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How to Handle A Home Inspection

Congratulation Buyers and Sellers, you’ve come to terms and now have a contract in place! Now what? Now begins the inspection period, an agreed-upon number of days that Buyers have to hire licensed professionals to come and physically inspect a home.

At Buyer’s expense and Seller’s approval, a licensed inspector is hired to go through the home from roof to foundation looking at the physical structure and systems in a house.

A home inspection can be awfully disheartening for both parties. No matter how well maintained the home, there are always issues that come up in an inspection report. Always. What’s makes for rough sailing is when a report reveals issues that open the door for a major renegotiation or worse, a buyer walking away.

Fortunately, buyers don’t often walk away. What likely happens is that after reviewing an inspection report, Buyers decide what repairs are required for an appraisal, for health and safety reasons, or damage mitigation. Then, using Realtors as intermediaries, negotiate with sellers for the work to be done.

In all my years as a Realtor, I’ve found that home inspections reveal some pretty standard things that a savvy Seller could get a jump on. So I called up Rocky Ross one of our local inspectors, to find out how to navigate a home inspection and what common issues show up in Homer-area inspections.

The first step of course, is getting ready for the inspection.

Q: How can Sellers prepare for a Home Inspection?
A: To make a home inspector’s job easy, be sure there is easy access to the attic, the crawl space, the electrical panel, the furnace and water heaters, plus any under-sink plumbing. It makes the inspection go much smoother when we’re not having to clean out areas to get a look at them. 

Personally, I think doing an annual or biannual maintenance survey is the best way for any homeowner to be prepared to sell their home when, and if, they want to sell. A maintenance survey gives property owners the ability to correct little issues that can potentially become huge issues. Like a failed sump pump in the crawlspace. Or blocked vents in the attic. Those are things the average homeowner doesn’t go check every year. 

If homeowners stay on top of maintenance, they will always be ready for the buyer’s inspection. 

Being a Realtor, I see my fair share of home inspection reports. Not once have I seen a house come away with a clean inspection. I got close a couple of weeks ago, but still, the inspection identified a couple of safety issues worth a discussion on repairs prior to closing.

Q: What are the most common safety hazards you see in your home inspections.
A: Firstly, water heater TPR (Temperature Pressure Relief) *valves* drains, which are required on all tanks in all locations. These are safety valves that will open if the tank starts to overpressure. I frequently find this valve without appropriate drain lines attached. Without appropriate drain lines, a person could be scalded by the steam that is released if they happened to be in the area of the tank. 

Another is anti-tip brackets on kitchen ranges. These have been sold with all ranges since the early 90s. They are intended to protect small children who might climb on the oven door to reach something from getting burned or crushed. 

Railings and guardrails often come up on a home inspection. Guardrails must be in place where there are drops of more than 30 inches in three feet of horizontal distance. Also, the gaps in guardrails/balusters need to be small enough to prevent a 4 1⁄8” sphere from passing through them. 

An important safety item is smoke alarms and CO2 alarms that have been removed or never installed. I think, especially for rental owners, this is something to check regularly. In rentals, I often find smoke alarms or CO2 alarms have been taken down, and I find them tucked in a kitchen drawer or on a shelf. 

Lastly, GFCIs in all wet locations. As the safety standards have been updated, GFCIs are now required in all wet locations, which was not always the case. I find failed GFCIs fairly often, because they aren’t tested regularly, so homeowners don’t realize they are no longer functioning and providing shock protection. 

I feel like, safety aside, there are other issues that ALWAYS come up on an inspection report in this area. No matter the house, I feel like there are a half-dozen issues or comments that I can bet my morning coffee are going to be in the report.

Q: What are the most common overall issues you identify in an inspection report?
I would say: missing covers on receptacles, switches, and junction boxes; Vinyl dryer transition ducts (they need to be metal); missing high loops or air gaps for dishwashers (to prevent water from backing up in your dishwasher), missing returns on handrails and missing kickout flashing on roof/wall terminations 

I used to think returns on handrails were a bit much until the pocket of my favorite dress got hung up in a handrail during a showing. I didn’t see it coming and ever since then, I notice them.

Q: What are you looking for these days that you weren’t, say, a year ago?
A: Kickout flashing is one of them. This one has been a newer concern and caused some frustration between buyers and sellers. Kickout flashing is super cheap, easy to install (unless it’s a really tall building!) and can save thousands of dollars in water damage. 

It’s a 45 degree angle flashing just above the eve on a wall transition. It pushes the water coming off the roof away from the siding and into the gutter. *There are no applications with these transitions that I am aware of that kickout flashing is not required to protect water intrusion and damage to sidewalls* The only situations where kickout is NOT required is when the building is made of brick or concrete. 

Also, Radon. I’ve only done a few radon tests so far, and all have been low level results. It is something I would like to have more local data on. A radon inspection can be added to the Buyer’s, pre-listing or maintenance inspection for $175. I can also do just a radon inspection for $225. 

Kickout flashing is a new one for us. A couple months ago, you would never see it on an inspection report. In fact, the first time we saw it, the local hardware store didn’t know what it was. 

Both Radon and mold I feel have been viewed as ‘outside’ problems. Radon hasn’t been on our radar as Realtors in Homer until 2017 when a listing noted that a radon test had been done. The Realtor community all all took note of that. Mold, too. I’m selling more homes to people from California who inquire about testing.

Q: What about radon and mold? I heard that an inspector just got licensed to test for mold in Homer. Are we seeing a greater prevalence or awareness of it?
A: Radon and mold are both real and mitigable threats. Although some types of mold are visible, many are not, and the presence of these types of mold can only be determined by having an indoor air quality test conducted. 

Ventilation is one of the best ways to be proactive about mold. Verifying that vents in the attic haven’t been blocked by insulation, that ridge vents are allowing air flow and that attic hatches are properly insulated are all ways to limit mold problems. I can collect air quality samples as an add-on to any home inspection if someone is concerned. They are then sent out to a lab for testing and analysis. 

Radon is a clear, odorless, radioactive gas that occurs naturally. High levels of radon in a home can cause lung cancer. The exposure level in a home depends on two key factors: geological makeup of the soil, and construction techniques used in building. Because of variables in both soil and construction, radon levels can be minimal to non existent in one home, and very high across the lot line. 

After the earthquake last November a lot of the guys in Anchorage said they were seeing really high levels of radon in the Eagle River area. That’s actually one of the reasons I decided to get the equipment and certification to start testing for radon in our area. That, and that a number of clients from out of state have asked me about radon testing. 

So far, I have only inspected one property in Homer that already had a radon mitigation system in place. If someone in our area has lung cancer or has had lung cancer, and would like their home tested for radon, I will test their home at no cost. 

I work with a lot of buyer clients and I always recommend that they attend a home inspection. I feel that buyers can learn a lot about the systems of the house they are about to buy. Plus it gives them a chance to ask questions about routine and preventative maintenance. Especially if they are first time home buyers. I feel a home inspector is a gold mine for home maintenance advice.

Q: Do you recommend that buyers and sellers are both there for the inspection? Or just buyers? Why or why not?
A: I strongly encourage my client to be present for the walk through. It’s nice when the client is the owner, so that we can discuss any concerns and repairs before the house goes on the market. 

If it’s a buyer’s inspection, then I leave it up to them and their agent if they would like the homeowner present. As the inspector, it can be more distracting when there are more people present. 

That’s a good point about the number of people at a home inspection. As a general rule, Realtors at our firm don’t attend inspections. A seller client of mine called me during the inspection of his house. He reported that an entire family of 6 and the selling Realtor showed up to the inspection. With the two sellers there, that was an awful lot of people following the inspector around. I felt for that poor inspector.

To find Rocky Ross and information on inspections for pre-listing, maintenance, or home buying, call him at: Legacy Home Inspections (907) 312-0697

How to Read a Home Inspection Report 

  1. Start with the summary of the report and look for any health and safety issues. For example, electrical issues that pose a fire hazard, or leaking roofs that could cause dampness and mold to grow.
  2. Look for expensive fixes. For example: a damaged foundation, a malfunctioning heating system, or visible water damage.
  3. Don’t be concerned about the quantity of issues called out in an inspection. Some issues don’t present a current problem. Instead, look for genuine issues that would be expensive to fix. A laundry list of minor repairs can overwhelm a seller and cause unneeded anxiety for both parties.
  4. Remember, a home inspector can’t see inside the walls of a house. Nor do they inspect septic systems and wells. Hiring a professional to inspect your well and septic is worth considering.
  5. Keep a cool head about it. Home repairs are part and parcel of the home buying and selling process. Focus on what’s important and you’ll be on to the next steps in no time.

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