These Frequently Asked Questions are provided as a service to help educate the consumer. If you have any additional questions, please contact Greg Vishey at email@example.com To schedule a Real Estate Inspection, Call Greg Vishey at (586)665-0659 (cell).
Though we are close to large cities, wildlife abounds in our area. Homeowners are frequently startled by raccoons or opossums. Sometimes these animals nest under decks and inside fireplaces and attics. These large creatures can be very persistent and destructive as they build their nests and raise their young. Reports of raccoons ripping through roofs and soffits are common. Squirrels and birds love to nest in the louvers which ventilate attics and their nesting materials hold moisture and restrict airflow through the house.
While we are spared the poisonous snakes and fire ants of the south, we have our share of wood-boring insects, carpenter ants and stinging insects (mostly wasps). The mature trees that shade the homes in the summer and break the harsh winter winds are the same trees that drop limbs on roofs, phone and electrical lines to interrupt service; their roots sometimes attack our sewers, foundations, retaining walls and driveways.
Few people realize all of the factors that influence our homes and foundations. Approximately 150,000 years ago, glaciers deposited massive amounts of sand and other minerals in our areas causing unique structural and safety concerns. The further north you travel in the Detroit area, the more likely you are to find sand under a home. Much of our base soil below M59 (Hall Rd.) is clay and this material swells and shrinks with changes in moisture and can be VERY destructive to foundations. When many of our flatlands and swamp areas were reclaimed from the edge of the lakes and when our sunken highways (I75, I96, I94, I696), I275) were dug, this clay was "unpacked" and redistributed under many of our homes. The effects of this clay on our foundations can be profound.
Our close proximity to water and low elevation above it can result in poor drainage through sewers or back-ups. For some, that close proximity means flooding during storms since the mild grade of our area does not shed or absorb water very efficiently. That same proximity to water also contributes to periodic high winds and heavy downfalls in rain and snow storms. The high moisture content in the ground promotes mildew and mold growth in our basements and some of these growths can be very hazardous. Since much of the N-E Detroit area is a combination of reclaimed wetland and clay fill, our house foundations have a very difficult job trying to support the home loads while atop a relatively unstable earth.
Since all of these conditions are at work with each of the homes and buildings in our area, the role of a Real Estate Inspector is to discern which of these conditions constitutes a risk or has become a hazard and to detect the effects.
Weather affects the findings of an inspection. Rain can make the detection of leaks easy from the attic, but prevent the inspection of shingles, flashings and a chimney cap from the rooftop. In the end, the effects of weather usually “balance out” by favoring certain checks while impeding others. Keep in mind that it takes months to build a house and one would literally have to disassemble an entire house to ensure that all the hidden wires and pipes were routed and rated properly, that adequate fastening was done to joists...you get the picture - your inspection does come with a level of uncertainty.
The customer needs to understand if an inspection will be based on a scope of work or on an increment of time. The best-qualified inspector will have considerable difficulty providing a complete assessment of a 3000 square foot home if only a two hour period is contracted. This size home for example would typically take a two-man team 3-4 hours.
If the scope of a single inspection is not adequate to address your concerns about a property, or if expanded inspection services are wanted, then additional time should be contracted with a specific, written “Statement of Work” to be performed. This added scope would typically append the Pre-Inspection contract.
Some inspection 'home reports' are “inches thick” volumes of information about house construction, soil conditions, window designs and are clearly overwhelming to the consumer (and even to the professional inspector). Such reports can be a powerful tool, but they often give a false impression that an inspection covers greater territory or detail than it actually does. Sadly, some of these inspection packages are actually just a half dozen pages of cryptic codes and notes nested within the accompanying paper; very little of it is relevant to the inspection and all of it can be found at the library for free if the consumer wants it. Your goal is not to learn how to build a house, your goal is to discover and understand what is going on with the house being inspected. That is why you receive a written executive summary with your Vishey Home Inspection. Oh, by the way, we also provide you with a considerable amount of educational material; it is placed in the Appendix and on the CD-ROM where it belongs.
In the end, the most significant feature in an inspection report is how well the inspector’s observations are communicated in writing to the customer - to empower that customer to make an educated decision regarding their investment of money, time, labor and emotion.
This is an excellent time to remember Ben Franklin's advice against being penny-wise and pound-foolish. If an inspector quotes you $150 for an instant report and an hour's work at the property, will that be adequate time to survey the attic and foundation, properly test the heating, plumbing and electrical systems, then clearly communicate the findings in writing? The answer is simply NO.
Just as some of my clients have done, I also have called inspectors in the phone book and I can confirm that Home Inspections in S-E Michigan typically range from a low of $250 to a high of $595
When Vishey Home Inspection inspects your home, he works with a proprietary process (copyright Vishey 2002-2014) that guides the inspection through over 1200 attributes. These assess your risk in 14 key areas. The inspection typically requires between three and four hours to complete. After an inspection is complete, the report preparation will take an additional two to three hours; preparing photographs and creating a summary that adequately communicates all findings and recommendations to the customer. During this time, additional research is conducted that provides solid answers to the most unusual findings. For these reasons, expect a thorough inspection to cost around $385-$400 for a small structure (i.e. <2200 square foot) and proportionally more for a larger, older or more complex home. There are some very large homes in our area and those get quoted on an hourly quotation that is based on the work requested in the Pre-Inspection Agreement.
Commercial work is quoted based on size, complexity and an agreed-upon scope of work. Due to complexity and size, these typically cost more than a home inspection but are similarly quoted on an hourly basis and scope.
Additional services such as Asbestos testing, Lead testing, Radon testing and Water Quality tests append the basic inspection cost. These are services that are beyond the scope of an ASHI Inspection and will typically require some additional time, tools and resources to conduct, interpret and report. I recommend these services sparingly, only when they provide a reasonable benefit to you.
Greg Vishey is available at hourly rates to conduct work where a very narrow scope of examination is needed or where homes/buildings have unique needs. For example; advising on remodelling plans, chemical sample collecting and testing, diagnosing paint adhesion problems, assisting with a seller's disclosure statement, reviewing your property prior to listing so as to recommend repairs that maximize a home's salability, commercial consulting/inspecting, and lastly, doing specific foundation, roof or similar inspections where a full home inspection is not wanted or needed. Similarly, we have been retained on an hourly basis to oversee contractor remedial work and to prepare/collect evidence for litigation. Please call regarding rates and estimates for these services.
Remember that you usually get what you pay for. Ask for references. A good inspector always has a long list of references.
Many people think that a licensed builder is best qualified to conduct a Home Inspection. For years, private firms have made a profitable business conducting a 1-day class and getting people their Michigan Builder's License. A builder's license has no overlap with the training required to inspect homes and is License training is typically focused on one thing; getting to pass a test. Just as a driver's license doesn't make you a good driver, a builder's license won't make someone a good builder (or inspector for that matter).
Please consider that most of the defects found in new and existing construction were created by licensed builders. Greg Vishey spent 30 years in industry as an Engineer, creating specifications, testing to them, investigating defects and creating solutions for them. For the last 18 years, he has conducted thorough inspections and is certified to teach this craft. That type of experience isn't taught in a day.
Keep in mind that most buyers are already “risk conscious” and are hoping that the house or property will be free of major problems while expecting some minor ones to pop up. The discovery of undisclosed, major defects raises questions about the seller’s honesty and about possible other, missing disclosures. A seller’s inspection and complete disclosure is a good-faith gesture to potential buyers that this sale will have lower risk. The discovery of correctable problems will enable a seller to disclose them or fix them before the property is shown or inspected. The inspection substantiates the asking price.
Surprises in real estate negotiations create instability and can significantly harm the seller by encouraging the buyer to attack the asking price. For some buyers, creating instability or surprises is actually a negotiation strategy. Re-negotiated offers after the discovery of new problems can and do typically reduce the sell price by many times the cost of an inspection before-the-fact. Personally, I believe in total disclosure, picking a good price to sell at and then standing firm on the advice of your experts who helped you get there.
Choosing to ignore these possibilities is the cheapest way to get an inspection and is likely a poor choice. (The addage about being penny wise and pound foolish is well-applied here).
Take this real-world example: A young couple with 3 children was buying a 50-year old house in excellent condition (their offer is made and contingent upon the home inspection). The basement tile has several areas coming loose and is at least 30 years old. The house has recently undergone heavy renovation. Old dust samples from above the basement air ducts test high for lead contamination. Other dust tests from inside the air ducts test negative for lead. Lab tests of the same dust tests negative for asbestos but the linoleum tests positive for asbestos (at 18%).
The couple completes the purchase of the house knowing that the interior air is likely safe, that past renovation has likely put lead-containing dust into the air and that any future renovation of the floor tile must now be done in a manner that is non-violent to ensure that the asbestos risk is mitigated. They contract the basement to be cleaned and the floor tile to be removed. Upon completion, they have all the ducts cleaned and sanitized. The old dust in the house is gone and surfaces test negative for Lead. Newer dust is later collected and tests negative for Asbestos. Radon tests negative. Compared to a basic inspection, they have only increased their purchase cost by a modest amount for all the samples plus lab work (the lab asbestos tests took only 28 hours and the Radon testing takes about a week). Do you think they will have a problem selling this house some day?
The EPA has excellent explanations of the risks of Lead, Asbestos and Radon. The handling of these risks can mean the difference between a dangerous remodelling or a safe one. Our childern will suffer or benefit by our decisions regarding these potential hazards. These are serious considerations for serious hazards.
Elimination of basement dampness, can usually be accomplished by rerouting gutters and downspouts to discharge a greater distance from the side of the house. In many cases, landscaping around the house will ensure that the slope goes away from the house rather than toward it. A proper slope away from the house would be a minimum drop of six inches per six feet of distance. It is normal for settling of the soil to cause a slope toward the foundation, and it is commonplace to add more soil to restore the good drainage away from the foundation.
I It is possible to spend many thousands of dollars for a water collection and extraction system that may or may not protect the basement or foundation from excess water and flooding. Note that it is always best to prevent water from entering the basement and the area around or under it in the first place. A splash block under a downspout outlet, or distributing of a load of fill dirt around the house are both effective and inexpensive solutions to most causes of basement dampness.
While a low air exchange rate is great for retaining heat, it also concentrates the chemicals we give off as humans (Ammonia, Butyric Acid, Carbon Dioxide, Water and Methane) and the chemicals that we clean with (Chlorine, Ammonia, Acetic Acid, Sodium bicarbonate and Alcohol). There are also chemicals that outgass from our building materials, earth and flora around us (Formaldehyde, Alcohol, Acetic Acid, Lead, Carbon Monoxide, Petroleum Distillates, Toluene, Radon, Hydrogen Sulfide and from Fungus spores ). To put this in a simple perspective, you are already under chemical and biological attack in your own home!
A properly constructed home must permit a small and needed amount of air exchange to keep the interior environment healthy. If the house is too tight, you could experience respiratory irritation or a condition referred to as “Sick Building Syndrome.” The small amount of leakage through the chimney, kitchen and bathroom vents and the basement exhaust vents on the furnace and water heater may be keeping you healthy now.
Keep this in mind if you have a home with foundation dampness and you are getting ready to replace your furnace. If you select a high efficiency design with no basement air drafting (these draw air from outside), then the air exchange that was generated in the old design would be eliminated in the new one. While lowering your gas consumption per cycle, home air quality will deteriorate and unwanted interior humidity can rise. It is possible for the increased humidity to permeate your insulation (reducing its ability to keep the house warm) negate any energy savings that were expected from the expensive, high-efficiency furnace. Note that high humidity makes insulation conduct heat out of the house. This common scenario would leave you (potentially) with an expensive furnace, high heating bills and low air quality - a very unwanted and unintended result!
If you have trouble getting your fireplace to draft properly when you use it, that may be a sign that your home's air exchange rate is too low. If your house in undergoing a make-over and getting “tightened up” with new windows, caulking, new doors and chimney work, make sure that your heating and cooling contractor is considering the air exchange rate and basement ventilation in the design of the heating system.
The latest building requirements for new homes require two features to remedy poor air exchange and poor furnace drafting. One feature is the addition of a make-up air supply duct from outside the home to the area by the furnace intake. The second feature is an air balancing duct from the outside to the return air supply. Both of these features can help reduce the accumulation of humidity and radon gas in a home and may need to be retrofitted to an older home if you are making changes in the air exchange or heating characteristics of the home.
A qualified Home Inspector can advise if and where these features are necessary and he/she can also advise on other ways of optimizing the energy efficiency of your home - saving you money in the end!
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