Using Carbon Dioxide (CO2) As An Indicator Of Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Issues

Evaluating The Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Levels Inside a Home as a Clue That May Indicate Mold

July 24, 2023

Introduction

Regal Home Inspections, LLC has always been as diligent as possible with regard to meeting and often exceeding the letter and spirit of the NJ Home Inspection Standards of Practice (The Law). We’ve received many compliments on the comprehensive nature of our inspections and quality of our reports.  The Law states what must be done, what is excluded and leaves open to individual inspection companies to expand into ancillary services. As an example, both of the home inspection team at Regal Home Inspections is, of course, licensed in NJ to conduct the home inspection. They are also both certified by the NJ DEP as Radon Measurement Technicians. Frank is also licensed by the NJ DEP as a Pesticide Applicator which allows him to conduct termite inspections and prepare the industry recognized Termite Report (NPMA-33).  Brian is also licensed by various State entities to perform lead paint evaluations (Lead Safe inspections) and collect dust samples to check for lead paint dust.

As of this writing, New Jersey does not have any license requirements for mold testing, sewer scopes, oil tank sweeps, etc. and we opt to allow others address those.

A conversation about, “Looking for mold” often takes place with prospective clients and we’re very consistent to say, “We don’t look for mold”.  Mold can be in dozens of places inside a home; Under carpets, inside walls, behind bathroom vanities, etc.  We feel that if you tell someone that, “Yes, we look for mold” then if you look in 100 places and don’t see any it’s possible that after the client moves in and changes the carpets and there’s mold under the padding for a carpet they may complain because you said, “Yes, we look for mold” (Which of course we do not).

Taking air samples for mold is one way of determining if high levels of mold exist inside a home but it’s costly. A special vacuum pump is used to collect air samples. Multiple air samples are taken then sent to a lab for evaluation. The lab’s evaluation includes identifying the types of mold spores collected and the amount. Some mold is expected. Elevated levels are not. Again, each air sample costs the consumer about $125.00 and usually, at least 3 are needed (One of which is a control sample taken outside the home being tested). There may be as many as 6 or more in many instances and the cost can easily approach $1000 just to, see if there’s mold.

Solution

CO2 meter in calibration mode.
CO2 detector mounted on a tripod. Indoor measurement is 796ppm. Like many homes, the windows and doors have been kept closed for weeks while the AC has been running. Same room after the windows were opened measured CO2 @ 554ppm.“See” if there’s mold.

We have recently learned about another, less expensive way to predict if a home has mold.  In researching the new methodology we learned that it has been in use with the US Department of Agriculture for years (Since about 2009).

For the home buyer, it’s predictive.  If this new methodology provides normal results then the research indicates that there aren’t elevated levels of mold growth inside a home.  However, if the methodology has different results, that indicates that high levels of mold exist THEN, further evaluation is required by a mold specialist.

The predictive methodology is measuring the Carbon Dioxide (CO2) in the air inside a house, room, basement, etc.  Research that we’ve reviewed state that normal outside CO2 levels are about 400 parts per million (ppm). If the levels of CO2 spike, 3000 or more ppm, this is a red flag that there may be high levels of mold in the house. You see, according to a USDA researcher, ”monitoring CO2 levels might provide more accurate results to detect if mold is growing.  Monitoring mold by measuring CO2 : USDA ARS

The researcher says that,As mold grows it gives off carbon dioxide. Therefore, if there is a CO2 spike, there is likely an increase of mold activity.”

From Facts About Indoor Mold – RadGreen

“Seeing a spike in CO2 levels could show severe mold growth. Standard carbon dioxide runs about 400 parts per million (ppm), and if the sensor reads more than 10,000 ppm, that could mean severe mold activity, and then 2,000 to 3,000 ppm could mean some mold activity.”

“Indoor mold is the mold that causes problems. Mold growth can cause damage to buildings and furnishings. To reduce mold growth in an indoor space, controlling the humidity levels is very important. Keeping humidity levels between 30-60% can reduce the amount of moisture in the air to keep mold growth low.(2) Ventilating the space is another way to reduce mold growth in indoor spaces. Inspecting your indoor space is vital to ensure that the indoor environment stays healthy. Responding quickly to leaks and spills and cleaning them is essential to prevent growth in those areas.”

Regal Home Inspections, LLC, is undergoing the implementation of the use of carbon dioxide (CO2) detectors during the course of our home inspections. Training for Indoor Air Quality was just completed. Just like the termite inspection, radon test or lead paint, it will be another ancillary service allowed by the home inspection Law.  During the course of a home inspection a CO2 detector will be used in different areas of the house. For example, we’ll check the CO2 levels in the basement, kitchen area and bedroom area. If the CO2 is in the 600ppm range then, as the reference material indicates, that’s a level that is expected inside. If it’s elevated from that and spikes to 2000ppm – 10,000ppm then the client will be advised to get a mold specialist for further testing. This service will be offered in conjunction with our standard home inspections at a reasonable price. It will also be offered as a standalone service.

“Seeing a spike in CO2 levels could show severe mold growth. Standard carbon dioxide runs about 400 parts per million (ppm) [outside], and if the sensor reads more than 10,000 ppm, that could mean severe mold activity, and then 2,000 to 3,000 ppm could mean some mold activity.”

“Indoor mold is the mold that causes problems. Mold growth can cause damage to buildings and furnishings. To reduce mold growth in an indoor space, controlling the humidity levels is very important. Keeping humidity levels between 30-60% (20% – 50% is a tighter range which is beneficial) can reduce the amount of moisture in the air to keep mold growth low.  Ventilating the space is another way to reduce mold growth in indoor spaces. Inspecting your indoor space is vital to ensure that the indoor environment stays healthy. Responding quickly to leaks and spills and cleaning them is essential to prevent growth in those areas.”

Regal Home Inspections, LLC, is undergoing the implementation of the use of carbon dioxide (CO2) detectors during the course of our home inspections. Just like the termite inspection, radon test or lead paint, it will be another ancillary service allowed by the home inspection Law.  During the course of a home inspection the CO2 detector will be used in different areas of the house. For example, we’ll check the CO2 levels in the basement, kitchen area and bedroom area. If the CO2 is in the 500ppm to 600ppm range then, as the reference material indicates, that’s a level that is expected. If it’s elevated from that and spikes then the client will be advised to get a mold specialist for further testing. This service will be offered in conjunction with our standard home inspections at a reasonable price. It will also be offered as a standalone service.

 

Pricing:                                                       With a Home Inspection         Stand-alone

Radon                                                          $50 – $100                             Minimum $175

Termite                                                         $50 – $100                            Minimum $195

Lead Paint                                                     Varies*                                 Varies*

Carbon Dioxide (CO2)  Measurement         $150                                       $350+

 

*- Different municipalities have different requirements. Some allow a visual, “Lead Safe” inspection and others require swabs be taken in every area where children are likely to spend time; Bedrooms, playrooms, Living rooms, etc.

 

 

Flippin’ Flippers

Flippin’ Flippers

by Frank J. Delle Donne  

October, 2022

Flipping houses has become an occupation for some. There are many homes that have been restored and updated by investors and DIYers. Many of them are very nice. However, as home inspectors, we’ve come across a number of flipped houses that fall under the category of what I call “Buyer Beware”. One such example was inspected October, 2022.

Due to some findings at this house, I was motivated to write this article as a word of caution to prospective buyers of flipped houses and a strong word of encouragement to hire a professional, licensed home inspector.  Your due diligence includes the inspection of the house including a termite inspection, sewer scope and tank sweep at least.  Most flipped houses are not occupied when you are thinking of buying it and have been empty for a while. Many flipped homes are old.

The standard, New Jersey home inspection covers structure, roof, electric, plumbing, etc. All very important things. I am also licensed to conduct a termite inspection and both inspectors here at Regal Home Inspections are also licensed to conduct radon tests.  Commencing in the very near future, one inspector at Regal Home Inspections, LLC will also be NJ licensed/certified to perform LEAD PAINT testing as well.

From what I’ve learned, anecdotally, many mortgage companies require a termite inspection. Even if yours does not, it’s very important that you hire a thorough inspector for Wood Destroying Insects (WDI).  WDI usually include termites, carpenter ants and carpenter bees. There are others but these are the three, most common.

While most houses should have a radon test, Monmouth County, for example, has a number of towns that are classified by the NJ DEP as, “High radon potential” areas. A few towns in Middlesex County and Somerset County. No towns in Ocean County are classified as high radon potential areas but we have seen homes with levels of radon that require mitigation. A radon test is important for a home you’re buying and periodic radon tests are important for occupied homes.

Back to the, “Flippin’ Flippers.”

The flip-house we recently did in Monmouth County had a nice looking kitchen and nicely renovated bathrooms and floors, etc. But what exists outside of the obvious is what matters. For this home, the major issues included:

Extensive, structural damage in the basement from termites.

Structural damage due to bad trade-practices in the crawl space and

Very poor implementation of aspects of the roof/plumbing vents and fan venting to the outside.

Termite Damage – Sometimes, termite damage is hard to find. It’s often limited and in a small area. Sometimes the indications are seen outside and sometimes inside. In this case, there was termite damage in a number of floor joists and in the subfloor. The termites rendered a number of joists as worthless for their intended purpose. Consequently, floors were no longer level and the structure of the house was compromised. Of course, following the NJ HI standards of practice, this is a material defect.  I’m going out on a limb and speculate that the flipper didn’t do their own inspection because this would have/should have been found.  In our report to the client we identified the problem, told them why it was important – damages the structure/reduces structural integrity – and advised them on what to do next. In this case it’s getting in an expert to provide a quote to repair and replace all the damaged wood so they can negotiate the purchase price with the flipper and receive some concession.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Structural Damage – While crawl spaces are not places I enjoy going, as I sometimes tell people, “Going into the crawl space was, “worth the price of admission”. In this same, flip-house there were two joists, under a bathroom no less, that had notches and split. These joists are holding up the weight of the tub and toilet and they are now capable of supporting a load that’s only a fraction of the joists’ intended strength.

Joist is poorly notched and now a split is forming from the weak point.
This notch significantly weakens the joist. Furthermore, both of these joists are below a bathroom. There appear to be some sagging in the joist at the notch. That’s understandable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Roof issue. This is one for the Hall of Shame in my opinion. A sincere, “Thank you” to the flipper for making it so easy to identify.  From the outside of the house there were two elements of the roof that caught my attention. Now please note, the NJ home inspection laws require inspectors have an 11 foot ladder. Following the ladder’s safety instructions, that means I can’t get on a roof that more than, approximately 8 feet off the ground.  I also carry a 22 foot ladder but for this home, that too was not long enough. So, I use the telephoto lens of my camera and zoom into the roof as close as possible.

The first 2 photos below caused some concern when seen from the outside.

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I went into the attic, I could see what was actually done. To give you an idea, my first reaction was to use a descriptive word for the actions of the flipper such as, “egregious”. A quick Google search for the definition of egregious results in, “outstandingly bad; shocking.”  Yes, that’s how I felt. My inspection partner, Brian, told me to edit that out of the report so I did. I substituted it with, “poor craftsmanship” or something similar.  The conditions still are material defects. The conditions were these…

For the pipe boot seen from the outside (Right photo above), the craftsman, inappropriately left the plumbing vent short and inside the attic and stuffed a bathroom fan’s vent together at the bottom of the pipe boot. The boot is absolutely not intended for that configuration. Someone knew they were doing that work incorrectly and in a substandard manner but did it anyway.

 

 

 

 

 

For the first photo from the roof, someone just stuck the open end of a 4 inch diameter, flexible foil vent duct through the roof! That’s basically a 4 inch diameter hole in the roof.  For both of these things, what were they thinking?

Water will enter the vent and collect at the bottom of the duct inside the attic. The potential exists for either the duct to leak onto the ceiling above or the water accumulate so much that it starts draining out of the ceiling fan in the bathroom!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bottom line, these matters were found and properly reported back to the client. There were also other findings that require attention; Electrical, safety and maintenance items (Like clogged and loose gutters).

Bottom line, hire a capable inspection company. Although you have to pay for these things, get the inspection, oil tank sweep, sewer scope, termite inspection, radon test and even a lead paint inspection.  There are also other things that may or may not apply such as pool inspections, Level 2 chimney inspections, etc.  If you have any questions please call Brian Delle Donne at 732 740 8365 or Frank at 908 902 2590.

 

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!

Maintaining Your Home – Part 2; Help The Sale Go Smoothly

Maintaining Your Home – Part 2

Help the Sale Go Smoothly

Findings of a Home Inspector

By Frank J. Delle Donne, Licensed Home Inspector

July 11, 2014

For most people, purchasing a house is the largest purchase they have thus far made. Help ensure that you, “Buy with confidence. Sell with pride” ® by using Regal Home Inspections, LLC.

Please leave a review of this article or of our services.   Click Here and then click on, “Write a Review”.

Reading this article will not guarantee that you will sell your home. It offers observations of issues found in homes both new and old. However, older homes usually contain more issues. 

If you are planning to sell your home and would like to have a Seller’s Inspection conducted please call Regal Home Inspections, LLC. We can perform a thorough inspection and make recommendations that should help any buyer feel more comfortable in making an offer.   We can perform a New Jersey Administrative Code (NJAC) compliant home inspection. We can conduct a radon test and have your house professionally inspected for termites and Wood Destroying Insects and Wood Destroying Organisms (WDI/WDO). We can also conduct pool inspections. If issues are found we can help facilitate additional levels of expertise. All in an attempt so that your home, a small cape cod or a country estate, will be better prepared for the eventual buyer’s inspection and closing.

Introduction

In the first part of this two part series I tried to introduce the reader to some not-so-obvious maintenance issues that I have found during my home inspections. The reason they are important is because they are safety related and some are objectively deemed to be Material (aka Major) Defects. This article looks at a few others. The goal here is that possibly sellers will read this, consider their home and either perform a more thorough inspection on their own or, better yet, hire Regal Home Inspections, LLC to perform a Seller’s Inspection so that when it comes time for the buyer’s inspector to come through, many of the issues may have been addressed already. There are two ways that a seller can benefit from a Seller’s Inspection performed by Regal Home Inspections, LLC. First, the seller can use the findings to make corrections and/or repairs. Second, the seller can always include those items found in the Seller’s Inspection in the Seller’s Disclosure. I find that home sales hit snags when things are found by the buyer’s inspector that weren’t previously known by the seller or the seller knew but was hoping the inspector wouldn’t find. Quite the roll of the dice for all parties.

Brief Review (This section is repeated from the initial article)

The NJAC has many requirements of an inspector. However, when it comes to the actual inspection and the reporting there are a few key points. The NJAC follows the Standards of Practice of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI). When it comes to the inspection, the inspector is required by law to DESCRIBE specific systems and components of the house; Plumbing, electrical, exterior, etc. The inspector is required to IDENTIFY any Material (aka Major) Defects; Findings that effect the habitability, safety or value of the home (in very simplified terms here). And the inspector is required to PREPARE a written report memorializing the previously mentioned elements.

What the inspector is not doing is determining if the curtains match the rug. If the choice of siding materials matches or clashes with the general theme of the other houses. We are looking for very specific things that are not otherwise apparent to the buyer or the seller and for this reason, it’s a very good idea for the seller to be as prepared as best as possible. You painted the walls so they look fresh, right? You had the grass fertilized and the bushes trimmed so the yard has curb appeal, right? Maybe you’ve even put some chocolate chip cookies in the oven to make the house smell good for that open house?

Preparing Your House

Does anybody decide on a Monday, out of the clear blue, that they are going to list and try to sell their home that day? Isn’t it more reasonable that people know in advance that they will be selling their home? It may not be known years in advance but a month, maybe two at least. “Honey, maybe we should plan on selling our home when we retire next year?” Or perhaps, “I just got offered a new job at work but it requires a relocation. The company wants me to move to California in 2 months.” My wife and I have been in our current home for almost 22 years with no plans to leave…yet. However, when we moved into our previous home in April, 1987, we knew that in the summer of 1991 (over 4 years later) we would be moving again. We used the summer when our oldest child would be between kindergarten and 1st grade as the target. I am not kidding when I say that we knew at the house closing in 1987 that between the end of June and early September, 1991, we’d be making another move.

Literally, the day before my son started 1st grade on September 5, 1991, we moved into our current home. That 1st grader is now 29 years old!

Sure there are exceptions. Parents pass away suddenly and the home has to be sold as part of an estate is one example and there are others. The point is that in the majority of situations planning can occur and fixing inspection related issues should be high on the priority list. Especially for estate sales!

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, Ground Fault Circuit Interrupt (GFCI) outlets are currently required in any outdoor outlet, kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms, garages, unfinished basements and elsewhere. A home inspector must look for and test GFCI outlets. GFCI outlets (and GFCI protected circuits) protect people from stray electrical current that they may inadvertently come in contact with. Electricity wants to follow the path of least resistance to ground. When people are struck by lightning, they accidentally become the path of least resistance to ground for that lightning bolt. If there is a damaged electrical circuit in the kitchen, bath or elsewhere, a person may accidentally become the path of least resistance to ground. A GFCI outlet or circuit can detect that unintentional path and in a tiny fraction of a second, the GFCI shuts the electricity off.

When I am inspecting a house I provide the client with information that shows, for example, that GFCI outlets haven’t been required in kitchens since 1987.   I inspected a house last week that was built in 1977. Before I went inside the house I provided information to the client and stated, we may not find GFCI in the kitchen…and we didn’t. It’s a Safety item on the report.   This sale may not go through because the GFCI are one item on a not too long list of things that need to be fixed. It’s an estate sale with, “who gives a damn” sellers that just want their money.

Does your house have a door between the attached garage and the living area? If it does, is the garage door solid core or metal? Is it fire-rated? Does the garage door have a mechanism (spring loaded hinges or other device) that AUTOMATICALLY closes and latches the door between the garage and living area? Spring loaded hinges cost about $10 each at Home Depot or Lowes. Don’t have a fire rated door or it doesn’t automatically close and latch? It’s a Material Defect related to SAFETY.

How close does the soil get to your siding? In a wood framed house you have the foundation wall and then the wood frame sits on top of that. The siding, let’s assume vinyl, covers the wood framing and exterior wood sheathing. It’s not a Material Defect or a Safety item but the inspector will recommend that there is at least 6 inches of space between the top of the soil and the bottom of the siding and wood framing. Does a buyer want to close on a new house and then spend the next couple of weekends digging and raking the dirt away from the house? I’d bet the answer is a resounding, “NO”. If you’re planning to sell, hire a landscaper and pay them some money to re-grade your yard so that you can see 6 inches of concrete foundation between the top of the soil and the siding. Do you know why it’s important? Let me put it to you this way. If the soil comes to the siding and framing, the inspector will tell the buyer that the condition makes it easy (conducive) for termites to go from the soil to the wood. Do you know what the buyer thinks? They think, “if I buy this house I’ll have termites!” All they will remember is, TERMITES! An associated aspect to this is if you are planning to sell, get a termite inspection and treatment. Have the pesticide company give you a certificate and share that with the buyers. Turn a potential negative into a positive.

Conclusion

I have just shared three inspection issues that are A) Relatively easy to fix and B) Can scare the heck out of a buyer and chase them away. Regardless if you are buying or selling a home, it is a significant transaction either way. Buy with confidence and sell with pride by having Regal Home Inspections, LLC conduct your inspection. We look for things that you probably never considered. That’s why we can help you avoid issues and delays in closing when the buyer and seller are of different minds on whom should address inspection item A, B or C. We can help get some of them out of the way for the seller or help the buyer identify issues that may not be obvious.

Regal Home Inspections, LLC starts every inspection with the presentation of a folio of information for the client. That folio includes general information but also includes a written introduction to the inspection. I present an initial overview of the main elements detailed in this article; Laws that govern the inspection process, areas that will be inspected and more. I believe this is unique to the service that Regal Home Inspections, LLC provides.

I would appreciate your comments about this article. Please email your comments to frank07722@gmail.com

About the author. I am a NJ Licensed Home Inspector. I am the owner and Inspector at Regal Home Inspections, LLC. In addition to being a New Jersey Licensed Home Inspector I am also a NJ-DEP certified Radon Measurement Technician and Regal Home Inspections, LLC has also collected samples for lead paint, allergens and mold. We are affiliated with the state’s best labs that perform the sample evaluation and testing. We can also help facilitate the testing of septic system and numerous aspects of oil tank evaluations. This includes oil tank integrity testing, tank locate services and soil samples. We work to ensure that the house you’re buying is sound or that you know of any issues.

Maintain Your Home. Findings of a Home Inspector.

Maintaining Your Home

Help the Sale Go Smoothly

Findings of a Home Inspector

By Frank J. Delle Donne, Licensed Home Inspector

June 17, 2014

For most people, purchasing a house is the largest purchase they have thus far made. Help ensure that you, “Buy with confidence. Sell with pride” ® by using Regal Home Inspections, LLC.

Please leave a review of this article or of our services.   Click Here and then click on, “Write a Review”.

Reading this article will not guarantee that you will sell your home. It offers observations of issues found in homes both new and old. However, older homes usually contain more issues.

If you are planning to sell your home and would like to have a Seller’s Inspection conducted please call Regal Home Inspections, LLC. We can perform a thorough inspection and make recommendations that should help any buyer feel more comfortable in making an offer.   We can perform a New Jersey Administrative Code (NJAC) compliant home inspection. We can conduct a radon test and have your house professionally inspected for termites and Wood Destroying Insects and Wood Destroying Organisms (WDI/WDO). We can also conduct pool inspections. If issues are found we can help facilitate additional levels of expertise. All in an attempt so that your home, a small cape cod or a country estate, will be better prepared for the eventual buyer’s inspection and closing!

Introduction

I have inspected homes of various ages, sizes and in different geographies; Bergen County to Ocean County. Some have been urban and some suburban. From 1200 square feet to approximately 8000 square feet. From 1 furnace and no air conditioners to a single home with four furnaces and 5 air conditioners.

Regardless of the age, size, price or location there have been inspection related issues found with nearly every inspection I have performed. In this article I will share some examples because they are probably not the type that the seller has ever considered. Some are easy to prepare for. Some not as easy and you should be prepared. It’s when the seller is unprepared and the item is deemed to be significant* that there’s potential for contention. * Significant is subjective when it comes to the buyer. Items of note should not be subjective for the inspector but one never knows how the buyer will judge an issue. Some examples are in the article.

Brief Review

The NJAC has many requirements of an inspector. However, when it comes to the actual inspection and the reporting there are a few key points. The NJAC follows the Standards of Practice of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI). When it comes to the inspection, the inspector is required by law to DESCRIBE specific systems and components of the house; Plumbing, electrical, exterior, etc. The inspector is required to IDENTIFY any Material (aka Major) Defects; Findings that effect the habitability, safety or value of the home (in very simplified terms here). And the inspector is required to PREPARE a written report memorializing the previously mentioned elements.

What the inspector is not doing is determining if the curtains match the rug. If the choice of siding materials matches or clashes with the general theme of the other houses. We are looking for very specific things that are not otherwise apparent to the buyer or the seller and for this reason, it’s a very good idea for the seller to be as prepared as best as possible. You painted the walls so they look fresh, right? You had the grass fertilized and the bushes trimmed so the yard has curb appeal, right? Maybe you’ve even put some chocolate chip cookies in the oven to make the house smell good for that open house?

But did you think about:

  1. Having your furnace or air conditioner serviced?
  2. Checking to make sure your electrical system was up to date?
  3. Did you check to make sure there aren’t any leaks under any of your sinks?
  4. Did you check to make sure your dryer vent is clean and relatively lint free?

The inspector will go even further. Let’s look at some examples.

  1. How old is your garage door and garage door opener? Since 1993 garage doors have to have entrapment protection mechanisms. In fact the NJAC REQUIRES that they inspector check for functioning garage door entrapment protection mechanisms.   Furthermore, if they are not functioning properly, this is classified as a SAFETY issue (remember the Material Defect definition in the NJAC? I paraphrased above but SAFETY issues are included).
  2. Do you know what the difference between a guardrail and a handrail on a set of steps? The inspector better and if there isn’t either where they should be that too is a SAFETY issue. On a related note, do you know how far apart the spindles of a guardrail should be? If they are too far apart this is a SAFETY issue.
  3. While we’re on the general subject of steps and stairs, do you know how high a step’s riser (the vertical part) can be? How about the minimum depth for the tread (the part where your foot goes) before it too is a SAFETY issue?
  4. Your water heater and air conditioner are working fine, right? As a home inspector part of our inspection process is to determine how old some of the major appliances are. When I mention, “Major appliance” I am referring to water heaters, furnaces and central air conditioners, not microwaves as an example. If you, as the seller, don’t have receipts or records of when the water heater, furnace or air conditioner was purchased, the inspector can almost always determine the manufacture date from the serial number. Different manufacturers code the date differently but it’s almost always there. Sometimes the year is coded to a letter or the year is abbreviated; “0803” for manufacture the 8th week if 2003 or C99 where the “C”, 3rd letter in the alphabet corresponds to March and the “99” is 1999. What’s my point? If the water heater, AC or furnace is too old it may be flagged as a Material (aka Major) Defect. It’s not subjective but it’s objective. If a water heater is 20 years old, it is well past its typical useful life and every day that it continues to work is a gift. The buyer is being told by the inspector that they should have no (zip, zero, nada) expectation that the 20 year old water heater will work another day and therefore, the “value” of that NJAC required system or component is practically $0 but there is an expectation that the house’s price includes a working, functioning and reasonably reliable water heater. The seller thinks it is but the inspector will use the facts to determine that it is not.

Here are a couple that aren’t as obvious.

  1. For a single family home or townhome, there is often an attic. A space above the regular living area but below the surface of the roof. The science behind most attic designs is that the air inside the attic should be the same temperature as the outside temperature. In the summer it’s tough to keep the attic at 90 degrees on a day when it’s 90 degrees and sunny out but in the winter, when it’s 5 degrees outside, the attic science says that the air temperature in the attic should also be 5 degrees. Why? Well, if the air in the attic is 50 degrees when it’s 5 degrees outside, where might that heat source be coming from? Some may be the sun load but most is probably heat leaking from inside the house’s living space into the unheated attic. Do you pay to heat your attic when there’s no one living or sleeping there? I don’t. Secondly, when the roof is snow covered, if it gets too warm inside the attic the snow on the roof will melt and the water will freeze. The water will make its way up under the roof shingles and then freeze. Constant freeze thaw cycles will shorten the life of your roof surface. I just had my roof replaced at my home. The manufacturer’s warranty states that the warranty does not cover damage due to, “Inadequate ventilation”. Inadequate ventilation will cause the roof surface and the sheathing (plywood) below to get way too hot in summer and the freeze damage mentioned in winter. Proper ventilation helps in all seasons.
  2. I’ve had this come up twice in the last few weeks. A situation that I don’t believe any homeowner would notice but one that will be identified as a SAFETY issue on an inspection report. Many homes have had old oil furnaces replaced with newer gas furnaces. Perhaps the water heater too. I came across this situation this week. A couple of weeks ago I saw an old wood burning fireplace converted to a gas fireplace. The old designs for both these houses had oil or wood appliances and properly designed and sized flue pipes were originally built. The clay flue pipes inside the chimneys were built to a height that allowed the hot (oil or wood) exhaust to rise up the flue and exit the chimney where the vapors cooled. Please note that the exhaust is very caustic and when it cools it condenses into water which is also, caustic.   Comparatively, believe it or not, gas appliance exhaust isn’t as hot as oil exhaust or wood smoke.

When the gas exhaust enters the clay flue in the original chimney, since the gas doesn’t start out as hot, it actually cools and condenses before it leaves the clay flue pipe. The caustic materials in the gas have now attached, mixed with water, inside the clay flue pipe. Over time this caustic water can corrode the clay, the mortar connection clay sections and the mortar and brick of the chimney’s structure.

When the appliance is upgraded to gas, an insert should be installed. The metal flue duct will reduce the diameter and make the draft characteristics of the metal flue pipe much more efficient and appropriate for a gas appliance.

Conclusion

Regardless if you are buying or selling a home, it is a significant transaction either way. Buy with confidence and sell with pride by having Regal Home Inspections, LLC conduct your inspection. We look for things that you probably never considered. That’s why we can help you avoid issues and delays in closing when the buyer and seller are of different minds on whom should address inspection item A, B or C. We can help get some of them out of the way for the seller or help the buyer identify issues that may not be obvious.

Regal Home Inspections, LLC starts every inspection with the presentation of a folio of information for the client. That folio includes general information but also includes a written introduction to the inspection. I present an initial overview of the main elements detailed in this article; Laws that govern the inspection process, areas that will be inspected and more. I believe this is unique to the service that Regal Home Inspections, LLC provides.

I would appreciate your comments about this article. Please email your comments to frank07722@gmail.com

About the author. I am a NJ Licensed Home Inspector. I am the owner and Inspector at Regal Home Inspections, LLC. In addition to being a New Jersey Licensed Home Inspector I am also a NJ-DEP certified Radon Measurement Technician and Regal Home Inspections, LLC has also collected samples for lead paint, allergens and mold. We are affiliated with the state’s best labs that perform the sample evaluation and testing. We can also help facilitate the testing of septic system and numerous aspects of oil tank evaluations. This includes oil tank integrity testing, tank locate services and soil samples. We work to ensure that the house you’re buying is sound or that you know of any issues.

Pre-Listing or Seller’s Inspection

Pre-Listing or Seller’s Inspection.

Why is it the right thing to do?

By Frank J. Delle Donne, Licensed Home Inspector

January 9, 2014

About the author.  Frank J. Delle Donne is a NJ Licensed Home Inspector, owner and Senior Inspector at Regal Home Inspections, LLC.  and a member of the New Jersey Association of Licensed Professional Home Inspectors (NJ-ALPHI) & the National Association of Certified Home Inspectors (NACHI).  Frank graduated from Pace University in New York City and he is a 30+ year veteran of the telecommunications industry.  Frank founded Regal Home Inspections, LLC and is building it into the most professional, comprehensive and thorough inspection company in New Jersey leveraging his technical skills as well as his professional sales skills learned during over 3 decades of industrial sales.    Regal Home Inspections, LLC can also test your house for radon having exceeded the NJ requirements to obtain a Radon Measurement Technician certification.  Indoor Air Quality, Mold and Allergens are also tests we can provide for real estate transactions or for the self motivated, concerned homeowner.  We can also facilitate testing of septic systems and oil tanks; tank integrity and soil tests below ground.

Introduction – Preparing to List Your Home

Most homeowners like their homes.  They’ve probably lived in it for a number of years and, for whatever reason, are compelled to sell.  Perhaps it’s to downsize or upgrade.  Perhaps to relocate to a new area, move to a better school district, move back home or away from the in-laws.  Whatever the reason, you have decided to sell your house.  So what’s next?  You contact a Realtor® or a number of agents.  You compare recent sales in your area or, “comps”.  You think about an asking price and perhaps a minimum price and think, “I won’t go below this price or that.”.  You consider the balance on your mortgage, interest rates for a new mortgage and how much new home you can afford to buy.  Your new commute, your new local taxes, and you should consider the condition of your house.  There are lots of things, right?

Perhaps the last point is one that you should give some extra consideration to.  Why?  We all know that it’s the buyer’s market.  A qualified buyer with a no-contingency purchase, good credit and ready to move in is what every seller is looking for and for that purchaser, there are probably numerous options for them in your area, in that school district, with an easier commute, etc.

So how do you attract the buyer to your house?  Well, you could drop the price or initially set the price so low it sells in days.  In my opinion, if you see a house that has a contract for sale within a few days of its listing the price was probably set too low.

Sprucing Up Your Home – Curb Appeal and Neutral Colors

I am no strange to these real estate sales TV shows.  Whether it’s someone flipping a house or a team of experts showing someone how to prepare their home for sale, like them or not, they have a point.  Homes with great curb appeal and those that present well inside will sell faster than a house that looks like it needs significant repairs and improvements.

I don’t think anyone disagrees that a new coat of paint in the rooms and halls, steam cleaning the rugs, lighting a few scented candles or baking a batch of chocolate chip cookies or an apple pie during the open house will help present the house well.  Good work.  Your plan to appeal to the senses seems to have worked.  You get a contract and it goes into and out of attorney review and then the buyer schedules a home inspection.   This is when the items in disrepair and other issues come to the surface quickly surpassing the positive benefit of the coats of paint and aroma of the pies and cookies.  And you start thinking, is the deal going to go south?

Solution

While there are no guarantees in life except death and taxes, you can help minimize the potential for a last minute deal crash by having Regal Home Inspections, LLC perform a Pre-Listing or Seller’s Inspection.   As you may have read in some of the other articles I have written, there are numerous problems that I find that a homeowner isn’t even aware that I will be looking for.  The step on your front porch that measures 9 inches high, the downspout that dumps all the rain water off your roof next to your basement wall then the water enters your basement!  Or the simple electrical outlet problem that becomes a highlighted safety item in my or any inspector’s report.  Even something as simple as having (or not) the service records for your heating system and central air conditioner could result in price negotiations with the buyer at the last minute.  This is particularly important if those appliances are more than 10 – 15 years old.

The solution is to get a Pre-Listing or Seller’s Inspection.  Share that information with prospective buyers.  Perhaps correct as many as possible.  Show the buyer that you are diligent and thorough too.  You can, “Sell with Pride” and you can help them, “Buy with Confidence” as we say here at Regal Home Inspections, LLC.

Even if you don’t lift a finger to correct any of the items a Pre Listing or Seller’s Inspection may identify, you can at least use that information in your Seller’s Disclosure and state that the asking price has been set with these inspection items in mind.  Then when the buyer’s inspector finds the same issues, they are not a surprise to you or the buyer.

As we all know, if you get a buyer to agree to $X for your home and then the Inspector finds numerous safety and major defect items (items that a Pre-Listing or Seller’s Inspection would have found) the buyer is going to demand a reduction in price to fix those items.   You will either lose the sale or reduce the price.  This price concession can be for the water heater that’s perfectly fine but it’s 12 years old or the 100 am circuit breaker panel that many consider inferior for today’s living.

Summary

If the cost of a Pre Listing or Seller’s Inspection is $350 but it saves you $10,000 in last minute price concessions is it worth it?  If the inspection costs $450 but it saves you $5000 in last minute negotiations with the buyer or having to hire a plumber or electrician at premium wages to fix a problem  at the last minute to save the deal, is the $450 worth it?

Of course the Pre Listing or Seller’s Inspection is worth the cost.

I would appreciate your comments about this article.  Please email your comments to frank07722@gmail.com