Home inspection checklist: What you should prepare for

SARAH LI CAIN JUNE 17, 2019 

The seller has accepted your offer on your dream home and you’re ready to move in. Not so fast, though. Before you sign on the dotted line, you’ll want to be sure that your new home is in excellent condition. On the surface, it may look fine, but that doesn’t mean it is.

That’s why getting a professional home inspection is a critical step in the homebuying process.

“The idea is to give the buyer information so that it can help them make an informed decision in the purchase of the home,” says John Wall, a home inspector with Action Home and Building Inspections in Portland, Oregon.

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Man inspecting rood
SLRadcliffe/Getty Images

The seller has accepted your offer on your dream home and you’re ready to move in. Not so fast, though. Before you sign on the dotted line, you’ll want to be sure that your new home is in excellent condition. On the surface, it may look fine, but that doesn’t mean it is.

That’s why getting a professional home inspection is a critical step in the homebuying process.

“The idea is to give the buyer information so that it can help them make an informed decision in the purchase of the home,” says John Wall, a home inspector with Action Home and Building Inspections in Portland, Oregon.

Getting a home inspection can help instill more confidence in your purchase so you don’t wind up with buyer’s remorse. Here’s a rundown of everything you need to know about this step, along with a home inspection checklist that details what an inspection does (and doesn’t) cover.

What is a home inspection?

A home inspection is conducted by a certified home inspection professional who walks through the home and evaluates its condition. Home inspectors generally look at a home’s major components and systems (the furnace, air conditioning unit and foundation, for example) to determine if there are any issues that require immediate attention.

“Think of a home inspection as a non-invasive examination of a property,” Wall says. “They’re not intended to find every possible defect, rather major (problems) as well as safety issues.”

Think of a home inspection as a deeper insight into the home, whether it has been well-maintained or requires major repairs. The results of an inspection can help you decide whether to move forward with your purchase and be used as a bargaining tool with the seller.

“Once you get the report, be a savvy negotiator and use it to sweeten the deal,” says Mark Korr, owner of Korr and Company Home Inspections in Port Orange, Florida.

How to prepare for a home inspection

It’s crucial to know what your home inspector is looking for. Doing some homework ahead of time will help you ask in-depth questions about the home inspection report so you thoroughly understand the home’s condition and what issues need to be addressed.

A home inspection can take two or three hours to complete. A home inspector will provide you with a written report, a contract for service and a consumer notice. Home inspectors typically encourage buyers (or their real estate agent) to be at the inspection to discuss the findings in person and ask questions.

“The report is the report, but if I know (the buyer) a little, it’s much easier to explain the home in your terms,” Korr says.

Home inspection checklist

What home inspectors look for

While a professional home inspection checklist can vary, home inspectors are focused on a home’s physical components and systems — both inside and out. Knowing what your inspection does (and doesn’t) cover can help guide your next steps.

Here’s a home inspection checklist of items that your inspector will be looking for:

Exterior

  • Garages and/or carports
  • Exterior doors
  • Drainage, grading, plants and retaining walls
  • Wall coverings, flashing and trim
  • Driveways, patios and walkways
  • Balconies, decks, steps, porches and railings
  • Eaves, fascias and soffits (if visible)
  • Roof (including chimneys and other roof penetrations like skylights)
  • Downspouts and gutters

Interior

  • Doors and windows
  • Garage doors and operators
  • Installed kitchen appliances
  • Walls, floors and ceilings
  • Duct work
  • Cabinets and countertops
  • Foundation
  • Fuel burning fireplace and stoves

Plumbing

  • Water heater
  • Fixtures and faucets
  • Sump pumps
  • Sewage ejectors
  • Drain, vent and waste systems

Electrical

  • Service equipment, drops, grounding and main disconnects
  • Service cables, entrance conductors and raceways
  • Light fixtures, receptacles and power switches
  • Overcurrent protection devices
  • Circuit interrupters
  • HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning), including thermostats, vents, distribution systems, access panels, insulation and vapor retarders

What home inspectors don’t look for

A home inspector generally looks for components that are readily and easily accessible. Each state’s standards may differ so check with organizations such as the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors and American Society of Home Inspectors to find out the specific requirements for your area.

The following items are typically not included on a professional home inspection checklist:

  • Rodents
  • Landscaping
  • Pests like termites and carpenter ants
  • Airborne hazards such as radon
  • Low-wattage electrical systems (alarm systems and phone lines)
  • Areas that aren’t easily accessible

Some home inspectors offer additional services, such as mold or carbon dioxide testing, but expect to pay additional fees for these specialized tests.

Who pays for a home inspection?

In most cases, you, the homebuyer, pay for the inspection at the time of service. While fees can vary depending on a home’s location, size and age, a home inspection costs an average of $300 to $450, according to Angie’s List.

Where to find a qualified home inspector

Finding a qualified home inspector can be as simple as asking your real estate agent, though it doesn’t hurt to do your own research. It’s best to find someone knowledgeable — or better yet certified — considering a home inspection is such a crucial part of the homebuying process

To find a reputable home inspector, use ASHI’s home inspector search tool or NACHI’s list of certified home inspectors. You’ll find more details about an inspector’s experience and construction background through these organizations.

Next steps

Depending on what turns up in your home inspection report, you’ll have a few options. If the home is in good condition and only requires minor fixes, you can simply move forward with the home purchase as planned.

If the report uncovers major issues, however, you’ll need to consider how serious they are and whether they’re deal breakers. For example, maybe the kitchen cabinets are showing a lot of wear and tear, so that’s something you may need to repair or replace. Assess your budget and desire to take on repairs — consider consulting a contractor or have a specialist come in to give you estimates.

It’s not possible to “fail” a home inspection, but the report could reveal major safety hazards or system failures, such as structural damage or a broken water heater, that could be expensive to fix. You can ask the seller to make repairs or negotiate on the price to account for these issues. If they refuse to budge and you have a home inspection contingency in your contract, you can walk away from the deal without penalty and get your deposit back.

Purchasing a home is probably one of the biggest life decisions you’ll ever make. Getting a professional home inspection comes with an upfront cost, but it’s worth every penny for the added peace of mind — and to avoid costly problems later.

What Is a Cape Cod House? Hint: It’s on the Monopoly Board

By Julie Ryan Evans | Jul 8, 2019

cape-cod-house

Countless Monopoly games have been won and lost over the placement of tiny green houses (as well as slightly larger red hotels, but that’s another story). But if you’ve ever inspected these pieces of plastic, you’d see that they’re actually miniature versions of the popular home architecture known as Cape Cod design. All of which begs the question: What is a Cape Cod house, anyway?

Characteristics of a Cape Cod house

These New England homes are named, of course, after Cape Cod—the place that gave them their start. This beloved vacation destination is located off the coast of Massachusetts and is known for its breathtaking beaches and quaint little towns.

In the 1600s, Cape Cod gave birth to its namesake style of home, which was built to withstand harsh New England winters. As such, cottages in Cape Cod typically had the following features:

  • A simple rectangular shape and small (one-story) size, though some Cape Cod house plans are one-and-a-half level or three-quarter Cape (Due to the extreme cold of New England winters, the smaller the cottage, the easier and less expensive it was to heat.)
  • A steep, slanted, gabled roof (sometimes side-gabled) to help snow melt off
  • A central chimney in the middle of the home (all the easier to heat the space) connected to fireplaces in many rooms
  • Cedar shutters and shake shingles to protect against strong winds
  • Double-hung, multipane windows
  • Low ceilings, which also help conserve heat
  • A simple floor plan with a front door opening to a central hall, offering equal space on either side for living and dining rooms
  • No porch, roofline, or other ornamentation (except for simple clapboard siding, shingles, and shutters) (A typical early Cape home wouldn’t have dormers, though later iterations might include two symmetrical ones.)

Postwar Cape Cod boom

After soldiers returned home from World War II, Boston architect Royal Barry Willis was instrumental in the spread of Cape Cod homes in suburbs across the United States—starting in New England and moving westward. Young families flocked to them because of their affordability, especially during the Great Depression.

Modern takes on the Cape Cod style

The Colonial-era Cape Cod home style is still going strong today, both in New England and other parts of the country. A Cape Cod uses many different construction materials for roofs and siding, and may add features like porches or gables, but it retains the style’s traditional characteristics. Below is a gorgeous example of a Cape Cod–style home with dormers and a chimney in the Pacific Northwest:

Key Peninsula Residence
Photo by David Vandervort Architects

Capes fall into the midrange cost when it comes to building, as you can lose some livable space because of the architectural style (namely, the steep roof and its rafters). Still, it’s considered an affordable and practical housing style for both a main residence or a summer home, plus it features Colonial Revival flair.

If you want the feel of a New England Cape, a Cape Cod–style house may be available to shop for wherever you live. Or at the very least, you can divulge some fun trivia related to Cape Cod–style homes during your next Monopoly game.

Julie Ryan Evans is an editor and writer who has covered everything from politics to pop culture and beyond. She loves running, reading, cold wine, and hot weather. Follow @julieryanevans

15 best questions to ask when buying a house

SARAH LI CAIN JUNE 25, 2019

At Bankrate we strive to help you make smarter financial decisions. While we adhere to strict editorial integrity, this post may contain references to products from our partners. Here’s an explanation for how we make money.

House for sale

Justin Sullivan/Getty Image

Before making an offer on a house, you want to be absolutely sure that it’s “the one.” But with so many options out there, how do you find your perfect match?

Finding the right home involves research, so you’ll need to ask the right questions. That way you know you’re making a competitive offer on a home that you can afford — and meets your long-term needs.

To weed out the duds from the diamonds, here are 15 questions to ask when buying a house.

  1. What’s my total budget?
  2. Is the home in a flood zone or prone to other natural disasters?
  3. Why is the seller leaving?
  4. What’s included in the sale?
  5. Were there any additions or major renovations?
  6. How old is the roof?
  7. How old are the appliances and major systems?
  8. How long has the house been on the market?
  9. How much have homes sold for in the neighborhood?
  10. Are there any health or safety hazards?
  11. What’s the history of past insurance claims?
  12. What are the neighbors like?
  13. How is the neighborhood?
  14. Are there any problems with the house?
  15. How much will I pay in closing costs?

1. What’s my total budget?

It could be a waste of time to start looking at houses without understanding how much house you can afford. There are additional costs to consider other than the sales price, such as property taxes, homeowners insurance, homeowners association dues, ongoing home maintenance and any renovations you want to do.

“With all the other added expense that comes with homeownership like repairs and homeowner’s association fees, you may not see the financial benefits for several years,” says Wendy Mays, a Realtor with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties in Chula Vista, California.

Showing the seller you have the financial means to buy their house is important if you want your offer to be accepted. This means getting preapproved for a mortgage.

“Not only does it give the buyer an idea of what they can afford but it gives the Realtor assurance that they’re showing a qualified buyer a home,” says Joey Sampaga, a Realtor with Keller Williams Legacy One in Phoenix. “It shows you’re not wasting the seller’s time.”

2. Is the home in a flood zone or prone to other natural disasters?

A property that’s in a flood zone or other natural disaster area may require additional insurance coverage. For example, homes that are located in a federally-designated, high-risk flood zone require flood insurance. (Find out whether a property is in a high-risk flood zone using FEMA’s Flood Map Service.)

Likewise, if you’re buying a home in California where earthquakes are common, you may need to get earthquake insurance. Another tip: Make sure you purchase enough homeowners insurance to cover the cost of completely rebuilding your home if it’s destroyed. If you’re underinsured, you could be left footing a massive bill to repair or rebuild your home if a major disaster hits.

3. Why is the seller leaving?

Understanding why the seller is moving — whether it’s due to downsizing, a job relocation or as a result of a major life event — might help you figure out how motivated they are when negotiating. A good buyer’s agent will try to find out this information for you and gauge how flexible (or not) the seller might be during negotiations. A motivated seller who needs to move quickly or whose home has been on the market a while is more likely to work with you than someone who isn’t in a rush to move.

4. What’s included in the sale?

Anything that’s considered a fixture is typically included when purchasing a house — think cabinets, faucets and window blinds. However, there could be items that you think are included with the home but actually aren’t. This depends on your state’s laws. The listing description should spell out any exclusions that the seller is not including, but that’s not always the case.

Make sure to ask in your offer what is (and isn’t) included with the home. Do you really want the washer and dryer, or that stainless-steel refrigerator? Ask if the seller will throw these items into the deal.

5. Were there any additions or major renovations?

In some cases, property records and listing descriptions don’t always match up. A home might be advertised as having four bedrooms, but one of those rooms may be a non-conforming addition that doesn’t follow local building codes. Find out what major repairs or renovations the seller has done since owning the home, and request the original manufacturer warranties on any appliances or systems if those have been replaced. Knowing a home’s improvement history can help you better gauge its condition and understand the seller’s asking price.

6. How old is the roof?

Let’s face it: roofs are necessary and expensive. If a home’s roof is at the end of its lifespan and you wind up having to replace it shortly after move-in, you’ll be shelling out thousands of dollars. Ouch. If the roof has existing damage, your lender may require that it be repaired in order to approve your loan. In other words, if the listing description doesn’t list the roof’s age, make sure to find out ASAP to avoid a costly headache later.

7. How old are the appliances and major systems?

Again, understanding the anticipated lifespan of essential systems and appliances, such as the air conditioner, furnace, water heater, washer, dryer and stove, can help you anticipate major repair or replacement expenses. If these items are already at the end of their lifespan or near it, ask the seller to purchase a home warranty, which can help cover the replacement costs in certain instances.

8. How long has the house been on the market?

The longer a house has been on the market, the more motivated the seller will be to make a deal. This means you might find flexibility to negotiate the price, contingencies, terms and credits for replacing outdated carpet or other noticeable issues.

Many times, a home will languish on the market if it was priced too high at the onset, resulting in the need for multiple price reductions. A listing that shows multiple price cuts and has been sitting on the market too long may give buyers the impression that something is wrong with it. And that gives you a prime opportunity to negotiate a deal.

9. How much have homes sold for in the neighborhood?

Understanding the current local market will help you determine if a seller’s asking price is on target — or way too high. Your Realtor can pull the comparable listing data for similar homes that are currently on the market and have sold in the last six months or so as a basis for comparison.

“If conditions support further negotiating, consider (making) a lower offer or even concessions like asking the seller to pay for some closing costs,” Mays says.

10. Are there any health or safety hazards?

Items like lead paint, radon, mold or other major hazards can be costly to address and hold up your loan approval. Ask the seller to provide documentation if there have been past issues and find out exactly what was done to resolve those problems. If you suspect hazardous problems or a home inspector suggests additional testing, you might need to pay extra for those specialized services.

11. What’s the history of past insurance claims?

Get a copy of a Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange, or C.L.U.E., report from the seller to see if there have been any homeowners insurance claims filed in the last seven years. This report can give you an insight into what, if any, damage the home has sustained from a weather event or vandalism that a home inspection doesn’t catch or a seller fails to mention.

12. What are the neighbors like?

Getting the true feel of a neighborhood can be difficult before moving in, but this aspect shouldn’t be overlooked. Ask the seller what the neighbors are like. Noisy or quiet? Is it a pet-friendly place or are there few pets around? Are the existing neighbors friendly or more likely to keep to themselves? Don’t rely solely on the seller to reveal these details because you might not get the full story.

“Drive the neighborhood and stop and speak with neighbors,” Mays suggests. “Neighbors are an excellent way to get information about the community that a seller might not want to share.”

13. How is the neighborhood?

You can always change a house and fix things you don’t like, but the neighborhood is there to stay. It’s important that you like the environs you’ll be living in for the next 10, 20 or 30 years. Your Realtor can help you find out key information, such as community amenities, crime statistics, school ratings and how busy traffic is where you’ll be living.

Thankfully, the internet is also a great resource where you can research schools, homeowners association rules (if applicable), nearby parks and other amenities. And don’t forget to time your commute to work — which might be a deal breaker.

14. Are there any problems with the house?

Sellers are required to provide a disclosure form listing any known defects, but what they don’t disclose and you don’t know can lead to major issues later. That’s why it’s critical to get a home inspection done by a professional home inspector as soon as a purchase agreement is signed.

The inspection report outlines the home’s overall condition and can help you negotiate future concessions, such as repairs or seller-paid credits, before closing the deal. If a home has too many problems and you included a home inspection contingency, you’ll be able to back out of the deal without penalty and (in most cases) get your earnest deposit returned.

15. How much will I pay in closing costs?

The down payment isn’t the only cash you’ll be forking over on closing day. You’ll also be responsible for closing costs, which typically include loan origination fees and third-party fees for title research, processing of paperwork, an appraisal and other administrative tasks. Expect to pay around 2 percent to 5 percent of the home’s purchase price in closing costs, but that can vary depending on your area.

The closing disclosure, which a lender is required to provide you three business days before closing, will spell out all of your loan fees and how much cash you’ll need to close.

“Once the closing documents are signed by both parties and the escrow company sends it to the lender, the lender will fund the loan,” Sampaga says. “Now you’re a homeowner.”

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Doing This One Thing Before Putting Your Home on the Market Can Help Sell It Faster

By Wendy Helfenbaum | Jul 17, 2019

preinspection
AndreyPopov/iStock; realtor.com

You’ve lived in your home for years and haven’t exactly been on top of regular maintenance tasks. Now, your windows are covered in plastic wrap to cut down on the cold drafts, your ceiling seems to be leaking, and those shrubs you planted to conceal a few small cracks in the foundation just aren’t cutting it anymore.

Hey, we’re not judging! But if you’re ready to put your home up for sale, know this: Buyers and their agents are going to zero in on all those things that need doing—as well as some things you hadn’t even noticed yourself.

So why not get ahead of the curve by hiring a licensed home inspector who can pinpoint what needs fixing?

Of course, most sellers don’t get their homes inspected before listing them, because the buyer usually orders an inspection during escrow, says Marc Lyman, a Realtor® with Pacific Sotheby’s International Realty in San Diego. And who wants to pay for something they don’t have to?

But if you’re willing to invest the time and money, a thorough inspection before listing your property can make it easier to price your home, manage repairs, and even help sell it faster—and for more money.

So what are the some of the reasons why a pre-listing inspection makes sense? Let’s take a look.

It can save you if you’ve neglected home maintenance

If you have a busy life—or maybe even if you don’t—chances are that obsessing over regular home maintenance might not be your No. 1 priority during downtime. Trouble is, letting painting, roof repairs, and other routine chores slide can lead to bigger issues down the road, says Chicago-based Frank Lesh, ambassador for the American Society of Home Inspectors.

“In a lot of cases, people think, ‘I’ve been here for 30 years; the house is fine. There’s nothing wrong with it,’” he says. “But they’re looking at it with rose-colored glasses.”

Instead of worrying what a buyer’s inspector will uncover—and which could potentially kill the sale—be proactive with a pre-listing inspection, Lesh says. This way, rather than being blindsided, you can then decide whether to make the necessary repairs or to account for that deferred maintenance by reducing the list price. Which leads us to…

You can make a bigger profit on your sale

Sure, a home inspection that you don’t have to do is going to cost money. (An inspection for a 1,200- to 1,500-square-foot house in an average market, for instance, will cost between $350 and $600, Lesh says.) But as the saying goes: Sometimes you have to spend money to make money.

After all, if you invest a little more to repair and spruce up anything the pre-inspection reveals, you can justify listing your home at a higher price, Lyman says. Plus, he adds, in most states, home improvement repairs you carry out before selling your house are deductible from the profit you make from the sale.

Sometimes, just knowing that a pro has given the house a proper once-over can persuade a buyer to make a bid (assuming that you actually follow the inspector’s recommendations).

“It minimizes surprises for a buyer, and can give a buyer more confidence in the property,” Lyman says.

You won’t have to scramble to fix things at the last minute

Once a buyer’s inspector submits a report, sellers are usually faced with two choices: If problems are found with the house, they can then either slash money from the sale price, or opt to carry out repairs before the closing date. That often leaves sellers in the lurch, having to get work done pronto—and sometimes paying a premium for the rush work.

After a pre-listing inspection, sellers can research contractors and make the necessary repairs within a time frame of their choosing, so that everything is ready before potential buyers even visit the property.

It’ll minimize back-and-forth negotiation

Buyers often use their home inspection as leverage, asking the seller (that’s you!) for steep discounts based on what their inspector’s report reveals. Not surprisingly, the buyer’s inspection is often where the deal falls apart.

If you’ve already uncovered the issues and addressed them, you can raise the price of your home accordingly, Lyman says. “That gives the buyer less leverage in the request for repair process,” he explains.

Also, in red-hot markets where multiple bids come fast and furious, there’s always a chance that buyers might accept your pre-listing inspection without insisting on doing their own. This can make for a quicker sale, Lesh says.

But make sure a pre-inspection doesn’t work against you

As advantageous as a pre-inspection can be, don’t forget that the inspector’s report could be a double-edged sword: Once you know about a problem, you can’t ignore it, Lyman says.

Sellers are legally obligated to disclose any problems that a home inspection unearths.

“For sellers unwilling to do repairs, their own inspection could be used as leverage to negotiate on price and in the request-for-repair process,” he says.

Before committing to a pre-inspection, find out what other sellers in your area are doing. Your agent can help guide you on whether it’s necessary to sell for more, or if there’s a better—and more affordable—strategy for getting your home sold.

Looking to sell your home? Claim your home and get info on your home’s value.

Wendy Helfenbaum is a journalist and TV producer who covers real estate, architecture and design, DIY, gardening, and travel. Her work has appeared in Woman’s Day, Metropolis, Costco Connection, Garden Collage, Parenting, Canadian Living, Canadian Gardening, and more. Follow @wendyhelfenbaum

Home Inspection: Find out what an Inspector is looking for

Article Credit: https://www.daveramsey.com/blog/home-inspection

Whether you’re a buyer or a seller, the home inspection can make you sweat. Before you get too worked up, take a deep breath and realize that a home inspection isn’t a pass or fail thing. In fact, no home inspection will yield perfect results.

But some inspection reports are more concerning than others, and it’s important to know if an issue is a minor repair or a money pit. Here’s everything you need to know about home inspections!

What Is a Home Inspection?

Home inspections are a vital part of the home-buying process because they help the buyer avoid any surprises with the home they are purchasing. A home inspection includes an evaluation of structural elements, electrical features, plumbing, and heating and cooling systems.

A qualified home inspector will look for any health and safety problems, as well as any positive or negative property conditions. When the inspection is complete, the home inspector will provide a written, comprehensive report that details any issues with the home.

A buyer would be crazy to skip the home inspection. That’s why a good real estate agent will make sure it is part of the home-buying contract.  

How Much Does a Home Inspection Cost?

The buyer pays for the home inspection. The cost can vary, but the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development estimates that it may cost a home buyer $300–500 for a home inspection. That may sound steep, but paying a few hundred dollars is worth it to avoid a costly surprise down the road!

If you’ve been searching for your dream home, there’s nothing like the relief of finally being under contract. Now the only thing standing between you and your perfect place is the home inspection. And frankly, you’re a little nervous. What if it flunks the test?

Home Inspection Red Flags for Buyers

Whether or not your new home gets a passing grade is up to you—not the home inspector—because you’re the one holding the purse strings. So what are some inspection issues that should make you think twice? Here are five signs your dream home may be more of a curse than a blessing.

Buyer Red Flag #1: Outdated Electrical Wiring

With today’s families using more gadgets than ever, it’s important to ensure your home’s electrical system isn’t past its prime. An upgrade may be due if your home inspector finds overloaded outlets or a panel that’s wired with too many circuits. Pay close attention to aluminum wiring if it shows up on your home inspection report. It was used between 1965 and the mid-1970s in place of copper, and it poses a dangerous fire hazard due to the potential of overheating at connections.

Buyer Red Flag #2: Foundation Damage

Do you remember the parable about the wise man who built his home upon the rock? If there’s one lesson we learned from that story, it’s that your foundation counts! Every home experiences some degree of settling. A qualified home inspector can tell you when a seemingly minor crack spells major trouble. Watch out for bulging or bowing foundation walls, which is a sign of structural weakness that can be expensive to repair.

Buyer Red Flag #3: Septic Tank Failure

If your new home comes with a septic tank, make sure trouble isn’t bubbling below the surface. A septic tank that fails can cost thousands of dollars to replace. That’s a stinky way to start life in your new home! Foul odors, slow or gurgling drains, and standing water are common symptoms of a septic tank that needs TLC.

Buyer Red Flag #4: Water Intrusion

Water is often called the source of life, but it can wreak havoc when it creeps into places it shouldn’t. Your home inspector should investigate any water stains to determine if there’s an active leak and to check for the presence of mold. A brown spot on the ceiling, for instance, may indicate a faulty roof, while stains on basement walls can clue you in to drainage issues—and neither are a cheap fix.

Buyer Red Flag #5: Mold

A home plagued by mold isn’t just gross—it can affect your health. You can typically clean up areas of mold that cover less than 10 square feet on your own without breaking the bank. But extensive growth requires professional help. The cost of removing mold from crawl spaces, walls and ducts can easily be thousands of dollars, depending on the scope of the damage.

See a Red Flag in Your Home Inspection?

Just because your home inspector uncovers an issue doesn’t guarantee the seller will fix it. Ultimately, you decide whether to walk away or negotiate with the seller, and a lot of that depends on your budget and willingness to take on a major home improvement project.

An experienced real estate agent can help you navigate the findings and set priorities for moving forward.

Home Inspection Tips for Sellers

If you’re selling a home, you may think that home inspection red flags don’t apply to you. While you may not be weighing pros and cons of repair items like potential buyers, a surprise at that point in the process can wreck a deal. And once you’re under contract with buyers, do you really want to go back to square one because a patch of mold or an electrical issue sent the buyers running?

After working so hard to attract buyers with a move-in-ready home, the last thing you want is to lose a sale because your home inspection turns up a red flag. So, what’s a savvy seller to do?

Shawna Smith, a real estate Endorsed Local Provider (ELP) in Louisville, Kentucky, offers some simple suggestions for surviving the home inspection with your pride—and price—intact.

Seller Tip #1: Know What You’ve Got Before You Go to Market

Surprises are great—just not when they show up on a home inspection. That’s why Shawna says it’s a good idea to get your own pre-sale inspection before planting the for-sale sign out front, especially if your home is in questionable condition. A qualified inspector should perform a four-point inspection of the roof, HVAC, basic electrical, and basic plumbing to avoid a lowball offer out of the gate.

“Make sure you keep good maintenance records on your mechanicals , plumbing and electrical repairs, and you know the condition of your roof,” Shawna says. “The seller does have to either disclose or repair any issues found during the pre-sale inspection, but it allows you to decide if you will price your home as-is or to make repairs to get it closer to market value.”

If your listing agent doesn’t offer a pre-inspection option, be prepared to deal with costly repairs or to lower the price if major issues are uncovered when the buyer conducts their inspection. You may find yourself having to wait until you can afford to fix the problem areas before your home can sell at the price you need to move on.

Seller Tip #2: Know When to Fix Your Fixer-Upper

So how do you know which repairs are necessary to close the deal? The buyer’s appraiser may require certain improvements for the sale to go through based on the buyer’s loan and the value of your home. A seasoned real estate pro can help you make the call, but a few key areas take priority.

The same areas a home inspector evaluates—electrical, plumbing, roof and HVAC—are the ones you may have to prioritize when it comes to repairs.

“The electrical, plumbing, roof and HVAC should be in good working condition when a property is transferred,” Shawna says. “I always recommend hiring licensed professionals for these types of repairs so the buyers will feel confident about the condition of their new home.”

A major fix may feel out of reach if your money is tied up in equity, but you can still bring options to the table. Why not work with your agent to gather a few professional quotes for the repair and offer cash at closing or a discount on the sales price to cover the cost? Giving the buyer a choice is always a winning approach because they like having control over the outcome. It also shows you’re willing to meet them in the middle.

Know Who to Call for Advice

Whether you’re buying or selling a home, a less-than-perfect home inspection certainly complicates things. After all, it’s difficult to tell when to spend the money to fix an issue and when to negotiate a compromise. That’s why you need an experienced agent who can guide you through the rough patches and help you come up with a solution.

Looking for a high-octane real estate agent who can help you buy or sell a home? We can connect you with the top real estate pros in your local market!

Paint Care Inc.

Drop-Off Sites

It’s more convenient than ever to recycle paint in Maine. Since the start of the Maine paint stewardship program in October 2015, PaintCare has set up 117 convenient locations to drop off paint throughout the state. Most of these sites are at paint retailers (paint, hardware, and home improvement stores) that have volunteered to take back paint, and they are available to any household and business in Maine. These stores accept paint whenever they are open for business

Some PaintCare drop-off sites are household hazardous waste programs, either facilities or “round-up events.” These programs are run by local county or city government agencies, often in partnership with the local garbage and recycling company or transfer station. In addition to paint, these programs usually accept other hazardous wastes such as pesticides or solvents.

Most government programs limit participation to households in certain cities or towns. Some also allow businesses to make appointments during during special hours. Businesses are usually charged fees for non-paint hazardous waste, and sometimes they are charged an administrative fee to schedule an appointment. However, they are not charged for paint on a per gallon basis if the agency is a PaintCare partner.

A few restrictions apply: there are limits on how much paint can be dropped off per visit. Also, note that certain businesses–those that produce more than 220 pounds (about 20-30 gallons) of hazardous waste per month–can only drop off latex paint (they may not drop off oil-based paint). When you decide it’s time to recycle your paint, please call the site ahead of time to confirm their hours and to make sure they have space to accept the amount of paint you would like to recycle.

Products We Accept

PaintCare sites accept:

  • house paint
  • primers
  • stains
  • sealers
  • clear coatings (e.g., shellac and varnish) 

The architectural paint products we accept are referred to as “PaintCare Products” and must be in containers that are no larger than 5 gallons in size. PaintCare Products must be in their original container with original label and secure lid. PaintCare does not accept spray paint (aerosols) or anything in containers larger than 5 gallons. We cannot accept open or leaking cans. Please review our detailed list of PaintCare Products vs. Non-PaintCare Products.

Fees

PaintCare programs are funded by a fee (referred to as the PaintCare fee) which is applied to the purchase price of new paint sold in the state. You may see a line item on your receipt or invoice for each container of paint you purchase. The fee is paid to PaintCare by paint manufacturers. This fee is then added to the wholesale and retail purchase price of paint, passing the cost of managing post-consumer paint to everyone who buys paint.

There is no charge for dropping off paint at a PaintCare drop-off site.

The PaintCare fee is not a tax; it does not go to the state to operate the program The PaintCare fee is also not a deposit; you don’t get it back when you drop off paint–a common misunderstanding.

Fees fund all aspects of the paint stewardship program. This includes paint collection, transportation, recycling, public outreach, and program administration, and to manage “legacy” paint, material that has been accumulating in homes and businesses from before the program started.

Effective December 1, 2018, sales tax is not applied to the PaintCare fee in Maine. The fees are based on container size as follows:

Container SizeFee
Half pint or smaller$0.00
Larger than half pint up to smaller than 1 gallon$0.35
1 Gallon$0.75
Larger than 1 gallon up to 5 gallons$1.60

Program Brochure

PaintCare’s program brochure is intended for the general public. To request free paper copies of this brochure for you or others, please contact us at 855-PAINT09. In addition to paint stores, other organizations (e.g., government agencies, real estate agents, property managers, painting contractors) are welcome to order brochures and distribute to others.

Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs)

by Nick Gromicko and Ethan Ward   

What is a GFCI?A ground-fault circuit interrupter, or GFCI, is a device used in electrical wiring to disconnect a circuit when unbalanced current is detected between an energized conductor and a neutral return conductor.  Such an imbalance is sometimes caused by current “leaking” through a person who is simultaneously in contact with a ground and an energized part of the circuit, which could result in lethal shock.  

GFCIs are designed to provide protection in such a situation, unlike standard circuit breakers, which guard against overloads, short circuits and ground faults.  It is estimated that about 300 deaths by electrocution occur every year, so the use of GFCIs has been adopted in new construction, and recommended as an upgrade in older construction, in order to mitigate the possibility of injury or fatality from electric shock. 

History

The first high-sensitivity system for detecting current leaking to ground was developed by Henri Rubin in 1955 for use in South African mines.  This cold-cathode system had a tripping sensitivity of 250 mA (milliamperes), and was soon followed by an upgraded design that allowed for adjustable trip-sensitivity from 12.5 to 17.5 mA.  The extremely rapid tripping after earth leakage-detection caused the circuit to de-energize before electric shock could drive a person’s heart into ventricular fibrillation, which is usually the specific cause of death attributed to electric shock. Charles Dalziel first developed a transistorized version of the ground-fault circuit interrupter in 1961.  Through the 1970s, most GFCIs were of the circuit-breaker type.  This version of the GFCI was prone to frequent false trips due to poor alternating-current characteristics of 120-volt insulations.  Especially in circuits with long cable runs, current leaking along the conductors’ insulation could be high enough that breakers tended to trip at the slightest imbalance.  Since the early 1980s, ground-fault circuit interrupters have been built into outlet receptacles, and advances in design in both receptacle and breaker types have improved reliability while reducing instances of “false trips,” known as nuisance-tripping. 

NEC Requirements for GFCIs

The National Electrical Code (NEC) has included recommendations and requirements for GFCIs in some form since 1968, when it first allowed for GFCIs as a method of protection for underwater swimming pool lights.  Throughout the 1970s, GFCI installation requirements were gradually added for 120-volt receptacles in areas prone to possible water contact, including bathrooms, garages, and any receptacles located outdoors.

The 1980s saw additional requirements implemented.  During this period, kitchens and basements were added as areas that were required to have GFCIs, as well as boat houses, commercial garages, and indoor pools and spas.  New requirements during the ’90s included crawlspaces, wet bars and rooftops.  Elevator machine rooms, car tops and pits were also included at this time.  In 1996, GFCIs were mandated for all temporary wiring for construction, remodeling, maintenance, repair, demolition and similar activities and, in 1999, the NEC extended GFCI requirements to carnivals, circuses and fairs.

The 2008 NEC contains additional updates relevant to GFCI use, as well as some exceptions for certain areas.  The 2008 language is presented here for reference.

2008 NEC on GFCIs

100.1 Definition

100.1  Definitions. Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupter. A device intended for the protection of personnel that functions to de-energize a circuit or portion thereof within an established period of time when a current to ground exceeds the values established for a Class A device.

FPN: Class A ground-fault circuit interrupters trip when the current to ground has a value in the range of 4 mA to 6 mA.  For further information, see UL 943, standard for Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupters.

210.8(A)&(B)  Protection for Personnel

210.8 Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupter Protection for Personnel.

(A)  Dwelling Units. All 125-volt, single-phase, 15- and 20-ampere receptacles installed in the locations specified in (1) through (8) shall have ground-fault circuit-interrupter protection for personnel.(1)   bathrooms;

(2)   garages, and also accessory buildings that have a floor located at or below grade level not intended as habitable rooms and limited to storage areas, work areas, and areas of similar use;

Exception No. 1: Receptacles not readily accessible.

Exception No. 2: A single receptacle or a duplex receptacle for two appliances that, in normal use, is not easily moved from one place to another and that is cord-and-plug connected in accordance with 400.7(A)(6), (A)(7), or (A)(8).

Receptacles installed under the exceptions to 210.8(A)(2) shall not be considered as meeting the requirements of 210.52(G)

(3)   outdoors;

Exception: Receptacles that are not readily accessible and are supplied by a dedicated branch circuit for electric snow melting or deicing equipment shall be permitted to be installed in accordance with the applicable provisions of Article 426.

(4)   crawlspaces at or below grade level.

Exception No. 1: Receptacles that are not readily accessible.

Exception No. 2:  A single receptacle or a duplex receptacle for two appliances that, in normal use, is not easily moved from one place to another and that is cord-and-plug connected in accordance with 400.7(A)(6), (A)(7), or (A)(8).

Exception No. 3: A receptacle supplying only a permanently installed fire alarm or burglar alarm system shall not be required to have ground-fault circuit interrupter protection.

Receptacles installed under the exceptions to 210.8(A)(2) shall not be considered as meeting the requirements of 210.52(G)

(6)   kitchens, where the receptacles are installed to serve the countertop surfaces;

(7)   wet bar sinks, where the receptacles are installed to serve the countertop surfaces and are located within 6 feet (1.8 m) of the outside edge of the wet bar sink;

(8)   boathouses;

(B) Other Than Dwelling Units. All 125-volt, single-phase, 15- and 20-ampere receptacles Installed in the locations specified in (1), (2), and (3) shall have ground-fault circuit interrupter protection for personnel:

(1)   bathrooms;

(2)   rooftops;

Exception: Receptacles that are not readily accessible and are supplied by a dedicated branch circuit for electric snow-melting or de-icing equipment shall be permitted to be installed in accordance with the applicable provisions of Article 426.(3)   kitchens.

Testing Receptacle-Type GFCIs Receptacle-type GFCIs are currently designed to allow for safe and easy testing that can be performed without any professional or technical knowledge of electricity.  GFCIs should be tested right after installation to make sure they are working properly and protecting the circuit.  They should also be tested once a month to make

sure they are working properly and are providing protection from fatal shock.  To test the receptacle GFCI, first plug a nightlight or lamp into the outlet. The light should be on.  Then press the “TEST” button on the GFCI. The “RESET” button should pop out, and the light should turn off. If the “RESET” button pops out but the light does not turn off, the GFCI has been improperly wired. Contact an electrician to correct the wiring errors. 

If the “RESET” button does not pop out, the GFCI is defective and should be replaced.If the GFCI is functioning properly and the lamp turns off, press the “RESET” button to restore power to the outlet.     

InspectorSeek.com

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.