From the Rafters
A Newsletter for Real Estate Agents from A-Pro Home Inspection Austin
Think Warm Thoughts!
Winter 2018 has arrived with a bone-chilling fury, affecting real estate offices across the country. At A-Pro Home Inspection, we like to look at the bright side. Warmer weather isn’t far behind. And as you’ll be reminded in this issue of From the Rafters, even winter’s wrath can’t stop our certified and trusted home inspectors from doing a quality job.
Also check out articles on common water heater problems, the meaning of “fair and balanced” home inspection reporting, the truth about house noises in winter, and some frigid-weather facts to share with your clients. From all of us at A-Pro, here’s wishing you the promise of warmer days ahead and a record sales year in 2018.
Water Heater Checkup—an Important Part of Any Home Inspection
Anyone who has ever been jolted awake by an early morning cold shower knows the value of a properly functioning water heater. As a real estate agent, you know the importance of having this critical piece of equipment checked by a professional home inspector for functionality and safety as part of a complete foundation-to-roof assessment. Along with a visual and operational examination of the water heater, home inspectors note the age and life expectancy of the system. As one of the busiest—and often overlooked—appliances in a home, both electric and gas water heaters can suffer from a range of problems.
Here are a few conditions often reported by home inspectors:
No Hot Water: With a gas water heater, this could mean a number of concerns, including a bad thermocouple, faulty gas valve, or a burner that is rusted or damaged. With an electric water heater, the culprits are often malfunctioning heating elements or thermostats. Other general problems include broken dip tubes and sediment buildup in the tank.
- Damaged Tank
- Tank Too Close to Combustibles
- Noisy Operation
- Corrosion: This is a possible sign that there may be internal tank leakage.
- Water Leaks: When reporting, inspectors will make sure that water underneath a tank is being caused by an actual leak rather than condensation. Leaky drain valves are a common issue.
- Blackened Areas Near the Burner: This often indicates poor combustion or back drafting, in which exhaust gases spill out into the room instead of leaving the house via venting.
- Gas Leaks: Inspectors note if improper gas lines are being used, such as flex line, which may be restricted in the area.
- Non-Centered, Wobbly Draft Hoods
- Malfunctioning Temperature and Pressure Relief Valve
- Too Much of a Rise in the Vent Stack
- Gas Valve Frozen in the Off Position
- Reversed Hot or Cold Piping: Inspectors report if the hot pipe feels hot to the touch and the cold pipe is cold. Reversed piping can result in decreased efficiency.
For electric water heaters, the inspector will check for damaged wiring, loose connections, wiring that is not on a dedicated circuit or properly secured, color-coding issues, open slices, and other observations.
The Cold Facts: Why Does Your House Talk to You in the Winter?
Generally, the cracking and popping a house makes in the winter is no cause for concern—just the home’s wood or steel framing materials contracting due to the drop in temperatures. When dissimilar materials rub against each other and one of the joints slips ever so slightly, the result is a pop or crack, sometimes loud enough to wake you from a deep sleep. Yes, it can be alarming, but most often these middle-of-the-night disturbances are a normal aspect of home ownership.
If the noise coming from an attic is not the result of a structural deficiency, improved insulation above the ceiling and better attic venting are often used to moderate temperatures and minimize expansion and contraction.
In cases where roof noise, caused by wind flexing the rafters or trusses, is frequent and annoying, some homeowners take more drastic measures by adding diagonal bracing.
Loud bangs and cracks emanating from the ceilings and walls may be the result of a phenomenon known as “truss uplift,” which may also present itself in the form of ceiling cracks. This results when the truss’s insulated bottom chord is subject to different temperature and moisture conditions than other parts of the roof truss.
Home Inspections in the Winter?
While it’s true that ice and snow can make a home inspection more of a challenge, these conditions won’t stop an experienced home inspector from performing as thorough an inspection as possible.
Colder temperatures make an ideal time for testing the home’s heating system, as well as seeing how well the home stands up to cold-weather stress. Limitations of winter inspections include difficulty detecting dormant insects and restrictions against running the home’s air conditioner when the temperature dips below 60 degrees.
When the weather outside is frightful, there are steps that can be taken to make a winter inspection proceed smoothly. Here are a few:
If windows are frozen, de-ice them so they can be opened and closed by the home inspector.
Remove snow and ice from sidewalks, driveways, and walkways. This is important for two reasons: First, it allows the home inspector to more easily—and safely—access the property. Second, the inspector can visually inspect the surfaces for cracking, potholes, unevenness, and other conditions.
Clear ice and snow from around the foundation. Checking for signs of foundational damage during the exterior portion of the home inspection is critical. With excess snow around the foundation, problems such as hairline fractures, sloping, sagging, crumbling, or ruptures may be hidden.
Remove snow off of the roof if possible. By raking off even a small portion of the roof, the inspector can at least make a partial assessment of this important part of the home. If the snow is too deep and cannot be removed, the roof will have to be evaluated at a later date.
Real Estate Corner: What Does “Fair and Balanced” Reporting Mean?
This is a question we frequently receive at A-Pro Home Inspection. Here’s the explanation:
It’s our job as certified home inspectors to provide our clients with an objective visual examination of the physical structure and systems of a house from top to bottom, including interior plumbing and electrical systems, roof, attic and visible insulation, walls, ceilings, windows and doors, floors, heating and cooling systems, the basement and structural components.
It is not our job to intentionally throw a roadblock in a potential sale. Rather, our goal is to give the buying client as much knowledge as possible to make an informed decision, or let the selling client know the condition of the home (e.g., what needs immediate replacement due to age or safety concerns) before putting it on the market. So our report includes comments on systems that are in the late stages of usefulness and will need to be replaced soon, as well as aspects of the home which still have many years of service remaining. In other words, we observe and then tell the full story—the great, the okay, and, sometimes, the not-so-good.
A fair and balanced report provides all parties with the peace of mind of knowing that there will be no unwanted surprises down the road. An accurate and comprehensive report builds a strong foundation for negotiations and life-changing decisions based on hard facts, not emotions.
In the end, skilled and experienced home inspection reporting that is fair and balanced, more often than not, paves the way for satisfying, hassle-free conclusions.
A Blizzard of Fun Winter Facts
The next time you complain about shoveling a few piles of snow from your driveway, consider this: An iceberg can weigh up to 10 million tons, or approximately the heft of 1,500,000 male African elephants.
The year was 1911. William Howard Taft was president. The Titanic took its maiden voyage. And Tamarack, California got buried in snow. In fact, 390 inches of frosty precipitation blanketed Tamarack in January alone, the most ever recorded in a single month. Ten years later in Silver Lake, Colorado, an astounding 6.3 feet of snow got dumped on the small town in 24 hours—another record amount.
In just a few weeks, the 2018 Winter Olympics will commence in PyeongChang, South Korea. Did you know the only person to ever earn a gold medal in both the winter and summer Olympics was an American? Eddie Eagan was both a light-heavyweight boxing champ (1920 in Antwerp, Belgium) and a member of the four-man bobsled team that took the top prize in Lake Placid, New York in 1932.
Who do we have to thank for curling (you know, the sport with the brooms)? That would be Scotland, where it originated in the 16th century.
A FINAL THOUGHT: When your clients need home inspections this winter – or any season – give your local team at A-Pro a call. We’ve performed thousands of inspections from coast to coast since 1994. Reach us at 1-513-657-1367 or schedule an inspection online at Cincinnati.