Home Purchase Due Diligence

Due Diligence. Is it only for big corporate acquisitions?

October 12, 2021

Frank J. Delle Donne

 

Due diligence is the investigation or exercise of care that a reasonable business or person is normally expected to take before entering into an agreement or contract with another party or an act with a certain standard of care.

It can be a legal obligation, but the term will more commonly apply to voluntary investigations. A common example of due diligence in various industries is the process through which a potential acquirer evaluates a target company or its assets for an acquisition.[1] The theory behind due diligence holds that performing this type of investigation contributes significantly to informed decision making by enhancing the amount and quality of information available to decision makers and by ensuring that this information is systematically used to deliberate on the decision at hand and all its costs, benefits, and risks.”   Due diligence – Wikipedia

 

Like any purchase of significance due diligence is important and you probably don’t realize it but you already do it to a much, much simpler degree. Do you compare performance information and mileage for a new vehicle you may be considering buying?  That’s due diligence.  Do you compare school districts or the time to commute to and from work for the new home you’re thinking of buying?  That’ due diligence. And of course, the purpose of this piece is to make sure that you recognize that a home inspection is a critical aspect of your home purchase due diligence.

By law, the home inspection is a non-destructive inspection of various systems and components of the home. Exterior, roof, electrical elements, baths, etc. We at Regal Home Inspections, LLC, of course, follow the law to the letter of the law and we strive to surpass the bare minimum as required. For example, the law requires we check 1 outlet per room and one window per room.  If accessible, we usually check as many as we can, not the minimum. The purpose of this piece however it not to review the home inspection due diligence that Regal Home Inspections, LLC does but what you may want to consider (Or we may recommend) beyond the scope of the NJ home inspection standards of practice.  To that point, I am also licensed by the NJ DEP (License # 59628B) to inspect for wood destroying insects and prepare the industry recognized, “Termite Report”.  Both my son & business associate and I are also licensed to conduct radon measurements (NJ DEP Radon Measurement Technicians) MET14070 and MET13186 respectively.

You may not realize it but you’re already paying for elements that fall under due diligence. The title search that you’re doing.  The appraisal that the mortgage company may require.  The appraisal is more due diligence for the lender than it is for you, the buyer.  While I’m talking about the lender, when they verify your income and credit rating, that’s part of the business due diligence of them making the loan to you.

There are things beyond those that we do as home inspectors (Inspection, termite and radon) that we sometimes recommend and sometimes urge you get as part of your home purchase due diligence. As of now we don’t do them but we can refer you to good companies that do.

  • An oil tank sweep. Oil tanks were common for many years. Going back decades, natural gas was not as prevalent as it is today.  In the past, houses may have been heated with electric or oil if natural gas wasn’t available. There are many houses still heated with electricity and there are still some with oil.  However, it’s the ones that no longer have oil but did that we’re concerned with. What do the sellers know and is it accurate?  Years ago it was OK to have an old oil tank cleaned and abandoned in place. However, as I’ve heard, insurance companies will charge a higher premium if the property has an abandoned oil tank. If the property you’re considering buying as an old tank decommissioned and left in the ground, INSIST, that it be removed by the seller. You absolutely do not want to purchase the risk and liability of an underground oil tank. An oil tank sweep is relatively inexpensive and worth every penny. Usually the cost is between $275 and $450 depending on the size of the property.
The same oil lines near the water meter and water pipes.
Old oil lines in the basement.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Sewer scope analysis. Information suggests that up to 80% of the waste pipes from the house to the sewer connection have some type of issue. It could be roots that have grown into the waste pipe. Bellies where there’s a dip in the pipe that can collect waste and hinder good drainage. Breaks in the pipe, cracks or holes. Often, a family of 4 or 5 is buying a house from an original owner where one person has been living in the home for years. Years earlier there was a family but as the children grew up and moved out, eventually, like me and my wife, there are two people living in the home.  The water use for an older couple or a single, older occupant is very, very different than for a family of 3, 4 5 or more. The waste pipe from the house may be able to handle the one or two loads of laundry a week and a few showers a week for the older occupants but when the young family moves in and there are multiple showers and baths a day and multiple loads of laundry a day, etc. The corroded waste pipe is no longer able to handle the waste water volume of the young family as it could for the older couple. A video, sewer scope analysis of the sewer pipe is worth it’s weight in gold.

Financially, for both the oil tank and sewer scope, you’re talking about $300 for each to be sure vs. many thousands of dollars to repair.  Is it 10 to 1?  $300 vs. $3000?  No, it could be more like 30 to 1 or 50 to 1.  That’s $9000 to repair or $15,000 to repair and quite possibly more.

 

In conclusion, think of your home purchase as a business acquisition and your duty is to perform all of the reasonable due diligence needed. The home inspection is #1. DO NOT WAIVE YOUR HOME INSPECTION!  #2 Think about some other, important services: Radon test, termite inspection, oil tank sweep, sewer scope analysis, lead paint, mold and pools.  Anything that’s important to you should be part of your home purchase due diligence.

 

 

Be Aware! Part 1. Termites and Structural Issues (Horizontal cracks in the foundation wall)

Termites and Structural Issues | Home Inspections Colts Neck NJ

Be Aware!  As a homeowner look for things that don’t look right. Often people comment that my son and inspection partner Brian and I are, “very thorough” or words to that effect.  Well, it’s our job to be thorough.  We’re not only looking for things that appear to be wrong but we’re also, “Looking” for things that aren’t there. This is the first in what hopefully will be a series of posts that point things out to homeowners and prospective buyers that will help you either see things (For the owner) that may require some immediate attention and for a buyer, may help you notice things when you look at a prospective home to buy that will require attention.  On a side note, I am appreciative when someone calls for an inspection and says, “I noticed… (Fill in the blank)… when we visited the house. Can you take a look when you do the inspection?”

 

Termites

We did an inspection this week. From the outside it looked like a nice house, well kept and it appeared to be well maintained. However, when inside the basement there were text book termite mud tubes. It’s easy for me to say now but a homeowner must be aware of their surroundings.  If these tubes were there from the start then shame on the termite inspector for not seeing them. However, if they occurred over the years that the current occupant lived in the house then shame on them.  I don’t understand how someone doesn’t see this and then not investigate what it is followed by asking, what do I do next?  Often termite tubes or termite damage are hard to find. As a termite inspector, there may not be any outward signs but when the wood is probed, the wood shreds because the termites have destroyed the wood internally with very few outward signs.  If you see things like I’ve shown below, call a pesticide company.  If you’re not sure, call a home inspector and ask for just a termite inspection.

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Not until the wood was hit with a probe did the termite damage become apparent.

 

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Termite tubes are hanging down from the joists like stalactites seen in caves.

 

 

 

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Termite mud tube seen growing from the floor joist along the plywood sub floor.

 

 

 

 

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Termite mud tubes seen at the corner of the floor joist and the plywood sub-floor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Horizontal Foundation Cracks

Home inspectors, at least we at Regal Home Inspections, don’t like to be the bearers of bad news. It’s our job to find these issues and matters and we’re are thankful when we find them because it’s usually very important information for the clients. Horizontal cracks in foundation walls are one such example.  The follow up for some findings in an inspection report are easy; For example, call and electrician to replace an outlet. Others are much more difficult and the next steps to fully evaluate a horizontal foundation wall crack are not easy and costly but are required. In accordance with the NJ Home Inspection laws and standards of practice, an inspector is required to: A) Identify material defects. B) Explain why the material defect finding is important and then C) What the client must do next.  For a horizontal crack (It’s been identified) it’s B) important because the foundation wall is structural and a horizontal crack indicated that the foundation wall has moved inward. From an inspection perspective, the next steps C) Should include further evaluation by a structural engineer and then repair as that professional deems necessary.

 

The engineer may recommend that the crack be, “Patched and monitored” if it’s hairline. An engineer may specify repair. Often, the repair is intended to strengthen the wall to prevent additional movement. This may be done by having a qualified contractor install “I beams” vertically against the wall.

If your house has exposed, foundation walls, look at them. Notice their condition. Notice any changes that you may see over time.  Ask yourself, “Why is that different now than how it was before?”  This applies to all areas, not just foundation walls and termite tubes.  I’ll try to cover other items at a later date.

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The gray colored, vertical I-beam can be seen here. It was installed to provide additional support to the foundation wall that has cracked.
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Horizontal crack. Here and the next 2 photos are from another house.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A horizontal crack through the buttress.
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The buttress is moving away from the top of the wall because the inward movement of the foundation wall, evidenced by the horizontal crack, is creating a gap at the top between the buttress and the foundation wall. A clear indication of foundation wall movement.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other Services | Home Inspections Monmouth County NJ

Regal Home Inspections, LLC is thermal imaging certified and offers Monmouth County NJ certified home inspections, condo inspections, estate inspections, and townhouse inspections.

It’s likely your mortgage company will require a wood-destroying insect inspection. Regal Home Inspections has the NJ DEP Core & 7B Pesticide Applicator license, so we can offer professional termite and wood-destroying insect inspections as well!

Call 908-902-2590 for your free quote or if you have any questions!

Structural Issues – Don’t waive your NJ home inspection part 2

Structural Issues – Don’t waive your NJ home inspection part 2

Let’s start with the overarching purpose of the home inspection in the great, Garden State.  Identifying “Material Defects”.  By law here in NJ a material defect is defined (Paraphrasing for brevity) as a condition of a structural system or component that’s, “Readily ascertainable” (aka visible) and, “Substantially effects” the value, habitability or safety.

In my experience, most of the material defects are for safety reasons and most (I haven’t actually counted) are electrical in nature.  And the majority of the electrical issues are relatively easy for a licensed electrician to fix. They may include a GFCI outlet in a bathroom that doesn’t work, an incorrectly wired outlet, loose wires, etc. Some are very serious but most are not.

This piece however is intended to look at some structural issues that are often, material defects as well.  That could be due to the fact that the structural matter jeopardizes the structural integrity of the home or because it also effects the value requiring significant cost to repair to restore the intended structural integrity.  As with all material defects, the inspector’s job is to A) Identify the problem. B) Tell you why it’s important and C) Give you a recommendation of what needs to be done next to address the matter.

Here are a few structural matters seen recently in different home inspections.

Horizontal cracks and foundation wall issues. Vertical cracks may or may not be a structural issue. Horizontal cracks are usually of significance. Horizontal cracks seen from inside a basement are almost always caused by an exterior force pushing against the foundation wall. It could be a tree root, water pressure, frozen soil and is occasionally due to the force of landscaping installed outside.

A buttress is an integral part of a foundation wall and is often there to provide additional, structural support against lateral (aka side-ways) movement. When the buttress is cracked or the foundation wall’s movement shifts the buttress, those are some significant forces at play.

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Crack through the buttress.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Gap at the top of the buttress.

 

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Horizontal crack.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This next problem is all too frequent. Other trades people, in this case a plumber, needs to place a pipe exactly where there’s a joist.  Joists are important because the joists hold the floor up (And the ceiling but we’re talking about floor joists here). Joists usually rest on the perimeter foundation wall at one end and often a beam in the middle of the floor.

Occasionally, the joists are run from foundation wall to foundation wall

without a beam in the middle.  The structural issue seen here is that a plumber cut a joist in half to place their pipe. Now, not only is this joist NOT supporting the floor above, it’s actually the floor above that’s holding the joist up! Another joist issue is termite damage that has eaten the joist rendering this, structural element, irrelevant.

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Severed joist.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The end of the joist was eaten by termites.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the interest of brevity, the next issue, all too often found in older homes and in crawl spaces are poorly constructed columns. The columns support beams and the beams support the joists, etc. If one domino fails, the others that are relying on the 1st one also, may fail.

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The post/column is one issue. Another is that the beam sections are not the same height. And the beam ends should be supported.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Substandard support column.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the difficult parts of this job is going through crawl spaces. They are usually very dirty, filled with cob webs and other insects, often wet and occasionally they’re filled with mold.  But it’s part of the inspection job.  NJ home inspection law does not require inspectors go into spaces that in the opinion of the inspector may jeopardize their safety. Also, NJ home inspection laws don’t require inspectors to climb through hatches that are too small.  It’s important to make the effort but safety, my safety is paramount. On that note, as important as it is that the inspector do what the law requires, it’s equally important the inspector tell you what they’re supposed to do but couldn’t do and why.  Safety is a justifiable reason not to climb on a roof, open an electrical panel (If there’s a puddle of water on the floor in front of the pane for example) or go into a crawl space that, in the inspector’s opinion jeopardizes their safety.

 

Other Services | Home Inspections Monmouth County NJ

Regal Home Inspections, LLC is thermal imaging certified and offers Monmouth County NJ certified home inspections, condo inspections, estate inspections, and townhouse inspections.

It’s likely your mortgage company will require a wood-destroying insect inspection. Regal Home Inspections has the NJ DEP Core & 7B Pesticide Applicator license, so we can offer professional termite and wood-destroying insect inspections as well!

Call 908-902-2590 for your free quote or if you have any questions!

Do Not Waive Your Home Inspection. Part 1.

Electrical Issues…A Great Reason NOT to Waive your right for a home inspection.

July 27, 2021

We’re in the COVID Era.  Many people are in a panic, including, for the first time, panicking about where they live.  My wife and I came to New Jersey, from Staten Island, NY in 1987.  We, like many New Yorkers, sought a better life and standard of living for our young and expanding family.  And, without a shadow of a doubt, we achieved a better life in the Garden State.

As a licensed home inspector in Monmouth County, NJ I’ve done many inspections for people moving to NJ for a better life.  NJ’s beaches and rural, suburban areas were a welcome change and attraction for people moving from Staten Island, Brooklyn and occasionally Queens. At one time the cost of living in NJ was an attraction too but unfortunately that may no longer be the case but that’s not important when compared to the other, quality of life issues.

Covid has been the catalyst for change in many, many ways. As it relates to the real estate business, Covid is pushing people to NJ. To some degree people are still coming to NJ for a better quality of life but 2020 has given New Yorkers other reasons to flee the Empire State and the Big Apple; Congestion, crime, unbridled riots the summer of 2020 and more. To some degree the real estate industry in NJ has benefited. I heard that Connecticut is also a welcome alternative to New York.

This all means that the competition for buyers is tough. Many buyers and too little inventory.  Supply and demand. What gives? Bid prices go up and sellers put stipulations that only structural or environmental inspection will be permitted. What? For buyers that’s a bad proposition.  You could be buying a money pit or a safety hazard.

Here are some examples of egregious electrical issues recently found that you would have no knowledge of if you gave up your right for a FULL inspection.  One area that a run of the mill DIY homeowner must never do is electrical work!  It could kill if not done properly, start a fire and worse. The examples shown are, in my opinion, so bad that there’s no way they were done by a licensed electrician or an apprentice working under the guidance of a licensed electrician. Items 1 and 2 are from one house inspected the week of July 19, 2021. Items 3 and 4 are from a house inspected the week of July 12, 2021.

  • A sub panel that’s mis-wired.  Neutrals and grounds are together on 2 different bars.  One set, on the top right is wrong because the bar is, by design, electrically isolated from the metal box (Also part of the electrical ground). So the ground wires are not really grounded.  “No big deal” you say?  Wrong, it is a big deal. If one of the hot wires short circuits it will want to go to the ground wire and to an earth ground. But due to the way it’s wired, there is no metallic path to an earth ground. The electricity from the short circuit will energize all of the other wires in the house and potentially electrocute someone or start a fire.
  • The same panel’s ground bar (Bottom left) also has neutrals wired to it. The grounds are grounded but so are the neutrals.
  • certified home inspector monmouth county nj
    Improperly wired sub panel.
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    Grounds and neutrals on the same bar. The problem is that it’s not grounded.

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    Neutrals are also part of the ground.
  • At another house there’s a 20amp circuit breaker with a 14 gauge wire. That’s definitely a safety issue. If you don’t believe me try Googling, “Can a 14 gauge wire be connected to a 20amp circuit breaker?”  The 1st response is, “You can not use 14 AWG anywhere on a circuit that has a 20A breaker.”  For me it’s case closed.
  • At Regal Home Inspections, LLC we use combustible gas detectors and check the natural gas valves and couplings around the water heater, furnace or boiler and dryer when accessible. Yes, we found a gas leak. Do you want to move into a house with a gas leak? Of course that’s rhetorical question, of course you don’t. But if you give up your right to an inspection, that’s what you may end up doing!
  • home inspections monmouth county nj
    Gas leak detected.

Don’t give up your right to a full home inspection.  If you plan on renovating the bathrooms and kitchen, fine, exclude them from your inspection and maybe the seller will be OK with that.  But do not give away your right to identify Material Defects that effect the safety or habitability of the house.

 

Other Services | Home Inspections Monmouth County NJ

Regal Home Inspections, LLC is thermal imaging certified and offers Monmouth County NJ certified home inspections, condo inspections, estate inspections, and townhouse inspections.

It’s likely your mortgage company will require a wood-destroying insect inspection. Regal Home Inspections has the NJ DEP Core & 7B Pesticide Applicator license, so we can offer professional termite and wood-destroying insect inspections as well!

Call 908-902-2590 for your free quote or if you have any questions!

 

Thermal Imaging Certified

home inspector monmouth county njThermal Imaging Certified | Home Inspector Monmouth County NJ

Frank J. Delle Donne, owner and inspector at Regal Home Inspections, LLC has become certified by InterNACHI, the largest home inspector association, as a thermal imager. This requires taking and passing classes in Building Science and Thermal Imaging. This service will be rolled out this year as an ancillary service for home inspection clients or clients needing the specific analysis of thermal imaging.

What is thermal imaging? Thermal imaging is the use of specialized cameras that can look at the thermal (Heat and cool) properties of objects. A thermal imaging camera compares the thermal signatures of building surfaces comparing hot (or warmer) areas to cold (or cooler) areas. Then, using the training, a skilled thermographer can interpret the images that may identify moisture or poor insulation for example. In the photos below some examples show how the thermal imaging can identify or confirm electrical issues as well. Not all thermal imaging efforts are to identify issues. As shown below, thermal imaging can be used to confirm the operation of radiant heating in a ceiling or floor. The radiant heat is very subtle and not able to be distinguished with a laser thermometer, for example. But, as shown below, a thermal image can confirm the proper operation of a radiant heat system.

The thermal imaging service will be offered to home inspection clients at a steeply discounted rate or offered as a singular service for home or building owners. For more information call Frank at 908 902 2590.

This photo shows the heat of a light against the background of the cooler ceiling. Building anomalies such as moisture, poor insulation and electrical issues can be photographed in the infrared spectrum to identify issues that are not apparent to the naked eye.

 

There was a small stain on the kitchen ceiling, approximately 6 inches wide. The thermal image shows (the dark area in the photo) an area approximately 3 feet wide that’s wet from a bathroom leak above the kitchen ceiling.
Visually, an overheating wire can be seen.

 

The thermal image confirms that the circuit breaker and wire are warmer than the surrounding breakers and wires.

 

The thermal image camera can detect the heating coils for a radiant heat system. The coils can’t be seen with the naked eye but are in sharp focus with thermal imaging. This image is of the heating coils in the ceiling.
These two photos (above and below this caption) are of the radiant heating coils in the floor of a bathroom.

 

Other Services | Home Inspections Monmouth County NJ

Regal Home Inspections, LLC is thermal imaging certified and offers Monmouth County NJ certified home inspections, condo inspections, estate inspections, and townhouse inspections.

It’s likely your mortgage company will require a wood-destroying insect inspection. Regal Home Inspections has the NJ DEP Core & 7B Pesticide Applicator license, so we can offer professional termite and wood-destroying insect inspections as well!

Call 908-902-2590 for your free quote or if you have any questions!

Crawl Spaces – Buyer Beware | Home Inspector Monmouth County NJ

Many homes in NJ have crawl spaces as part of the foundation. Foundations typically are either concrete slab on grade, basements or crawl spaces.  Over the years we’ve inspected many crawl spaces and it’s been some-good, some-bad. The bad ones have been very bad. A few photos are below.

One that comes to mind was a flip-house. The interior of this approximately 100 year old house in northern Monmouth County was nicely done; New floors, kitchen, bath and a fresh coat of paint. However the crawl space was an entirely different story.

Moral of the story, make sure you hire an inspector that will go into the crawl space. Don’t be mesmerized by the nice paint to forget about the bones or foundation. The house is only as good as the foundation it’s built upon.

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Poor structural support.
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Again, poor structural support.
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Wet wood due to lack of a vapor barrier. Measured with a moisture meter.

 

Monmouth County NJ Certified Home Inspections

Regal Home Inspections, LLC offers Monmouth County NJ certified home inspections, condo inspections, estate inspections, and townhouse inspections.

It’s likely your mortgage company will require a wood-destroying insect inspection. Regal Home Inspections has the NJ DEP Core & 7B Pesticide Applicator license, so we can offer professional termite and wood-destroying insect inspections as well!

Both of our inspectors are also licensed to perform radon inspections. We have NJ DEP issued Radon Measurement Technician licenses and are affiliated with the best radon lab in the state.

Call 908-902-2590 for your free quote or if you have any questions!

Rain Water Management – Part 3

Minimizing and Managing Potential Basement Water Problems

Rain Water Management – Part 3

By Frank J. Delle Donne, Licensed Home Inspector

May 29, 2018

Introduction

In September, 2014 I was inspired to write Part 1 because of what I had observed in my inspections and a call that I received from a client. In December, 2014 I wrote Part 2 because on October 18, 2014 and November 8, 2014 I performed two inspections that I was reminded of prior to writing Part 2.

This past, Memorial Day weekend, if you were in central New Jersey you know how hard it rained on Sunday, May 27. The link below confirms that in the town where I live, over 4 inches of rain fell.

https://forecast.weather.gov/product.php?site=NWS&issuedby=PHI&product=PNS&format=ci&version=1&glossary=1

Based on the amount of water in a couple of buckets I had in my yard, I think the 4+ official inches in this link is low. Regardless, let’s use the official number and do the math.  Why am I now writing this?  Because over the past couple of days I received a text and a call from home inspection clients saying that they had water in the basement after this weekend’s rains. The lessons and recommendations in the previous parts of this series of articles remains the same. Keep rain water away from your house; Maintain your gutters and downspouts. Have downspout extensions as far from the house as possible. Make sure the soil and pavements slope away from the house. I also recommend maintaining any sump pumps and have battery back up for the sump pumps too.

How much water is in 4.72 inches of rain?  For this example we’ll assume a 40 foot by 60 foot house. That’s 2400 square feet of surface area. After the math is done, just coming off the roof is over 7000 gallons of water! If we add in a five foot apron around the house, that’s another 2943 gallons making the total amount of water from this one day’s rain was over 10,000 gallons deposited close to the house.

The consequences of epic rainfalls like this can’t be determined during the course of a 2 – 3 hour home inspection.

Keep your gutters clean and maintain your gutters and downspouts.

Make sure the soil and pavement are sloped away from the house.

Maintain your sump pump systems.

 

 

 

Regal Home Inspections, LLC…An Accredited Business of the BBB

Starting on October 25, 2017, Regal Home Inspections, LLC (www.rhinj.com) has been accredited by the Better Business Bureau serving New Jersey.  Following five years of initial operation, Regal Homes earned this distinction through hard work and focused, skilled inspections serving the needs of the home buying clients. You can visit the BBB’s portal for Regal Home Inspections, LLC by clicking on this link:

http://www.bbb.org/new-jersey/business-reviews/home-inspection/regal-home-inspections-llc-in-colts-neck-nj-90182800/

Through 2020 Regal Home Inspections, LLC has maintained that accreditation.

With every inspection Regal Home Inspections, LLC tries to exceed the client’s expectations with a thorough, detailed home inspection visit followed up with an accurate, comprehensive and informative report. And of course, the report has to be delivered in a timely manner.