Oh Those sneaky Little Home Owners

Over the years I have noticed quite a few things sellers try and sneakily cover up when attempting to sell their home. To the untrained naked eye, these defects will not get detected until after the deal is done and will come back ten-fold to bite the duped buyer in the end. As a Home Inspector it is my job to be cynical and doubt everything I see and observe. I explain it like this to my clients: “Every house has a story to tell and it’s like a jigsaw puzzle. When I arrive at a house all the pieces of the puzzle are scattered here, there and everywhere. It is my job to find all the pieces and thoroughly put them together, then the story of the house unfolds. One piece leads to another and to another until final the story unfolds.”
Being a former contractor for nearly 25 years has given me the advantage over some and is a plus in this business as I have literally seen, built, fixed and repaired everything a house has to offer. It also allows me to understand how individual systems and components of a house affect one another both in good and bad ways. Another thing it has taught me is how to spot cover-ups and quick, cheap fixes that don’t last.
Here is a list of the top cover-up items I have seen over the years and things you should be on the lookout for when initially looking for that dream home you’ve always wanted. These are things that are easily overlooked if not brought to your attention to look for:
1. Nice and new 3 pronged grounded outlets on a 2 wire ungrounded electrical system.
There’s only one way to test for this and most buyers wouldn’t even think twice to test it. You see a modern 3 pronged outlet and assume it’s always been there and working fine. The average home buyer isn’t walking around with an outlet testing device and wouldn’t even think to do so. Only during an inspection, and only if your inspector is doing his/her job will this be detected.
2. GFCI outlets in and around water areas (sinks, tubs, exterior, etc.)
Again, if not installed properly, and on the proper wires, anyone can push the little button on the GFCI to trip it. It almost never fails but this isn’t telling you if it’s working properly or if the wires it’s hooked up to are the proper ones. Only with a GFCI testing device can one tell if it is working as intended.
3. Freshly painted basement floors.
Unless the majority of the house has been renovated or updated, seeing a newly painted basement floor when nothing else in the house has been touched is a huge red flag to me. You would think owners would have wanted that nice new looking concrete floor when they were living there, right? This is a sign that water marks and stains are trying to be covered up. Other little pieces of the puzzle come into play here such as stored dehumidifiers, wet vacs, etc.. All these things lead to one conclusion to make me look further and more closely.
4. Painted attics
You’re probably saying to yourself – WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT? On 2 separate occasions while inspecting the attic they were freshly painted. The sheathing and the roof rafters had been painted by a sprayer. Now most here would say that’s part of a mold remediation program that was put in place due to the attic having mold but there are other things to look for to come to that conclusion. If there are no new roof fans or ventilation systems to go along with this new paint job then there’s a problem. You can tell if the original attic vent system has been altered or added to and in thee 2 cases they weren’t. This is a true “cover up” and a cheaper way to hide mold in an attic compared to having a costly mold remediation done and a new venting systems installed.
5. Furniture that has been moved in a room.
Furniture always leaves indents in carpeting or lack of wear spots on hardwood floors. If you suspect the layout of a room has been recently changed then it’s a good assumption something’s being hidden on the walls behind the newly moved furniture. As Home Inspectors we are not supposed to move items and the inspection is to be minimally invasive. Most buyers aren’t going to move furniture to get a look behind it nor are they thinking to do that. There’s always ways to take a peek at what’s behind door #1 and your home inspector should be doing this.
6. Excess boxes, clutter, etc.
The best way to hide defects to flooring in the house or in a garage is to have stored items in these areas. Now sometimes this is a natural thing for home owners to have so you have to look at the rest of the house and how it is kept. If the rest of the house is in a cluttered state then you can say this is just how these people live. But, if the rest of the house is kept clutter free and neat, you can assume there is something under this clutter that needs a closer look. I always recommend to my clients that if the clutter is still there during the sales process, make sure to do a thorough walk through and have a stipulation in your contract covering you from any surprise that might arise once the clutter has been moved out.
7. Hot water heaters being turned off for “energy saving reasons”
If you’re trying to sell your vacant home I can understand trying to save a few dollars here and there. Knowing a buyer is having a home inspection done and leaving one of the mechanical systems off is not a good sign and one that happens all the time. You usually don’t know the heater is off until it’s time to test it and by that point in the inspection you don’t have enough time to turn it on and wait for the water to heat up (nor are we allowed to turn on systems that are off). When this happens I again tell my clients to have a clause in the contract regarding this and make sure it is checked at the final walk through.
8. The helpful home owner.
Any time a home owner is present at the inspection and is more than eager to assist me and “show me the way around” is a huge red flag. More times than not they will try and lead you down the path they want you to take and try and distract you with useless conversation. It’s very difficult to politely say no thanks in a politically correct way without offending them. I do my best and pride myself on being professional and courteous at all times to all parties involved. I often excuse myself and say I have to use the bathroom or take a call or whatever, then try and slip away to go to areas I have been “lead” away from. It makes the inspection longer using all these evasive measures but in the end it’s usually worth it.
These are just a few things I look for during my inspections. There are many, many more little things that when added up together give a good home inspector the full picture and story of a home.

Choosing the Right Home Inspector

Buying a home?  It is probably the most expensive purchase you will ever make.  This is no time to shop for a cheap inspection.  The cost of a home inspection is very small relative to the value of the home being inspected.  The additional cost of hiring an InterNACHI-certified inspector is almost insignificant.

You have recently been crunching the numbers, negotiating offers, adding up closing costs, shopping for mortgages, and trying to get the best deals.  Do not stop now.  Do not let your real estate agent, a “patty-cake” inspector, or anyone else talk you into skimping here.  InterNACHI-certified inspectors perform the best inspections by far.

InterNACHI-certified inspectors earn their fees many times over.  They do more, they deserve more, and — yes — they generally charge a little more.  Do yourself a favor… and pay a little more for the quality inspection you deserve.

Licensing of home inspectors only sets a minimum standard.  Much like being up to code, any less would be illegal.  Imaginary people, children, psychics (who claim to “sense” if a house is OK) and even pets can be home inspectors.  InterNACHI, the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors, front-ends its membership requirements.
InterNACHI inspectors:
  • have to pass InterNACHI’s  Online Inspector Examination  every year.  (This general, not association-specific exam, is open and free to all);
  • have to complete InterNACHI’s online Ethics Obstacle Course. (This open-book Ethics course is open and free to all);
  • have to take InterNACHI’s online Standards of Practice quiz (This open-book Standards of Practice quiz is open and free to all);
  • have to sign and submit an Affidavit;
  • have to adhere to InterNACHI’s Standards of Practice;
  • have to abide by InterNACHI’s Code of Ethics;
  • have to continue seeking skills and education (24 hours per year), per InterNACHI’s Continuing Education policy;
  • have to maintain a Member Online Continuing Education Log (free), per InterNACHI’s Continuing Education policy;
  • have to submit four mock inspections to InterNACHI’s Report Review Committee (free) before performing their first paid home inspection for a client (if the candidate has never performed a fee-paid home inspection previously);
  • within 30 days of joining, have to successfully complete InterNACHI’s comprehensive online Standards of Practice course (free);
  • within 60 days of joining, complete InterNACHI’s comprehensive online Roofing Inspection course (free), including all the quizzes within, and pass its final exam;
  • within three months of membership, apply for a member photo I.D. (free);
  • have to re-take and pass InterNACHI’s Online Inspector Examination again, every year (free);
  • have to attend at least one chapter meeting or educational seminar every two years (reasonable exceptions apply);
  • have access to Inspector’s Quarterly, delivered to their doorstep;
  • have access to InterNACHI’s free Visual Aid Inspection Frames to help them learn;
  • have access to InterNACHI’s free library for improving their inspection skills;
  • have access to InterNACHI’s message board for exchanging information and tips;
  • have access to InterNACHI’s “What’s New” section so they can keep up with the industry;
  • have access to InterNACHI’s specific-topic advisory boards;
  • have access to “Dear InterNACHI” for detailed advice;
  • have access to a time-tested Inspection Agreement, which keeps them (and you) away from lawsuits;
  • have access to InterNACHI’s Report Review/Mentoring service;
  • have to submit passport photos for their membership I.D.;
  • have access to InterNACHI’s free online inspection courses;
  • have to carry E&O insurance (if their state requires it);
  • have access to a real estate agent hold-harmless clause;
  • have access to InterNACHI University;
  • have access to the InterNACHI Mall;
  • have a consumer hotline for their clients;
  • have access to an Arbitration and Dispute Resolution Service; and
  • have access to a Client Satisfaction Survey.
So, the next time you need to refer your clients to home inspectors, make sure they are members of InterNACHI.

InterNACHI 10 Easy Ways to Save Energy in Your Home

Most people don’t know how easy it is to make their homes run on less energy, and here at InterNACHI, we want to change that. Drastic reductions in heating, cooling and electricity costs can be accomplished through very simple changes, most of which homeowners can do themselves. Of course, for homeowners who want to take advantage of the most up-to-date knowledge and systems in home energy efficiency, InterNACHI energy auditors can perform in-depth testing to find the best energy solutions for your particular home.

Why make your home more energy efficient? Here are a few good reasons:

  • Federal, state, utility and local jurisdictions’ financial incentives, such as tax breaks, are very advantageous for homeowners in most parts of the U.S.
  • It saves money. It costs less to power a home that has been converted to be more energy-efficient.
  • It increases the comfort level indoors.
  • It reduces our impact on climate change. Many scientists now believe that excessive energy consumption contributes significantly to global warming.
  • It reduces pollution. Conventional power production introduces pollutants that find their way into the air, soil and water supplies.

1. Find better ways to heat and cool your house. 

As much as half of the energy used in homes goes toward heating and cooling. The following are a few ways that energy bills can be reduced through adjustments to the heating and cooling systems:

  • Install a ceiling fan. Ceiling fans can be used in place of air conditioners, which require a large amount of energy.
  • Periodically replace air filters in air conditioners and heaters.
  • Set thermostats to an appropriate temperature. Specifically, they should be turned down at night and when no one is home. In most homes, about 2% of the heating bill will be saved for each degree that the thermostat is lowered for at least eight hours each day. Turning down the thermostat from 75° F to 70° F, for example, saves about 10% on heating costs.
  • Install a programmable thermostat. A programmable thermostat saves money by allowing heating and cooling appliances to be automatically turned down during times that no one is home and at night. Programmable thermostats contain no mercury and, in some climate zones, can save up to $150 per year in energy costs.
  • Install a wood stove or a pellet stove. These are more efficient sources of heat than furnaces.
  • At night, curtains drawn over windows will better insulate the room.

2. Install a tankless water heater.

Demand-type water heaters (tankless or instantaneous) provide hot water only as it is needed. They don’t produce the standby energy losses associated with traditional storage water heaters, which will save on energy costs. Tankless water heaters heat water directly without the use of a storage tank. When a hot water tap is turned on, cold water travels through a pipe into the unit. A gas burner or an electric element heats the water. As a result, demand water heaters deliver a constant supply of hot water. You don’t need to wait for a storage tank to fill up with enough hot water.

3. Replace incandescent lights.

The average household dedicates 11% of its energy budget to lighting. Traditional incandescent lights convert approximately only 10% of the energy they consume into light, while the rest becomes heat. The use of new lighting technologies, such as light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), can reduce the energy use required by lighting by 50% to 75%. Advances in lighting controls offer further energy savings by reducing the amount of time that lights are on but not being used. Here are some facts about CFLs and LEDs:

  • CFLs use 75% less energy and last about 10 times longer than traditional incandescent bulbs.
  • LEDs last even longer than CFLs and consume less energy.
  • LEDs have no moving parts and, unlike CFLs, they contain no mercury.

4. Seal and insulate your home.

Sealing and insulating your home is one of the most cost-effective ways to make a home more comfortable and energy-efficient, and you can do it yourself. A tightly sealed home can improve comfort and indoor air quality while reducing utility bills. An InterNACHI energy auditor can assess  leakage in the building envelope and recommend fixes that will dramatically increase comfort and energy savings.

The following are some common places where leakage may occur:

  • electrical receptacles/outlets;
  • mail slots;
  • around pipes and wires;
  • wall- or window-mounted air conditioners;
  • attic hatches;
  • fireplace dampers;
  • inadequate weatherstripping around doors;
  • baseboards;
  • window frames; and
  • switch plates.

Because hot air rises, air leaks are most likely to occur in the attic. Homeowners can perform a variety of repairs and maintenance to their attics that save them money on cooling and heating, such as:

  • Plug the large holes. Locations in the attic where leakage is most likely to be the greatest are where walls meet the attic floor, behind and under attic knee walls, and in dropped-ceiling areas.
  • Seal the small holes. You can easily do this by looking for areas where the insulation is darkened. Darkened insulation is a result of dusty interior air being filtered by insulation before leaking through small holes in the building envelope. In cold weather, you may see frosty areas in the insulation caused by warm, moist air condensing and then freezing as it hits the cold attic air. In warmer weather, you’ll find water staining in these same areas. Use expanding foam or caulk to seal the openings around plumbing vent pipes and electrical wires. Cover the areas with insulation after the caulk is dry.
  • Seal up the attic access panel with weatherstripping. You can cut a piece of fiberglass or rigid foamboard insulation in the same size as the attic hatch and glue it to the back of the attic access panel. If you have pull-down attic stairs or an attic door, these should be sealed in a similar manner.

5. Install efficient showerheads and toilets.

The following systems can be installed to conserve water usage in homes:

  • low-flow showerheads. They are available in different flow rates, and some have a pause button which shuts off the water while the bather lathers up;
  • low-flow toilets. Toilets consume 30% to 40% of the total water used in homes, making them the biggest water users. Replacing an older 3.5-gallon toilet with a modern, low-flow 1.6-gallon toilet can reduce usage an average of 2 gallons-per-flush (GPF), saving 12,000 gallons of water per year. Low-flow toilets usually have “1.6 GPF” marked on the bowl behind the seat or inside the tank;
  • vacuum-assist toilets. This type of toilet has a vacuum chamber that uses a siphon action to suck air from the trap beneath the bowl, allowing it to quickly fill with water to clear waste. Vacuum-assist toilets are relatively quiet; and
  • dual-flush toilets. Dual-flush toilets have been used in Europe and Australia for years and are now gaining in popularity in the U.S. Dual-flush toilets let you choose between a 1-gallon (or less) flush for liquid waste, and a 1.6-gallon flush for solid waste. Dual-flush 1.6-GPF toilets reduce water consumption by an additional 30%.

6. Use appliances and electronics responsibly.

Appliances and electronics account for about 20% of household energy bills in a typical U.S. home. The following are tips that will reduce the required energy of electronics and appliances:

  • Refrigerators and freezers should not be located near the stove, dishwasher or heat vents, or exposed to direct sunlight. Exposure to warm areas will force them to use more energy to remain cool.
  • Computers should be shut off when not in use. If unattended computers must be left on, their monitors should be shut off. According to some studies, computers account for approximately 3% of all energy consumption in the United States.
  • Use efficient ENERGY STAR-rated appliances and electronics. These devices, approved by the U.S. Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR Program, include TVs, home theater systems, DVD players, CD players, receivers, speakers, and more. According to the EPA, if just 10% of homes used energy-efficient appliances, it would reduce carbon emissions by the equivalent of 1.7 million acres of trees.
  • Chargers, such as those used for laptops and cell phones, consume energy when they are plugged in. When they are not connected to electronics, chargers should be unplugged.
  • Laptop computers consume considerably less electricity than desktop computers.

7. Install daylighting as an alternative to electrical lighting.

Daylighting is the practice of using natural light to illuminate the home’s interior. It can be achieved using the following approaches:

  • skylights. It’s important that they be double-pane or they may not be cost-effective. Flashing skylights correctly is key to avoiding leaks;
  • light shelves. Light shelves are passive devices designed to bounce light deep into a building. They may be interior or exterior. Light shelves can introduce light into a space up to 2½ times the distance from the floor to the top of the window, and advanced light shelves may introduce four times that amount;
  • clerestory windows.  Clerestory windows are short, wide windows set high on the wall. Protected from the summer sun by the roof overhang, they allow winter sun to shine through for natural lighting and warmth; and
  • light tubes.  Light tubes use a special lens designed to amplify low-level light and reduce light intensity from the midday sun. Sunlight is channeled through a tube coated with a highly reflective material, and then enters the living space through a diffuser designed to distribute light evenly.

8. Insulate windows and doors.

About one-third of the home’s total heat loss usually occurs through windows and doors. The following are ways to reduce energy lost through windows and doors:

  • Seal all window edges and cracks with rope caulk. This is the cheapest and simplest option.
  • Windows can be weatherstripped with a special lining that is inserted between the window and the frame. For doors, apply weatherstripping around the whole perimeter to ensure a tight seal when they’re closed. Install quality door sweeps on the bottom of the doors, if they aren’t already in place.
  • Install storm windows at windows with only single panes. A removable glass frame can be installed over an existing window.
  • If existing windows have rotted or damaged wood, cracked glass, missing putty, poorly fitting sashes, or locks that don’t work, they should be repaired or replaced.

9. Cook smart.

An enormous amount of energy is wasted while cooking. The following recommendations and statistics illustrate less wasteful ways of cooking:

  • Convection ovens are more efficient that conventional ovens. They use fans to force hot air to circulate more evenly, thereby allowing food to be cooked at a lower temperature. Convection ovens use approximately 20% less electricity than conventional ovens.
  • Microwave ovens consume approximately 80% less energy than conventional ovens.
  • Pans should be placed on the matching size heating element or flame.
  • Using lids on pots and pans will heat food more quickly than cooking in uncovered pots and pans.
  • Pressure cookers reduce cooking time dramatically.
  • When using conventional ovens, food should be placed on the top rack. The top rack is hotter and will cook food faster.

10. Change the way you do laundry.

  • Do not use the medium setting on your washer. Wait until you have a full load of clothes, as the medium setting saves less than half of the water and energy used for a full load.
  • Avoid using high-temperature settings when clothes are not very soiled. Water that is 140° F uses far more energy than 103° F for the warm-water setting, but 140° F isn’t that much more effective for getting clothes clean.
  • Clean the lint trap every time before you use the dryer. Not only is excess lint a fire hazard, but it will prolong the amount of time required for your clothes to dry.
  • If possible, air-dry your clothes on lines and racks.
  • Spin-dry or wring clothes out before putting them into a dryer.
Homeowners who take the initiative to make these changes usually discover that the energy savings are more than worth the effort. InterNACHI home inspectors can make this process much easier because they can perform a more comprehensive assessment of energy-savings potential than the average homeowner can.

From 10 Easy Ways to Save Energy in Your Home – InterNACHI http://www.nachi.org/increasing-home-energy-efficiency-client.htm#ixzz1oKofXSNm

Pre-Listing Inspections

A Pre-Listing Inspection Can Prevent A Missed Sale

Knowing about potential problems with a home before you list it will prepare you to deal with requests from potential buyers.

A home inspection can be nerve-wracking for the seller, especially in a market like this.  Potential buyers aren’t afraid to demand that long lists of problems be addressed before the sale is finalized.  This is happening more and more frequently, as I’m sure you’ve witnessed.

No matter how much you do to prepare the home, realize that a home inspector is always going to find something wrong.

More times than not, problems are minor and easy enough for the seller to either fix or credit towards the sales price.  It’s the not knowing and discovery of major deficiencies, coupled with the unwillingness of the seller to negotiate — that can kill a deal.


It’s always in the sellers (and your) best interest to be aware of anything that a home inspection might turn up.  It can cost more to address a problem by lowering the sale price than it would have if it had been known and addressed before the buyers home inspector found it.  For every $100 of cost, the buyer thinks it’s worth a $1000 in price reduction.  “The nature of the beast, so to speak.”

The thorough way to prepare is to have your seller get an unbiased inspection before you list the home on the market. A pre-listing inspection will tell you exactly what needs to be fixed before you begin your search for a buyer.

But sellers often don’t spend the money for a pre-listing inspection for numerous reasons.  Whether it be financial or the belief that there is nothing wrong with their home, a pre-listing inspection will address everything that is ultimately going to be addressed – and usually at a fraction of the cost.

A seller should know everything there is to know about their home so they can easily address it and talk about it if asked. Simple things like addressing and OLD water stain can make a world of difference.  As we have all been told over the years – “There’s no second chance at a first impression.”

A home owner should walk out of the house, turn around and walk back in with fresh eyes as if they were the buyer.

Getting ready

Inspectors will be looking for problems with the home’s mechanical systems such as HVAC, electrical & plumbing.  Signs of water damage, mold, leaks, termites and structural or mechanical problems will always be a top priority. They’ll also look at projects the homeowners have done themselves, including for example, that upgraded electrical outlets are grounded and working properly, ceiling fans were installed correctly and decks were built with proper structure.

As much as you can, have your seller get their house as ready as possible by fixing the problems or at minimum, have a plan on how you will address them when the buyer brings them up.  Little things are just as important as the major things I have mentioned.  Make sure that everything is clean and operable such as gutters, windows and peeling paint.  Also, replace any leaky faucets, broken windows and squeaky doors and cabinets.  You might also want to have the septic tank pumped and the furnace and air-conditioning systems serviced (as the should be every year).

David Dodge
PO Box 822
Mohegan Lake, NY 10547