Did you know that you can call us to ask a home inspection related question EVEN if we are not the home inspector that inspected the home you are buying or selling? So feel free to reach out to Jerry to get his opinion on any home related question you may have. With over 35 years of home building and inspecting experience he really has the knowledge to help explain things, or direct you to the right person. We look forward to helping you!
In honor of Halloween, Sonoran Property Inspections is sharing these three SCARY mistakes to avoid when buying a house. If we can help you with your inspection needs in the Prescott area (and even the north part of the Phoenix area) just give us a call! We promise that your experience with us will NOT be a scary one.
Scary Mistake #1: Thinking you can’t afford it.
Many people who thought that buying the home they wanted was simply out of their reach are now enjoying a new lifestyle in their very own homes.
Buying a home is the smartest financial decision you will ever make. In fact, most homeowners would be broke at retirement if it wasn’t for one saving grace — the equity in their homes. Furthermore, tax allowances favor home ownership. Real estate values have always risen steadily. Of course, there are peaks and valleys, but the long-term trend is a consistent increase. This means that every month when you make a mortgage payment, the amount that you owe on the home goes down and the value typically increases. This “owe less, worth more” situation is called equity build-up and is the reason you can’t afford not to buy.
Even if you have little money for a down payment or credit problems, chances are that you can still buy that new home. It just comes down to knowing the right strategies, and working with the right people. See below.
Scary Mistake #2: Not hiring a buyer’s agent to represent you.
Buying property is a complex and stressful task. In fact, it is often the biggest, single investment you will make in your lifetime. At the same time, real estate transactions have become increasingly complicated. New technology, laws, procedures, and competition from other buyers require buyer agents to perform at an ever-increasing level of competence and professionalism. In addition, making the wrong decisions can end up costing you thousands of dollars. It doesn’t have to be this way!
Work with a buyer’s agent who has a keen understanding of the real estate business and the local market. A buyer’s agent has a fiduciary duty to you. That means that he or she is loyal only to you and is obligated to look out for your best interests. A buyer’s agent can help you find the best home, the best lender, and the best home inspector in your area. Trying to buy a home without an agent or a qualified inspector is, well… unthinkable.
Scary Mistake #3: Getting a cheap inspection.
Buying a home is probably the most expensive purchase you will ever make. This is no time to shop for a cheap inspection. The cost of a home inspection is small relative to the value of the home being inspected. The additional cost of hiring a certified inspector is almost insignificant by comparison. As a home buyer, you have recently been crunching the numbers, negotiating offers, adding up closing costs, shopping for mortgages, and trying to get the best deals. Don’t stop now! Don’t let your real estate agent, a “patty-cake” inspector, or anyone else talk you into skimping here.
I am a certified InterNachi inspector! InterNACHI front-ends its membership requirements. InterNACHI turns down more than half the inspectors who want to join because they can’t fulfill the membership requirements.
InterNACHI-certified inspectors perform the best inspections, by far. InterNACHI-certified inspectors earn their fees many times over. They do more, they deserve more and — yes — they generally charge a little more. Do yourself a favor…and pay a little more for the quality inspection you deserve. We are here to help you.
- Propane grills present an enormous fire hazard, as the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is aware of more than 500 fires that result annually from their misuse or malfunction. The following precautions are recommended specifically when using propane grills:
- Store propane tanks outdoors and never near the grill or any other heat source. In addition, never store or transport them in your car’s trunk.
- Make sure to completely turn off the gas after you have finished, or when you are changing the tank. Even a small gas leak can cause a deadly explosion.
- Check for damage to a tank before refilling it, and only buy propane from reputable suppliers.
- Never use a propane barbecue grill on a terrace, balcony or roof, as this is dangerous and illegal.
- No more than two 20-pound propane tanks are allowed on the property of a one- or two-family home.
- To inspect for a leak, spray a soapy solution over the connections and watch for bubbles. If you see evidence of a leak, reconnect the components and try again. If bubbles persist, replace the leaking parts before using the grill.
- Make sure connections are secure before turning on the gas, especially if the grill hasn’t been used in months. The most dangerous time to use a propane grill is at the beginning of the barbeque season.
- Ignite a propane grill with the lid open, not closed. Propane can accumulate beneath a closed lid and explode.
- When finished, turn off the gas first, and then the controls. This way, residual gas in the pipe will be used up.
- Charcoal grills pose a serious poisoning threat due to the venting of carbon monoxide (CO). The CPSC estimates that 20 people die annually from accidentally ingesting CO from charcoal grills. These grills can also be a potential fire hazard. Follow these precautions when using charcoal grills:
- Never use a charcoal grill indoors, even if the area is ventilated. CO is colorless and odorless, and you will not know you are in danger until it is too late.
- Use only barbeque starter fluid to start the grill, and don’t add the fluid to an open flame. It is possible for the flame to follow the fluid’s path back to the container as you’re holding it.
- Let the fluid soak into the coals for a minute before igniting them to allow explosive vapors to dissipate.
- Charcoal grills are permitted on terraces and balconies only if there is at least 10 feet of clearance from the building, and a water source immediately nearby, such as a hose (or 4 gallons of water).
- Be careful not to spill any fluid on yourself, and stand back when igniting the grill. Keep the charcoal lighter fluid container at a safe distance from the grill.
- When cleaning the grill, dispose of the ashes in a metal container with a tight lid, and add water. Do not remove the ashes until they have fully cooled.
- Fill the base of the grill with charcoal to a depth of no more than 2 inches.
- Electric grills are probably safer than propane and charcoal grills, but safety precautions need to be used with them as well. Follow these tips when using electric grills:
- Do not use lighter fluid or any other combustible materials.
- When using an extension cord, make sure it is rated for the amperage required by the grill. The cord should be unplugged when not in use, and out of a busy foot path to prevent tripping.
- As always, follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Always make sure that the grill is used in a safe place, where kids and pets won’t touch or bump into it. Keep in mind that the grill will still be hot after you finish cooking, and anyone coming into contact with it could be burned.
- If you use a grill lighter, make sure you don’t leave it lying around where children can reach it. They will quickly learn how to use it.
- Never leave the grill unattended, as this is generally when accidents happen.
- Keep a fire extinguisher or garden hose nearby.
- Ensure that the grill is completely cooled before moving it or placing it back in storage.
- Ensure that the grill is only used on a flat surface that cannot burn, and well away from any shed, trees or shrubs.
- Clean out the grease and other debris in the grill periodically. Be sure to look for rust or other signs of deterioration.
- Don’t wear loose clothing that might catch fire while you’re cooking.
- Use long-handled barbecue tools and flame-resistant oven mitts.
- Keep alcoholic beverages away from the grill; they are flammable!
Buying a home?
The process can be stressful. A home inspection is supposed to give you peace of mind but, depending on the findings, it may have the opposite effect. You will be asked to absorb a lot of information over a short period of time. Your inspection will entail a written report, including checklists and photos, and what the inspector tells you during the inspection. All of this combined with the seller’s disclosure and what you notice yourself can make the experience overwhelming. What should you do?
Home inspectors are professionals, and highly trained in the industry. Most of your inspection will be related to maintenance recommendations and minor imperfections. These are good to know about.
However, the issues that really matter will fall into four categories:
- major defects, such as a structural failure;
- conditions that can lead to major defects, such as a roof leak;
- issues that may hinder your ability to finance, legally occupy, or insure the home if not rectified immediately; and
- safety hazards, such as an exposed, live buss bar at the electrical panel.
Anything in these categories should be addressed as soon as possible. Often, a serious problem can be corrected inexpensively to protect both life and property (especially in categories 2 and 4).
Most sellers are honest and are often surprised to learn of defects uncovered during an inspection. It’s important to realize that a seller is under no obligation to repair everything mentioned in your inspection report. No house is perfect. Keep things in perspective.
And remember that homeownership is both a joyful experience and an important responsibility, so be sure to call on us to help you better understand your home.
If you are buying a home that needs work, or selling a home and want to renovate first, or most importantly just want to stay put and enjoy your home more, here are some tips from Sonoran Property Inspections to consider before you start your home renovation projects. Getting ideas is easier now than ever. Use online tutorials and magazines to get ideas, and decide what you want to do yourself. Make sure you feel confident in taking on parts of the project or look into getting professional help.
Do you have the right equipment?
Research the needed tools to be sure you have everything you will need before starting the project. This includes safety equipment like gloves, eyewear, ear plugs, and masks to protect your lungs from harmful fumes.
Protect Furniture and other surfaces.
Before you actual start, cover furniture, flooring, countertops, and other surfaces to keep them clean and protected.
Be careful with harmful substances
Older homes may contain hidden dangers in the form of asbestos. There may also be hidden molds in basements, drywall, baths and kitchens. If the home was built before the mid 1970’s there may be lead based paints. All of these potential issues should be considered before taking on a DIY project.
Final words on the subject
Do-it-yourself projects can be fun, save you money, and be immensely rewarding. For major renovations or projects that affect the overall value of your home, it’s best to seek out the help of professionals. Your home is a large investment and through taking necessary precautions you can do your best to minimize potential risks of a DIY project gone wrong. Do your research and don’t be afraid to reach out to a professional for a quote on a project you might feel unsure about.
Although mold is beyond the scope of my home inspection, during our home inspections mold questions sometimes come up.
This blog will focus on mold in attics. The hope is that this can provide some useful tools for explaining this complex subject.
If mold is found in a building, it needs to be addressed. There is an ongoing debate in the home inspection industry regarding mold testing and the effects of mold on our health. I wish to avoid that debate here, but simply state that there is only one way to control mold in buildings, and that is to keep them dry. Dry buildings do not have mold problems. Wet buildings have mold problems. If you have mold in a structure, I would suggest that you direct all available resources to diagnosing and correcting the water issue first.
Why Is This More of an Issue in Prescott and not Phoenix?
Building standards and practices are regional and regional environmental factors have an enormous impact on building design and performance. Put simply, if you live in a hot arid climate, you are unlikely to find this problem. This is a problem frequently associated with regions of the country that get cold in the winter.
Why Do I Get Mold in My Attic?
The reason attics are prone to mold-growth in some parts of the country is that in winter or during summer monsoons, the roof sheathing can get wet from condensation. Roof sheathing is vulnerable to condensation because warm, interior air can migrate into the attic where it will drop its moisture on the first cold thing it hits, which is the roof sheathing. This can lead to frost on nail heads, one of the leading causes of a condensation problem. The nails are even colder than the roof sheathing, so often the first place to reach dew point.
Why is Warm Air Migrating into My Attic from My House?
Houses are like chimneys. Cold air infiltrates down low and hot air escapes out the top; this is often referred to as the stack effect. A sheetrock ceiling with paint is called, in building science terms, a vapor diffusion retarder. This means your ceiling retards or slows the vapor moving through it. In most houses, the vapor diffusion retarder has lots of breaches and openings where interior air can easily pass into the attic—think can lights, fans, plumbing and electric chases and attic access hatches.
Can Adding More Roof-Cavity Ventilation Prevent This Seasonal Condensation Problem?
Maybe. Adding more roof cavity ventilation may help but it could also make the problem WORSE. The best way I have heard roof cavity ventilation described is that it is like your backup parachute; you should not really need it if your house is dry. If the main parachute fails and your house starts to get too wet, you sure do want to have a backup.
So, if your attic is nearing dew point, the flow of exterior air can help keep the wood sheathing dry. However, if you add too much ventilation, you can create a negative air pressure in the attic and exacerbate the stack effect and pull MORE interior air from the house up into the attic. In some cases, adding more roof cavity ventilation can worsen the situation, especially if the holes in the vapor diffusion retarder (the ceiling) have not been systematically sealed first.
Is Mold in the Attic Likely to Affect the Indoor Air Quality in the House?
Not necessarily. Logically, mold in the attic is not likely an indoor air quality issue due to the stack effect. Mold in a crawl space below your house could contribute mold spores to interior air, which is no guarantee of a health hazard, but simply a statement of fact: we breathe the air that is below our house. But most of the air in your attic is going up and out the upper roof cavity venting and not into your house. There could be exceptions such as a leaky cold air return in an attic that pulls attic air into the house.
Is Mold in My Attic Likely to Affect My Enjoyment of My House?
No. Unless you have a significant problem, the mold and seasonal condensation in your attic could go undetected for years. The one area of concern would be the indoor relative humidity inside the house. Because this seasonal condensation problem in your attic can be related to high relative humidity inside the house, there is a chance you have a more problematic moisture problem inside that you would need to diagnose and repair. A simple example would be water accumulation in the crawl space below your house. You might start to see signs of this inside like condensation on window frames and toilet tanks.
Could Mold in My Attic Impact the Resale Value of My House?
Yes, mold can impact resale value. This is the best reason to have attic mold problems treated professionally. Because condensation is a seasonal problem related to dew point, relative humidity and occupant behavior, it is difficult for an inspector to determine if an attic condensation problem is active or not. In addition, when homebuyers see mold on roof decking, they can’t un-see it. If they are unfortunate enough to watch any form of reality TV, they probably think it will kill them and, in my experience, there is not much I can do to convince them otherwise.
As I see it, mold remediation companies create value by putting their name on a seasonal problem when it arises during a real estate transaction, so you want to choose a reputable company that has been in the business for a while and will stand behind their work.
A good company will diagnose the water problem first and foremost. They will look inside the home for issues that could cause high relative humidity and then shift their focus to the air barriers that separate the house from the attic. They will also evaluate fan terminations and roof cavity ventilation in the attic to try and prevent further condensation. Finally, they will remove or encapsulate any existing mold on the framing. Once the framing is cleaned or painted, it provides a fresh surface for monitoring to see if the condition returns.
Can People in the House Contribute to Attic Mold Problems?
Yes. We call this occupant behavior. Remember that people are constantly dumping moisture into a house by breathing, cooking, bathing… and even with hobbies such as aquariums and indoor plants. The objective in winter months is to keep indoor relative humidity around 50–55%. You can often accomplish this by using bath and kitchen fans to exhaust moist air to the exterior. In especially cold climates, or with high-efficiency construction, houses may be equipped with heat recovery ventilators; these facilitate air changes in the house without losing too much heat in the process. Small, modern houses with lots of people living in them are prone to high relative humidity and mold problems. This is especially true of houses that have electric resistance heat such as baseboard heaters.
How Do I Know If I Have an Active Condensation Problem in My Attic?
Attic condensation problems are seasonal and can vary depending on occupant behavior, so they can be difficult to understand, especially during a real estate transaction. The best time to check your attic for condensation is in the winter, first thing in the morning, when you see frost on the grass outside. These are the mornings I frequently find condensation in the attic.
How Can I Fix This Problem?
By now you should understand both why an attic may be getting wet and how to deal with a mold problem: stop the water!
It is heating up out here in Arizona (finally) – even here in Prescott, but especially in the Phoenix area. Now is the time to make sure your air conditioning is ready to handle the heat! As part of a home inspection (in the Phoenix and Prescott areas) we do take a close look at the HVAC units, and if in doubt we will suggest an HVAC company come take a closer look. We also have routine maintenance done on our own home’s unit since a building’s central air-conditioning system must be periodically inspected and maintained in order to function properly. While an annual inspection performed by a trained professional is recommended, homeowners can do a lot of the work themselves by following the tips offered in this guide.
- Remove any leaves, spider webs and other debris from the unit’s exterior. Trim foliage back several feet from the unit to ensure proper air flow.
- Remove the cover grille to clean any debris from the unit’s interior. A garden hose can be helpful for this task.
- Straighten any bent fins with a tool called a fin comb.
- Add lubricating oil to the motor. Check your owner’s manual for specific instructions.
- Clean the evaporator coil and condenser coil at least once a year. When they collect dirt, they may not function properly.
- Inspect the drain line for obstructions, such as algae and debris. If the line becomes blocked, water will back up into the drain pan and overflow, potentially causing a safety hazard or water damage to your home.
- Make sure the hoses are secured and fit properly.
When the cooling season is over, you should cover the exterior condenser unit in preparation for winter. If it isn’t being used, why expose it to the elements? This measure will prevent ice, leaves and dirt from entering the unit, which can harm components and require additional maintenance in the spring. A cover can be purchased, or you can make one yourself by taping together plastic trash bags. Be sure to turn the unit off before covering it.
- Have the air-conditioning system inspected by a professional each year before the start of the cooling season.
- Reduce stress on the air conditioning system by enhancing your home’s energy efficiency. Switch from incandescent lights to compact fluorescents, for instance, which produce less heat.
Baby, it’s cold outside! So today’s blog from your hometown Home Inspector is all about heat pumps. Whether you are in the Phoenix area, or in Prescott and quad cities area, learning how your heat pump operates may help you. Here, we cover some fundamentals of a particular heating system called a heat pump using non-invasive, visual-only inspection techniques. We also discuss its defrost cycle. Yes, more than you may want to know, but… here you go. As always, feel free to contact me with any of your home inspection questions.
a bad reversing valve;
a damaged outdoor coil;
a wiring problem;
a bad thermostat;
a leak in the refrigerant;
a dirty outdoor coil covered with grass, dirt, debris and/or pet hair;
a fan that won’t turn on;
a fan installed backwards with the blades running in the wrong direction;
a motor operating in the incorrect direction; and/or
a replacement fan motor spinning at a very low rpm.
Whether you live in the Phoenix area, or in Prescott, it is important to know how to winterize your home. Winterization is the process of preparing a home for the harsh conditions of winter. It is usually performed in the fall before snow and excessive cold have arrived. Winterization protects against damage due to bursting water pipes, and from heat loss due to openings in the building envelope. One additional service that I provide as a home inspector is to watch over your vacation homes during your extended absence, and can work with you to make sure the home is winterized. But for those doing it themselves, here are some guidelines.
Water damage caused by bursting pipes during cold weather can be devastating. A ruptured pipe will release water and not stop until someone shuts off the water. If no one is home to do this, an enormous quantity of water can flood a house and cause thousands of dollars’ worth of damage. Even during very small ruptures or ruptures that are stopped quickly, water leakage can result in mold and property damage. Broken water pipes can be costly to repair.
- All exposed water pipes in cold areas, such as attics, garages, and crawlspaces, should be insulated. Foam or fiberglass insulation can be purchased at most hardware stores. Insulation should cover the entirety of a pipe.
- Plastic is more tolerant of cold expansion than copper or steel. Houses in colder climates might benefit from the exclusive use of approved plastic plumbing.
- Water supply for exterior pipes should be shut off from inside the house and then drained.
- Sprinkler systems are particularly vulnerable to cracking due to cold-weather expansion. In addition to turning them, it helps to purge the system of any remaining water with compressed air.
- Homeowners should be aware that much of the plumbing system travels through areas that are significantly colder than the rest of the house. Because it is impossible to monitor the temperature of every portion of the plumbing system, indoor air temperature should be kept high enough throughout the winter to keep pipes in any unheated places from freezing.
Leaks in the Building Envelope
- Windows that leak will allow cold air into the home. Feeling for drafts with a hand or watching for horizontal smoke from an incense stick are a few easy ways to inspect for leaks. They can be repaired with tape or caulk.
- On a breezy day, a homeowner can walk through the house and find far more leaks than they knew existed. Leaks are most likely in areas where a seam exists between two or more building materials.
- Because hot air rises into the attic, a disproportionately larger amount of heat is lost there than in other parts of the house. Like a winter hat that keeps a head warm, adequate attic insulation will prevent warm indoor air from escaping. Attic insulation should be 12 inches thick in cold climates.
- Storm doors and windows should be installed to insulate the house and protect against bad weather.
- Test the furnace by raising the temperature on the thermostat. If it does not respond to the adjustment quickly it might be broken.
- Replace the air filter if it’s dirty.
- If the furnace is equipped with an oil or propane tank, the tank should be full.
- Use a hose to remove leaves and other debris from the outdoor condensing unit, if the home is equipped with one. Protect the unit with a breathable waterproof cover to prevent rusting and freezing of its components.
- Remove and store window air conditioners when they are no longer needed. Cold air can damage their components and enter the house through openings between the air conditioner and the windowpane.
- Ceiling fans can be reversed in order to warm air trapped beneath the ceiling to recirculate. A fan has been reversed if it spins clockwise.
- The chimney should be inspected for nesting animals trying to escape the cold. Squirrels and raccoons have been known to enter chimneys for this reason.
- The damper should open and close with ease. Smoke should rise up the chimney when the damper is open. If it doesn’t, this means that there is an obstruction in the chimney that must be cleared before the fireplace can be used.
- A chimney-cleaning service professional should clean the chimney if it has not been cleaned for several years.
- The damper should be closed when the fireplace is not in use. An open damper might not be as obvious to the homeowner as an open window, but it can allow a significant amount of warm air to escape.
- Glass doors can be installed in fireplaces and wood stoves to provide an extra layer of insulation.
- If debris is left in gutters, it can get wet and freeze, permitting the formation of ice dams that prevent water from draining. This added weight has the potential to cause damage to gutters. Also, trapped water in the gutter can enter the house and lead to the growth of mold. For these reasons, leaves, pine needles, and all other debris must be cleared from gutters. This can be done by hand or with a hose.
- Missing shingles should be replaced.
- Patio furniture should be covered.
- If there is a deck, it might need an extra coat of sealer.
If you are leaving for extended periods of time and want us to check on the home during your absence, we are happy to help. As always, let us know if you have any questions about how to care for your home.
Greetings from Prescott Valley, Arizona. Just want you to know that we are always here for you if you need a home inspection done, whether it is a holiday of not, and we look forward to working with you in the new year! In the meantime, from all of us here at Sonoran Property Inspections (and by all of us I mean Jerry, Pam, and the Golden Retriever!) we wish you a warm and happy holiday season, and a peaceful and prosperous new year! All we need now is just a little snow.