Alto Home Inspection, LLC https://altohomeinspection.com Alto Home Inspection, LLC Tue, 27 Oct 2020 19:39:53 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.5.1 https://altohomeinspection.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Alto_Icon-36x36.png Alto Home Inspection, LLC https://altohomeinspection.com 32 32 6 Ways to Get Ready for Your Home Inspection in Buffalo https://altohomeinspection.com/6-ways-to-get-ready-for-your-home-inspection-in-buffalo/ https://altohomeinspection.com/6-ways-to-get-ready-for-your-home-inspection-in-buffalo/#respond Tue, 27 Oct 2020 19:39:53 +0000 https://altohomeinspection.com/?p=6617 Having a home inspection is an essential part of the home buying process.  House buying is complicated, and once your offer is accepted then it’s time to schedule an inspection with an experienced home inspector.  If you’ve already scheduled your inspection in the Buffalo area with Alto Home Inspection, LLC, then we can’t wait to […]

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Having a home inspection is an essential part of the home buying process.  House buying is complicated, and once your offer is accepted then it’s time to schedule an inspection with an experienced home inspector.  If you’ve already scheduled your inspection in the Buffalo area with Alto Home Inspection, LLC, then we can’t wait to get started!

There are a few things to consider as a buyer  that might help you get the most out of your home inspection.  (if you are a home seller, we’ve written a separate article on preparing your home for an inspection).

#1 – Tell us about any questions or concerns you have about the home

Let us know before the inspection if you have any specific questions or concerns about your new home.  We’ll answer your questions and pay special attention to any questionable systems or parts of the house.  

#2 – Expect the house to be less than perfect

Many home buyers (especially first-time buyers) are very nervous about their big purchase and dread the end of the home inspection.  It’s natural to want things to go smoothly, but it’s just not reasonable to expect that a home inspection finds zero problems with a house.  

Every home inspection that we’ve conducted has turned up problems, but most of them didn’t find big and expensive repair items.  

Going into the inspection with the mindset that problems will be found can help you focus your thoughts and be mentally prepared to react.

#3 – Make sure that attics and garages are accessible

Attic inspections are important to being able to assess the condition of the roof.  Many times attic entrances are hidden away in closets that are full of clothes, or are hidden in bathroom closets that are full of junk. 

If you’re working with a real estate agent, then we’ll contact them and arrange for access to the attic.  If you’re working directly with the seller, then ask them to make sure that all attic spaces can be accessed.

#4 – Ask the seller about the age of the roof

It’s difficult to determine the exact age of a roof during the course of a home inspection.  We do our best to inform you of the overall condition of the shingles or other roof covering, but since roof replacements are expensive repair items,  it’s always helpful for buyers to know when the last one occurred.

#5 – Strategize with your agent about how to handle findings from the inspection

At the conclusion of the buyer’s home inspection, we’ll make sure that you understand what potential major repairs are needed.  We’ll also discuss the more moderate issues, such as an older furnace or water heater. 

Depending on the willingness of the seller to negotiate, you may be able to obtain credits from the seller or have them make repairs.  Having a battle plan for how to deal with any issues prior to the inspection can make.

#6 – Get ready to receive the report

You’ll receive your home inspection report no later than the day following the inspection, but typically you’ll get it on the same day.

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5 Ways to Dry Out Your Basement https://altohomeinspection.com/5-ways-to-dry-out-your-basement/ Tue, 29 Sep 2020 14:01:02 +0000 https://altohomeinspection.com/?p=6602 As owner of a home inspection company in the Buffalo area, I can attest that there are many, many, many houses here that have dank and damp basements.  Almost all of these homes were constructed before 1970 or so, which is when residential construction standards finally reached the point that allowed for basements to generally […]

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As owner of a home inspection company in the Buffalo area, I can attest that there are many, many, many houses here that have dank and damp basements.  Almost all of these homes were constructed before 1970 or so, which is when residential construction standards finally reached the point that allowed for basements to generally be dry.  

Alto Home Inspection, LLC often inspects older homes, and experience tells us that damp foundation walls, high humidity and mold are common occurrences in houses here in Western NY.

I’m in the business of providing helpful information, so to maintain my reputation I wanted to share advice on how you can potentially kick the musty smell in your basement to the curb!

What causes musty basements?

Houses built before the 1970’s typically weren’t built with features designed to keep dampness out, including:

  • Effective perimeter drain systems
  • Interior drain “tile” systems
  • Sump pumps
  • “Damp proof” or water-resistant foundation walls

Musty smells in basements are almost always caused by mold.  The only way to tell for sure if there’s airborne mold in the house is to have a mold inspection that includes air sampling.  

Let’s explore a few ways that basements can be transformed from dreary, dank, disgusting places into dry, comfortable environments!

#1 – Improve ventilation

Basements in old homes weren’t originally meant to be kept closed up, so I don’t know why people in 2020 want to completely block off airflow to these spaces.  Simply cracking the basement windows open can go a long way toward drying out basement walls, and therefore reducing the chance of mold growth.  

If windows have been blocked off by plywood or other material, then remove that stuff.  As a licensed home inspector I’ve seen that type of thing a lot.  It seems that homeowners tend to cover broken windows with plywood (or cardboard..) instead of paying to have the window replaced.

A better solution to opening windows might be to have a system such as the EZ-Breathe.  This system is designed to circulate air between upper levels and the basement, while drying and filtering air at the same time.  These systems are typically installed by professionals.

#2 – Remove panelling or drywall in the basement

Many of the stinky basements that I come across seem to have walls completely covered with funky paneling from the 1970’s and 80’s.  This stuff may have enabled homeowners to create a party den, or a place to send the kids on Friday nights, but it also can trap moisture.  

The eternal desire to finish basements runs strong, but in my opinion as owner of Alto Home Inspection, LLC I also have an eternal desire to enable homeowners to have the healthiest air quality possible.  My advice is simple – if the basement hasn’t been properly waterproofed, then don’t even think about creating a man cave, lady lair or party palace unless you’ve first made sure that the foundation is 100% dry. 

Panelling, drywall and other building materials that aren’t designed for water contact will absorb water and attract mold. Removing this stuff can help a lot with having a dry basement.

#3 – Extend HVAC ducting in the basement

If the house has forced-air heating, then it’s usually an option to have ductwork extended and registers installed throughout the basement to improve airflow.  Airflow helps to evaporate condensation and reduce mold growth.  

Ductwork or even flexible ductwork can be professionally installed for somewhat reasonable prices, and can help reduce basement dankness.

#4 – Install a Dehumidifier

So “install a dehumidifier” might be making the fix to the damp basement issue too simple.  I notice dehumidifiers sitting in basement corners is over half of the homes that I perform mold inspections at. But I don’t think that small, portable, residential style dehumidifiers are adequate when we’re talking about major humidity levels.  

But, HVAC companies such as Carrier manufacture residential dehumidification systems that can remove gallons of water per day from the air, and are designed to be quiet and run continuously.  These things can be installed to operate in the basement only, or even the whole house.

#5 = Consider a hybrid heat pump water heater

Almost all water heaters that I inspect for buyers as sellers are 40 gallon, storage tank natural gas systems.  These things are the go-to for most plumbing companies near Buffalo, but there’s a better way.  

I first  learned about hybrid heat pump water heaters while watching This Old House on a recent Saturday morning.  This type of heat pump runs on electricity, but it contains a condenser, just as air conditioners, dehumidifiers and do.  

Hybrid heat pump water heaters are equipped with both a compressor, and resistance-based heating element.  Under most conditions they heat water by extracting heat from the ambient and transferring it to water.  Optionally, the system can be setup to use more expensive, traditional electric heat under certain conditions.  

The better news for damp basements is that these systems also dehumidify the ambient air as they operate.  So in addition to having cheaper hot water, your basement might become dryer!  

Hybrid heat pump water heaters probably won’t fully dry out a very damp basement, but as part of a solution I think they make a lot of sense.

#6 – Avoid finishing an undry basement

I regularly inspect houses that have been cosmetically remodeled in most interior spaces, then to be hit with a wall of dankness as I descend into the basement.  

In my professional opinion, the smartest decision the owner of an older house can make is to correct any issues with dampness and mold in the basement before investing in upgrades elsewhere in the house. Perceived mold problems tend to scare buyers away, so investments to reduce the fungus can go a long way.

According to the University of Minnesota, “Finishing a basement without first dealing with the moisture problems can result in making health conditions worse and lead to significant damage as well.”

It makes total sense that people want to convert their basements into living spaces, but so many old houses simply aren’t well-suited for these conversions.  Do yourself a favor and don’t even think about finishing your home’s basement unless it’s been proven to be dry and is properly heated during the winter months.

How can we help?

Alto Home Inspection LLC is a mold inspection company that conducts basement inspections in Western NY, including in Erie County, Cattaraugus County, and much of Genesee, Wyoming and Niagara Counties.  

Consider having us inspect your basement and home to help determine the best path forward for creating a safe and dry space, ready for building out a man cave or lady lair!

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Furnace Exhaust Leak in Cheektowaga https://altohomeinspection.com/furnace-exhaust-leak-in-cheektowaga/ Sun, 20 Sep 2020 19:01:18 +0000 https://altohomeinspection.com/?p=6559 We found that a section of the furnace and water heater exhaust duct had rusted to the point that a large hole developed in it. This situation should be immediately corrected, as it allows poisonous exhaust gases to escape into the home. This type of problem is found on a somewhat regular basis during our […]

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We found that a section of the furnace and water heater exhaust duct had rusted to the point that a large hole developed in it. This situation should be immediately corrected, as it allows poisonous exhaust gases to escape into the home. This type of problem is found on a somewhat regular basis during our home inspections, and it should be corrected immediately.

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Roof leak in East Amherst https://altohomeinspection.com/roof-leak-in-east-amherst/ Tue, 15 Sep 2020 18:41:50 +0000 https://altohomeinspection.com/?p=6551 We inspected this 1980’s house, and as we conducted the attic inspection we found a large area of mold, which in this scenario is a strong sign of a leaky roof.

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We inspected this 1980’s house, and as we conducted the attic inspection we found a large area of mold, which in this scenario is a strong sign of a leaky roof.

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Does a home inspector check for mold? https://altohomeinspection.com/does-a-home-inspector-check-for-mold/ Sat, 05 Sep 2020 14:56:05 +0000 https://altohomeinspection.com/?p=6483 This question comes up often when we’re contacted by home buyers, so I wanted to write this brief article explaining how Alto Home Inspection, LLC handles mold situations.  We encounter mold on probably 50% of our home inspections in the Buffalo area, as well as Cattaraugus and Wyoming counties. What’s the main purpose of a […]

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This question comes up often when we’re contacted by home buyers, so I wanted to write this brief article explaining how Alto Home Inspection, LLC handles mold situations.  We encounter mold on probably 50% of our home inspections in the Buffalo area, as well as Cattaraugus and Wyoming counties.

What’s the main purpose of a home inspection?

The general home inspection that we conduct for buyers is designed to inform you of the condition of the house, focussing on the issues that carry the highest potential cost to repair.  As with all licensed home inspectors, we use the NY Home Inspector Standards of Practice as a guideline.  We consider our value to be greater than the minimum performance required by the standards, so we tend to go above and beyond. 

Where are the most common places that mold is found?

After inspecting many homes, we’ve found that mold is most often found in basements, attics, garages, bathroom vanities and kitchen sink cabinets.  But mold can grow anywhere in a home if the conditions are right for it (and therefore wrong for people…).

What happens when we encounter mold?

As a New York State Certified Mold Assessor and Mold Assessment Contractor we’re qualified by the state to conduct mold inspections and to visually identify mold.  When we find mold during the course of a general home inspection, we’ll note it on the report and make sure you as our client understand the risks.  We’ll also provide you with information that will help you understand how the homeowner should go about removing the mold, who should remove it and how to prevent new mold from growing.

To answer the original question, we do check for mold during a home inspection!

Who’s on the hook to remove mold that’s found during an inspection?

This one can be tricky.  If we’re inspecting a house for the buyer, the advice we offer to our client is to have the seller of the house remove all mold and do what’s necessary to keep it from coming back.  The process of having mold removed is invasive to the residence of the house, and buyers don’t want to bear the expense of mold remediation, so definitely have the current homeowners eliminate all mold.

Generally, mold remediation requires at least four visits to the home:

  1. A certified mold assessor will visit, inspect for mold and assess the scope of the problem
  2. A mold remediation contractor will visit the home and generate a proposal
  3. The mold remediator will come back and actually remove the mold and any damaged materials
  4. The mold assessor will return and perform a clearance inspection, ensuring that the remediator has done their job fully and per the scope of the mold remediation plan

Unfortunately we’ve found that mold remediators don’t always complete the job on their first attempt.  We’ve routinely found during mold remediation clearance inspections that obvious mold remains.

Why is a mold assessment required?

After hurricane Sandy, many unethical contractors descended on coastal New York state and sold mold remediation services when they were both unnecessary and way overpriced.  This consumer abuse prompted the state legislature to pass regulations that help protect homeowners from this abuse. 

As a result of the legislation, two roles were created that essential created a “separation of duties” when it comes to mold in NY state:

  • Certified Mold Assessor – The mold assessor inspects a house for mold, determines if it’s there, how much of it there is, how it should be removed and what it might cost.  A formal “mold assessment” must be provided to the homeowner, which is meant to serve as a guide to use when the homeowner engages the services of a mold remediator
  • Certified Mold Remediator – The mold remediator is licensed to remove mold from a building, and is held to high standards regarding their process.

If less than 10 square feet of mold is present, anyone can remove it and a mold assessment isn’t required. 

Mold assessments are an important part of the mold removal process.  An expert mold inspector should include helpful information in the assessment that should help you pinpoint the cause of all mold found, and should effectively be a manual on how to remove it.

Is mold testing needed?

NY regulations don’t require mold testing during mold inspections or assessments.  Mold inspectors should be trained to identify the presence of mold based on visual cues only.  Our average mold assessment doesn’t include anything more than visual identification of mold.  

But there are most definitely situations where laboratory analysis of samples is helpful.  For example, if mold is found in multiple rooms of a house there may be a broad mold infestation.  In this case we would likely recommend that air samples are taken from several locations in the home, and that a lab analysis is undertaken.  This sampling can then be used as a baseline prior to remediation. 

In other situations, mold surface sampling might be performed.  This technique involves collecting a sample of visible mold and having a lab analyse the spores to determine exactly what species they are.  

Since mold can be dangerous, such as with toxic black mold, sampling can also be appropriate where health concerns are a problem.

How can you guarantee that your home is mold-free?

No house can actually be 100% free of mold, since mold lives in nature and some of it will inevitably find its way into the structure.  But a few tips might help you get most of the way there:

  1. Don’t allow condensation to form anywhere in the house.  This includes the attic, basement and on water piping.  Condensation provides moisture for mold, which is an essential part of of the mold infestation recipe
  2. Make sure the attic is well ventilated.  Water vapor naturally travels upward from the interior of a home, into the attic, where it will condense on roof sheathing if ventilation is bad. 
  3. If the foundation isn’t waterproofed, use a dehumidifier in the basement.  Foundations from the 1960s on back weren’t generally waterproofed, and they tend to allow small amounts of water to seep through them.  These foundation walls are very often found with mold growing on them during home and mold inspections. 
  4. Fix any plumbing leaks.  Water leaks are an obvious mold risk factor.  If drywall becomes wet, for example, mold will probably grow there.

Alto Home Inspection, LLC is a NY Certified Mold Assessor

If your home in the Buffalo, NY area and you need help with a mold situation, feel free to contact us.  We offer expert mold inspection services, including mold testing and mold assessments.

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What is a Licensed home inspector? https://altohomeinspection.com/licensed-home-inspector-in-greater-buffalo-area/ Tue, 01 Sep 2020 18:02:33 +0000 https://altohomeinspection.com/?p=6340 Over the years I’ve been asked by many to help clarify exactly what qualifies a home inspector to perform residential inspections in Western NY.  Many buyers, sellers and even some real estate agents don’t have a good understanding of the importance of ensuring that before a home inspection is scheduled that you ensure your inspector […]

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Over the years I’ve been asked by many to help clarify exactly what qualifies a home inspector to perform residential inspections in Western NY.  Many buyers, sellers and even some real estate agents don’t have a good understanding of the importance of ensuring that before a home inspection is scheduled that you ensure your inspector is licensed. 

As a NY Licensed Home Inspector, I wanted to provide helpful information about exactly what the requirements are to perform residential inspections in Western New York.

Who is qualified to conduct home inspections in the Buffalo area?

In Buffalo and all of New York, nearly all home inspections are conducted by licensed home inspectors.  Although the practice of home inspection is defined and regulated in part by Article 12-b of NY’s Real Property Law, an individual doesn’t actually have to hold a home inspector license in a few situations.  

Professions that are exempt from home inspector licensing

  • Registered or licensed architects
  • Professional engineers
  • Code enforcement officers
  • Home inspector trainees who are supervised by licensed inspectors

My hunch is that architects and engineers were exempted from licensing in part because they’re often involved in residential construction activities, and lawmakers wanted to avoid any confusion or conflict with home inspector regulations.  In practice, I’m aware of at least one home inspection company that employees only professional engineers.  

In terms of the code enforcement officer exemption, I don’t see that they would ever inspect homes for buyers in the same way that a licensed home inspector would.  Instead they’ll be visiting homes that are under construction or that are undergoing construction work, and signing off on work permits. As with architects and engineers, I’m sure that lawmakers wanted to avoid legal confusion and so exempted code enforcement people from licensure.  I’ve never heard of a full-time code enforcement person also acting as a home inspector, but it seems that it would be legal per the law.

In my opinion, it’s best to hire a full-time home inspector who has some type of public-facing business, that’s also BBB accredited.  If a home inspector is a part-timer with no verifiable business or background I’m not sure that I would personally choose them.

What’s a home inspection?

According to Article 12-b of the NY Real Property law, a home inspection is the process of observing and reporting (in writing) on the various systems and components of a residence.  Included in this definition are pre-purchase home inspections for buyers, as well as other residential inspections. Testing for radon or inspecting for pests is explicitly excluded from this definition.  

I’ve included the legal description of the “home inspection” below, for your enjoyment.  But keep in mind that there’s a huge range of quality when it comes to home inspectors in Buffalo & WNY.

“Home inspection” means the process by which a home inspector observes and provides a written report of the systems and components of a residential building including but not limited to heating system, cooling system, plumbing system, electrical system, structural components, foundation, roof, masonry structure, exterior and interior components or any other related residential building component as recommended or required by the department through regulation to provide a client with objective information about the condition of the residential building. The home inspector shall clearly identify in the written report which systems and components of the residential building were observed. A home inspection shall not include an inspection for radon or pests.”

Make sure you research home inspectors before committing to one for your real estate investment.  My business, Alto Home Inspection LLC, was created with the mission of helping buyers and sellers understand the true condition of their properties.  This mission statement extends into home inspections for buyers and sellers, professional radon testing by a state certified laboratory and mold testing and assessment services in the Buffalo area.

One way that some home inspections are better than some is the quality of the report.  Licensed home inspectors are not required to create a report that includes pictures, or is easy to read for the average homeowner.  Try to ask for a sample inspection report before committing to a particular inspection company.  Trust me, they aren’t all the same.

Are all houses and multi-tenant buildings covered under the law?

The legal definition of “residential building” actually covers buildings that have from one to four residences, as well as garages or carports.  

So, if we are talking about inspecting your average house then the services of a licensed home inspector must be used.  The same goes if you are investing in a duplex or 4-plex, and are looking for an expert home inspection.  

But, if you are a big-time investor and are buying a 20-unit investment property, then any qualified inspector or other professional can legally inspect the property.  However, Alto Home Inspection LLC is qualified to inspect this type of property, so contact us if you’re looking for a customized inspection that will detail problems with each specific unit.

What are the minimum requirements to be a licensed home inspector in Western New York?

To obtain a home inspector license anywhere New York state, there are a number of requirements that must be met:

  1. Have a high school diploma or GED
  2. Complete a 100-hour specialized course that’s been approved by the state
  3. Complete 40 hours of training in the field with a licensed home inspector, including mock inspections
  4. Pass the National Home Inspector Exam (as of August, 2020 this requirement has been waived in lieu of the former state exam)
  5. Secure a general liability insurance policy, intended to protect the homeowner from damaged materials
  6. Pay a $250 fee

Renewal of the NY home inspector license is required every two years, with 24 hours of continuing education required at some point during that period.  

When was home inspector licensing established in New York state?

Regulation of the home inspection industry was signed into law in 2004, and licensing was first required by December 31, 2005.   In 2019, the law was amended to require passing of the National Home Inspection Examination in order to obtain a license.

What entity is in charge of licensing for home inspectors?

The New York Department of State is responsible for initial licensing and subsequent renewals.

Are there home inspectors in the Buffalo area who aren’t licensed?

I can’t say for sure, but based on stories that I’ve heard I am guessing that there are possibly a couple.  I’ve been asked once or twice by real estate agents if I’m licensed.  In those cases, I think that the agents were probably upset that instead of choosing their preferred inspection company, they decided to hire an independent home inspector.

How can you check to make sure that your home inspector is properly licensed?

The New York Department of State maintains a public website where you can check the status of a home inspector’s license.  

Bradley Beck is NY Licensed Home Inspector #16000086029, and owns Alto Home Inspection LLC, a home inspection company in the greater Buffalo, NY area

Confirm Alto Home Inspection LLC’s status here
Validate Bradley Beck’s license status here

Does home inspection licensing affect mold testing and assessments?

Inspection services concerning mold are specifically exempt from home inspector licensing.  But that doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily legal for a home inspector to perform mold inspections.  

The New York Department of Labor manages licensing for mold contractors, including mold assessors and remediators.  Unless a home inspector is a NY Certified Mold Assessor, they are unable to perform mold inspections.  

Mold inspections can be described as any activity that seeks to identify the presence of mold, including visually identifying its presence, conducting a mold assessment or interpreting results of lab testing.  

Alto Home Inspection LLC happens to be a NY Certified Mold Assessor and can assist with any mold challenges that you might have.

How about radon testing?  What are the state requirements for that?

Radon testing is also exempted from home inspector licensing in the state.  But there’s a little more involved in this one than with mold testing.  

A few facts about radon testing in the Buffalo area:

  1. Any home inspector can test for radon
  2. If anyone (home inspector or not) wishes to use an electronic continuous radon monitor (CRM), the CRM must be owned by a New York Certified ELAP Lab.  This means that you cannot simply purchase a CRM and use it to test for radon.  If you do so, you’ll be breaking state law.
  3. Many radon testers in Western NY use charcoal canisters to test for radon.  These things are old-school, slow and although accurate are doing a disservice to home buyers because of the delay in processing time.

I suggest that all radon tests are performed by Buffalo radon labs that are certified ELAP laboratories.  Labs such as this, including Alto Home Inspection LLC, are subjected to stringent requirements to ensure test accuracy.

Closing Comments

One of my goals in writing this article was to help my readers understand what home inspector licensing really means, which I hope will make you a more informed researcher when it comes to finding a highly-qualified home inspector for your home purchase. If I can help in any way, contact me at your convenience!

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Why choose an independent home inspector? https://altohomeinspection.com/why-choose-an-independent-home-inspector-near-buffalo/ https://altohomeinspection.com/why-choose-an-independent-home-inspector-near-buffalo/#comments Mon, 24 Aug 2020 13:03:03 +0000 https://altohomeinspection.com/?p=6331 When I started Alto Home Inspection, I did so with the intention of helping people better understand the positives and negatives of their homes.  This understanding extends to inspecting homes for buyers and sellers, testing homes for mold and air quality problems and performing radon measurements.   I didn’t fall into the career of home inspection […]

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When I started Alto Home Inspection, I did so with the intention of helping people better understand the positives and negatives of their homes.  This understanding extends to inspecting homes for buyers and sellers, testing homes for mold and air quality problems and performing radon measurements.  

I didn’t fall into the career of home inspection and residential environmental consulting by chance.  Instead, I chose this career after working for over twenty years in a completely different career.  I was burned out and needed a big change.  

Although some of my clients are referred to me by real estate professionals who trust my guidance, my approach to home inspections, mold and radon testing is never influenced by a desire to allow a home sale to proceed.  I handle every aspect of running home inspection business in a way that extends my reputation as a reliable, unbiased, independent inspector.  

What is an independent home inspector?

Generally stated, an independent home inspector is one who doesn’t rely on real estate agents for the majority of their business.  Independent home inspectors have instead built their businesses by providing detailed home inspections that place emphasis where it’s most appropriate.  

On the other hand, an inspector who may be beholden to a particular real estate agent for their livelihood might be tempted to provide little context around the importance of a crumbling foundation to their clients.  They might make note of the problem in a report, but without explaining its potential consequences or relative repair costs.  

My approach for something like a crumbling foundation is to explain in simple terms what the problem is, what would happen if it wasn’t repaired, and what type of company to contact for the repair.  Although I don’t provide exact repair cost estimates, I try to provide a price range when asked.

When the report is reviewed with my client, I would place this foundation problem in context with the other issues found with the home, with the goal of giving them the information needed to make an informed decision about how to move forward with the purchase.  As a rule I do not encourage or discourage my clients to either back out of a purchase, or to move forward.  

I am not suggesting that those home inspectors who rely only on referrals for business are somehow doing a disservice to their clients.  But I am saying that my independent business model removes any temptation to have any bias whatsoever in my reporting and assessments.

Why did Alto Home Inspection, LLC decide to be independent?

As my plans of forming a home inspection company began to take hold in my mind, I knew that I wanted to build the business as an independent one that didn’t involve an endless cycle of trying to convince real estate agents to include me on their list of preferred home inspectors. 

According to Gina Bliss at the NY Daily Record, “The better the job you do as a home inspector, the fewer referrals you will receive.” This is exactly the type of statement that concerned me.

I wanted to be a truly unbiased and independent resource for home buyers, home owners and sellers.  After I became established in the Buffalo area as detailedt, independent inspector this idea was reinforced after meeting with several real estate agents who reacted to my presence in a very skeptical manner after their clients found me on their own, apparently without the agents consent.

On one occasion, an agent who my client was working with greeted me on the sidewalk and said “are you even licensed?”.  I can only imagine that this agent was shocked that her buyer went against her agent’s wishes and found an independent home inspector.  As a New York licensed home inspector who is authorized to inspect homes throughout the state, including Western New York, I was a little offended by this question.

To wrap up this thought, Alto Home Inspection LLC is an independent home inspection company that doesn’t go out its way to get on the referral lists of real estate agents.

Can home inspectors pay to be referred by real estate agents?

The NYS Code of Ethics and Regulations for Home Inspectors says that:

“Home inspectors shall not directly or indirectly compensate, in any way, real estate brokers, real estate salespersons, real estate brokerage companies, lending institutions or any other party or parties that expect to have a financial interest in closing the transaction, for future referrals of inspections or for inclusion on a list of recommended inspectors or preferred providers or any similar arrangement.”

This long sentence essentially says that home inspectors can’t provide anything of value to those in the financial chain of a real estate translation, either as payment for future referrals or to be included on a list of home inspectors that home buyers may receive.

Why should a buyer hire an independent home inspection company?

If you are buying a house, especially here in the Buffalo area where older homes dominate many towns, you owe it to yourself to hire a home inspector who depends solely on the quality of the inspection, and expertise for their income.  

Some agents unfortunately are more interested in ensuring that a purchase continues after the inspection than they are in helping their clients learn about the house.  

According to Trulia, “… if the inspector and agent have a strong work history, their relationship may feel more like a partnership, leaving you as the second most important party in this venture”.

There are absolutely many agents who want the best outcome for their clients, but from first-hand experience I can say that there are some who would prefer for a home inspection report to be an overwhelmingly positive document, even in cases where potentially costly issues are found with a home’s roof or electrical system.

What’s the typical connection between agents and home inspectors?

Although I’m successful in avoiding dependence on agents for consistent income, I’ve gotten to know many over the years and I’ve gained a sense for the pressures that they face when it comes to home inspections.

Real estate agents depend purely on home sales for their income, and most home inspectors depend only on inspections for their livelihood (although some provide other helpful services such as radon testing and mold testing). It seems that there’s a strong possibility that the two professions might have a tendency to join together in a way that benefits both of them.  

Most real estate agents in Buffalo, Hamburg, Amherst and other areas of Western New York want to help their buyers by providing solid information and recommendations.  These agents sometimes maintain a list of expert home inspectors that they provide to their clients.  

These lists should contain at least three names of home inspection companies or individual inspectors.  The list that an agent provides should be updated as the particular agent learns more about capabilities, professionalism and communication skills of the particular home inspectors.  

These referrals aren’t always bad.  If an agent has the best interests of their client in mind at all times, and the home inspector is focussed on a detailed, thorough and unbiased home inspection then this could be a matchup that helps the client.  

But there’s reason for the home buyers to be cautious about these arrangements, according to Consumer Reports:

“A real estate agent wants to close the deal, and that incentive may be at odds with that of the inspector, who gets paid for his report. If the report raises too many issues, or serious ones, it can be used to negotiate a lower price or even scuttle the deal. An inspector who has been referred by your agent may feel obligated to go easy on the inspection.”

What’s the best way to find a home inspector in your area?

It can be difficult to look ahead far enough to consider home inspection companies when you are in the process of house shopping.  It gets more challenging as you move farther along the process and things start heating up with tough decisions about neighborhoods and purchase offers.  But the earlier you start researching, the better you’ll be able to find an unbiased and highly qualified inspection company to best assess the condition of your home. 

A few tips for avoiding conflicts of interest between home inspectors and agents:

  1. Research reviews of independent home inspectors near you.  
  2. Avoid using a list of home inspection companies that your agent might provide.
  3. Check to see if the home inspector is BBB Accredited.  This accreditation validates the home inspector licensing, among other things.
  4. Ask to see a sample home inspection report.  This should help you get a feel for what the inspector looks for in the house.
  5. Make sure that home inspecting is the full-time business of the individual inspector.  There are many part-time inspectors who may not be fully committed.  

Independent Home Inspector Near Buffalo, NY

If you are looking for an unbiased home inspection company near you, then Alto Home Inspection, LLC would like to help! 

We are BBB Accredited, and have a 100% 5-Star rating over dozens of reviews left by past clients on Google, Facebook and Zillow. 

We also don’t depend on agent referrals for our primary business, and are 100% committed to our clients.  

If you’d like to have us inspect your new home, contact us! We offer easy options for scheduling your home inspection, and provide amazing reports delivered quickly after the inspection.

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How to improve indoor air quality? https://altohomeinspection.com/how-to-improve-indoor-air-quality/ Fri, 21 Aug 2020 16:48:04 +0000 https://altohomeinspection.com/?p=6325 Indoor air quality, or “IAQ”, is a term often used to describe the relative pureness or cleanliness of the air within a residence or commercial structure.  According to the EPA, “Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) refers to the air quality within and around buildings and structures, especially as it relates to the health and comfort of […]

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Indoor air quality, or “IAQ”, is a term often used to describe the relative pureness or cleanliness of the air within a residence or commercial structure.  According to the EPA, “Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) refers to the air quality within and around buildings and structures, especially as it relates to the health and comfort of building occupants”. 

Air that circulates inside of a home can be unhealthy, and According to the National Institutes of Health, indoor air pollution may place greater risk on at-risk individuals than outdoor air pollution.

As the owner of Alto Home Inspection, LLC, an indoor air quality testing company near Buffalo, NY, I’m asked many times if the air inside of a client’s house is “good” or “bad”.  But IAQ can’t quite be measured in such a binary way.  A proper IAQ assessment involves air sampling, radon measurement, interpretation of results and an inspection of the foundation, plumbing, HVAC system and other areas of a home.

Many factors can be used to describe IAQ, and there’s no standard unit of measurement of indoor air quality.  Before I explain some of the ways to improve air quality, let’s dig a little deeper into what air quality means and some of the ways to find out if yours is poor. 

Common contributors to bad indoor air quality

  • Industrial Pollution entering the home
  • Chemicals from synthetic flooring, paint, and insulation
  • Chemicals used in wood binding products in cabinets and structural wood
  • Mold
  • Pollen
  • Radon
  • Mildew
  • Fungi
  • Tobacco smoke
  • Vaping
  • Contamination from methamphetamine production
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Household cleaning products
  • Personal care products
  • Cockroaches
  • Dust mites
  • Dust
  • Byproducts of rodent infestations
  • Air freshener products
  • Wood burning
  • Viruses and bacteria
  • Pet dander
  • Dust from woodworking
  • Exhaust from vehicles stored in attached garages
  • Scented candles (using unnatural scents)

How can indoor air quality be worse than outside air?

Houses, townhomes and condos can be closed ecosystems where air isn’t always exchanged freely with the outdoors.  Besides the indoor air pollutants themselves, there are a few other issues that can make IAQ worse than the air outdoors:

Airtight and closed-up houses

Starting in the 1970’s or so, residential construction standards and materials used in Western New York were introduced which had a positive impact on energy efficiency.  A few of these changes included vapor barriers in walls, windows with air infiltration ratings and the more common usage of poured concrete foundations.  

In more recent years, testing of many newly constructed homes for air tightness is actually required as part of the code inspection process.  

This increased air tightness improves the efficiency of heating and cooling systems, but at the same time it can help create conditions for mold growth, and can trap other air pollutants.  It may also lead to higher radon concentrations within a home.

Insufficient ventilation

As a licensed home inspector near Buffalo, NY I report on problems with ventilation in at least half of my client’s homes.  Bathroom and kitchen ventilation fans are important to reducing humidity in homes.  High humidity is one of the ingredients required for mold growth, so keeping it down is important for IAQ.  

A side benefit of these ventilation systems is that they also remove other odors from the house, and they can reduce levels of other indoor air pollutants.

We recommended that every bathroom has an exhaust fan that sends air fully to the outside wall of the house (not to the attic).  Kitchens should have a range hood that likewise exhausts air to the outside.  It’s typical that kitchens are equipped with a recirculating fan, sometimes built into the microwave.   This type of fan does filter the air, but it’s far better to exhaust kitchen air to the outside of the house.

Damp basements

During home inspections of houses that date from the 1960’s back to the beginning of time, I expect to find a basement that feels damp and dank.  The foundations on these houses typically weren’t built with adequate (or any) perimeter drain systems, and the quality of concrete used seems to be a little more porous than foundations built in modern times.  

In these basements I commonly find damp areas of the foundation from the slab to maybe 2-3’ up the wall.  Many of these foundations have mold growing in the damp areas.  In many of them, the telltale “fruity” smell of mold can be detected, which sometimes goes along with a high mold concentration in the air.

Many times I find a small dehumidifier in a corner in these basements.  Unfortunately these things aren’t nearly big enough to make a difference.  I often recommend to my home buyer clients that they have a high-quality dehumidifier system installed.  Systems like this are sized to remove enough moisture front he air to make a difference, and they include ductwork and a permanent drainage system.

Hidden plumbing leaks

Plumbing leaks are usually found quickly by homeowners, but in some cases leaks can be hidden behind walls and can go undetected for many months (or longer).  The leak might be very small, and cause a slow drip to find its way to a basement.  

These leaks under the right conditions can allow mold growth to take off, and can be catastrophic in the wrong situation.  

Generally Bad Airflow

In the Western NY counties of Erie, Cattaraugus and Genesee Counties (and others), boilers and radiators are still used as the primary residential heating source in many homes.  People like these hydronic heating systems because of their perceived comfort, but a big downside is that air isn’t moved around the house, and air filtration systems can’t be used in the same way as with central heating and air conditioning systems.

Keeping a few windows in a house is a good way to introduce fresh air into the home, and to allow some unwanted indoor air pollutants to escape.  

We also recommend that our clients purchase high-quality air cleaners for homes that don’t use central air systems.

What are some of the health impacts of low indoor air quality?

In cold climates such as Buffalo, NY you might spend more than 12-15 hours a day inside your house.  The quality of air inside your house can have a huge impact on your health.  

Health effects of bad indoor air can vary wildly.  Radon has been implicated in causing lung cancer in some individuals, and according to the US EPA, exposure to radon is the second-leading behind cigarette smoking. 

Carpets, rugs, furniture and curtains can hold pet dander, pollen, dust and other allergens, leading to various allergic reactions.  

Mold can be contained in basements, walls, carpet and drywall throughout a house.  Mold is a fungus that in some cases can be a mycotoxin, and in the worst cases can cause permanent brain damage. 

Various chemicals found in some building products, air fresheners candles and other chemicals can cause undesirable effects in many individuals.

How to determine if your IAQ is poor?

There unfortunately isn’t a single test or device that can instantly determine if the air inside of your home is “healthy”.  If you would like to determine if your home’s indoor air quality is at risk of affecting your health or well-being, there are a few approaches to consider:

  1. Have a qualified mold testing company near you collect air samples.  Alto Home Inspection, LLC is a Buffalo, NY area mold assessor that performs this service.  Air sampling involves running a specialized pump that deposits particulate matter from the air onto a special cassette, that is then analyzed by a lab.  A detailed report will then include qualities and descriptions of mold spores, insect parts, pollen and other allergens. 
  2. Have a radon test performed in the home.  Radon testing in Western NY is important since 
  3. Assess any storage areas for volatile organic compounds, or “VOCs”. VOCs can include paints, stains, thinners, adhesives and many other chemicals.  If you have a large quantity of these materials stored in your home then chance are good that they are reducing the quality of air in the home.  At a minimum, avoid storing VOCs in basement areas.  Ideally, don’t keep excess paints after they are needed.
  4. Make sure that carbon monoxide (CO) detectors are installed throughout the home.  
  5. Consider installing air quality monitors in the house

What are ways to improve indoor air?

Air quality inside of a house can be worsened by lots of things, and therefore there are lots of ways to improve it.  How can IAQ be improved?

Remove the pollutants from the air, or kill them

  • Install an air purifier
  • Install a MERV-11 or MERV-13 furnace filter, if your furnace can work with them
  • Grow indoor plants
  • Install an ultraviolet filter in your HVAC system, and replace the bulb annually

Improve ventilation

According to Harvard Health, “Stale indoor air and heating systems can increase the amount of allergy-inducing dust mites, pet dander, and mold spores circulating through your house”.  So, how can ventilation be improved?

  • Make sure that kitchen and bathroom fans are operating properly and venting to the outside.  Install timers on bathroom fans.
  • Check your clothes dryer vent to make sure it’s connected to an outside vent (not to the attic), and check the vent every few months to make sure it’s not clogged with lint
  • Open windows for short periods of time daily, especially in the winter
  • Install a heat-recovery ventilator (HRV).  This system pulls in outside air in the winter and heats it

Eliminate Sources of Bad IAQ

  • Remove any sources of moisture
  • Have all mold removed professionally
  • Vacuum carpets and rugs on a regular basis, using a HEPA-rated vacuum cleaner
  • Clean bedding
  • Clean curtains and window coverings
  • Replace carpets with true hardwood floors
  • Remove decorative gourds or other organic material
  • Switch to leather or wood furniture
  • Toss fruit and vegetables before they go bad
  • Clean off the top of cabinets and refrigerator often
  • Don’t overwater plants, but consider that plants can actually be good for IAQ
  • Use a dehumidifier in your basement if it’s damp.  Consider a professional-grade one.

Don’t smoke or vape inside of the house

This should be common sense, but cigarette smoke contains carcinogens and other chemicals that will collect in flooring, walls, ceilings and any other semi-porous surface in the home.  These chemicals may leach into the breathable air for years to come, and may negatively affect the health of those living in the home. 

The ingredients in vaping liquid are unregulated and big questions remain about any health effects of them.  My recommendation is to only vape outside, if it must be done.

Switch to natural cleaning products

In my opinion, it’s not worth the risk and the couple dollars to use chemical-laden cleaning products in the home.  It’s well known that artificial fragrances and other ingredients that are contained in some mainstream cleaning products can induce unhealthy reactions in some people.  My mother-in-law falls into this category.

Avoid Ventless Gas Fireplaces

Ventless gas fireplaces are gaining popularity by builders and remodelers due to their ease of installation.  By definition they don’t need a vent to the exterior of the home, which reduces installation cost and labor.  But their ventless nature introduces two variables:

  1. If the balance of air inside of the home isn’t right then combustion within the fireplace will be incomplete, causing carbon monoxide (CO) to be discharged into the livable area of the house.
  2. Water vapor is a natural byproduct of combustion.  So humidity will be introduced into the home.

As an indoor air quality professional and home inspector, I don’t see the reason for using these things. To avoid the risk of carbon monoxide exposure and increased humidity, have a vented fireplace installed instead.  At the very least, install a short-term carbon monoxide detector near the ventless fireplace. 

Wrap Up

As you can see, the air inside of your home can take on a life of its own. But if the right systems are put in place, and habits are adjusted then it can be improved. IAQ testing can help you understand if molds, other fungi or pollen are present in the home. Good luck, and if you’re looking for IAQ testing in the area near Buffalo, New York then I’d be glad to help out.

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How to find a for sale by owner home https://altohomeinspection.com/how-to-find-a-for-sale-by-owner-home/ Sun, 02 Aug 2020 19:24:34 +0000 https://altohomeinspection.com/?p=6232 As one of the few home inspectors that receives a lot of business from buyers looking for for-sale-by-owner houses (“FSBO” for short) I hear a lot from my clients about how they’ve come to find these houses.  Given that the Buffalo housing market is starved for inventory, hunting for FSBO homes is a great way […]

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As one of the few home inspectors that receives a lot of business from buyers looking for for-sale-by-owner houses (“FSBO” for short) I hear a lot from my clients about how they’ve come to find these houses.  Given that the Buffalo housing market is starved for inventory, hunting for FSBO homes is a great way for sometimes cash-tight buyers to gain an advantage over those shopping for real estate in the open market.  

What is a FSBO?

FSBO stands for “for sale by owner”.  Just as it sounds, owners of these homes feel that using a real estate agent isn’t the right thing to do.  FSBO homes aren’t listed on the multiple listing service used by real estate agents and brokers, so the house may essentially be invisible to those using an agent to help them buy a house.  FSBOs may not even be advertised for sale!

Why do homeowners choose to go down the FSBO path?

Most of the time, those who are selling via the for sale by owner path are looking to save money on the sales commission that’s split between real estate agents involved in the sale.  

Traditionally in the Buffalo area, sales commissions amount to between 5-6% of a home’s sale price, with the fee being split between the listing agent and buying agents.  To get more specific, the brokerages that these agents represent typically get significant takes as well, but they always are taken out of that 5-6% total.  

Some owners of real estate aren’t even actively trying to sell their house, townhome, patio home or condo.  Instead, they are encountered by a creative home shopper who took the initiative to get creative in order to save themselves some serious money.

What are some creative ways to find a FSBO property?

As the owner of Alto Home Inspection, LLC I’m always curious when I hear that a client is buying an unlisted property.  Occasionally I hear of novel ways that the buyer came upon the opportunity to by the home.   

Much of this creativity is driven by the desire for buyers to actually be able to afford a house.  They often have tried buying a home through a real estate agent, only to have been either outbid numerous times or in general just been outpriced out of the limited number of homes that were on the market. 

I was surprised to learn that sellers often weren’t even looking to sell until they connected with their buyer.  They were contacted at just the right time, and chose to sell the house and begin making moves that maybe they were thinking about for years.

What are the best ways to find FSBO homes?

There are a variety of ways that creative buyers use to seek out for sale by owner properties. These are just a few that I’ve hear about from my home inspection clients:

Facebook Outreach

Posting on local or neighborhood Facebook groups has the distinct advantage of bringing your message close to the neighborhoods that you’d like to buy into.   

Join groups for the town, village or subdivision that you’d like to live in, and post a message that describes the type of home that you’d like to buy.  Be clear about the size of the home, location, lot size and anything else that might help the message resonate with the owner.  

If you are lucky, the owner or their friend might see the message and lead to a golden opportunity for you.

Old-fashioned bulletin boards

At least one of my home inspection clients has found a FSBO townhome after posting a flyer on a bulletin board in the association clubhouse or office.  The home shoppers simply visited the neighborhood office and posted a direct and clear message on the clubhouse corkboard.  The same approach can be used for a condo building or patio home community center.


Make sure your message is direct and to the point, stating that you are looking to buy, and providing your name and contact information.  If you are in the position of being able to buy with cash, make that known as well since it’s a major advantage for you in the eyes of the townhouse owner.

FSBO Listing Websites

FSBO listing sites such as FSBO.com, Zillow and forsalebyowner.com are great marketplaces that can connect buyers and sellers.  If you’re looking to avoid working with a realtor, then these are solid choices.  

But these sites won’t help you dig out opportunities that didn’t exist before you asked.  The other methods I described above I think are best if you’re trying to produce an opportunity to buy that simply wasn’t there before. 

Cautions when buying FSBO

A traditional  residential real estate transaction in Western NY involves a real estate agent for both the buyer and seller, and also an attorney for both sides of the transaction.  This framework brings with it advantages and disadvantages.  

As the buyer, make sure that you have an attorney on your side.  Although a real estate transaction in Erie county can take place without one, an attorney’s fee is relatively inexpensive compared to the other costs involved in buying a house.  

In terms of home inspections for FSBO buyers, my observation is that the sellers are generally unaware of the customs involved in certain aspects of the process.  And I’ve noticed that buyers sometimes are looking for direction when it comes to the results of the home inspection.  

A few tips:

  1. Ask the seller to be away from the home during the scheduled home inspection time.  It doesn’t help anything to have them there, and it can make things more difficult.
  2. Engage the services of a real estate attorney and plan ahead so that you have a plan for what to if the home inspection reveals that expensive repairs are required.  Typically when a real estate agent is involved, the results of a home inspection are used as a point of negotiating on the sale price.
  3. If you don’t know the seller, bring someone with you when you look at the home.  You never know who the seller is, and you don’t want to risk personal harm.

How to set your offer on a FSBO?

The general approach for real estate agents is to research recent sales of comparable properties, determine a cost per square foot of the home, adjust that cost up or down based on the quality of the property (and years of experience + magic), and then apply that cost per square foot to the size of the subject home.  

You can do this same research by searching for comparable sales on realtor.com, Zillow or others, and attempt to come up with a good offer.  Without a real estate agent on your side, this all can become quite tricky.  

Is it better to use an agent?

This is impossible to say, because everyone’s situation is different.  I know without a doubt that some Alto Home Inspection’s clients wouldn’t have been able to buy their homes if they were using an agent.  The personal approach that the buyers took in finding the unlisted property simply wouldn’t have worked if an agent was involved.  

In more complicated situations a real estate agent would be able to read the situation differently, perhaps saving the buyer lots of $$$.  

In the end it’s the choice of the buyer.  If nothing else, make sure you have a qualified real estate attorney on your side, and that they are guiding you through the process.  

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How to prepare your house for a buyer’s inspection https://altohomeinspection.com/how-to-prepare-your-house-for-a-buyers-inspection/ Sat, 18 Jul 2020 13:10:03 +0000 http://altohomeinspection.com/?p=4227 Have you accepted a purchase offer on your home?  Congrats!  Now it’s time to finalize your preparations for the buyer’s home inspection.  Home inspectors in Buffalo, Hamburg, Amherst and throughout Western New York spend time looking for the big and small problems.  Spending time preparing your home for an inspection may lead to a shorter […]

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Have you accepted a purchase offer on your home?  Congrats!  Now it’s time to finalize your preparations for the buyer’s home inspection.  Home inspectors in Buffalo, Hamburg, Amherst and throughout Western New York spend time looking for the big and small problems.  Spending time preparing your home for an inspection may lead to a shorter home inspection report for the buyer, and may build confidence in the buyer’s mind that they have made a good decision in buying your home.  Time is short – where should you focus your time and money? Our home inspection checklist may help you focus your efforts.  

If you would like to schedule a pre-listing home inspection in Buffalo, Amherst, Hamburg or anywhere in Western NY, contact us to schedule. Pre-listing inspections let you get ahead of the buyer’s inspector and provide you with an actionable punch list of safety and other issues of concern with the home.

Look in your basement or crawlspace

If you have not taken a look around in your basement or crawlspace recently – or ever – go down there and look around at the foundation walls, support piers or posts and other structural elements.  Examine the foundation walls, support piers or posts, overhead structure and floor for anything that looks unprofessional or broken.

If any of these items look wonky or otherwise wrong to you, then they are going to land on the front page of the buyer’s inspection report.  Real estate agents know the potential consequences of problems in these areas, and they include problems with the buyer obtaining financing and insurance.  Buyers tend to get nervous when defects in the basement are discovered, simply because they are the supporting structure of the house and literally represent a threat to the stability of the home.  

Other critical problems to look for in basements include:

  • Standing water
  • Does the basement have a sump pump?
  • Dangerous or unprotected electrical wiring – if your breaker box is missing its cover then replace it
  • Repair work that looks like an amateur did it

I inspect homes for sellers on a regular basis and recommend to them that they make sure to move back any personal items from the foundation or areas where plumbing passes through.  The buyer’s home inspector will want to inspect these areas, and if he or she is unable to because of personal items, then it may raise a red flag in the mind of the buyer.  

If you basement has a strong odor, investigate the cause.  Possibilities include natural gas leaks, broken drain or sewer pipes, standing water, mold and mildew.  Read more about what can cause a basement to stink.

I also advise sellers to install a sump pump if one is not present.  They are relatively affordable, inspire confidence in buyers and are required in several towns and cities in Western New York in order for a house closing to complete.

Inspect plumbing under sinks and vanities

How to prepare your house for a buyer's inspection 2
An OK plumbing installation

Another common area where I find problems is under kitchen sinks and bathroom vanities.  

These areas are often so filled with junk that small (or even large) leaks aren’t caught by the home owners.  My advice is to remove all of your stuff from under the sink and store it elsewhere until the buyer’s inspector has completed their work.  Just as in the basement, items blocking view make inspectors nervous.  I always move things out of the way, at least items under sinks.  I don’t know if this is case for all home inspectors, however.

What to look for under sinks:
  1. Signs of water leaks
  2. Plumbing that looks like an amateur did the work

Check wall outlets

By far the most common defect that finds its way into my home inspection reports for buyers is un-grounded 3-prong electrical outlets.  

This condition can be a safety risk, and so I always report it as one.  

In the buyer’s mind, a report with fewer problems reported represents a house that is in better condition.  

You can buy a simple outlet tester for about $5.  Take this tester and plug it into every outlet in the home.  Make notes about any outlet that shows as being mis-wired, and have an electrician repair those outlets. 

I discuss other electrical problems in our article Home Inspection Electrical Nightmares.

An outlet with an open ground wire
A kitchen outlet without the required GFCI protection

Find any holes or openings in your siding

The exterior of a home should be water-tight, with siding that moves water and moisture all the way to the ground.  It should not have unsealed holes from screws, nails or old plumbing or other lines that were removed long ago. 

Siding should not be cracked or broken, either.  Unfortunately many, many home exteriors are simply not maintained over time and develop this type of problem.  It’s understandable that home owners and property investors do not want to pour money into replacing siding.  But, there are creative and affordable ways to at least make it water tight. 

Any small holes that you find can be sealed with a 100% silicone caulk.  Do the same for any nail heads that you see.  These will allow water behind the siding if left unsealed, and will be listed as a concern on the buyer’s inspection report.

 Vinyl siding, especially, is easy and inexpensive to repair.  If a section is cracked or broken, a good handyman can find matching pieces and blend them into your existing siding. 

Take the time to patch up any siding issues.  It might save you time and money if the buyer chooses to negotiate with on the price because of any exterior concerns.

Look in your attic!

This probably doesn’t sound like the most rewarding experience ever, but your buyer’s home inspector should do whatever it takes to get into the attic, regardless if it’s -10 or 120 degrees up there.  

From the home inspectors point of view, the attic is a portal into the health of the roof.  It’s also a way to learn something about the condition of the structure of the house, energy efficiency and electrical safety. 

Take time to examine the underside of the roof itself.  Leaks in the roof may be visible, and there’s a chance that you may see what appears to be mold. If you think it may be mold, hire a mold tester licensed in New York State to assess and determine how to remove it. 

Also take note of any vents that are installed on the gable walls, the roof surface or the ridge of the roof.  They should be open and not blocked by insulation or other material.  Blocked vents are one of the main causes of mold in attics.

Unprofessional electrical work in attics is extremely common, particularly when it comes to recessed light installations.  For some reason, people often install these lights in a manner that looks like spaghetti.

If you see signs of rodents in an attic, get rid of them.  Rodents damage insulation and electrical wiring, putting homes at risk for fire.  Block off any openings that mice or other animals may be using.  If you see or suspect bats, hire a professional bat exclusion company.  Bats are protected in New York, and it’s important to take special measures to avoid trapping them in your attic.

Turn all of the lights on in the house immediately under the attic.  If you see light shining through while you are up there, then you have an opportunity to improve the energy efficiency of the home, and also to keep the buyer’s home inspector from finding something else to report on.

Don't forget the roof

Aging roofs are the #1 big money item that home buyers and their real estate agents are concerned with during a home inspection.  According to Roofingcalc.com, “most roofing contractors (and many insurance companies) will price their roof replacement services within $3.50 to $5.50 per square foot or $350 to $550 per square of architectural shingles installed“.

There are minor roof problems that can turn into nasty water and mold issues that I would advise you to look for.  Items such as exposed nail heads, brittle vent flashings and missing shingles are a few items that are easy and affordable to repair. 

Roofing consists of not just shingles, but also the material under them, including roofing paper, ice shield and wooden roof sheathing.  If a roof is allowed to disintegrate from the shingles inward, most of all of these layers may be completely ruined.

On the other hand, if the shingles are nearing the end of their useful life, you may be able to just replace the shingles and underlayment. 

From a buyer’s perspective, it’s probably better for them to see a newer roof than an old one, even if the shingles are on the lower end of the cost and quality spectrum.

As you get ready to sell your house, keep in mind that it may take up to three days for a complete roof replacement to wrap up.

Inspect Stairways

From the perspective of safety experts and some mortgage underwriting guidelines, stairways that have at least three steps should always have handrails.  I’ve noticed over time that handrails seem to disappear from stairways, leaving behind empty screw holes as evidence of their prior existence.  

If your home has suffered from this mysterious fate, then replace your handrails before you list your home for sale.  It will make the home safer for elderly and those who can’t move as easily as others, and it might make your home closing go more smoothly.  

Stairway accidents affect all age groups.  You may think that only the elderly fall, trip or otherwise harm themselves on stairs, but this is not the case.  

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