Category Archives: Home Inspections

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.

 

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.

Passing a Home Inspection

I don’t normally watch the show “King of the Hill”, but I thought I’d share this episode with you.

Home inspectors often get asked during an inspection “will [a certain problem] make this home fail the inspection?” The answer is NO. Home inspections are not a pass/fail situation. A thorough home inspection is for your benefit. During the course of the inspection, you’ll have the opportunity to learn about the house. It’s your chance to follow a knowledgeable professional around the house and ask questions about how the house is constructed, how the components operate, and to find out what kind of defects may or may not exist.

This episode shows a home inspector “failing” a house, which can’t be done by an independent home inspector. But it’s still funny. Click HERE to watch.

Leaks, Leaks, and More Leaks!

The Exterior Design Institute (EDI), based in Norfolk, Virginia, is “a non-profit organization founded for the purpose of training and certifying Building Envelop and EIFS Inspectors and Moisture Analysts to promote quality control within the EIFS industry.”

Recently, the authors of this website were certified by EDI to perform building envelope inspections.

The “building envelope”, in simple terms, is the outside of our homes. Water infiltration is the #1 cause of damage to any residence. Moisture enters the home in many different ways. It also originates inside the home, and tries to get out in many different places. Locating and resolving those sources of moisture intrusion quickly can drastically reduce the causes of costly damage to any residence.

When hiring an inspector, consider their qualifications. Have you ever heard the adage “If the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail?” If your inspector doesn’t have the proper training to diagnose problems in a house you’re buying or selling, will the inspector be any help to you?

We’re here to help.

“No Inspection Contingencies”

Prior to a recent inspection on a house in the Kansas City area, I had the opportunity to read the MLS remarks on the house. The remark included these words: “No inspection contingencies no disclosures or warranties”.

I suspect the owners intentions were that the house was being sold “as-is”. But if you’re in the market to buy a house, and you read those words describing a house you’re looking at, a little voice inside your head should be screaming, at the top of its lungs, GET AN INSPECTION!!

In the case of the house I was inspecting, part of the roof needed replacement this year, and the entire roof within 5 years. The basement leaked. The furnace was subject to a recall about 20 years ago but was never serviced.

These kinds of problems can be costly to an unsuspecting buyer. Obviously, we believe that anyone buying a home should get an inspection. But when a seller looks you in the eye (figuratively, of course), and says you cannot have an inspection contingency in your contract, then you should suspect the seller has something to hide. When you read the words “No Inspection Contingency”, you should translate that to mean “Home Inspection REQUIRED”. 

Home Inspections Required in Kansas and Missouri

As we mentioned before, we’ve been following the status of licensing or registration requirements for home inspectors in the legislatures of Kansas and Missouri recently. In an unexpected turn of events, Kansas House Bill 2315 and Missouri House Bill 2057 were simultaneously amended this morning and both passed by slim margins.

As a result, Home Inspections will be required in both Kansas and Missouri on ALL home sales beginning on January 1st.

Follow the details of the new requirements on home sales here.

Leap Year Quiz – What Do You See In This Picture?

lh-003.jpgHere’s a leap year quiz for Kansas City Home Inspections. What do you see in this picture?

Just to help you understand what you’re looking at: This is a picture of a roofing section just above a front door of a split level home. The roof intersects with the wall of the upper level of the home.

Notice that the shingles are “wavy”? They don’t lay nice and flat. This indicates that there are multiple layers of roofing materials. If you look closely, just above the gutter, you’ll see two drip caps. This also provides suspicions of multiple roofing layers. Layered roofs won’t last as long as the manufacturer may have indicated. They can’t lay flat on roof decking, and will wear out much sooner than expected because of this.

The siding material is composite wood. Notice how it’s in contact with the shingles? Proper installation of this siding requires that this siding have a 1-2″ clearance from the roofing material. The gap should be protected by metal step flashing, and, hopefully, the siding would be painted on the bottom edge. In this installation, there has been caulking applied to the roof/wall intersection. This is a temporary attempt to keep water from damaging the siding. Too late – the siding is already deteriorating – Notice the cracking in the paint and holes in the siding? Rot has already started in the siding and wood trim (further up the roof).

lh-011.jpgAlso notice the lack of a “kick-out” flashing. The kick-out would be an extention of the step flashing (not visible) that would extend through the siding and divert water into the gutter. Without this, any water running down that caulking will seep behind the siding and into the house structure. The second picture is of the interior on the other side of this wall. Notice the moisture stains on the wall? This type of moisture damage will often lead to mold in the wall and insulation, and rot in the interior structure. Damage can also extend into lower levels as well. (Click here to see an example kick-out)

Anyone notice anything else?

The situation that has been discussed here is very common in the Kansas City area and home inspectors should always point this out. Proper repairs are required by a professional roofer to get the flashing corrected. In this case, a siding contractor would be required to make repairs to the siding, and general contractor may be needed to fix interior wall damage.

Inspections Are Not Disclosures

Click here for a great article on disclosures in Kansas City.

It reminded me that people often assume an inspection is a good substitute for a disclosure statement. IT’S NOT!

Many home inspectors are good, but not that good. We don’t have X-Ray goggles. And my personal crystal ball is on the blink (If you know of a good repair shop, let me know). An average home inspection lasts about three hours. In that time, we can generally find many of the defects that may be present in a home. But a well finished basement can hide a multitude of sins. And if its not raining during an inspection, we may or may not find leaks in attics or basement walls.

The point is – always request a disclosure for a property you’re buying. Every seller should provide one. Read through it carefully. Consider talking with the seller to verify the facts.

Question on foreclosed houses: Does anyone understand how a bank can get away with not providing a disclosure? If they don’t know anything about the house, then they should not be able to sell it. I’d like to see banks required to have a house inspected before selling it and be required to make that inspection report available to buyers.

Radon: Who Can Test For It?

Or, simply put, don’t you really want to know if you can test it yourself?

In the Kansas City area, most radon professionals charge about $125 to conduct a 48 hour radon test. Test kits can be obtained from multiple places for much, much less. So why hire a professional?

First, lets look at the reasons to test for radon. The EPA states that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. The EPA and the U.S. Surgeon General estimate that approximately 22,000 people die a year in this country from lung cancer caused by radon inhalation. Simple arithmatic would indicate that if there are about 2 million people in the greater Kansas City area, and approximately 300 million in the US, then there are about 146 people dying in this area each year from lung cancer caused by radon. 

The national average says that 6% of all homes have elevated radon levels (Greater Than 4.0 pCi/l). However, in the Kansas City area, our experience tells us that approximately 40% of all homes have elevated radon. This would lead to the conclusion that many more people are at risk of lung cancer caused by radon in the Kansas City than the numbers indicated by the simple math above.

Until 1998, the EPA kept lists of people that were “Qualified” to test for radon in residential housing. They stopped this program, presumably due to budget cuts, and encouraged private programs to “qualify” radon professionals. The two programs that the EPA recognized for radon proficiency programs were the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) and the National Radon Safety Board (NRSB).

In order for a professional to be recognized as “qualified” by either of these programs, the individuals have to have completed a radon proficiency training program and passed a recognized examination to prove their knowledge. “Qualified” individuals have proven their knowledge of Radon, including what it is, how it is harmful, how it enters a home, and how to properly test for it. They have proven their knowledge of the EPA Protocols for Radon testing devices and Protocols for conducting a radon meaurement. Measurement procedures can vary house by house, so knowing how to test for it properly can affect the results and thereby affect your knowledge of whether or not individuals in a house are at risk of radon exposure.

I’m of the belief that if I’m at risk of contracting lung cancer, I want to know it, and I want to be certain. I’m not qualified to diagnose myself of having lung cancer so I’d seek out a professional if I was concerned about it. By the same token, you should also do the same if you’re testing for radon.

Check out www.radongas.org for a list of qualified NEHA radon measurement providers. Or do it yourself if you really think its worth it.

But whatever you decide, DON’T waste your money by hiring someone to do the test that is not qualified – you might as well go buy lottery tickets.

Home Buyers Beware

Beware of the home inspection price wars in Kansas City. This is America, and anyone can price their services at any level they want. But here’s a few thoughts to chew on as you get prices for home inspectors:

You’re about to buy a house and give your Real Estate Professional somewhere around 7% of the price of the home in commisions. (“No, I’m not giving it to them – the seller is!” Who’s name is on the mortgage?). For a 200,000 house, thats $14,000. Thats equivalent to a year of college. Its also a pretty nice car for many people. 

In our opinion, a thorough home inspection is worth that same amount of money. Home Inspectors are the only people involved in the real estate transaction that truly have no financial interest in whether or not you buy the home. Who else is truly looking out for your best interests? 

Fortunately for you, prices for home inspections only range from $95 to $600. But thats still a pretty sizeable gap: So whats the difference?

If you have a problem with your luxury car, who are you going to take it to? The service station down the street, or back to the dealer? I’m willing to bet most people will choose the dealer. Why? Because you want someone the most qualified person to take care of your problems. By the same token, you’re going to spend at least 1/3 of your life asleep in the house you’re buying, and at least 1/2 of your life in the same house, isn’t it worth the satisfaction having the most qualified inspector look over your house to know whether or not the house is safe for you and your family?

Before you decide to save $50 on the biggest investment of your life, ask yourself if its worth it. Cheaper doesn’t always mean better. Ask yourself why the other guy is cheaper.

Here’s an article that appeared recently for your review regarding home inspector pricing.

Make sure your inspector is an ASHI CERTIFIED INSPECTOR. Many advertise it – others can prove it.

Johns ASHI ID Badge      randy_id_badge.jpg

Feel free to call John or Randy. We’ll be glad to talk to you about pricing – at no charge!

By the way, for those of you following, Kansas House Bill 2315 passed through the House of Representatives this week and was sent to the Senate. Looks like regulation of home inspectors in Kansas is one step closer.