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Getting a Home Inspected in Kansas?

Are you getting or having a home inspected in the state of Kansas? Be sure to ask your inspector to produce his/her registration card. As of January 1, 2010, all home inspectors must be registered with the state to provide home inspections in Kansas. If your inspector cannot produce the card, he/she may be operating illegally.

For your protection, insist on a legal, professional inspector!

Billing to Close? Not in Kansas Anymore!

billingIn the past, many home inspectors have allowed the payment of their services to be paid at the time of closing. This means that the bill for the home inspection services would be rolled into the closing costs for the home that is being purchased.

The Kansas Home Inspectors Professional Competence and Financial Responsibility Act was recently passed and is in effect in Kansas. One stipulation to this act states that the Kansas Home Inspector Registration Board may deny, suspend, or revoke a home inspectors registration if the inspector allows the inspection fee to be contingent on the closing of the underlying real estate transaction.

Do you see the ethical dilemma? Do you think your inspector will be 100% honest about the conditions found in a home if he/she knows that payment is contingent upon you closing the deal?

Hopefully, you’ve got an inspector that is honest, believes in a strong code of ethics, and stands by that code by joining an organization that promotes strong ethical accountability, such as ASHI (American Society of Home Inspectors).

Mortgage brokers, lenders, home buyers take heed. It’s against the law for a home inspector to bill the services to closing without some other type of guarantee of payment. By aiding in this practice, you may be as guilty as the home inspector.

But notice what I wrote: “…some other guarantee of payment”. Some home inspectors will take a credit card number or a personal check at the time of the inspection AND provide a way to allow their services to bill to closing. If the deal does not close, for any reason, or the home inspector’s fees are not paid at the time of closing, the inspector is still guaranteed payment, either by charging the credit card that was provided, or cashing the check.

I’m not an attorney, so I don’t know whether this loop hole is legal. For me, it’s just better to stay away from perception of a conflict of interest. That’s also in the ASHI Code of Ethics. And is a good enough reason to stay away from that practice.

Cash, check or credit at the time of inspection, or no inspection service. Its the law.

To Re-roof or Replace

dscn3233I was recently berated by “one of the best real estate agents in the northland” because of a recent inspection. Normally, I let this go without a second thought. Of the few calls I receive from an angry agent, most are simply a misunderstanding. They’re often easy to resolve, once everyone fully understands the conditions that have been reported.

But this one was different. This agent challenged me directly with a code quote. I reminded the agent that I wasn’t called to the inspection to perform a code inspection. It didn’t matter to this agent. The code said it was ok, and I “shouldn’t have reported the condition”. Period.

The roof on the house was approximately 2 years old. Actually, the second layer of the roof was two years old. The house was in Liberty, MO. Both layers were asphalt composition. The manufacturer of the shingles was unknown.

I reported that the roof had been layered, which is not recommended. Layering takes 5-10 years off the life expectancy of the second layer. Many shingle manufacturers do not warrant the product when it has been applied over an existing roof.

According to the agent, this just wasn’t good enough reason to write up the roof. If the code allowed it, then it should be ok.

I disagree. Thats where we left it. However, lets look at the code just for fun.

In the 2006 International Residential Code, the code states:

R 907.3 Recovering versus replacement. New roof coverings shall not be installed without first removing the existing roof coverings where any of the following conditions occur:

  1. Where the existing roof or roof covering is water-soaked or has deteriorated to the point that the existing roof or roof covering is not adequate as a base for additional roofing.
  2. Where the existing roof covering is wood shake, slate, clay, cement, or asbestos-cement tile.
  3. Where the existing roof has two or more applications of any type of roof covering.
  4. For asphalt shingles, when the building is located in an area subject to moderate or severe hail exposure according to figure R903.5. (I won’t copy the figure for this blog. Suffice it to say, that the entire KC metro area is in the moderate hail exposure area).

Number one makes sense. Don’t put  a new roof on a building where the underlying material is already falling apart. Number two doesn’t apply to asphalt shingle roofs. Number three simply says that in all cases, two layers is the max allowed.

But number four is new in 2006. It deals specifically with hail in this area. Up until the 2006 codes, layering was allowed. This statement did not exist in the 2003 codes.

Many areas of the KC metro area have not adopted the 2006 codes yet. But the following areas of the metro HAVE adopted the 2006 codes: Belton, Blue Springs, Cass County, Clay county, DeSoto, Gardner, Harrisonville, Jackson County, MO, Kansas City, MO, Lawrence, Leawood, Lees Summit, Lenexa, Miami County, Osawatomie, Ottawa, Overland Park, Parkville, Platte County, and Raytown.

The rest of the metro area is still using the 2000 IRC or the 2003 IRC.

If you live in one of the cities or counties listed above, reroofing is not an option. For the rest, its still not recommended by the shingle manufacturer.

Knowledge is King

iw-orlando-head1I can’t stress enough the importance of continuing education. The home inspector that gives up learning should also give up inspecting. In this profession, there is always something new and old to learn. Hiring a home inspector that continues to invest in knowledge is a good investment as a home owner.

I recently returned from ASHI’s InspectionWorld 2009 in Orlando. As usual, the variety of topics and quality of speakers was phenomenal. Continuing education sessions ranged from advanced plumbing, electrical, building codes, green buildings, roofing, foundations, stucco and on and on.

If I’m looking for a doctor, I want the most educated one I can find. The one with the most up-to-date knowledge in his business. One that invests in himself.

The same should hold true for anyone looking for a home inspector.

“Seriously, Radon Is No Big Deal”

This was taken from the Kansas City Regional Association of REALTORS website:

Starting on July 1, 2009, all residential real estate contracts in the state will need to contain the following language:

‘‘Every buyer of residential real property is notified that the property may present exposure to dangerous concentrations of indoor radon gas that may place occupants at risk of developing radon-induced lung cancer. Radon, a class-A human carcinogen, is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers and the second leading cause overall. Kansas law requires sellers to disclose any information known to the seller that shows elevated concentrations of radon gas in residential real property. The Kansas department of health and environment recommends all homebuyers have an indoor radon test performed prior to purchasing or taking occupancy of residential real property. All testing for radon should be conducted by a radon measurement technician. Elevated radon concentrations can be easily reduced by a radon mitigation technician. For more information, please go to http://www.kansasradonprogram.org.”

As inspectors, we hear irrational comments regarding radon over and over:

  • “Radon is no big deal”
  • “Its not a problem in KC”
  • “Its not a problem in (insert your county here) county.
  • “The house has a walkout basement and doesn’t need to be tested”
  • “Radon testing is a bunch of hog-wash – its never been proven to be a problem”
  • “Testing is a waste of money – I don’t believe in it”
  • “Its a new house – radon can’t be a problem yet”
  • “Its an old house – the radon would be long gone by now”

….the list goes on…

But it makes you wonder. If the state of Kansas is going to require the statement above to be included in real estate contracts, why would someone advise against testing? If the state says radon is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers, why would someone choose not to test?

By the way, I’ll bet you that the same people who made the comments above, all use sunscreen at the pool. Go figure.

Kansas Registration Act Signed By Govenor

On Sunday, May 18th, Govenor Sebelius signed HB 2315 to require registration for all home inspectors practicing in the state of Kansas. This bill establishes minimum requirements for professional home inspectors in our state. It also establishes a Kansas Home Inspector Registration Board.

Key elements of the new law include:

  • As of July 1, 2009, all home inspectors working in counties with populations greater than 60,000 are required to have:
    • Proof of General Liability Insurance coverage of at least $100,000.
    • Proof of Errors & Omissions Insurance (or similar fiscal responsibility) of at least $10,000.
    • Proof of membership in good standing in one of the nationally recognized home inspection organizations (TBD by the board by January 1, 2009).
    • Have passed a proctored exam by a testing organization approved by the board.
    • Obtain a minimum of 16 hours of continuing education credit each year.
    • And have done one of the following options prior to May 18th, 2009:
      • Completed an 80 hour classroom course on home inspections
      • For inspectors operating in counties with populations of 60,000, have been in business for two years and completed 100 fee-paid inspections.
      • For inspectors operating in counties with populations of less than 60,000, have been in business for two years and completed 35 fee-paid inspections.
    • Inspectors working in counties of 60,000 or less have an additional 18 months to meet these qualifications (till January 1, 2011).
  • Home inspectors may not limit their liability to less than $10,000. By the same token, home inspectors are not liable for damages in excess of $10,000 (unless otherwise agreed by the inspector and the person hiring the inspector – and, most likely, additional fees paid).
  • Home inspectors liability extends 12 months. Any actions to recover damages from an inspector must be brought no later than 12 months from the date of inspection.

It bears repeating – this bill establishes the MINIMUM requirements for home inspectors. Does it protect the consumer? Time will tell.

There will still be a difference among inspectors – some better than others.  As we’ve said in previous blogs, its important to interview your inspector. Take time to understand what he/she will do for you.  Regardless of the new law, you’ll still get what you pay for, so make sure you understand what you want before you make the call to hire a home inspector. It’ll save you a lot of aggravation in the long run.


Tune Ups Are Not Just For Cars

With the rising cost of gasoline we hear a lot about tuning up your car, but have you considered tuning up your home?

Yes, homes need tune ups also. We often neglect the things that work but most often those are the things that need scheduled maintenance the most. We can save a lot of money in energy costs by taking care of the house, and avoid repair costs due to neglect.

The most obvious but the most overlooked is your furnace filter. We call it a furnace filter but actually it filters your homes air whether it be for the furnace winter time use or the summer A/C. The filter should be changed per the filter manufacturers specifications. If you buy the cheap 50 cent filters, they need changed every month. These are only good for filtering basketballs and large toys. The better filters starting in cost from $4 and up are your best choice and need changing less often – every couple of months.

If you have never had your HVAC (Heating Ventilation Air Conditioning) system cleaned and tuned now is the time. With summer heat, the A/C needs to function as cool as possible. For the best cleaning, call a professional for a complete cleaning. The professional can clean areas of the A-coil Evaporator that you do not see but can build up with a nasty mess, restricting air flow and dramatically decreasing efficiency. A HVAC professional will also clean the condenser unit (the outside unit) and will check refrigerant levels. While they are there, go ahead and have them tune the furnace as well.

If you do not have a programmable thermostat this can be great way to save money and the payback is within a few months.

What does all of this cost? Most HVAC tune ups run around $100 plus refrigerant or replacement parts. This is cheap considering the cost to efficiently run your system. If this is outside your budget right now, at least change your filter and hose down the condenser unit. If you have a lot of vegetation growing around the condenser, trim it back at least a couple feet so the unit can breath.

All of these things will save you money and keep your home cool and warm.

Evict Non-Paying Renters!

While not necessarily required, weather caps and spark arrestors are recommended for chimney terminations. Weather caps help to keep water out of the chimney. Spark arrestors help to keep burning embers from setting fire to your house and the neighbors houses.

Weather caps also help to keep out non-paying renters, such as birds, squirrels and raccoons. I took this picture this week at a house in Raytown, and thought I’d share it. This is a view looking down a chimney from the roof. Thats a raccoon staring back, with an entire family down there as well.

You Get What You Paid For

We have all heard the phrase “You get what you pay for.” We’re firm believers in continuing education and – yes – this all costs time and money.

Sadly, there are many inspectors offering big discounts at the buyer’s expense. What do I mean by that? When an inspector offers a discount, it’s usually for a reason. Many times it’s because of their lack of experience or lack of education. Because they don’t invest in themselves, thereby making them better at their profession, they choose to skimp on that aspect of their business and pass that “savings” on to you.

For example, lets talk about radon measurements. In KC there are about 250 inspectors, full time and part time. Almost all of these inspectors offer radon measurements. But how many have taken the time to take the Kansas radon measurement courses offered by Kansas State University in conjuction with the Kansas Dept.of Health. The last time I checked only about 10% have taken this course and are certified to offer Radon Measurements. 

It takes a lot of time and money to go to this level. Wouldn’t it be comforting to know that the person testing your home for a class “A” carcinogen actually knows what he/she is doing and why? Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer and you may have selected the person to measure your home based on price and not expertise and training. The Kansas Radon Proficiency Program will only list providers that are trained and tested, but doesn’t list their price. (Yes, we’re listed there). When we finished our initial inspector-training courses we did not stop there. We continue to take additional courses several times a year to provide the best service to you that we can provide.

So the next time you think you are saving a little money by hiring or referring the cheapest inspector, think again. We can save the client money because we understand the whole home system better through our continuing education. Some of the continued education courses we have taken include National Fire Safety, National Environmental Health Association Radon Proficiency, Roofing, Exterior Cladding Systems, Electrical Systems, this is just a few. Not only can we inspect these systems with more knowledge, we can also explain what we report. So the next time you think you saved fifty bucks on an inspection, think again. The true cost may end up being much more than that.

The best compliment I have received is a “thank you” from a real estate agent saying I made them look good for the referral.