How do you Choose a Home Inspector?

To choose a Home Inspector can be a difficult decision. You have made the decision to by a house. Now you have the task of wading through realtors, title companies, mortgage companies, appraisal, and inspections (and I am sure other things). The realtor, the title company, and the mortgage company all get paid at closing. The appraiser may also get paid at closing. Inspections are paid by the borrower at the time of the inspection. So, your home inspector must be chosen carefully, as they are the ones that will give you the real details on your new home.

Referrals:

Most buyers will let the realtor choose the inspector for them, either knowingly for unknowing. A list of three home inspectors is usually given to the borrower by the real estate agent. Now, if you like your agent, you are going to believe them. But do they really have your best interest at heart, or are they giving you three inspectors that write ‘soft’ reports to help the sale go though. I do know that there are plenty of good realtors out there that do have their buyers best interest at heart, but there are also many that do not.

Asking a friend that has bought a home is a good source for a referral. They have already used an inspector and they will tell you how they did. Ask them how long the inspection took to complete, when did the report arrive, did they explain the major issues, while also listing all of the minor issues, and did they have an understanding of when the roof, AC, and water heater may need to be replaced. Also ask if any problems occurred after the inspection.

Web searches:

The last place you can look in on the internet. Most inspectors have beautiful looking web sites. However, most of these sites all say pretty much the same thing. Here is what to look at when doing an online search:

1} How long does is say the person has been inspecting homes. Most will list 20-30 years in the industry, but not be very specific as to their area of expertise or how long they have been actually been conducting home inspections. If Florida you can get an idea by their license number. Anyone with a high number over 6000 has only been in business a short time. Licensing came about in 2011 and at that time there were about 4000 that obtained their license.

2) How many inspection does it say they have completed. I look at a lot of web sites and normally is see anywhere from 5000 to 15,000 inspections completed. Does that make sense for the years in business? And are those inspections full home inspections, or just insurance inspections. There is a big difference.

3) Look to see what certifications they have. All that is needed in Florida is a license to operate. Be wary of association certifications. Many of them are very easy to get – most only require an online course (one or two hours) and a test at the end. Also see how many hours of continuing education the inspector does every cycle. Florida only requires 14 hours per cycle, or 7 hours per year, which is not very much, especially with the codes changing every few years. Do they go above an beyond or do they only do the minimum?

You should always interview your inspector before hiring them. You want to get the best value for your money, and that does not always equate into the cheapest price. Remember that the bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.

Ask if they know or cite building code references in their reports. Most will say they do not, that they are not code inspectors. Citing code has nothing to do with being a code inspector. It has to do with knowledge of how things are built. They can be used as clarification as to why something was installed improperly. The most important thing an inspector can do is back up what he is calling out with a reference. This will save all parties involved time and energy trying to figure out why something was written.

Sample reports:

You should always ask for a sample report. Most reports are computer generated using industry software. They should be easy to read and understand. It is not only our job to tell you something is deficient, but why it is deficient. We should be calling for repair or replacement and in South Florida, most inspectors will give a cost estimate. If the report calls for ‘further evaluation’ by a licensed professional on every item, why bother hiring a home inspector in the first place. Why not just hire the roof, AC company, plumber, and structural engineer the first time around.

Be wary of inspectors that offer warranties for everything they inspect. Most of these warranties are sort term only and don’t cover what you would hope they would cover, and many come with deductibles. Ask yourself this – if the inspector is good, why should I need all of these short-term warranties. In my opinion all they do is give the inspector a reason not to do a good job. They can rush from one job to the other. Also, do you want to have to deal with a warranty company. If the inspection was done right the first time you may have been able to get the seller to fix or replace those items.

The last thing I can tell you, and it has been mentioned above, is do not choose your home inspector by price. The experienced inspector will cost more, and that is because he has more knowledge. In the end, a good report will list multiple items, Some will need repair, some will need replacement, and some are maintenance items. If you read and understand the report you will most likely be able to re-negotiate for a better price. Many clients have been able to negotiate hundreds or thousands of dollars based on good inspections and well written report. One of my recent clients was able to save $39,000 off the purchase price, and that was after the seller brought in their own contractors to verify what was in the report.

Posted by Bill Siege Florida Home Inspection Team Inc.

Is It Okay to Install Different Brands for your AC system?

AC s;ystemChoosing the right AC system replacement is a complex decision. You will have to take into account installation factors, capacity, efficiency ratings and many other criteria in order to choose the system that will work best for your heating or cooling needs.

When making this decision, limiting yourself to a single brand can feel restrictive. You may think you have found the perfect furnace, but have heard reasons to only buy a brand that matches your current AC system. Likewise, your furnace could be fine but you want a new AC system without being limited to using the same brand as your furnace.

Using different brands of units — often called a “mismatched system” — usually has no major short-term consequences as long as the coils, blower and wiring used are compatible and properly sized. However, you could see marginal losses in performance from a mismatched system that decrease efficiency and could potentially reduce the service life of your HVAC system overall.

Also, in 2007, energy rules changed in the USA that now require higher SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating) and they were raised once again in 2015. In Florida both units must be matched to meet this rating. While this is often ignored, a confirmation of the rating is supposed to be supplied with the system.

Why a Matching System Matters

Your HVAC system is like a conjoined twin. The outdoor unit of your AC only houses the compressor and the condenser coils. The rest of the system lives inside the air handler unit somewhere in the interior of your house. Contained in the air handler is the evaporator, and attached to the air handler is a blower that circulates air. A refrigerant line runs between the outdoor unit and the air handler.

If the interior component of the AC is not connected properly with the exterior, this is the equivalent of having a major internal organ removed when separating conjoined twins with surgery. One component cannot function without the other. This fact means that replacing the outdoor unit will require you to either hook up to the aging indoor unit or purchase a new air handler and evaporator coil system.

Even more importantly, the AC unit and the furnace share the same air handler, usually joined as part of the furnace. If there are problems with the connection, both systems will have trouble functioning.

Why Properly-Installed Mismatched Systems Can Still Have Issues

Even with an expert HVAC contractor linking the two systems, you could still see problems in the long run. For one, the older unit or the one with lower efficiency will decrease the efficiency of the system overall.

To see why this would happen, imagine two dogs pulling a sled. Both get tired, but only one is replaced. The slower one will keep the quicker one from making a difference, bogging the whole system down.

Along with decreased efficiency can come decreased lifespan. The Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute cautions that “when improperly matched, the efficiency and longevity of these systems are significantly compromised.” More breakdowns and an overall shorter service life could be the result.

On top of all this, some manufacturers will not honor a warranty if you replace only one element of the system — i.e., you try to replace the outdoor unit but not the evaporator coil.

So Do I Absolutely Have to Replace Both Systems at the Same Time with the Same Brand?

It is recommended. First, your air handler and evaporator will likely age at the same rate as your outdoor unit, meaning both should be replaced around the same time. If your new evaporator fits inside the old air handler and your blower and furnace are otherwise working fine, you could be fine without replacing the whole system with matching brands as long as it can be connected properly.

You may see problems that can gradually get worse over time, though, as indicated above. In the end, your decision usually comes down to saving some money up front with less installation or saving money in the long run with a perfectly matched system.

Second, if you suspect your furnace will need to be replaced in 3-5 years anyway, it is generally cheaper to have the whole system installed at once and to use matching brands that make install easier and more effective.

Posted by Bill Siegel Florida Home Inspection Team Inc

Investor / Flipper breaking the law

Investor / FlipperI recently did an inspection in Miami. The seller was an investor who bought this home to flip it. His goal was to make $100,000.00 after the sale. All work done on this house was done without permits. He actually even admitted that he had not permits, and stated that it would have been too expensive had he pulled them – it would have cost him another $40,000.00. There are multiple fines that could be associated if the building department gets involved and the non-permitted areas may have to be brought up to current code, which will add to the expense.

My client backed out of the deal. We did not even complete the inspection. Here is a list of the items found to be wrong in the first 30-45 minutes of being on the property:

  1. The front windows had been replaced. There were missing framing screws and the installed screws were not screwed in all the way, plus the windows were not impact rated, nor was there any impact protection (shutters) installed.
  2. The kitchen and bathrooms had been remodeled. Improper piping was used under all of the sinks. He used flex pipe, which is not approved under the Florida Building Code. No GFCI protection was installed, as required, at the outlets, yet all of the outlets were new. Both bathrooms had stall showers installed. Neither of the floors were sloped properly and they did not drain – water remained on the floor.
  3. He claimed the AC system was new. The date plate had been removed from the condenser unit, and the air handler serial number indicated that the unit was a 2007. The service disconnect behind the condenser unit had improper work clearance and was missing its cover plate.
  4. The flat roof was older but did not have any permits on file with the city. There was a missing lead shield on one of the vent stacks, and there was no flashing / pitch pan at the electrical weather head.
  5. A new electrical service panel had been installed with no permits on file. Inside the house there were multiple outlets that were not properly grounded.
  6. The water heater was new and installed with no permits. There was no electrical disconnect within sight of the unit, nor was there a water shut off valve installed.

My client was able to cancel his contract and able to get his inspection fee back. The sad part is, and I am not sure if this is true or not, the seller told my client that he had another buyer, who also had an inspection, but indicated that his inspection passed with flying colors. Either he is lying or the other inspector does not know what he is doing.

Posted by Bill Siegel Florida Home Inspection Team Inc. Miami home inspector

Home Inspections and plumbing

Water Meter

Water Meter

It is important on a home Inspection to thoroughly inspect the plumbing. This starts with the water meter. It is one of the first things that should be checked before starting the home inspection.

The other day I found this meter full of water. The sprinkler system did not function and there had been no rain in a few days. There was a leak somewhere in this system, either on the city side of the meter or on the homeowner side of the meter.  I recommended calling the city first, as they will come out free of charge to see if the problem is theirs to repair. If it is, then the problem in solved at no cost to my client. If the leak is on the homeowner side, they will then need to hire a plumbing contractor to locate the leak and make the appropriate repairs. This could turn out to be a simple repair or the entire line to the house may need to be replaced, which can run over a $1000.00.

The important thing is my client knows about the issue and can either request that the seller fix the problem or negotiate  for the repair to be fixed after they close on the house.

Posted by Bill Siegel Florida Home Inspection Team Inc. 305-490-2513 Miami Home Inspector

Pre-Sale Inspection

Pre-listing inspection

A pre-sale inspection can be an asset when selling, or listing a home. It can show you any deficiencies that might come up on a buyers inspection. Many of these items are small, such as a leaky faucet, improper pipes installed under sinks, or minor electrical repairs. Others can be larger issues, such as a leaky roof or an air conditioner that might need to be replaced. Some issues may be known to the seller, but many times they may not be.

Knowing what needs attention can alert both the seller and the agent of these pending issues that could stall the sale. They could be repaired, or could be disclosed to the potential buyer. This will make the sale go smoother and faster. Also, on homes that are 20 years or older, a 4-point inspection may be required by the insurance company. Any items found on that report will most likely be required to be repaired. If all of this is taken care of prior to the sale, there would be no delay in the closing.

Please keep in mind that no two inspectors are alike. Each may find something different with the same house. This is not different that getting estimates to fix a leaky roof. Estimates will vary and how the repairs are done may not be the same. You want the best inspector possible for a pre-listing inspection to try an eliminate surprises later.

If anyone has any questions, please feel free to give me a call at 305-490-2513.

Posted by Bill Siegel Florida Home Inspection Team Inc.

2007 Condo Inspection

Condo inspection

Improper electrical outlets

Recently I did a condo inspection on a 2007 unit in Aventura. The picture above shows the living room wall, which I believe had been added or modified after the original construction. There were no permits that could be found after doing an online search (other units had permits). I was informed that the unit was the same as after construction, but I highly doubt that.

The picture shows one outlet on the wall. That wall was almost thirty feet in length. Per the National Electric Code, and I know everyone gets upset when a home inspector references the code, there should be one outlet within reach of six feet, meaning the outlets should be placed a maximum of 12 feet apart.

I posted this on another message board and most inspectors indicated that they would not mention the code but only that it is a safety hazard. I was wondering what anyone who reads this thinks. My position is this: if it is wrong, why should I not include the code. The code only clarifies my position and helps my client understand why it is wrong. I am not doing a code inspection and I am not enforcing the code, only using the code for clarification.

If the wall was added or modified after the original construction permits would have been required. If you go to the Aventura building department web site you will see that it is clearly stated that any modifications to the structure require a permits. The flooring may also have been installed after construction, which also requires a permit. Second question to all of you – would you mention the possible lack of permits on your inspection report. As a realtor, seller, or buyer, would you want to know this?

I did mention the possible lack of permits, stating that a complete check with the city could be done. If this is not done and the city gets wind of this, my client could face fines, as any violations stay with the property and not the person. I would rather my client find out before closing so they can negotiate, rather than after closing when the city might get involved.

I am looking for comments on this from buyers, sellers, real estate agents, other home inspectors, insurance agents, title companies, and mortgage companies. Thank your all for reading and taking the time to respond.

Posted by Bill Siegel Florida Home Inspection Team Inc

Do I need an Inspection on New Construction

New construction inspection


Many buyers think that because a home is new construction that they do not need to get it inspected. After all, the city or county should have inspected it, right? This could be the farthest from the truth. Many times the city inspectors never visit the property, as an engineer or architect is allowed to sign off on the work. The following is a quick case study of a recent new home inspection in Miami. The home was permitted in 2014 and we inspected it before it was given its certificate of occupancy for the perspective buyer.

There were safety issues with the pool. The gates did not meet the code for safety. A chain link fence had been installed with the links larger than code allows, which could allow a child to climb the fence. The latch was not the required height of 54 inches and the gate was not-self closing.

The upstairs bathrooms had multiple issues. There was a bench in the master bathroom. Both the bench and the window sill were sloped in the wrong direction. Instead of water running off these slopes, the water collected near the wall and window. Also the shower handles were not sealed to the wall, which can allow water to back down into the wall. and the enclosure glass was not sealed at the wall or threshold, allowing water to seep onto the floor.

There were five bathrooms in the home. One of the upstairs bedroom bathrooms had improper clearance for the toilet. The code requires 15 inches on center on each side of the bowl. This unit had 13 inches. Once again this is a code requirement of the Florida Building Code.

The downstairs bathroom had a bottle trap under the sink, which is not allowed under the Florida Building Code. All other traps were compliant.

Electrically, there was a junction box between the exterior wall and the pool equipment. There was no work clearance around this unit and no way to remove the cover plate. Inside, there was not AFCI protection in three of the bedrooms. Arc fault protection is required under the National Code to be in every bedroom. The bedroom requirement has been in effect since 2003.

One of the biggest issues we are currently researching is the windows. We are in the process of obtaining the building documents to verify if the windows are properly installed. There is a question as to whether or not they were installed backwards. More to come on that. But if they have to be removed and re-installed, it will be expensive for the builder.

This list is just a few of the items on this house. After more research I will make another post. On a house like this research is the key. When you buy a new home you have a choice. You can hire a home inspector to do the basics, but the items listed here probably would not be mentioned. Most inspectors follow their standard SOP (standard of practice) for residential structures and will tell you they are not code inspectors. They will charge anywhere from $400 to $800 (and up) for this inspection and just check to make sure the component of the house function. They will usually spend two to three hours at the house and have a report the next day.

An inspection, such as the one done on this house, requires anywhere from one to two days on site, a trip to the building department to obtain the building documents, further research on items to determine if they were properly installed. This can include obtaining manufacturer instructions and comparing them to the installation practice. This can take anywhere from one to five days, or maybe more. And then the report needs to be written, with the proper code citations. These inspections can cost up to six times the cost of a “home inspection”, but are well worth the time to know what you are buying. No house will ever be perfect. The important thing is that your inspector find the major flaws – ones that may not show problems right away, but will show up 5-10 years down the road due to improper installation practices.

Posted by Bill Siegel Florida Home Inspection Team Inc. 305-490-2513