Category Archives: Home inspection reports

What makes a good inspector and a good inspection report

I recently saw this on an inspection report by someone north of Palm Beach County:

Inspection reportRoof has 2 layers on it. This is not a recommended method of roofing for Florida and may present issues with obtaining insurance or financing. • Sagging / buckling on roof decking. • Damaged and rotted sheathing noted. • Recommend roofing contractor to evaluate. In the attic: Evidence of past or present leaks observed in several areas. Tested dry at time of the inspection. Monitor for leaks &/or have roofing contractor evaluate.

If you were buying this home, what would you think of this statement. I would be irritated if this was in a report on a home that I was buying. These statements mean absolutely nothing to someone not versed in construction or the building codes. If this inspector had any knowledge of the codes he would have known that yes, you can do a roof over, but only if certain conditions are met. One of those conditions is the roof decking has to be in good shape, of which this deck was not – that is why they did the roof over – to stop the roof from leaking.

This inspector is obviously either deficient in his education or very realtor friendly and does not want to write anything that would hold up the sale or cause the sale to not go though. It should have been clear to him that the roof needs to be replaced, as it was done wrong in the first place. Recommending that a roofing contractor evaluate the roof does two things. Is shows lack of knowledge on the part of the inspector, and now it will cost the buyer to spend more money to have the roof inspected, which is what he paid the inspector for. With the time constraints put on real estate sales today, there might not be time to get an opinion from a roofing contractor.

But don’t worry about the client, because this inspector is part of an association that will buy the house back for the purchase price, but that would depend on the interpretation on whether or not the association felt that the report had enough information in it that the buyer should have known, or had paid for a roofing contractor to come out and inspect the roof. And that brings me to another whole story. Do you think any buyer really wants to buy a home, pay all of the expenses on the home, ie closing costs, escrow to close, title insurance, and then only be paid back the purchase price, plus having to move again, which is costly.

It is important when you are buying a home to hire an experienced inspector. Do not take any recommendations without doing some homework. Part of that homework should be to review some sample reports from prospective inspectors. The ones that recommend further evaluation on most items are the inspectors you want to toss to the side. That roof should have been written up as a replacement. Based on the size of that home and the fact that there would be an extra charge to tear off the extra layer, a new roof would cost between $10,000.00 and $12,000.00. As a client, wouldn’t you want to know that so you could either negotiate for an new roof, or credit, or, if need be, walk away from the deal if the numbers did not meet your satisfaction.

Posted by Bill Siegel Florida Home Inspection Team Inc

 

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.

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

What is the Purpose of a Home Inspection

Home InspectionThe purpose of a home inspection is to inform the buyer of the condition of the property so that you know what you are buying before you buy it.  It is not to corner the seller with a repair list. All homes have defects. No home will be perfect. What you want is a working knowledge of significant defects before you close escrow.

Many home sales today are considered to be “as is” with the right to inspect. The sellers are not obligated to make any repairs. Many home buyers often regard an inspection report as a repair list for sellers, but sellers are not required to provide a flawless house. Unless specified in the purchase contract or required by state or municipal law, they have no obligation to make repairs.

Some purchase contracts require sellers to correct problems disclosed in a pest control report, such as dry rot or termite infestation. When it comes to home inspections, most repairs are subject to negotiation between buyers and sellers.

In most transactions, buyers will request that various conditions found by their home inspector be repaired before the close of escrow, and sellers usually agree to some of these demands. In these cases, sellers make repairs as a matter of choice, not as an obligation. Typically, they do so as a gesture of goodwill or to facilitate completion of the sale. Some sellers flatly refuse to fix anything, even at the risk of losing the sale. Fortunately, this is the exception rather than the rule. Still, sellers maintain the legal right to refuse most repair demands.

Before submitting your repair requests to the seller, try to evaluate the inspection report with an eye toward problems of greatest significance and cost. Look for conditions that compromise health and safety or that involve active leakage. Most sellers will address problems affecting crucial areas such as the roof or electrical wiring.

Routine maintenance conditions call for a lesser degree of concern and should not be pressed upon the seller. If the house is not new, it is unreasonable to insist upon correction of minor defects. Nit-picky demands can alienate the seller and kill the sale. Your willingness to accept minor problems may persuade a seller to correct conditions of greater importance.

Posted by Bill Siegel. Florida Home Inspection Team.com. 305-490-2513 Miami home inspector

 

 

Seven Inspection Results That May Require a Specialist

Home inspectors have the expertise and knowledge of home building to make sure that a house is going to be safe and livable. They can provide you with important information that can have a major impact on a sale, but they’re not the only ones who may need to get involved in the process.

But even home inspectors have their limits. Some don’t have the qualifications to inspect certain aspects of the home, like the sewer drains and chimney, which is why home-buyers may want to call in a specialist to review trouble zones.

Often paying the up-front costs for a full inspection today, or before a home ins listed, can save future expenses and headaches further down the line.

roofRoofs:  The roof is one of the most expensive components of a house to repair or replace. Roof repairs are costly and can cause major problems. For homes that have shingle roofs, a home inspector will look for shingles that are cracked, loose, or curling. Inspectors will look for leaks, which they can spot if there are water stains on the back side of the fascia. On tile roofs the inspector will look for loose and cracked tiles. A good inspector will crawl as much of the attic as possible looking for stains and damaged sheathing and trusses / rafters. Also, the inspector will check for indications inside of leaks, which usually appear as stains on the ceiling.  In today’s world, you should hire an inspector that uses thermal imaging, as this can show wet areas that cannot be seen with the naked eye. A good inspector will be able to tell you the approximate, if not the replacement date, of a roof. This will help you in your decision, as all roof systems have a certain life expectancy. On a small house the cost to replace a roof can cost $6000.00. Larger homes can be upwards of $30,000.00. Shingle roofs will be less expensive than tile or metal roofs. We always recommend obtaining estimates prior to the close of the inspection period to have a full understanding of the costs involved.


air conditioningAir Conditioning & Heating:
With the new energy codes in effect, replacing and AC system can cost anywhere from $4000.00 to $8000.00+, depending on the size, SEER rating, and brand. It is important to know the age of the system, as most system have a life expectancy of 10-12 years. Once they reach this point, you have to make a decision on whether to try to repair a system or have it replace. Most home inspectors are not HVAC technicians. They do not carry gauges to test refrigerant pressure or leaks. Newer systems may have required that the liquid and gas lines be replaced. These are two things a licensed AC contractor can confirm.
chimneyChimneys: If the roof inspection reveals signs of damage around the chimney, a chimney specialist should give it a closer examination. This is done with the aid of a chimney inspection camera. Inspectors will also look at the exterior, interior, and accessible parts of the chimney, giving special attention to the strength of the chimney structure and the condition of the flue, The Chimney Safety Institute of America recommends a level II inspection on all homes that are sold.

sewer lineSewers: A sewer line is a heavily used piece of equipment in any home that is underneath a property and connect to a public sewer system or septic system. Home inspectors sometimes call on plumbers and specialty contractors to do a “sewer scoping” with a specialized camera. This can show any potential problems with the line. Any home-built before 1975 might have cast iron pipe. This pipe can corrode on the inside. Also, if there are trees in the path of the sewer line, the roof could damage the pipe. Plumbers can unclog the sewer pipe to get it operational again. But if a sewer pipe needs to be replaced, the price to do so can go upwards of $10,000.
termiteTermite: Buyers often pay for a termite inspection since many lenders require a full report on any termite-related issues before approving a loan. Termite damage is something that may be impossible to access because most of the damage may be hidden behind walls. Most termite reports will identify termite damage, but not the extent of damage. A home inspector will also not be able to determine the extent of damage. He can only inspect the areas that are visible and make recommendations for further investigation. Subterranean termites cause the most damage. Door frames and the attic truss / rafter system should be inspected closely. If damage is found, we suggest having more exhaustive inspection done.
moldMoisture and Mold: Every last inch of a house needs to be checked for these potential deal killers. Inspectors will look for physical signs of mold and moisture and take temperature and moisture readings. Once again, you should consider hiring an inspector that uses thermal imaging. This can pick up moisture in the wall that may not be visible to the naked eye. All suspect areas need to be verified with moisture meter. When wet areas are found, further investigation will be needed to determine the exact cause of the moisture and the extent of damage. A lot of the damage may be contained within the walls or between the floors.
permit

Proper Use: Any major additions or alterations to a home need to have been properly permitted for the sale to be legal. The garage that was converted into a home office might be beautiful, but if the inspector finds out that the proper permits weren’t obtained it could negate the deal. Your home inspector, or real estate agent, should alert you to possible additions, conversions, and remodeling, all of which require permits. If you are unsure if a permit was required, contact the local building department. Remember, any violations stay with the property owner and not the person. Once the house closes, everything passes on to the new owner.

Posted by BIll Siegel. Florida Home Inspection Team Inc. 305-490-2513 Miami Home inspector

Is Hurricane Protection Included in a Home Inspection

 hurricane shuttersHurricane protection is vital in the state of Florida. This topic recently came up on one of the message boards recently. A client call a home inspector complaining because there were not enough shutters to cover the windows during Hurricane Matthew. He felt that the home inspector did not do their job. I do not know at this time if the inspector included a disclaimer / exclusion of any kind prior to the inspection with regards to the shutters.

So, is it our job to comment on hurricane protection?

Under section 61.30.810 of the state standards of practice, Exterior components it states: 3.a: The inspector is not required to inspect windows  and door screening, shutters, awnings, and similar seasonal or protective accessories and devices.

So, what does this mean? It specifically states shutters, but then groups them into seasonal or other protective accessories and devices. Hurricane shutters are not seasonal and they are not an accessory. They are required by the building code. If something is required, it is my feeling that we should mention them in  our report. Does that mean that we have to test each accordion shutter or count and / or install the panels for verification. I do not believe it does. But I do believe that we should comment on the presence or absence of shutters and state that we do not test them and to have our client verify that they are all present prior to closing. Our standards state two things in section 61.0.810. The first is that it is not required to inspect those items. That does not meant that they cannot be inspected. I do not believe we have to inspect non compliant shutters, but, once again, it should be mentioned that they are not impact rated.

The next argument comes from our license law. All contractors are required to report on health and safety issues. We are supposed to look out for the health, safety, and welfare of our clients. I believe this covers the presence or absence of shutters. If they were supposed to be installed and were not, that puts our clients at risk in the event of a high wind event. 

While it is not specifically stated in our standard of practice, the standards do not preclude an inspector from rising above the standards and reporting on shutter issues. The problem, as I see it, is that too many inspectors only want to do the minimum and as many inspections in a day as possible. Their pricing structure does not consider the amount of work that really needs to be done. This is hurting the entire home inspection industry, as prices are at the same level as they were 15 years ago.

This is one of the reasons that I charge more than most inspectors. I take the time to verify that shutters are present. If newer windows were installed, I look for permits. If they were installed after a certain date, they must have opening protection. Do I verify that shutters are all present and accounted for. No, I do not. But I put in my report that my client needs to verify this with the seller. If they are not on the property, and are supposed to be, my client now has a negotiation  point. Houses that are supposed to have hurricane protection, but do not, are not code compliant. People are putting themselves at risk by not being protected. 

In my opinion, verification of shutters should be noted in every report, especially for houses that required them by code. 

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

 

Court strikes rule on who may call themselves experts

This article appeared in the Florida Bar News and was written by Gary Blankenship (Senior Editor) on 10/15/15.

https://www.floridabar.org/DIVCOM/JN/jnnews01.nsf/8c9f13012b96736985256aa900624829/23d51bae9dcd168885257ed500443428!OpenDocument

A long-standing prohibition in Bar rules preventing non-certified lawyers from saying they specialize or have expertise in an area of law has been struck down by a federal judge.
But U.S. Northern District Judge Robert L. Hinkle declined to strike another Bar advertising rule that past results used in lawyer advertising must be “objectively verifiable.”
The action came September 30 in a summary judgment ruling in a suit brought against the Bar by the Searcy, Denney, Scarola, Barnhart & Shipley P.A. law firm in response to revised Bar advertising rules approved by the Florida Supreme Court in 2013.
As a result of Hinkle’s ruling, the Bar’s Ethics and Advertising Department, which reviews lawyer ads, has announced it will no longer find noncompliance for claims of specialization or expertise from non-certified lawyers.
“Instead, the Bar will point out to the filer that the advertisement makes claims of specialization or expertise, and the filer may use them only if the filer can objectively verify those claims,” Bar Ethics Counsel Elizabeth Tarbert said in a letter to Bar officials.
Searcy Denney’s claim on objectively verifiable claims was not ripe for judgement, Hinkle ruled, because the firm had only obtained a review of its proposed website, blogs, and social media presence from Bar staff and the Standing Committee on Advertising. It had not pursued an allowed appeal to the Bar Board of Governors.
“[U]ntil the Board of Governors interprets the rule in an unconstitutional manner, the challenge is premature,” Hinkle said.
However, the challenge to Bar Rule 4-7.14 is proper, the judge ruled, because it clearly prohibits a law firm and its lawyers from saying they specialize or have expertise in an area of law unless they are certified, even if the firm or attorneys in the firm have “successfully handled many such cases.”
Under Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corp. v. Public Service Commission of N.Y., 447 U.S. 557, 563–66 (1980), the Bar can only ban such claims if they are unlawful or misleading or if they meet the test that there is a substantial government interest in restricting the speech, the rule advances that government interest, and the rule is narrowly written to serve that interest.
“In our case, the Bar’s position rests on two premises, neither of which withstands analysis. First, the Bar speculates that a potential client will be misled into believing that an attorney who ‘specializes’ or has ‘expertise’ in an area is board certified. But the Bar has offered no empirical or even anecdotal evidence in support of the assertion,” Hinkle wrote.
And if it was concerned, it could require a disclaimer that the attorney proclaiming the expertise or specialization is not board certified, he said, and better educate the public about certification.
The second claim, the judge said, is that the Bar must be able to establish standards to help consumers to discern which lawyers “have special training and expertise” and without standards lawyers would be able to “self-certify.”
“The easy answer is that nobody has proposed to prevent the Bar from establishing reasonable standards. Nobody has proposed to allow a lawyer to ‘self-certify’ or to claim expertise without a basis for doing so. The Bar can prohibit untrue or misleading claims. But this is not what the Bar has done,” Hinkle wrote.
“Instead, the Bar prohibits even truthful claims. Searcy Denney has expertise in mass tort and unsafe product cases, as well as in personal-injury cases generally. The Bar has not denied it and could not reasonably do so. But Rule 4-7.14 prohibits Searcy Denney from noting on its website that it has expertise in these areas.”
The judge added that under the Bar rule no lawyer can claim expertise in mass tort or unsafe product cases because no certification exists in those areas, and no firm can claim expertise in personal injury because law firms cannot be certified, only individual lawyers.
“In sum, the Bar’s ban on truthful statements about a lawyer’s or law firm’s specialty or expertise, at least as applied to websites, fails all three prongs of the Central Hudson test,” Hinkle concluded.
The judge prohibited the Bar from enforcing Rule 4-7.14(a)(4)
.
The ban against using “specializing” or “expertise” by non-certified lawyers is a decades-old prohibition in Bar rules. It was included in the first advertising rules that were approved in 1990, but even before then it was part of the Bar’s certification rules that non-certified lawyers could not make those claims.
Now lawyers who want to make that claim in ads will be specifically told by the Bar: “The advertisement contains claims of specialization or expertise. If these claims are accurate and capable of objective verification, they may remain in the advertisement unchanged. The Florida Bar has made no independent verification of the claims in the advertisement.”
The ruling will also be on the agenda for the Board of Governors’ Board Review Committee on Professional Ethics October 15 meeting.
Searcy Denney partner Jack Scarola said the firm generally supports Bar advertising regulations but feels they went too far in this case.
“We would hate to see a free-for-all with regard to advertising,” he said. “The Bar has the tools available to it within the existing rule structure to ensure that consumers are not misled. Instead of a reasonable perspective on controlling false and misleading ads, they have concentrated on restrictions that put Florida lawyers at a terrible disadvantage in what has become a national and international legal market.
“Florida consumers deserve to have Florida lawyers protecting their rights.”
Greg Barnhart, another partner, said the firm was concerned about its website which it sees as different from TV commercials.
“We applaud The Florida Bar for everything they have done to protect the Florida consumer, but the execution was poor by the Bar. They made it so that Florida lawyers would have been at a terrible disadvantage relative to out-of-state lawyers who . . . can make all sorts of claims on their websites without the vaguest clue about Florida law.”
Scarola also said Hinkle’s language in the opinion indicated he would have ruled for the firm on the “objectively verifiable” issue had he been able.
Cynthia Johnson-Stacks, chair of the Board of Legal Specialization and Education, said that panel will be reviewing the opinion.
“The Florida Bar certification program has proven to be an objectively verifiable means of identifying specialists in 25 different specialty areas,” she said. “The program has been upheld by the Florida Supreme Court and the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has commented on the utility of the program to communicate expertise to the public.
“After additional review of the opinion, if necessary the BLSE will urge The Florida Bar to take all appropriate action to uphold the integrity of the certification program.”
Posted by Bill Siegel. Florida Home Inspection Team Inc. 305-490-2513. Miami Home Inspector