned colours for easy identification.

When combined with other tools, they can help identify a number of issues within a home. Although they are powerful and sensitive tools, they cannot see through walls, like Superman, or even through glass, as many people believe.

These cameras have gained recent popularity in the home inspection field due in large part to familiar TV programs, where they have been used to successfully find hidden defects. In addition to home inspectors, engineers, medical personnel, the military, contractors and a whole host of trade professionals are using these cameras with greater frequency.

Often the thermographic inspection will be an add-on service to a regular inspection. Thermography is not covered under the standards of practice we are governed by.

More and more clients are requesting that we (home inspectors) use them during our inspections; however, it is important to mention that they are neither appropriate nor effective for every inspection.

Take this example… thermal imagers have been used on TV to reveal suspected areas of missing insulation within the exterior walls of a home. The camera picks up the temperature signatures on the wall surface. So when a cold stud (behind the wall) is attached to the wall, the image in that area may show a contrast of colours. What we are seeing is a transfer of heat from a warm surface (wall) to a cooler one, (the hidden stud) and represented as an outline.

This particular application will only be effective if there is a temperature difference of 15 degrees between indoors to the outside. So, if you live in Ontario in during the winter, then the power of this camera can be quite effective.

However, in BC you may not get the same result due to our mild weather. This is certainly useless in the summer when the weather is warm. So question the particular situation when you see this on TV.

Below are some examples of how inspectors can use this technology given the right temperatures and circumstances… based on proper training of course.

Detecting moisture issues 

Water has the ability to either retain heat or cold extremely well. So if there is a leak inside a wall cavity from the outside, and you scan the area, you may be able to see it when the temperature is cold enough.

 Locating areas of heat loss & air leakage

This approach are best utilized when the inside of the home is pressurized and the camera is adjusted to a greyscale palette. When applied and interpreted correctly, one can use this information to improve on energy efficiency, while saving on heating costs.

Seeing electrical issues

With this application, one can look for large temperature differences in service panels and receptacles that cannot be seen by people without the camera. This can be useful for detecting possible fire hazards before they happen.

Finding missing insulation

As mentioned earlier, this is a useful application in the winter, or evening when the temperature difference is suitable.

Locating pests

The camera can easily pick up the body temperature of rodents or other critters in the attic. This can be a super verification tool for pest management companies.

Testing radiant in-floor heating

Thermographic cameras are excellent for looking at the performance of the in-floor heat pipes. After the heat has been on for a number of hours, the outline of the pipes can be seen with absolute clarity. On the flip side, we can easily identify where a leak has formed. Leaks will usually appear as blotchy areas.

Leak in radiant heating

 

Commercial roofing inspections

This is best done at night, or when the sun goes down. An infrared camera can easily pinpoint any moisture within the layers of the roof insulation or membranes. Note: this is only applicable for flat roofs. This works so well because the water will retain the warmth from the heat of the sun during the day, while the outside air will be cooler… so any trapped moisture will be easy to see.

As mentioned, these specialized cameras are extremely sensitive tools that require adequate training to properly operate & interpret. All findings must be verified for accuracy.

Before hiring an inspector to conduct a thermographic inspection, ask him or her about their training. Ideally, the inspector should have a level 1 certification from a credible and recognized institution. Proper training will take five to seven days on average to complete.

At the end of the day, thermographic imagers/cameras are excellent when used correctly and for very specific applications, so consider whether it is needed, especially if the cost is extra.

For more information or questions, feel free to contact me and I’ll help you out.

Read More

When Is The Best Time To Hire A Home Inspector?

Finding a good inspector when you need him/her can be tricky business. It is best to the find one when you want, rather than scrambling at the last minute because you have to close on a deal.

Considering property prices, I suggest setting aside enough time to research the best inspector for your needs. The top inspectors will be booked up to a week or more in advance, especially during the busy season. (Spring & Summer) Take care of the “inspector interview” long before the offer. It is much less stressful this way. Also, in my opinion, only you should be the one to choose the inspector, although many real estate agents will offer their suggestions.

If you want to sell your home and would like to know the deficiencies prior to listing it, call an inspector for a Pre-listing inspection. You can address the problems before the home goes on the market.

After the inspection, you can share the findings with potential buyers. This can make your home easier to sell. More than likely, the buyers will find their own inspector as well. If your pre-listing inspector does a good job for you, there will be few issues. The added bonus… Now you have someone for your own purchase.

Consider the following questions as you choosing your inspector.

  • Will they allow you to tag along during the inspection?
  • Do they communicate clearly?
  • Are they open to taking calls and providing advice after the inspection?
  • What kind of report do they provide? Do they include photos with their reports?
  • Are they licensed, insured and belong to a professional association like CAHPI?
  • Will they provide their standards of practice and contract before the inspection?

Check online to see how others view their work.

Most importantly, find someone who truly cares about protecting you, while providing the best value for the service. You can gauge this by how they react to your interview questions.

For example… Find out if they will allow you to shadow them during the inspection.

It is really a business decision and there is really no right or wrong answer. In my opinion however, clients gain a much better understanding of the home when they can learn throughout the inspection. Others disagree for a variety of reasons.

My last tidbit… With home inspectors as with all professions, I believe you get what you pay for. Anyone with the proper training will learn the skills to be a competent inspector. However, character, ethics & common sense (which can not be taught in any classroom) are the key personality traits that will put any inspector to the test when you really need him. So listen to your gut feeling on this. Hire the one that feels right for you, not the one that fits the last minute time slot or the pocket book.

For more information, feel free to contact me about this or anything home inspection related.

Read More

Safer Stairs – Through the eyes of a Home Inspector

Although every aspect of a home inspection is important, I want to focus my attention for this piece on stairs, both inside and out.

Every year, many people fall down their stairs because they are unsafe for a number of reasons. Preventable falls contribute to thousands of hospital visits each year due to incorrectly, outdated, damaged or structurally inadequate stairways.

If we go back a number of years, the average stairway was unsafe for a whole host of reasons. It seems, people had to fall (while suffering injuries along the way) before changes took place to allow for better, safer stairways. Even today, despite the injuries many to children and the elderly, unsafe staircases continue to be overlooked.

So what do home inspectors look for when we check out the stairs?

The rise & run – The rise, which is the height of each stair, should be 8 inches. Often and especially along the lower and top stairs, they are either more or less than this height. This can cause tripping, so it is important that they are consistent for safety. If you walk up and down the stairs, you will usually be able to “feel” if it is comfortable. The run, or the tread is the surface that you walk on. It should be at least 10 inches. When these areas are off, then this is a sure sign that the rise (height) or run (length) is off. All stairs should be consistent. When building stairs, be sure to hire a competent contractor with experience building proper stairways.

The Landing – All stairs should have proper landings at the top and bottom. Essentially the landing is a platform at the top or bottom of the stairs. This is important for safety, especially if there is a door at the top of the stairs. Older homes often turn at one side, leaving 1-3 inches along the corners. This is no longer permitted with new construction, and subsequently where many people slip. If you have this arrangement in the place where you live, see if you can have it fixed. If not, be very careful and stay to the side that has a wider and longer tread.

The railings – Often, older homes do not have stairway railings, especially in the basement. And if they do, many of the rails are not safe. All railings must be at least 36 inches in height. If facing an open space ithey must have pickets installed every 4 inches. (Have you ever noticed a main hall or entrance stairway where there are no pickets on the rails leading up to the top floor?) Neither have I. This would seem weird, even for a non-home inspector.  So, why is it ok for basements? It isn’t, but people tend to miss this detail all of the time. Interior railings should be properly secured to the wall along the inside and sturdy.

Outside handrails are often too wide. They must be no more than 4 inches wide and round, to allow people to hold on in case they slip. Also, any set of stairs with three or more requires a railing.

The structure – the stairs must be properly supported so they do not move. If they are outside, the posts should be placed in proper footings & the stringers adequately secured. Wood stairs should not be in contact with concrete, as moisture can seep into the wood and cause rot damage sooner than later. Exterior stairs should not rise above one floor without a turn in direction or proper landing.

Maintenance – Exterior wooden stairs should be pressure treated and painted/stained to allow them to last longer. I recommend placing a non-stick adhesive, such as asphalt strips on the treads to prevent slipping. It is a good idea to test the railings to ensure they are strong and secure. Loose and rotten stairways can lead to unnecessary injuries.

Whether you are on a search to buy a home or if you own your own, make sure to check the stairs for safety. If you see areas for improvement, then take the necessary steps, (haha) to ensure they will be safe for you and your family.

For more info, send me an email or call and I’ll help you out

Read More

Moldy Washing Machine?

Do you ever notice musty, moldy smells coming from your front-loading high efficient washing machine? This problem may in fact be more common than you think…

Over the past year or so, when conducting mold inspections with my Mold Detection Dog Marni, we have discovered that many of these newer high efficiency front -loading machines smell like mold.

Actually, it was Marni who showed me first. She is specifically trained to alert me by sitting, and then pointing with her nose when she finds an area of the home where she suspects past or present mold growth. After a number of inspections, she kept sitting right in front of these newer front-loading washing machines.
Sure enough, they had a musty odour.

I thought this was unusual at first because washing machines are designed to wash and clean, not promote mold growth. But as this pattern of musty washing machines continued, I wanted to learn more.
I did some research and found out that some of the top manufacturers of these machines are facing lawsuits. Large concentrations of indoor mold can be a health concern especially if it is growing inside thousands of washing machines. Intriguing, yet scary… so I thought I would dig a little bit deeper and get to the bottom of it.

I ended up calling Chris Hilliker from Cambie Appliance and Refrigeration (a local & very credible expert on appliances) to see if he could give me some insight on the situation and provide some ideas for at least reducing the affects of moldy washing machines. After a great discussion I thought I would share some of his
suggestions below.

1) Make sure the detergent is HE or (High Efficient) and use as little as you can get away with. Add ½ to ¼ a cup of vinegar to the wash cycle, resulting in cleaner softer clothes.
2) Be sure to leave the door open slightly between washes.
3) When washing, use a product called Affresh according to manufacturer instructions. This can be found at Trail Appliance in Richmond at the back of the store in the Reliable Parts section.
4) It is a good idea to clean out the rubber drum after each use to prevent scum, hair and debris build up.
5) Consider adding about 5-6 drops of Lavender oil in the fabric softener side of the machine. However, it is best to check with the manufacturer to see if it is acceptable for your machine.

In addition to reducing those moldy smells from your washing machine he has a number of other tips for washing machines, dishwashers, dryers, refrigerators, freezers, garburators, stove and ovens.

If you are in the Vancouver area and looking for and credible appliance expert check out, http://cambieappliance.com

Read More