Home Inspector

Know Your Home Inspector

From understanding licensing to hiring specialized experts, prepare your clients for the home inspection process. These six tips can help.

In the typical home purchase, the buyer receives only one expert review of the residence prior to purchase — the home inspector report. While economical and useful, these reports have limits that must be acknowledged. Too often, the significance of this report is overstated, leaving the buyer and seller exposed to unreasonable expectations, which can lead to unhappy clients, disagreements, and even lawsuits. There are several important considerations that you can help your clients understand about their home inspector.

1. Some home inspectors are not licensed

Some states, such as California, have no licensing or state certification for home inspectors. Others, such as Arizona, certify but do not license home inspectors. Many states, including New York, New Jersey, Mississippi, Washington, and others, require home inspectors to be licensed. A license or credential is not a guarantee of competence, but an indication the inspector has completed a minimum level of education.

There are a number of credentialing organizations, including California Real Estate Inspection Association, American Society of Home Inspectors, and the National Association of Home Inspectors. These organizations each have their own qualifications, exams, and code of ethics. Your client should look for an inspector certification by one of these major organizations. Do not accept so-called “company certifications,” which are simply in-house programs and not subject to any industry oversight.

2. Insurance is important

Unfortunately, an inspector can occasionally miss important items that could point toward a significant repair issue. In the event this occurs, your client will be disappointed if the inspector is unable to pay for the repair of the neglected item. Your client should hire an inspector with current liability insurance.

3. Be prepared to recommend a specialized expert

An inspector will sometimes report on a significant item that requires particular expertise. For example, if a question is raised regarding soil stability, your client may need advice from a soil engineer. If a floor seems too bouncy or there are cracks in walls, a structural engineer may be needed. An architect or general contractor might be needed to determine how an unpermitted addition might be legitimized with the building department.

The home inspector is the first but not necessarily the last word on things. Recommend your client bring in further expertise if the report indicates a problem.

4. Home inspectors do not eliminate all risk

The home inspection is only visual. The inspector cannot see inside walls to confirm that the framing is solid or that the plumbing or wiring was properly installed. Exterior finishes typically cover a home’s most important elements, so inspectors look for clues. However, the absence of cracks does not mean a wall is strong, and the absence of stains on the ceiling does not guarantee the roof is watertight.

The typical home inspection contract alerts your client to these limitations. Be sure your client reads and understands this. This is critical to help remind them that the inspector will not tear open walls, expose the waterproofing of windows, or remove any part of the home. The risk of potential hidden problems remains, even after the best visual assessment of the property.

Your clients believe that your visual inspection (“AVID”) and the home inspection protects them from any problems with the home — but it does not. Help them understand, so their expectations are reasonable.

5. Pick the best, not the cheapest

Your client is hiring expertise and presumably wants the best. Home inspection prices vary and it can be tempting to hire the cheapest. There may be a reason a company’s price is low. Are they new? Do they take far less time on the inspection? Do they have a poor reputation and need a catchy low price to get business? Home inspections are a minuscule cost relative to the total price of a home. Encourage your client to not worry about the price and hire the best available.

6. Let your client analyze the report

Real estate agents are not construction experts. Your expertise is in finding properties for buyers and finding buyers for sellers. You may want to consider offering an opinion or suggestion about the content of an inspection report. That advice should come from a construction expert. Your client should talk to a contractor or other expert about the report if there are questions.

Home inspections are a valuable tool for the home buyer and should be a routine part of the homebuying process. Manage your client’s expectations to enhance a successful relationship. The risk in buying something built by someone else can be reduced, but not completely eliminated. With a qualified and competent home inspector, your client is doing what can reasonably be done.

How to Keep Your House Cool Without AC

You don’t have to switch on the air conditioner to get a big chill this summer. These tips will help you keep your house cool without AC, which will save energy (and avoid AC wars with your family).

Block that Sun!

When sunlight enters your house, it turns into heat. You’ll keep your house cooler if you reduce solar heat gain by keeping sunlight out.

  • Close the drapes: Line them with light-colored fabric that reflects the sun, and close them during the hottest part of the day. Let them pillow onto the floor to block air movement.
  • Add awnings: Install them on south- and west-facing windows to reduce solar heat gain by up to 77%, says the U.S. Department of Energy. Make your own by tacking up sheets outside your windows and draping the ends over a railing or lawn chair.
  • Install shutters: Interior and exterior shutters not only reduce heat gain and loss, but they also add security and protect against bad weather. Interior shutters with adjustable slats let you control how much sun you let in.
  • Apply high-reflectivity window film: Install energy-saving window films on east- and west-facing windows, which will keep you cool in summer, but let in warming sun in the winter. Mirror-like films are more effective than colored transparent films.

Here’s more information about energy-efficient window coverings.

Open Those Windows

Be sure to open windows when the outside temperature is lower than the inside. Cool air helps lower the temps of everything — walls, floors, furniture — items that will absorb heat as temps rise, helping inside air say cooler longer.

To create cross-ventilation, open windows on opposite sides of the house. Good ventilation helps reduce VOCs and prevents mold.

Fire Up Fans

  • Portable fans: At night, place fans in open windows to move cool air. In the day, put fans where you feel their cooling breezes (moving air evaporates perspiration and lowers your body temperature). To get extra cool, place glasses or bowls of ice water in front of fans, which will chill the moving air.
  • Ceiling fans: For maximum cooling effect, make sure ceiling fans spin in the direction that pushes air down, rather than sucks it up. Be sure to turn off fans when you’re not in the room, because fan motors give off heat, too.
  • Whole house fans: A whole-house fan ($1,150-$1,500, including install) exhausts hot inside air out through roof vents. Make sure your windows are open when you run a whole-house fan.

Power Down Appliances

You’ll save money and reduce heat output by turning off appliances you’re not using, particularly your computer and television. Powering down multiple appliances is easier if you connect them to the same power strip.

Don’t use heat- and steam-generating appliances — ranges, ovens, washers, dryers — during the hottest part of the day. In fact, take advantage of the heat by drying clothes outside on a line.

Plant Trees and Vines

These green house-coolers shade your home’s exterior and keep sunlight out of windows. Plant them by south- and west-facing walls, where the sun is strongest.

Deciduous trees, which leaf out in spring and drop leaves in fall, are best because they provide shade in summer, then let in sun when temperatures drop in autumn. Select trees that are native to your area, which have a better chance of surviving. When planting, determine the height, canopy width, and root spread of the mature tree and plant accordingly.

Climbing vines, such as ivy or Virginia creeper, also are good outside insulators. To prevent vine rootlets or tendrils from compromising your siding, grow them on trellises or wires about 6 in. away from the house.

Speaking of shade, here are smart, inexpensive ideas for shading your patio.

Want more tips for staying cool this summer? Substitute CFL and LED bulbs for hotter incandescent lights.

Also, try insulating your garage door to prevent heat buildup.

lisa-kaplan-gordon Lisa Kaplan Gordonis a HouseLogic contributor and builder of luxury homes in McLean, Va. She’s been a Homes editor for Gannett News Service and has reviewed home improvement products for AOL.
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