Sunday, November 22, 2009

Manufactured Stone - Is there another storm brewing?

(Revised June 4, 2010 links updated October 25, 2014, links updated and revised March 19, 2017)

Today is Sunday March 19, 2017 as I look back on this article I wrote in November of 2009. Interestingly, the brewing storm has been slow progressing but trust me it is whirling around us. The past few weeks I have inspected two townhouses side by side. When I inspected the first the builder walks up, as I am writing up the issues addressed in this old article, stating that he doesn't agree with how inspectors are writing these issues up and that he doesn't see any difference in this and brick veneer.

About a week later as I am inspecting the adjacent townhouse a resident of a third townhouse constructed next door three years previously is present. On bringing up the stone issues she asks if I will step next door and look at hers. As I walk in she explains that a windy downpour came up shortly after their occupancy and water was pouring in over her large living room window in the stone veneered wall. I inquired what the builder did about it. She said that they removed all of the stone and replaced it. Same builder!

Recently, I received a call from a client who has been transferred and a relocation company is buying his home I inspected as a new construction in 2008 before I was fully aware and addressing these issues in my reports. He said that the relocation company had found elevated levels of moisture inside of the manufactured stone veneer walls and asked what should he do? I recommended he call his builder.

A few months ago I received an email from a client who's newly constructed home with manufactured stone I had inspected in April of 2012. He expressed concern over water coming through their walls. I requested photos which clearly showed wet drywall on the inside of the stone wall. I inquired if he had addressed issues with the stone addressed in his home inspection report. He apparently listen to those who advised him that my opinions were over the top and chose to do nothing. What advice could I offer at this point. Only that I told you so.

Fortunately, a few builders have taken this issue seriously, changed their ways but not completely, and far from 100%. One contractor confronted me on one of his homes and stated to do it the way we are writing this up cost $1.50 a square foot more and he isn't going to pay for it. Unfortunately, many improper installations are in place and the only way you may know they are leaking and damaging your home is to conduct an interior wall moisture test.

Now to the original article from 2009: 

Raise the storm flags, batten down the hatches, prepare the bilge pumps and rain suits there appears to be another real estate storm brewing. Storm clouds are forming on the horizon and you need to be aware, not caught by surprise, when the force of this storm hits the market place.

Do you recall the issues with asbestos, hardboard siding, synthetic stucco (EIFS), polybutylene water pipe, radon, mold?

Do I have your attention?

If you have been around for a fraction of the time I have you have noted a major shift in the architectural appearance of newer homes. Drive through almost any newer upscale neighborhood and you can’t help but observe the change. What is this growing architectural detail? Manufactured Stone or more properly stated Adhered Concrete Masonry Veneer. This wonder is cropping up on homes in all price ranges. Why? Buyers love it! The problem with fast expanding usage of a newly popular product is that proper installation practices often lag far behind the demand for the product. So it is with this product.

Put bluntly the issue is similar to the Synthetic Stucco (EIFS) situation where lack of proper installation practices allows for moisture damage to the wood components of the wall system. A repair contractor familiar with both repair of EIFS systems and Manufactured Stone systems makes this comment in the Journal of Light Construction: “With cast stone veneer, leaks and rot often show up sooner, progress more quickly, and cause more severe damage inside the wall.”

Ouch, that smarts! Are you paying attention?

Sooner or later the growing demand for a product and lack of skilled installers aware of proper installation procedures reaches a state of crisis where action is required to correct shortcomings. For this product the time is fast arriving. If you haven’t experienced this issue on a home inspection report, you will shortly. Local home inspector associations and The North Carolina Home Inspection Licensure Board are in the process of addressing this issue with its licensed home inspectors. Many are already on the band wagon and others will be quickly climbing on board as the board makes its recommendations for how this issue is to be addressed in our reports. They may call it a “recommendation” but don’t take that lightly because the board doesn’t look down with pride on those who fail to adhere to their “recommendations”. Most home inspectors will take heed and begin addressing this issue if they haven’t already. Be prepared, you will be reading about this in reports soon. Here is a preliminary look at how this is shaping up. Soon something of this order is how inspectors will be addressing this issue:

Manufactured stone veneer has been installed on the (list areas) of this house. An inspection of the visible components has revealed that the stone veneer has not been installed in compliance with installation guidelines provided by the Masonry Veneer Manufacturer's Association (MVMA). A PDF copy of the installation guidelines is available at:

Specific problems noted with the visible components include, but may not be limited to: (list all that apply)
  • Weep screeds are missing at the base of wood frame walls.
  • Weep screeds are missing at the tops of window and door openings.
  • There is no caulk between other materials and the masonry at windows, doors and adjacent trim.
  • The masonry veneer is in contact with the ground
  • The masonry veneer is in contact with paved surfaces
  • The masonry veneer is in contact with roofing materials
  • Kick-out flashings are missing where roof eaves meet the masonry veneer
  • Metal lath is visible between stones, indicating that the proper base coats of mortar were not applied prior to installation of the stone.
The lack of proper detailing and flashing may result in water penetration behind the siding, resulting in structural damage. The installation of the manufactured stone veneer should be evaluated, compared to the specific installation requirements of the stone manufacturer and the MVMA, and repaired as deemed necessary by a licensed general contractor or masonry contractor.

Please note that because the water resistive barrier, metal lath and basecoat of cement stucco are completely concealed behind the manufactured stone veneer, they cannot be evaluated by a visual inspection.
How will this affect homeowners, Realtors, homebuyers and sellers? That’s the interesting component. You will be hard pressed to find any installations of this product in the state of North Carolina installed per the “Installation Guidelines for Adhered Concrete Masonry Veneer”. Most likely the code enforcement authorities will follow behind addressing this issue in new codes as they are introduced. In the meantime you should be aware that all products installed in this state are “required” to meet manufactures recommendations. Therefore, although this may not be clearly addressed specifically in the current code it is implied and can be enforced at any time.

For detailed information on this issue check out the December 2004 issue of Journal of Light Construction article titled “Manufactured-Stone Nightmares”. For a copy of the guidelines provided by the Masonry Veneer Manufacturer's Association (MVMA) a PDF copy of the installation guidelines is available at:

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Inspections every day 8AM to 9PM

I do inspections seven days a week, yes, that includes Saturday's and Sunday's. It's all about accommodating your clients.

Now, I have extended my hours from 8:00 AM to 9:00 PM every day. Before I cut it off at 6:00 PM but, no more. This will continue as long as there is daylight after which I will shorten the hours until spring.

Don't get excited, when I can't keep up or need a break I simply block out time for reports or for me.

Take advantage of the most available home inspector in the Triad.

Friday, May 29, 2009

What a client thinks

Unsolicited comment from a recent client:
I know I already thanked you but I want to reiterate both from myself and my family (who are in the real estate business) our gratitude for your work. This inspection and report is one of the most professional, detailed, and well presented documents that we have ever seen. I hope to be able to use you again in the future and will certainly be an evangelist when it comes to recommending you.

Monday, May 25, 2009

NEW - Home Inspector Legislation

Before reading this, please accept my apology for its length and be aware that this information is derived from three primary sources:

  1. The actual proposed Senate Bill 1007
  2. A report by Bruce Rudd, NCAR Liaison for the NC-American Society of Home Inspectors (NC-ASHI)
  3. A report by Fred Herndon, President of the NC Licensed Home Inspectors Association (NCLHIA)
The abbreviations used here equal:

NC-ASHI = North Carolina chapter of the American Society of Home Inspectors
NCLHIA = North Carolina Licensed Home Inspectors Association
NCAR = North Carolina Association of Realtors
HBA = Home Builders Association

This author is a current member of the first two, an associate member of the third and a former member of the last. Of course, if you have followed me for the last ten years you know that I am not very opinionated. Right!

Senate Bill 1007 is working its way through the General Assembly of North Carolina. There are many misunderstandings and much misinformation floating around, especially among Home Inspectors and Realtors about this Bill. This article will attempt to set forth what is actually happening. I will state my personal opinion related to this action by the Legislature and the action of those involved in this legislation.

Many organizations were involved in negotiations relative to this bill including NC-ASHI, NCLHIA, NCAR and the HBA. It should be noted that the HBA is probably the most politically powerful player in these negotiations. I know that may sound strange because NCAR is the largest and the most financially flush. However, from the perspective of the Legislature HBA is blue “collar” and NCAR is “white collar”. The Legislature is less likely to buck the position of HBA. The representative of HBA apparently, only attended one meeting only long enough to advise the participants that it would oppose the bill if the contractor’s license exemption was removed. Is the HBA powerful enough, on their own, to back up their threat to kill the bill? Yes, they have already killed a similar bill and have their forces in place to kill this one.

The proposed bill amends the laws under the North Carolina Home Inspector Licensure Act. I will review the sections of the bill being amended which will positively or negatively affect home buyers and Realtors.

143-151.51, Section 1.2 This change establishes a pre-licensing education system of no more than 200 hours and gives anyone currently enrolled in the Associate program until October 2013 to finish. This replaces the program that NCLHIA and NC-ASHI committed to supporting over a year ago. (CDH – I was involved in this as a committee member when the original serious discussion came out of the licensure board committee on Standardized Reports. I not only support this change without hesitation but, although I have hundreds of hours of home inspection education, ten years as an active inspector, I commit to participate in this education program and wouldn’t be opposed to all existing home inspectors being required to take the new 200 hour course.)

151-51.51 5 (a) someone in bill drafting goofed and, when they struck out the section that established the Associate program, they eliminated the requirement for a high school education as well. (CDH – This omission will probably be corrected before this bill achieves its final form.)

143-151.51 5 (b) this section, as written, requires all Inspectors with less than 5 years experience and 750 inspections as of October 1, 2011 to take an abbreviated version of the pre-licensing education program of no less than 50 hours before October 1, 2013. (CDH – In light of the fact that I have been an NC licensed home inspector for over 10 years, have completed well over 750 inspections I qualify for this exception. However, although I have completed hundreds of hours of training I intend to take the 200 hour course required for new inspectors so that there is no question of my qualifications. I strongly urge other home inspectors to do the same as proof of their competence. We should be willing to put our time and money where or claims are. I challenge all contractors, architects and engineers who have already, or in the future, become a home inspector through the open back door of this and previous legislation to follow my lead and prove your competence.)

151-51.51 (c) The exemption for architects, engineers and contractors remains in the law. The HBA lobbyist’s position is that without their exemption they will kill the bill and there will be no pre-licensing education program in North Carolina. However, after two months of intensive negotiation with the HBA and NCAR their is a compromise that requires anyone coming in under the contractor's license provision to wait at least 6 months before applying for a HI license, and requires them to maintain that contractor's license indefinitely or lose the HI license. (CDH – I was a licensed commercial contractor in North Carolina, now retired, and have constructed over 5,000,000 sf of buildings mostly in this state. I have also held license in Virginia and South Carolina and have worked in George, Tennessee and Maryland. Most competent contractors, engineers and architects (including me at the time I considered becoming a home inspector) will tell you that they are not qualified to act as a pre-purchase home inspector due to their lack of experience and training. Before I became a licensed home inspector I completed hundreds of hours in classes and educated myself with books on the subject before I inspected my first home. Since becoming a licensed home inspector I have completed hundreds of additional hours of training. Before my training, even considering my license, and many years of experience as a contractor, I was not qualified as a home inspector. This exemption should be eliminated and the members of Home Builders Association know that it should. Their ego will not allow them to acknowledge that most of their members are not qualified to be home inspectors without training. They should be ashamed of themselves for opposing the removal of this exemption and their lack of concern for the best interest of the buyers of their homes.)

143-51.51 Section 1.4 This requires all Inspectors to carry at least $250,000 worth of general liability insurance and either a net worth of at least $17,500, a bond in that amount, or E+O insurance of at least $250,000. (CDH- This should have been in the original legislation and I support this change) This section also gives anyone still licensed as an Associate on October 1 2011 two years to finish his Associate program. (CDH – I would not be this kind)

143-51.54 (b) this section requires anyone convicted of a felony or misdemeanor to report that fact to the Board within 60 days. A Home Inspector is already required to report this information on the yearly renewal form. (CDH – I support this change)

143-51.54, Section 3 This simply requires anyone reactivating an inactive license to make up his or her continuing education, up to a maximum of 24 hours. (CDH – I would not be this kind and require that ALL continuing education hours be made up)

143-51.58, Section 6 This section rewrites the summary requirements. The basic categories of "not functioning as intended, in need of further evaluation or subsequent observation are still included, but the only ones required to be in the summary are the "not functioning as intended" items. The others can be included at the Inspector's discretion as long as they have some kind of documented reason for putting them there. The old category of "adversely affecting the habitability of the dwelling" has been removed. In its place is a provision that specifically lets an Inspector include safety items in the summary at his discretion. (CDH – I have never understood the need for a Summary Page and don’t now. It was required at the behest of a few (I might add a very few) Realtors who did not desire to read the complete report. I am still appalled at the number of Realtors who do not read home inspection reports except for the Summary Page and the few who don’t even read the Summary page but only write their repair request based on what their buyers request. Why state anything twice. The biggest complaint that I receive from my buyer clients and the sellers, whose home I inspect for the buyer, is that the summary page is not only repetitive but unnecessary and confusing. The Summary Page requirement should be struck out of the legislative act for the best interest of the home buying public. Why should we legislate the act of ignoring the complete report in favor of only reading the summary page? Is that in the best interest of the public? I don’t think so, but who cares what I think?

143-51.58 Section 6 a(2) This simply says that if a home inspector specifically states in his report that something is a code violation, then he is responsible for knowing what codes were in effect when the house was built and conducting the inspection under those codes. (CDH – I would much prefer that the word “code” not be allowed in a home inspection report. However, if some inspector thinks he is competent enough in the content of every code written since the beginning of time and thinks he should “call a code” infraction. Let him, he is only hanging himself.)

My hat is off to Rick Zechini, Director of Governmental Affairs-NCAR and the NCAR at large for inviting the stake holders to the table to negotiate this bill in the best interest of the public rather than taking a chain saw and running rampant thorough the woods without a clear understanding of the root system of the trees they sought to cut down.

My thumbs are turned down to the HBA who, by their actions, as represented by Lisa Martin with their large stick in hand, clearly exhibit their lack of concern for the buyers who purchase their homes. Shame on you for refusing to support removing an exception your builder members, architects and engineers clearing understand shouldn’t be in this legislation.

If you want to read the bill as currently written, click on the this link.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Epidermolysis Bullosa

I had a terrible time learning how to pronounce Epidermolysis Bullosa. With so many asking me about it, figure I had better get it right. I am always encountering something I wasn’t aware of on a home inspection. You would think, at my age, and with my background, there wouldn’t be anything new I would find in something that is old. But there are.

I often must explain my terminology. I assume that people know what efflorescence is or that I wouldn’t need to explain a hose-bib anti siphon valve or draft/combustion/make up air to a seasoned Realtor, but I do. You would think that everyone would understand positive drainage, but they don’t. Yet, it is why so many basements leak and even seasoned builders simply do not understand the principle.

I am very fond of a particular word “exacerbated”. Don’t know what it means, look it up. I love the way pronouncing it rolls off of my tongue. It’s a great word for a home inspector and I use it once in a while and wonder if the reader has a clue what it means. For example, the lack of positive drainage along the front wall of this home exacerbates basement leakage. Sounds like a professor, doesn't it?

Epidermolysis Bullosa is a serious condition. I hope that you never need to learn to pronounce it, let alone discover what it is. I would however appreciate if you would take a moment and learn how you can help me defeat it by simply clicking here. Please spread the word about what you discover.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Have you purchased one of Jonah's magnets?

Click on Jonah's magnet on the left to learn about Jonah and why he and his parents need your support. Help increase awareness about EB, help support Jonah and fund a cure by purchasing one of Jonah's magnets. Please share this information with others and help sell magnets.

The proceeds will be used for Jonah's care and 10% will be donated to the Dystrophic Epidermolysis Bullosa Research Association of America to fund the search for a cure.

Make Home Buyers Hate Your House

Did you know that buyers will turn around and walk back out of your door if they notice one or more of these?

Any odor applies, even what you might judge as an “excellent” odor. What are the worst offenders? How about cigarette, cigar and pipe smoke, pets, with mildew not far behind. If you smoke indoors--the non smoker will know as soon as they open the door. If you have pets, the house may smell bad--even if you don't notice it. Eliminate the odor, present potential buyers with a clean, fresh atmosphere, not a house full of perfumes to cover up the odors.

Dogs that Meet You at the Door or in the Driveway
Control your pets--dogs, cats, mouse, snake, whatever. Some people are frightened and others irritated. Did you plan to put them in a bathroom, bedroom or garage and ask people not to open the door? Would you buy a house you can't inspect? Remove pets during showings. If you can't, contain them in crates for their own safety and to show respect for the feelings of potential buyers.

Dirty Bathrooms
You may be comfortable with your filthy bathrooms but they are an instant turnoff for a buyer. Scour them, paint them, purchase a new shower curtain, rugs and towels, and make them shine. Who knows, you might be so impressed you begin a new habit.

Dimly Lit Rooms
A buyer is visiting to SEE your house. Can’t see, do you honestly think they will make an offer to purchase. Brighten it up:
  • Replace dim light fixtures
  • Install additional light fixtures
  • Install (quality) sun tunnels or skylights
  • Remove heavy drapes to let the light stream through windows
  • Repaint dark rooms with colors that reflect light
  • Trim trees and shrubs that shade the house
Dirty and fogged windows are another buyer turnoff. Clean them inside and out to bring in more light. If possible, replace any double-pane windows with broken seals. You can find them by looking for a foggy residue that cannot be removed.

A House Full of Busy Wallpaper
Busy wallpaper turns off most buyers. People who love wallpaper will rarely like what you've chosen. You must appeal to the masses when selling your home. Don’t paint over it, because it will be obvious that you did. Buyers know that paint makes removing it even more difficult.

Damp Basements
Dampness or damp smells in the basement screams leaks! Most problems we find are not caused by faulty foundations. They occur because rainwater is being diverted towards the foundation instead of away from it.

  • Grade slopping toward the home
  • Clogged gutters and underground drains
  • No rain gutters along roofline or leaking gutters
  • Downspouts aimed the wrong way
How difficult is it to go outside the next time it rains and determine where runoff water is going. Don’t have an umbrella? Buy one!

Roaches, spiders, and insect that shouldn't be in the house. Get rid of them.
Poor Curb Appeal
If you can’t grab a buyer from the curb you will not sell your home for top dollar. Minor repairs, a fresh coat of paint, new front door, and new garage doors to mention a few ideas make a world of difference. The last house I sold I did all of the above and went one better with a new $600.00 mail box as the curb which screamed “look at me I’m special”. There was a much better house than mine across the street. Which house do you think sold first and at a better price?

Gutters with Plants Growing in Them
Seriously, some people never clean their gutters. What do you think buyers wonder about other issues with the house when a tree is growing out of your gutter? Remember the drainage issue above? Cleaning clogged gutters might help.

Sellers Who Hang Around for Showings
Yes, you... leave the house during showings. Home buyers feel awkward about opening closet doors and lingering for a really good look at the house if the seller is home.

Fascinating, most of the items home buyers hate are issues you can correct without spending a lot of money. Remember this, if your house develops a reputation among agents as the house that smells, the house with the huge barking dog or the house where the owner won't leave people alone, it will be too late. Your house will be last on their list to show potential buyers.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Jonah on front page of WS Journal again!

If you are following baby Jonah, he was on the front page of the Winston-Salem Journal for the second time on Monday. (For those of you who haven’t been paying attention, this is my sister’s grandchild) The article was titled “TLC Required: Rare skin disorder causes baby’s skin to be extra fragile”, check it out at:

Water inside of light bulb?

This light bulbs home is newly constructed but has been on the market for a while. This is under the floor above a very large unfinished basement. The basement wall about 20 feet in front of this bulb has been wet at some point in time. My client brought this to my attention and asked what was going on. This was a first for me. Can you explain it? Give it a shot in the comments section of this posting.

When in doubt improvise!

The drawer wouldn’t open with the new pull on the adjacent corner drawer. Nothing is impossible when you can be creative.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Bring your stale listing back alive!

Has the activity on your listing died?

Do you have a listing which has become stale and stagnate over the winter months?

Is there anything that you can do to create interest as you enter the spring market?

Bring it back alive for the spring market.

The first thought is always, yes, reduce the price. Realtors have always had issue with my position that if the house was priced right in the first place NEVER, EVER, REDUCE THE PRICE. Why not just put a big sign out front “FIRE SALE – GET A DEAL NOW – MAKE A LOW OFFER – WE WILL ACCEPT ANYTHING”.

I remember in the mid 70’s when things were bad I had a newly constructed home which set on the market for a very long time. Instead of lowering the price I bucked the market trend and raised my price every month to cover the cost of caring the home in inventory. This house ultimately sold at the higher price making my cost of caring the home zero. Fluke of the times, maybe, but who knows since others ignore this out side of the box idea. Don’t think lower price, make it better, and raise the price.

Yes, I am known for functioning outside of the box. Maybe you need to think outside of the box as well when it comes to moving your stale listing. Oh, your home/listing is perfect and couldn’t possibly be improved. All that says is that you haven’t looked at the home from the proper perspective. I don’t find any “perfect” homes. If yours is so “perfect” why hasn’t it sold?

Here are some suggestions for consideration. Once completed, make a big deal out of it with changes to the listing information, new sheets in the house, information to Realtors, a special luncheon or open house to showcase the changes.

  • Rent a storage unit: Almost every home shows better with less furniture. Leave just enough furniture to exhibit the room's function and abundant room to move around. Empty house, don’t fret many of these items will apply. Some of the worst homes I inspect are empty, apparently ignored, homes. Out of site, out of mind.

  • Disassociate yourself from the home, set aside your emotions, this isn’t personal, this is a business transaction. This isn’t YOUR home any longer it is the home of a potential buyer. Walk through the home, become that buyer, what would be your impression. What could you change to make a better impression?

    • De-cluttering and maintain it without clutter
    • Pack up your knick-knacks or donate them
    • Put things you need on a daily basis in a box you can pull out when needed and put up when leaving for the day when a showing might occur.
    • Different art, trinkets, wall hangings, etc
    • Clean off the kitchen counter
    • New appliance
    • New counter tops
    • Replace light fixtures
    • Replace old door hardware
    • New floor covering, wood flooring or ceramic tile
    • Remove wall coverings and add paint (today most buyers dislike wall coverings)
    • Clean up the yard, keep it mowed, trim the shrubbery, plant flowers, add landscaping, keep it immaculate
    • Got a pool? Take the cover off, clean it up and make it sparkle.
    • House empty, stage it with furniture and trinkets, not good at doing that, hire a professional.
  • De-personalize, home buyers are distracted by personal items.

    • Remove personal photographs and trinkets and replace them with impressive looking non-personal items. You do not want a potential buyer thinking of this as YOUR home, you want them to be able to easily imagine their families personal photo and belongings in THEIR home.
    • Minimize storage and clothing items in closets. Move what you don’t need in the short time somewhere else.
  • Rearrange bedroom closets and kitchen cabinets. Buyers love to snoop and will open closet and cabinet doors. Think of the message it sends if items fall out! Now imagine what a buyer believes about you if she sees everything organized. It says you probably take good care of the rest of the house as well. This means:

    • Alphabetize spice jars.
    • Neatly stack dishes.
    • Turn coffee cup handles facing the same way.
    • Hang shirts together, buttoned and facing the same direction.
    • Line up shoes.
  • Make Minor Repairs:

    • Replace cracked floor or counter tiles.
    • Patch holes in walls.
    • Fix leaky faucets.
    • Fix doors that don't close properly and kitchen drawers that jam.
    • Consider painting your walls neutral colors, especially if you have grown accustomed to purple or pink walls. (Don't give buyers any reason to remember your home as "the house with the pink bathroom.")
    • Replace burned-out light bulbs.
    • If you've considered replacing a worn bedspread, do so now!
  • Search for issues in need of repair which might standout to the potential buyer or home inspector and repair them. Are you blind to issues about your home or simply feel inadequate or biased? Hire a professional home inspector to take a look and make suggestions.
  • Make the House Sparkle. As a home inspector I visit thousands of homes with new home owners. What do you think is the most impressive single item expressed even on new construction? Allow me to put it in their words. “This is the cleanest house I have every seen. I don’t know how they do it. I could never keep this house this clean.”

    • Wash windows inside and out.
    • Rent a pressure washer and spray down sidewalks and exterior.
    • Clean out cobwebs.
    • Re-caulk tubs, showers and sinks.
    • Polish chrome faucets and mirrors.
    • Clean out the refrigerator.
    • Vacuum daily.Wax floors.
    • Dust furniture, ceiling fan blades and light fixtures.
    • Bleach dingy grout.
    • Replace worn rugs.
    • Hang up fresh towels.
    • Bathroom towels look great fastened with ribbon and bows.
    • Clean and air out any musty smelling areas. Odors are a no-no.
OK, now you have accomplished the task, have a party (special advertising, Realtor luncheon, open house), get the word out that this isn’t the same listing you might have looked at this winter. Please come back and look again. Haven’t seen this listing yet, you are missing out.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Selling in a Buyer’s Market

In case you aren’t paying attention this is a “Buyer’s Market”. Buyers have many options to choose from. If they are turned off by something in your listing, guess what, they will simply move to the next one.

It never ceases to amaze me at the blatantly obvious issues which repeatedly surface as part of home inspections. Most are obvious items which could have been addressed prior to placing the home on the market but are ignored. I have come to the conclusion that some buyers and apparently some Realtors must be blind when they list a property for sale. Do you desire to get a contract on your listing at a reasonable price? It might be wise to pay attention. Do you desire to close on that contract at the contracted price with minimum repair cost? Then you had better pay even closer attention.

Here is a list of very common issues ignored by many sellers that become a major issue during the potential buyer’s consideration of the listing or during the inspection process:

  1. Basement or crawl space water problems caused by negative drainage around the house and/or lack of, improperly installed, damaged leaking gutter and downspout systems. Grade sloping toward the house? Gutter issues? FIX IT NOW! A potential buyer will often overlook evidence of basement or crawl space water issues if it is clearly evident you have attempted to address the problems causing it. How difficult is it to tell that water is running toward the home?
  2. Evidence of any type of leakage such as stains, damage, rot, fungal growth or visible standing or dripping water from plumbing, condensation or roofing issues. FIX IT NOW! Oh, it’s been that way since I moved in doesn’t get it with buyers.
  3. Rot and termite damage. FIX IT NOW!
  4. Fungal growth, call it whatever you please, mold, mildew, black stains, dirt, it doesn’t mater, clean it up.
  5. Got polybutylene pipe, aluminum wiring, EIFS – synthetic stucco disclose it up front. No need for these types of items to be a shock to your potential buyer.
  6. Have an active underground fuel storage tank? Have it checked for leakage and get a written certification that it hasn’t leaked. Have an abandoned underground storage tank, have it checked for past leakage and contamination then properly remove or fill it.
  7. Is there an abandoned well on your property? Check with your local health department and have it properly closed per their regulations.
  8. Is the listing on a well or septic tank system and public water and/or sewer available but not connected? Guess what, this is usually a home outside of the urban limits and there is a very good possibility the buyer will need an FHA loan. Public water and/or sewer available but not connected? FHA will not fund the loan until it is and they don’t care how it happens it simply must happen. Why not simplify the negotiations and connect it now?
  9. Are there obvious cracks in your home or evidence of movement? Call a structural engineer now and either deal with issues or at minimum have a report that states the implications aren’t a concern at this time. Have an issue which is a concern? Fix it. Can’t afford to fix it, fine, have a report from an engineer and a price so the potential buyer knows upfront what to expect the cost of repair to be.
  10. Broken windows or double pane windows with broken seals fogged between the glass panes? Replace them!
  11. Have your heating and air conditioning systems checked out, running like a top, cleaned up and standing tall.
  12. Old, damaged or non-functional appliances? Replace them.
  13. Toilet loose? Secure it.
  14. Door will not close, latch not engage, window will not open, hardware damaged or inoperative? Fix it.
  15. Exposed electrical wiring or wiring connections? Fix them.
  16. Don’t have a clue about the condition of your home? Call an experienced, reputable home inspector to check it out upfront.
Would you rather the potential buyer walk away or that much desired offer to purchase fall apart? Fine, ignore these issues and the buyer moves to the next one or I get paid to do the next inspection for the client who decides your listing isn’t worth it. I know you don’t believe this but nothing gives me greater pleasure than to walk away from a home inspection knowing that my client is pleased and that you, the seller and listing agent, will have a smile on your face when you receive my report.

If you are a seller then most likely you are also a buyer. Look at your listing as if you were the buyer rather than the owner. In what condition will you expect the home you are purchasing? Do you honesty think that your buyer should expect any less from you? Take a walk in their shoes, pay attention and you just might sell your house.

Don’t simple place you house on the market, prepare your house to sell in this market.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Baby Jonah and his parents need your support!

This posting comes along with an urgent request for your involvement.

There come times in life when we must lay the business aside and deal with personal matters from the grandfather rather than the home inspector. As you may know I have five children and six grandchildren making children a very large part of my life. My sister has two children and prior to last week four grandchildren (one deceased). It is with the one that this story begins.

Less than a year ago my sister’s son Matt and his wife Patrice lost a full term baby with no explanation. On Friday their second son was born with Epidermolysis Bullosa. EB is an extremely rare genetic disorder involving the attachment of skin to the body. The baby is covered in blister like lesions. A simple touch literally causes the skin to fall off. The baby is treated like a burn patient. The few babies who have this condition are known as butterfly babies because their skin is as fragile as butterfly wings. There is no cure and this condition is so rare the local new born experts have little if any experience dealing with this. The baby can’t be held due to the potential damage. Apparently the first baby may have died from this same thing. They don't test for this in autopsy or in neo-natal testing because of its rarity.

Jonah Alexander Williams is in the critical care NICU at Brenner Children’s Hospital in Winston-Salem, NC. This morning the three experienced NICU nurses cried as they worked with tender care changing the bandages which cover most of his damaged body with the full knowledge that every movement they make not only causes this tiny baby excruciating pain but is potentially further damaging his beleaguered body.

So, why am I sharing this with you and what can you do?

Jonah’s mother, Patrice, is an active bloger and has and is still sharing the family experience on her blog. Also, if you are involved with facebook there is a prayer group set up folk can join to show their support. You can’t imagine what the number climbing as folk visit their blog and join the facebook prayer group does for their disposition. Even more the hundreds who are leaving comments from all over the country bring hope and a bright light to their eyes. Please consider becoming involved by doing one or both.

You can visit their blog by clicking on the photo at the top left corner of this page or at:

The facebook prayer group page is at (or you can access it from their blog):

FaceBook Prayer Group

Thank you for your help

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The House of Tears

We all love a good story. This one is true and occurred long enough ago that I finally feel comfortable sharing. Nothing is more unsettling for me than having a female of any age cry because of something I did. Unfortunately with women, sometimes this is simply impossible to prevent. Such was the case at the house of tears.

Anytime I book an inspection on a very old house I never know what to expect. On arriving at this home I was advised by their agent that the young couple intending to purchase this home were excited because it was their dream to have a small cottage on a track of land with room for their horses. This site came with a large barn making it even more appealing. They had found their dream and were in love with everything. The Realtor made it crystal clear that “they” were hoping for the best from my inspection. I knew with the age of this home I was on the hot seat and it didn’t take long for the temperature to rise.

As usual, I started my inspection on the first floor. This home was a story and a half over a center dug out cellar open to crawl space surrounding it with exception of a stair down from the rear exterior. The second floor had a small finished area but for the most part was unfinished attic. As we were working our way through the first floor with the clients and Realtor following along Bob, the pest control inspector, arrived. We exchanged greetings and as usually I said “if you find anything of interest let me know and please clean the spider webs from the crawl space.”

Bob headed for the cellar but shortly came back through the door asking us to go into the first floor bedroom. Bob said “Chris, press your thumb on the floor right here on the right side of the bed” I knew I was in trouble when my thumb went through the wood floor up to the last knuckle. I overheard my clients take a deep breath as they looked at me with a wide eyed glare. The agent was not amused at Bob’s escapade or my participation. “Follow me to the cellar.” This was an unusual request. Bob usually simply explained what he had found. We didn’t go on a tour.

As we entered the exterior cellar stair Bob turned and said “don’t be alarmed at the snake skins.” The female client and her agent stopped in their tracks as Bob said “I have only found five little black snakes so far.” They decided the cellar was not of interest to them as they backed up into the yard. Bob, the male client and I continued down the stair observing numerous shed snake skins hanging along the side of the stair and others as we entered the cellar. I also observed major termite damage and old rags stuffed in holes in areas of the floor system everywhere I looked.

Bob walked forward to the edge of the cellar dirt wall facing the front area of the crawl space saying “I saw the five small black snakes over there in the front right corner but I think, based on the size and number of skins, there are several large ones somewhere I haven’t seen. Now the male client had heard enough and headed up the stair to join the ladies in the yard as Bob stated “you know that’s not my concern, take a look at all this termite damage”. Knowing that snakes move away from people Bob and I looked closer at the extensive structural termite damage and then joined the others in the yard.

As inspectors, we are limited to stating the facts of our observations and are never supposed to express our opinion of whether a client should purchase a home. As I explained in detail the extent of the damage we observed the lady began to cry. The more I talked the more she sobbed. Then as I finished she looked into my eyes through her tears and asked “should we purchase this home?” As I began explaining that the decision was between her and her husband, Bob and I both took great care not to verbally express our opinion as in unison we clearly shook our heads to the right and left expressing our real opinion. She began uncontrollable sobs. We were both destroyed and at a loss of how to proceed. I immediately offered to stop the inspection and write a letter addressing the extensive termite damage which would give them an out from their contract and reduce the charge for my time.

Gaining control of herself the lady inquired “what about the snakes?” I said that I would mention the snakes as well but thinking about all of the rags I observed stuffed in holes in the floor system I suggested that we look in the attic before leaving the property. Surprisingly, she not only agreed but followed. Opening the door between the finished and unfinished attic space we observed a very large baited wire cage in the center of the floor. What is that for she inquired? “You don’t want to know” was my reply. Any guess at what they were trying to catch?

That night my phone rings and it’s the occupant/owner of the home who inherited it from her grandmother. “I heard what you found here today, what should I do?” Before I caught myself I said “a bulldozer might be in order.” She was not amused as I could then tell she was in tears as well. I explained that the damage was so extensive that repair cost would probably exceed the value of the home. I then said “I bet you don’t have mice”. “How did you know that?” Next day the home was taken off the market.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Radon Testing

Check out my new article on Radon Testing by clicking on the link. This is a great resource for Relators to send their clients for learning about Radon issues related to buying or selling a home. This is also a good resource for general knowledge about radon in your home.

Monday, February 16, 2009

A Difference of Perspective – “The House from Hell”

All too often there is what I like to refer to as “the house from hell”, not that it is so old or bad but that the issues are either voluminous or complex. I come home from the inspection and comment to my wife “another house from hell”. The inspection and report on this type of property tends to be lengthy. The particular house could be new or hundreds of years old, small or large, beautiful or not particularly so. The house may be a gift from the Gods that any buyer would be crazy not to purchase at the contracted price. However, the volume and detail of my report may not reflect that in the eyes of all beholders. Such is a fascination to me.

From one perspective the seller and their Realtor are freaked out at the report ready to take a contract out for my demise. They can’t possibly comprehend how the condition of any house, especially theirs, could necessitate a 70 to 100 plus page report from any rascal of a home inspector. I may get a call from either or both complaining that I went completely overboard with my inspection and report. I will later hear how the Realtor is bad mouthing me all over town. Never recommend this nut case, he doesn’t know what he is doing and trashed my listing. You better hope he never inspects one of your listings! I am lucky the deal closed.

Then there is the call from my client raving about how great I am, how comprehensive my inspection and report and how surprised and pleased they are at the detail of my inspection and the ease of understanding the explanations and photographs in my report. Can they offer me a recommendation for future clients and be assured they will tell their acquaintances about me when they are purchasing a home. Then is the best of all sounds to my ears of how much more comfortable they are about their purchase after walking through the house with me and reading my report.

Same house, same report, different perspectives. Which is the reaction I should strive for? Is it both? Can you possibly have one without the other? I don’t think so. Such is the unstable ground upon which quality home inspectors must tread. We present the facts as best we are able with the knowledge available to us. How those facts are perceived by the reader completely depends on their perspective. One perceives a curse, another blessing. At face value they are simply the facts with a bright light shining on them. The difference between home inspectors is the direction and intensity of the light. I am of the opinion that clients who contract with me expect focused intense light and that I shouldn’t conduct inspections for the pleasure of listing agents, their sellers or for that matter the buyers agent who may have recommended me.

My greatest pleasure comes from the call from the seller of the last house I just “trashed” asking if I can work the inspection of the house they are purchasing quickly into my schedule. Such is a “Eureka” moment. Even better the listing agent of the house I “trashed” needs an inspection for their child, relative or themselves. Need I say more? It’s all about perspective.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Change in report "Summary Statement"

Effective March 1st , 2009, the following modification to the “required” summary statement will be mandatory on all written inspection reports in the State of North Carolina.

“This summary is not the entire report. The full report may include additional information of interest or concern to the client. It is strongly recommended that the client promptly read the complete report. For information regarding the negotiability of any item in this report under a real estate purchase contract, contact your North Carolina real estate agent or an attorney.”

I have had a similar statement in my reports for 10 years and modified mine months ago on learning of this proposal.