Roosting Risks: The Unexpected Dangers of Bird Nests Near Your Home

By Terri Williams | Jun 4, 2019

birds-nest
gemredding/iStock

Spring is nesting season for most North American birds, which means they’ll be chirping, making nests, and laying eggs. Unless you still have nightmares after watching Alfred Hitchcock’s classic horror thriller “The Birds,” our feathered friends are typically enjoyable to watch and listen to.

However, if birds decide to build a nest adjacent to your home, you may end up with your own horror story. Why? Nesting birds can cause more damage than you might imagine. Here’s what you need to know about the dangers of having a bird nest on or around your property.

Why do birds build nests near houses?

You may be surprised to learn that birds often want to nest very close to houses—as opposed to, say, the woods. “They want a protected location: protection from predators and from extreme temperatures caused by direct sunlight,” says Dirk Van Vuren, professor of wildlife biology in the Department of Wildlife, Fish, and Conservation Biology at the University of California, Davis.

Some species are more likely to become home invaders than others. “Small birds, such as sparrows and starlings, love to nest in protected areas or gaps in siding, behind shutters, openings in conduit, dryer vents, under decks, and even on light fixtures,” says Kim Lewis, division manager of bird management services for Ehrlich Pest Control.

A bird nest may seem like a harmless thing to have near your house, but it can actually lead to some big problems. Like what, you ask?

Nests are seriously messy

According to Van Buren, the main disadvantage is that nests are, quite frankly, a big mess. “If the nest is made of grass and twigs, debris will appear below the nest,” he says. Also, eggs and baby birds can fall out, and dealing with them may be difficult for homeowners.

Birds can carry diseases

Sadly, birds tend not to wear diapers or get vaccinated, so having them or their fecal droppings near the home can be toxic. “Birds and bird droppings can carry many pathogens that are harmful to humans,” Lewis says. For example, dried bird droppings contain a fungus, histoplasmosis, that can cause respiratory diseases. Salmonellosis is another disease carried in bird droppings, and can be transmitted through air conditioners when birds are close to your HVAC.

“Droppings, debris, and dead baby birds can be a problem on decks, windows, and areas below, requiring regular cleanup,” Lewis says. Children (and dogs) like to snatch up up whatever they find on the ground, so this can compound the problems.

Nesting birds can cause physical damage

Once birds have taken up temporary residence, they can sometimes wreak havoc on your vehicles, roof, and your home’s exterior. “While not all birds are pests, some species—like starlings and pigeons—can be,” says Chelle Hartzer, an entomologist for Orkin.

“Bird droppings can corrode metal and concrete, while debris or feathers from nests can clog drains and gutters,” Hartzer says. Those clogs can lead to problems with your roof, basement, and foundation, and when birds get in your attic, they can destroy your insulation.

Nests can clog your dryer vents

Dryer fires cause $35 million a year in damage, and many incidents result from a failure to clean the dryer and remove lint from the traps, vents, and surrounding areas. “Birds will often nest in dryer vents, which restricts airflow and causes lint buildup,” says Jason Kapica, president of Dryer Vent Wizard.

So how on earth are you supposed to know if you have a nest in your dryer vent? You can probably see signs outside your home, but there are other clues as well. “Dryer efficiency depends on proper air flow through the vent system, and a bird or rodent nest will drastically impede this air flow,” Kapica explains. Another clue is if your dryer shuts off during a cycle because it’s overheating. “These issues can cause wear and tear on your machine and add anywhere from $18 to $24 a month to your energy bill,” he says.

How to stop birds from nesting

There are several steps that you can take to dissuade birds from building a nest in or around your home. Bird spikes are considered a humane solution that can be used to keep them off your house gutters and light fixtures.

However, Van Vuren concedes that inducing birds to nest elsewhere can be difficult, especially if nesting season is already underway. “Most domestic bird species in the U.S. are protected by federal or state laws, and it is against the law to interfere or disturb their nests during nesting season or harm the birds,” says Lewis. She recommends contacting a bird management professional to ensure that you’re following the laws.

Outside nesting season, Lewis recommends using a combination of approaches. “Use visual deterrents, like flashers, Mylar tape, decals on windows, and lights at night to help deter birds away from your property.”

You can also try to “nest-proof” your home. “This may include installing dryer-vent screens, chimney caps, or using sheet metal to seal openings in siding,” Lewis says.

Claim your home and get tips on remodeling and design inspiration.

Terri Williams is a journalist who has written for USA Today, Yahoo, the Economist, U.S. News and World Report, and the Houston Chronicle.

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Windows are Vital to Survival, but Keep Safety in Mind

The National Safety Council eliminates preventable deaths at work, in homes and communities, and on the road through leadership, research, education and advocacy.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reminds everyone that it only takes 5 minutes to prevent a child from falling out a window.

Windows rank as one of the top five hidden hazards in the home.

Falls from windows are more common than people might think. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, about eight children under age 5 die each year from falling out a window, and more than 3,300 are injured seriously enough to go to the hospital.

The Window Safety Task Force offers these suggestions to help protect children:

  • Teach children to play area away from windows
  • Teach caregivers and children that screens keep bugs out, but they do not keep children in
  • For any windows that are 6 feet or higher from the ground, install window stops or guards that meet ASTM standards – limiting windows to opening less than 4 inches
  • Keep windows closed and locked when not in use
  • Keep furniture or anything a child can climb away from windows
  • Always supervise children and ask about window safety when your child visits other homes
  • For a double-hung window on an upper floor, install a window guard or stop that keeps children from pushing the bottom window open
  • Lessen the potential impact of injury from a fall through strategic landscaping – use of wood chips, grass or shrubs beneath windows

Corded Window Coverings Can Cause Strangulation

Loose or looped window covering cords pose a strangulation risk to children. According to the CPSC, about eight children die each year after becoming entangled in a window covering cord.

Use only cordless window coverings or those with inaccessible cords in homes with young children. The Best for Kids Program, launched by the Window Covering Manufacturers Association, identifies window covering products that are best suited for use in homes with young children.

Free retrofit kits are available through the Window Covering Safety Council when replacement of older corded window coverings is not an option.

A Window Could be Your Lifeline in an Emergency

Windows can save lives when used as emergency escape routes.

According to most residential building codes, bedrooms and other sleeping areas must have a secondary means of escape in case of fire or smoke, and that exit is often a window. Just having windows designated for escape is not enough; they also must be safe and accessible.

The Window Safety Task Force offers the following tips to help protect your family:

  • Make sure at least one window in each bedroom meets escape requirements, and incorporate windows into your home fire escape plan
  • Make sure windows are not nailed or painted shut
  • Make certain that window stops, guards, security bars, grilles and grates have a release mechanism
  • Do not install window unit air conditioners in windows that may be needed for escape

© Copyright 2019 National Safety Council – All Rights Reserved.

6 Backyard Fire-Pit Safety Precautions to Keep You Safe All Summer Long

Anayat Durrani is a reporter for U.S. News and World Report.

Fireflies. Backyard parties. S’mores. Warm summer nights in your yard around the fire pit can make for wonderful memories with family and friends. And this outdoor feature is still just as popular as ever. In its Residential Landscape Architecture Trends Survey, the American Society of Landscape Architects found that fire pits and fireplaces are the most requested outdoor design addition, according to the 800 landscape architects who were surveyed.

For many homeowners, fire pits are a focal point of summer evening entertaining, which is why it’s so important to make safety around your fire pit a priority. Here are some tips to ensure everyone stays safe this summer.

1. Get approval from your local authorities

The last thing you want to do is sink a bunch of money into a fire pit and discover that it’s not permitted in your area. Some cities put restrictions on when—or even if—people are allowed to have open fires.

“Local weather and air quality conditions may make it dangerous to start fires at certain times, both for the potential to ignite a wildfire and the potential for worsening air quality that can impact people’s health,” says Michele Steinberg, wildfire division director for the National Fire Protection Association.

To make sure you’re in compliance and not creating a potential hazard, Steinberg advises homeowners to check with their local fire department or municipality for any restrictions before burning.

2. Place it in the right spot

Fire pits can add to the beauty and relaxing ambiance of any backyard. But finding the right spot for your fire pit (flat, spacious, not too close to the house) is the first step in safety.

“Fire pits should be at least 10 feet away from the house or any structure,” says Steinberg.

It’s also not wise to place a portable fire pit on a wooden deck. You should also consider the direction the wind blows in your yard; strong winds could create a fire hazard.

3. Use the right type of wood

Once you have your fire pit, you’re going to be itching to try it out. But fire pit owners should make sure they use the right kind of wood—they’re not all the same. Experts recommend against burning pressurized wood, because it may contain toxins that, when ignited, can release noxious fumes. Using seasoned hardwood like oak, maple, cherry, or hickory is recommended.

As for the stuff that should stay far away from your fire pit, Steinberg says you should never burn plastics, construction debris, treated lumber, or tires, because these materials contain toxins that can be harmful to people and animals when burned.

4. Light it right

Lighting a fire pit allows you to enjoy its warm glow under the twinkling stars. But, when you fire up your pit, you should take extra precautions. You can’t just throw gasoline on it and hope for the best, because the fire could get out of control. Instead, experts recommend using a commercial fire starter stick and kindling.

“One should never, ever use gasoline, kerosene, or other flammable or combustible liquids on fires in fire pits or campfires,” says Steinberg.

5. Get a screen

Burning any fire at home, even outside, comes with risks, but using screens can help prevent an injury from flying sparks. Some municipalities even require homeowners to use fire-pit screens on top of open flames. For example, Woodbridge Township in New Jersey requires fire pits to be covered by wire mesh or some other screening material.

Fire-pit owners should select cast-iron or steel fire-pit screens to keep the fire contained.

6. Look into insurance

In some parts of the United States—particularly regions prone to wildfire—homeowners have to disclose their fire pit to their insurance company. Before you invest in an outdoor fire feature, check with your insurance agent what impact a fire pit may have on your homeowner policy and whether you need to increase your coverage limits. This also includes reviewing liability insurance, should one of your guests be injured or a neighbor’s property damaged by the fire pit.

Farmers Insurance spokesman Trevor Chapman says the possibility of costly legal action is a big reason why it’s important that a fire pit be properly installed, or built to code.

In addition, Chapman advises that fire pit owners have an easily accessible fire extinguisher on hand, and that they consider establishing rules for use of the fire pit, particularly with children in the house.

Anayat Durrani is a reporter for U.S. News and World Report. A versatile journalist, her work has been featured in Military Officer Magazine, California Lawyer Magazine, American Scholar Magazine, PracticeLink magazine and more.

Safety Guidelines for Home Pools

Swimming pools should always be happy places. Unfortunately, each year thousands of American families confront swimming pool tragedies, drownings and near-drownings of young children. At InterNACHI, we want to prevent these tragedies. These are guidelines for pool barriers that can help prevent most submersion incidents involving young children. These guidelines are not intended as the sole method to minimize pool drowning of young children, but include helpful safety tips for safer pools.

Each year, hundreds of young children die and thousands come close to death due to submersion in residential swimming pools. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has estimated that each year, about 300 children under the age of 5 drown in swimming pools. Hospital emergency-room treatment is required for more than 2,000 children under 5 who were submerged in residential pools. The CPSC did an extensive study of swimming pool accidents, both fatal drownings and near-fatal submersions, in California, Arizona and Florida — states in which home swimming pools are very popular and used during much of the year.

  • In California, Arizona and Florida, drowning was the leading cause of accidental death in and around the home for children under the age of 5.
  • Seventy-five percent of the children involved in swimming pool submersion or drowning accidents were between 1 and 3 years old. 
  • Boys between 1 and 3 were the most likely victims of fatal drownings and near-fatal submersions in residential swimming pools. 
  • Most of the victims were in the presence of one or both parents when the swimming pool accident occurred. 
  • Nearly half of the child victims were last seen in the house before the pool accident occurred. In addition, 23% of the accident victims were last seen on the porch or patio, or in the yard. 
  • This means that 69% of the children who became victims in swimming pool accidents were not expected to be in or at the pool, but were found drowned or submerged in the water. 
  • Sixty-five percent of the accidents occurred in a pool owned by the victim’s immediate family, and 33% of the accidents occurred in pools owned by relatives or friends. 
  • Fewer than 2% of the pool accidents were the result of children trespassing on property where they didn’t live or belong. 
  • Seventy-seven percent of the swimming pool accident victims had been missing for five minutes or less when they were found in the pool, drowned or submerged. 

The speed with which swimming pool drownings and submersions can occur is a special concern: by the time a child’s absence is noted, the child may have drowned. Anyone who has cared for a toddler knows how fast young children can move. Toddlers are inquisitive and impulsive, and lack a realistic sense of danger. These behaviors, coupled with a child’s ability to move quickly and unpredictably, make swimming pools particularly hazardous for households with young children.
 Swimming pool drownings of young children have another particularly insidious feature: these are silent deaths. It is unlikely that splashing or screaming will occur to alert a parent or caregiver that a child is in trouble. The best way to reduce child drownings in residential pools is for pool owners to construct and maintain barriers that prevent young children from gaining access to pools. However, there are no substitutes for diligent supervision.Why the Swimming Pool Guidelines Were Developed Young child can get over a pool barrier if the barrier is too low, or if the barrier has handholds or footholds for a child to use for climbing. The guidelines recommend that the top of a pool barrier be at least 48 inches above grade, measured on the side of the barrier which faces away from the swimming pool. Eliminating handholds and footholds, and minimizing the size of openings in a barrier’s construction, can prevent inquisitive children from climbing pool barriers. For a solid barrier, no indentations or protrusions should be present, other than normal construction tolerances and masonry joints. For a barrier (fence) made up of horizontal and vertical members, if the distance between the tops of the horizontal members is less than 45 inches, the horizontal members should be on the swimming pool-side of the fence. The spacing of the vertical members should not exceed 1-3/4 inches. This size is based on the foot-width of a young child, and is intended to reduce the potential for a child to gain a foothold. If there are any decorative cutouts in the fence, the space within the cutouts should not exceed 1-3/4 inches. The definition of pool includes spas and hot tubs. The swimming pool-barrier guidelines, therefore, apply to these structures, as well as to conventional swimming pools. How to Prevent a Child from Getting OVER a Pool Barrier A successful pool barrier prevents a child from getting OVER, UNDER or THROUGH, and keeps the child from gaining access to the pool except when supervising adults are present.The Swimming Pool-Barrier Guidelines If the distance between the tops of the horizontal members is more than 45 inches, the horizontal members can be on the side of the fence facing away from the pool. The spacing between vertical members should not exceed 4 inches. This size is based on the head-breadth and chest depth of a young child, and is intended to prevent a child from passing through an opening. Again, if there are any decorative cutouts in the fence, the space within the cutouts should not exceed 1-3/4 inches.

For a chain-link fence, the mesh size should not exceed 1-1/4 inches square, unless slats fastened at the top or bottom of the fence are used to reduce mesh openings to no more than 1-3/4 inches.For a fence made up of diagonal members (lattice work), the maximum opening in the lattice should not exceed 1-3/4 inches. Above-ground pools should have barriers. The pool structure itself can sometimes serves as a barrier, or a barrier can be mounted on top of the pool structure. Then, there are two possible ways to prevent young children from climbing up into an above-ground pool. The steps or ladder can be designed to be secured, locked or removed to prevent access, or the steps or ladder can be surrounded by a barrier, such as those described above. For any pool barrier, the maximum clearance at the bottom of the barrier should not exceed 4 inches above grade, when the measurement is done on the side of the barrier facing away from the pool. 

If an above-ground pool has a barrier on the top of the pool, the maximum vertical clearance between the top of the pool and the bottom of the barrier should not exceed 4 inches. Preventing a child from getting through a pool barrier can be done by restricting the sizes of openings in a barrier, and by using self-closing and self-latching gates.To prevent a young child from getting through a fence or other barrier, all openings should be small enough so that a 4-inch diameter sphere cannot pass through. This size is based on the head- breadth and chest-depth of a young child.Gates

There are two kinds of gates which might be found on a residential property. Both can play a part in the design of a swimming pool barrier. Pedestrian gates are the gates people walk through. Swimming pool barriers should be equipped with a gate or gates which restrict access to the pool. A locking device should be included in the gate’s design. Gates should open out from the pool and should be self-closing and self-latching. If a gate is properly designed, even if the gate is not completely latched, a young child pushing on the gate in order to enter the pool area will at least close the gate and may actually engage the latch. When the release mechanism of the self-latching device is less than 54 inches from the bottom of the gate, the release mechanism for the gate should be at least 3 inches below the top of the gate on the side facing the pool. Placing the release mechanism at this height prevents a young child from reaching over the top of a gate and releasing the latch. Also, the gate and barrier should have no opening greater than 1/2-inch within 18 inches of the latch release mechanism. This prevents a young child from reaching through the gate and releasing the latch.  Other gates should be equipped with self-latching devices. The self-latching devices should be installed as described for pedestrian gates.How to Prevent a Child from Getting UNDER or THROUGH a Pool Barrier In many homes, doors open directly onto the pool area or onto a patio which leads to the pool. In such cases, the wall of the house is an important part of the pool barrier, and passage through any doors in the house wall should be controlled by security measures. The importance of controlling a young child’s movement from the house to the pool is demonstrated by the statistics obtained during the CPSC’s study of pool incidents in California, Arizona and Florida. Almost half (46%) of the children who became victims of pool accidents were last seen in the house just before they were found in the pool.All doors which give access to a swimming pool should be equipped with an audible alarm which sounds when the door and/or screen are opened. The alarm should sound for 30 seconds or more within seven seconds after the door is opened.  It should also be loud, at least 85 decibels, when measured 10 feet away from the alarm mechanism. The alarm sound should be distinct from other sounds in the house, such as the telephone, doorbell and smoke alarm. The alarm should have an automatic re-set feature. Because adults will want to pass through house doors in the pool barrier without setting off the alarm, the alarm should have a switch that allows adults to temporarily de-activate the alarm for up to 15 seconds. The de-activation switch could be a touch pad (keypad) or a manual switch, and should be located at least 54 inches above the threshold of the door covered by the alarm. This height was selected based on the reaching ability of young children.Power safety covers can be installed on pools to serve as security barriers. Power safety covers should conform to the specifications in ASTM F 1346-91. This standard specifies safety performance requirements for pool covers to protect young children from drowning. Self-closing doors with self-latching devices could also be used to safeguard doors which give ready access to a swimming pool. Indoor Pools When a pool is located completely within a house, the walls that surround the pool should be equipped to serve as pool safety barriers. Measures recommended above where a house wall serves as part of a safety barrier also apply for all the walls surrounding an indoor pool.  GuidelinesAn outdoor swimming pool, including an in-ground, above-ground, or on-ground pool, hot tub, or spa, should be provided with a barrier which complies with the following: 1. The top of the barrier should be at least 48 inches above grade, measured on the side of the barrier which faces away from the swimming pool. The maximum vertical clearance between grade and the bottom of the barrier should be 4 inches measured on the side of the barrier which faces away from the swimming pool. Where the top of the pool structure is above grade, such as an above-ground pool, the barrier may be at ground level, such as the pool structure, or mounted on top of the pool structure. Where the barrier is mounted on top of the pool structure, the maximum vertical clearance between the top of the pool structure and the bottom of the barrier should be 4 inches.
 2. Openings in the barrier should not allow passage of a 4-inch diameter sphere. 3. Solid barriers, which do not have openings, such as a masonry and stone wall, should not contain indentations or protrusions, except for normal construction tolerances and tooled masonry joints.
 4. Where the barrier is composed of horizontal and vertical members, and the distance between the tops of the horizontal members is less than 45 inches, the horizontal members should be located on the swimming pool-side of the fence. Spacing between vertical members should not exceed 1-3/4 inches in width. Where there are decorative cutouts, spacing within the cutouts should not exceed 1-3/4 inches in width. 5. Where the barrier is composed of horizontal and vertical members, and the distance between the tops of the horizontal members is 45 inches or more, spacing between vertical members should not exceed 4 inches. Where there are decorative cutouts, spacing within the cutouts should not exceed 1-3/4 inches in width.
 6. The maximum mesh size for chain-link fences should not exceed 1-3/4 inch square, unless the fence is provided with slats fastened at the top or the bottom which reduce the openings to no more than 1-3/4 inches. 7. Where the barrier is composed of diagonal members, such as a lattice fence, the maximum opening formed by the diagonal members should be no more than 1-3/4 inches.  8. Access gates to the pool should be equipped to accommodate a locking device. Pedestrian access gates should open outward, away from the pool, and should be self-closing and have a self-latching device. Gates other than pedestrian access gates should have a self-latching device, where the release mechanism of the self-latching device is located less than 54 inches from the bottom of the gate.

  • The release mechanism should be located on the pool-side of the gate at least 3 inches below the top of the gate.
  • The gate and barrier should have no opening greater than 1/2-inch within 18 inches of the release mechanism.

9. Where a wall of a dwelling serves as part of the barrier, one of the following should apply:

  • All doors with direct access to the pool through that wall should be equipped with an alarm which produces an audible warning when the door and its screen, if present, are opened. The alarm should sound continuously for a minimum of 30 seconds within seven seconds after the door is opened. The alarm should have a minimum sound pressure rating of 85 dBA at 10 feet, and the sound of the alarm should be distinctive from other household sounds, such as smoke alarms, telephones and doorbells. The alarm should automatically re-set under all conditions. The alarm should be equipped with manual means, such as touchpads or switches, to temporarily de-activate the alarm for a single opening of the door from either direction. Such de-activation should last for no more than 15 seconds. The de-activation touch pads or switches should be located at least 54 inches above the threshold of the door.
  • The pool should be equipped with a power safety cover which complies with ASTM F1346-91. 
  • Other means of protection, such as self-closing doors with self-latching devices, are acceptable as long as the degree of protection afforded is not less than the protection afforded by the above.

10. Where an above-ground pool structure is used as a barrier, or where the barrier is mounted on top of the pool structure, and the means of access is a ladder or steps, then:

  • The ladder to the pool or steps should be capable of being secured, locked or removed to prevent access.
  • The ladder or steps should be surrounded by a barrier. When the ladder or steps are secured, locked, or removed, any opening created should not allow the passage of a 4-inch diameter sphere.

These guidelines are intended to provide a means of protection against potential drownings of children under 5 years of age by restricting access to residential swimming pools, spas and hot tubs. Exemptions A portable spa with a safety cover which complies with ASTM F1346-91 should be exempt from the guidelines presented here. Swimming pools, hot tubs, and non-portable spas with safety covers should not be exempt from these provisions.

by Darryl Chandler

February 20, 2019

To all my Maine friends and associates:

The Maine legislators are proposing to license home inspectors. As most of you are aware I’ve spent over two decades involved in this industry and I am opposed to this as a Community leader as well as a Consumer. I have been involved in this process before in the state of Maine as well as in New Hampshire. The results have always been the same, a reduction in Competition and an increase in price to the consumer.

The legislators who passed licensing do it with the noblest of intentions of improving quality for the consumer and reducing the rate of consumer complaints. However these lofty goals never materialize. There is no reduction in consumer complaints in the States after licensing. The best way to protect yourself from a bad inspection, whether your inspector is licensed or not, is to always obtain proof of insurance. There are processes already in place in the insurance industry as well as the court systems in the state to resolve issues. Believe it or not whether your inspector is or is not licensed the conflict resolution is the same process. So what does licensing actually do? It makes it harder for Competition to enter the industry as well as cuts out a portion of the existing inspectors. This drives up demand for the remaining inspectors and in return drives up the cost to do an inspection due to availability and new regulations.

I have experienced this 1st hand in the state of New Hampshire where, before there was licensing, we would get $300 for a general home inspection. In less than 2 and a 1/2 years after the passing of licensing requirements home inspectors were getting $450. The quality of the inspections have not gone up nor have the rate of consumer complaints come down. This is due to the fact that almost all inspectors already follow The American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) and the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI) standards.

I have been involved in many 3rd party reviews of my competitors inspections and about 95 to 99% of the time when there’s a conflict between a consumer and inspector it’s usually because the consumer doesn’t understand the limitations of the inspection standards. But that the inspector made the right call and reported it correctly.

There are roughly 143 inspectors in the State of Maine but only 18 have passed the national exam. What a massive reduction this could be. 4 of these inspectors actually work for me. I could almost overnight control 22.2% of the market. We have always had a very strong training program at Focused Property Inspections hence the reason why we have so many highly trained professionals working for us.

To prevent this from happening the legislators like legislators in other States that have passed licensing will have a grandfathering clause for those who exist in the industry. To which I say if the industry is so bad than it needs to be regulated why are you grandfathering those that ran it into the ground?

So let’s look at some facts. There were 17,633 properties that transferred ownership last year in the State of Maine. The national average for inspections is 80% which means 14,102 of the transferred properties got a home inspection. Out of those 14,102 properties the Attorney General’s office is telling the news that they only received a handful of complaints each year. Does this really sound like an industry that needs regulation that drives up cost for the consumer? Think about this a 100 to a 125000 in tax payers revenue to run a program to oversee an industry that only has a handful of complaints. In return this is going to drive the cost to the consumer up as much as 50% . If you are a first time home buyer this could be catastrophic to your ability to buy a home using the proper inspection techniques. You see there is no law requiring you to have a home inspection so people will opt not to do the inspection due to cost especially those who need to have it done the most. High end buyers will be able to pay the price and gobble up the available inspection periods leaving the houses in the lower end of the market uninspected and those consumers vulnerable.

I just don’t think that the low incident rate of this industry warrants the expenditure of public funds at an increased cost to the consumer both in taxes as well as service prices.

Now I’m going to tell you why some, especially the less experienced inspectors including myself 20 years ago, supported the licensing of Home Inspectors when this issue came up before:

1. Reduces my competition 
2. Increases my prices.
3. Protects my market share 
4. Makes it harder for newcomers to get into the market.

You see all the reasons why we would support licensing are purely selfish. The reason why we have such a robust training program is because we have robust competition, which drives down prices and increases quality. We at Focused Property Inspections have always trained to the highest level of industry expectations. We have always trained for the day when licensing would be mandatory and have positioned ourselves in the market to be ready for this so we do not fear licensing. We fear what licensing can do to the industry and the consumer. Making it more expensive for home buyers to get into their homes is not good for Maine. We should be looking at ways to make it easier for people to want to stay and live in the great State of Maine.

I could go on and on about this. But I just don’t think it’s right to license and industry with such a very low incident rate. Raising taxes on the backs of Mainers and raising prices for the consumer only to end up with the same rate of incidents that we have today is not a win win. Again 95 to 99% of the conflicts between consumer and inspector are usually due to the consumer not understanding the limitations of the inspection standards. No amount of regulations and/or oversight on the inspector is going to elevate the education level of the consumer when it comes to inspection standards. This is why the incident rate in licenses states does not drop. It’s not the inspectors. It’s the consumer not understanding the limitations that is usually the root of conflicts. The inspectors insurance industry mandates that we use pre-inspection agreements to notify the clients which standards we are following. They signed these contracts but yet still don’t do their research into the standards which identify the limitations of the inspection. A home inspection cannot protect the client from every issue it’s impossible due to the fact that it is a limited visual non invasive review of the readily available areas and systems. The inspector can’t punch holes in walls or rip shingles up to see if there is proper underlayment.

Well there will be more of this to come. Please let me know your thoughts in a constructive professional manner.

God-bless and good luck

Maine lawmaker pushes for home inspector licensing requirement

by Katherine Sampson / Monday, February 18th 2019

STATEWIDE (WGME) — A state lawmaker wants to require home inspectors in Maine to be licensed.

It’s a critical part of buying a house, home inspections can make or break the purchase and help you learn more about the property.

Home inspector Ray Mayo examines properties from top to bottom before they’re bought.

“There’s a lot of things we look for,” says Mayo, “Because you don’t want any surprises.”

As the secretary of the Maine Coalition of Home Inspection Professionalsor MECHIPS, however, Mayo says he has heard from some home buyers who were unhappy with their home inspector.

“We do get complaints sometimes a home inspector missed something or a home inspector came and was paid for an inspection and then didn’t give an inspection report,” Mayo says.

Maine is one of nearly two dozen states that don’t require home inspectors to be licensed, but democratic Representative Christopher Kessler, who represents district 32, wants to change that.

“As an energy auditor, I very frequently go in after somebody has purchased a home and uncover things that a home inspector should have caught,” says Rep. Kessler. “So after that I thought, really, why are the standards so bad, and then I discovered, wow, Maine does not require licensure for home inspectors.”

Rep. Kessler is now taking action with an Act to Require Professional Licensure for Property Inspectors in Maine.

“So the ultimate goal is just to establish a baseline competency for all home inspectors in the state,” says Rep. Kessler.

Owner of Pillar to Post Home Inspectors Brandon Lussier says he’d like to see a licensing requirement.

“There are a ton of great home inspectors out there and there are a good amount of bad inspectors out there,” says Kessler, “So I think having some type of consistency between all inspectors in Maine would be very beneficial.

Darryl Chandler at Focused Property Inspections, who’s been in this industry for decades, has mixed feelings.

“Where licensing has already gone through, what we’re finding out is that the industry is left in charge of controlling the industry,” Chandler says, “And therefore the quality hasn’t gone up, what we’ve found is that the quality has actually gone down.”

Chandler says licensing or not, home buyers have to do their own research.

“One of the first things we recommend people do is to get the inspector’s resume,” Chandler says, “The second thing and the most important thing that you can do when looking for an inspector is check their insurances.”

Look for certifications from organizations like the American Society of Home Inspectors or ASHI and the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors or InterNACHI.

“They both require continuing education credits and you have to pass certain tests to advance in them,” says Mayo.

Also, make sure the inspector has a good track record.

“You want to make sure they have experience, that they’ve done this for a number of years” says Rob Edgerley at Maine Life Real Estate Co. “Or if they’re newer to inspections, that they’re working with somebody that’s overseeing their reports.”

Otherwise you run the risk of discovering problems later and could get an incomplete picture of what you’re buying, something Rep. Kessler hopes his bill will help prevent.

“The main takeaway is that this is not going to be creating new red tape,” Kessler says, “When we look at the role of our state government, it’s meant to help people and protect people.

The Attorney General’s office says it does get a handful of complaints about home inspectors and tries to mediate them, but if a consumer is seeking damages from an inspector’s failure to identify an issue, they are referred to an attorney.

Five Multiple Offer Strategies

Article Credit:

http://www.mainehomeconnection.com/blog/2017/06/16/multiple-offer-real-estate-strategies/

16Jun2017

Posted by Michael Sosnowski

Today we’re highlighting 5 of the best, most successful multiple offer strategies that really work in today’s real estate market, to ensure Maine Home Connection Buyers and Sellers end up with a purchase price that makes sense.

For would-be home buyers, competing against multiple offers to win the home of your dreams can be… more than a little stressful.  Our buyers, sellers, and friends are all curious about how best to navigate a multiple-offer real estate transaction. There’s no doubt it can be difficult if you are not prepared with the right strategies.

Southern Maine is experiencing a seller’s market. Home inventory levels are drastically low and there are not enough reasonably priced homes available to meet the demand.

This frequently leads to homes selling much quicker than normal and often well above asking. It all boils down to the basic economic principle of supply and demand. If demand is high and supply is low, prices go up.

Buying a home can be very emotional, especially when you’re competing against multiple offers. We use these strategies for our clients, and we trust they will be helpful to you, too.

1: Have Your Pre-Approval Letter Ready To Go!

Let’s start simply.  If you are looking at homes with a licensed Realtor® then you should already have a pre-approval letter in your back pocket.  When competing in a multiple offer market, it’s especially important to be prepared! The very first step in purchasing a new home is to meet with a lender, and it is best to use someone locally – and get pre-approved for a mortgage. This should be an amount that you are 100% comfortable with spending.  Too many home buyers that we meet with for the first time haven’t really given enough thought to financing.  This may seem surprising, but it is unfortunately true.

Your pre-approval amount sets the entire stage for your home search. Now you’re ready to get out there and do some serious home shopping, not just some serious home touring. The reason it’s so important to have that pre-approval letter when you do decide to write an offer (and particularly when dealing with multiple offers) is it demonstrates to a Seller that you are a serious, pre-approved buyer that actually has the financial means to buy their home. If an offer you’re competing with doesn’t have their pre-approval letter, you can see how your letter puts you in the stronger position.

Working with a LOCAL lender, especially in today’s real estate market, is more important than you might think.

2. Increase Your Earnest Money

Perhaps 80% of all Maine home buyers had no idea what earnest money was when it came time to write an offer. It’s one of those things that doesn’t get talked about all that often. The earnest money amount in an offer can be a very subtle but effective piece in the ‘multiple offer strategies’ puzzle. Typically, earnest money is between 1-2% of the overall purchase price. On a $250,000 purchase, earnest money would usually be somewhere between $2,500-$4,000 in a traditional real estate market. A Buyer pays the earnest money after their offer is accepted. If you back out or the deal falls through for a reason not covered by contingencies, the seller potentially gets to keep this money. This strategy works if you have the cash available to pay a little more earnest money to show the seller how serious you are about buying their home and winning the offer.

Ultimately, if you do end up buying the house, the Earnest Money will either be applied to your down payment or your closing costs; consider it a small down payment for your new home. Sometimes it literally comes down to just a couple thousand dollars to win the offer–especially when you are in a multiple offer scenario!

3. Be Flexible

This may sound a bit vague, so let’s expand on it.  One of the first hurdles in successfully winning a multiple offer scenario is getting the Seller to accept your offer, not the other buyer. Now that you’ve won and have the house under contract, the next few steps are the most critical in keeping the deal together and ultimately closing/purchasing the home. It’s important to remember that the seller had other options, so be as sensitive and flexible in your future negotiations as possible.

If your offer was contingent on inspection, be selective about what you ask the seller to pay for or repair. The seller is not going to be interested in spending thousands of dollars to fix a bunch of insignificant items that a buyer simply might not like or care for. In such a hot market, where the seller may have the opportunity for multiple offers, he or she may tell you to take a hike. Make sense? Respond quickly to any requests for information and be flexible if things like the closing date shift.

If you are aware of any stipulations that are of significant importance to the seller, try to accommodate them as much as possible. Remember, it’s the house you’re after, not the high efficiency washer/dryer combo or the awesome swing set in the backyard. If there are ways to accommodate the seller without giving too much, do so. And remember, don’t turn off the seller by being too demanding or overly critical of their home. It’s important to remember that, ultimately, the Buyer and Seller really have the same goal so why not be flexible with one another in an effort to reach that goal!

4. Offer More Than List Price

As the buyer, I’m sure you must be saying “There’s no way I’m paying over list price!” In the greater Portland area, as is the case in many other parts of the country, home buyers really don’t like paying the full asking price for a home; EVEN if it is perfect and EVEN if they are competing with multiple offers! The reality is, when you’re competing with multiple offers in a hot seller’s market, chances are whoever buys that house is going to pay over list price. So, if you really love the house then why not just go for it! Try not to get too caught up in the fact that you’re paying over list price. Sometimes Sellers will actually underprice a home in an effort to create a bidding war among buyers. That being said, it’s always important to remember your budget and a dollar amount you’re comfortable with spending. This is where the advice of a knowledgeable and professional Realtor® can be a tremendous asset! In a competitive market, a seller might scoff at being offered the list price for their home if comparable homes have been selling above list. Offer to pay what you think is a fair price based on the research you and your Realtor® have done.

There’s really no way of knowing what the other multiple offers are, so you have to focus on the fair market value of the home vs. a budget you’re comfortable with. We have worked with plenty of Maine home Buyers that actually decided to walk away from a home, knowing that it was in multiple offers, because they didn’t want to blow their budget out of the water. It’s easy to get caught up in “action” and forget that you have a budget. So stick to it and shop smart!

5. Include a Personal Letter with Your Offer

This is by far the MOST underutilized multiple offer strategy available.  Even if you’re not in a multiple offer situation, this is still a great strategy that might save you a little money on the front end and may make for a smoother transaction in general. Buying and/or selling a home is a very emotional process for everyone involved, and, as human beings, we all love that personal and human connection with one another. Just look at all the sharing of personal pictures and videos all over social media. So, why not embrace that connection and include a short letter introducing yourself and talking about why you love the home so much!

Chances are the person selling that home loved many of the same things you do. BOOM! …now you’ve got a connection. Often we see the “selling side” and “buying side” pit themselves against one another like they’re enemies. In every Maine Home Connection transaction, we do our best to bring buyers and sellers together – at the end of the day a Buyer and Seller really have the same goal so why not be flexible and work with one another in an effort to reach that goal? This can be especially important in a competitive, multiple offer scenario.

We hope these 5 tips will help you in the current real estate market both now and in the future. If we can assist you with buying or selling a home, please give our office a call at 207-517-3100. We look forward to connecting with you

 

Why Smart Homebuyers Hire Home Inspectors

Credit: https://www.daveramsey.com/blog/hire-home-inspectors
Any good real estate agent will recommend you include a home inspection clause when you make an offer on a house. That usually means you’ll be paying for the inspection, so you need to know what you’re getting for your money.

The Value of a Home Inspector

A qualified home inspector combs a property’s visible and accessible areas to identify any health and safety problems, positive or negative conditions of the property and any conditions that need further specialized attention.

An inspection includes structural elements such as the roof, foundation, walls, windows, doors, insulation, basement or crawlspace and attic. Electrical, plumbing, heating and cooling systems are also part of a home inspection. It can even include examination of appliances and should also report any evidence of termites.

Once the inspection is complete, a home inspector provides a written, comprehensive report detailing any issues with the home.

Some important things to remember about home inspection reports:

—No home is perfect. It is not uncommon for a report to include 50 or more issues.

—This is not “pass” or “fail.” The inspection gives you the information you need to decide whether or not to buy the home “as is” or negotiate with the seller to either fix (some of) the problems or reduce the price.

—This is not a warranty. The report identifies issues found the day of inspection and cannot predict problems that may arise a few months or a few days down the road.

You Are Not A Home Inspector

Home inspection is another one of those jobs best left to professionals. Few of us have the expertise to identify electrical, plumbing and structural problems. Combine that with the emotional factors of buying a home, and it’s easy to see why potential buyers are not the ones who need to do the inspecting.

With that said, it’s a good idea to accompany your home inspector so you can ask questions and see the good and not-so-good for yourself.

How to Find a Good Inspector

Your real estate agent will probably be able to recommend a home inspector. If you’d rather choose your own, be aware that only about half the states have licensing or certification requirements. In either case, you want an inspector with plenty of experience. Check out the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors, www.nachi.org, for more information on selecting an inspector.

Home inspection fees vary but are usually well under $1,000. Considering how much an inspection can save you by avoiding potential disasters, it’s money well spent.

2017 Greater Portland, Maine Industrial Market Snapshot

by Justin Lamontagne, CCIM, Partner | Broker, NAI The Dunham Group

A “healthy” market is a catchy and common term to describe the current state of the Greater Portland industrial sector. But our experience suggests that the market is only healthy for a select few, primarily landlords and sellers.

For the sixth consecutive year, vacancy rates have dropped. In fact, last year, I called the 3.38% vacancy rate “remarkably” low. Today, that number has dropped a full 100 basis points to 2.32%, which I would call simply “inhibiting”. Throughout the year, we worked with buyers and tenants who struggled to find suitable relocation and growth opportunities. Multiple offers and off-market sales became common, which further frustrated end-users. We coached clients to remain patient, flexible and communicative in this fluid and competitive market.

Accordingly, the limited inventory drastically increased both lease rates and sales pricing for industrial style space. Sale price trends, in particular, deserve a closer look. In 2011, at the tail end of the recession, Class A & B industrial buildings were selling in the $40/sf range. Sales were almost exclusively going to owner-user businesses who were bullish enough to bet the economy would turn. Today, those businesses are competing with a smaller inventory pool, and against investors looking to diversify their portfolios. Quality industrial buildings are now averaging in the high-$50/sf range and we have seen peak pricing at $70-80/sf.

The bright side, and a “healthy” sign of market conditions, is the recent resurgence in new construction, adding much needed inventory. And that trend will continue into 2017 as speculative industrial projects are being built and marketed in Saco, Gorham, Scarborough and South Portland. I expect that over 150,000 SF will be added to our inventory in 2017.  That means busy contractors, architects, engineers, brokers, attorneys, bankers, etc.

New projects do, of course, require higher lease rates, which the market is starting to support.  I predict lease rates will continue to climb for at least another year or two. And, the added inventory will finally slow our plummeting vacancy rates. An important caveat to this prediction is the still unknown impact of recreational cannabis cultivation and retail sales. Anecdotally, our industrial clients still prefer to buy existing buildings when possible. We have advised them to be ready to jump when opportunity arises and be willing to pay a premium in order to win a deal. Therefore, I predict sales price per square foot will again rise, and the gap between existing and new construction costs will continue to shrink.

So, is this a healthy market? It depends on who is asking! On behalf of all us at NAI The Dunham Group, thank you. I hope you find the data discussed herein helpful as it pertains to your particular real estate holdings and business goals.

Originally published as part of NAI The Dunham Group’s Greater Portland Industrial Market Survey, January 2017, http://www.dunham-group.com/uploads/industrial-market-survey-2017_web.pdf

Westbrook, ME – Housing Crunch Creates Construction Boom

 

Housing crunch creates construction boom
WESTBROOK, Maine —While Portland officials address the city’s housing crisis, many people are looking to outlying areas to find a place to live.

In Westbrook, developers can’t build fast enough to keep up with demand.

Off Spring Street, they are building 53 homes and 150 apartments across from a golf course. Apartment buildings that aren’t even constructed are already slated to be fully occupied Sept. 1.

Single-family homes and apartments can’t be built fast enough during this construction boom.

“We have 52 house lots, all but one of which are spoken for,” said Rocco Risbara, a developer. “We have 150 apartment units and of the 150 apartments, we have completed the first 50 and will be fully occupied as of this weekend.”

Campbell Bennie, a recent college graduate, said he searched for an affordable apartment in the Portland area and landed in Westbrook with a one-bedroom unit for $1,250 a month.

“It also has a parking spot, and heat and hot water are included, and laundry,” Bennie said.

Kayla Keene searched in Portland and found it too expensive.

“A lot of the stuff was small for the price or not what I was looking for. I wanted a two-bedroom, so it was hard to find,” Keene said.

It really is a case of supply and pent-up demand.

“There’s been studies done in the Greater Portland market. We had a need for over 6,000 houses a few years ago, and the need has not been met. So we’re trying to meet that need,” Risbara said.