Why order additional Tests/Inspections?
What are some examples?
This guide is intended to help inform buyers how to make the most of their due diligence time and money. Everyone knows that a Home Inspection is a must when buying a house but what about some of the lesser known tests and inspections? The lender may require the buyer to order them but what if they don't? Read on to learn more about Radon, & Water Testing, and Pest, Well, Septic, & Chimney Inspections.
RADON TEST (Certified, Independent testing)
Most home buyers order a radon test with a home inspection. because radon gas is a thing in our region- it comes from decaying Uranium in our mountains. Radon is a heavy radioactive gas that seeps up into our living area and emits alpha particles. Almost all houses in our area have some level of radon gas in the home but we are looking for a high average-- we are seeing that about 13% of the results are high. The EPA says that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking. The repair usually costs between $1100-1500 and it is generally a good negotiating item-- the seller pays for it. We are seeing that all foundation types can have high radon but houses on slabs or with basements tend to be higher. Testing is highly recommended if children, elderly or persons with a history of lung disease will be living in the home.
The test will be performed by an insured and Certified Radon Testing Technician. WE DO NOT PERFORM MITIGATION REPAIRS and our results and recommendations are unbiased. We conduct the radon tests using a RadStar Continuous Monitor device or the Airchek Charcoal tests. The testing equipment is placed in the lowest finished space of the home for 2-4 days and takes readings every hour. One of the advantages of the continuous monitor is that it produces 48-96 readings instead of just one with the charcoal/cartridge tests. The additional information is used to produce graphs that show radon spike and tampering events. Results are back in 2-4 days after home inspection.
Yesterday in the Shiloh neighborhood of Asheville I inspected another unique house. The owner, as you can see from the pics, had a thing for trains.
Imagine how all this looked in it's full glory? Dioramas were built at the front and back yards and on custom soffits in all of the living areas inside the house.
When I was a kid my Great Uncle Chuck built a similar train world up in his attic. He'd get in full uniform and would drive that train with as much seriousness as any real conductor-- more smoke billowing out of his tobacco pipe than his model train engine. As a kid this was pure magic.
I wonder how many children's lives this guy affected with his creations? Those children are probably adults now like me. And how many of them are going to carry on this tradition? Speaking for myself it's tempting.
How calming it must be to check into a miniature world of order where the train only goes forwards or backwards and the Ticket Inspector is always smiling at the station. We are in political turmoil right now but imagine what was going on during their time? Vietnam, Cold War, Gas shortage, Nuclear Arms race... When news from the world got crazy they probably just turned on the ballgame, fired up the wood stove and started painting a new tree for the meadow. Train dioramas are like the Western version of the Japanese Bonsai tradition- it's Zen, and I completely respect it.
Realistically i will probably never have the patience and discipline for this kind of work but it was nice to inhabit this space yesterday even if just briefly.
Just as a fun exercise let's take a look at the house on Zillow's mobile app splash screen. Do we see any potential issues? I'm seeing a yellow flag at the foundation area. If we zoom in a little (see photo below) we see a concrete slab sticking out beyond the siding. The foundation is not supposed to stick out this way, so what is happening here? Evidence suggests this slab was an old porch/patio and the owners decided to build an addition into this area--peeking through the window it looks like it was renovated into a large open plan kitchen and dining area. I would look for confirmation of this in the crawlspace/basement- there probably isn't any access under this area. Here are a few reasons why this is an important observation:
1. Typically siding should be installed to direct water away from the framing but in this case the siding terminates right at the foundation slab. The slab is level and not sloped away from the house and water will sit there decaying the siding, sheathing and framing. I would scrutinize the outside and inside perimeter for water damage.
2. Patio slabs are usually not adequate for addition foundations. Patio surfaces are often sloped, thinner and do not have water proofing, insulation or conduits/chases for electrical/plumbing and ductwork. We do not know for certain this is the case but I would be looking for more evidence to support this theory (based on experience there is a high probability this is the case) Depending on what other defects I find I may ask the buyer to verify the construction permits for this addition.
3. I would be looking closely at how heating/cooling, electricity, and plumbing is provided to this area. I would also be looking at the framing, insulation and ventilation of the attic area. If the general contractor was careless enough to build a kitchen/dining room on a patio slab they probably made other amateurish errors and I would be looking closely for them.
Feel free to send me any other high profile house pictures that may have issues- this was fun! As always, if you are buying, selling, or maintaining a home be sure to hire a Home Inspector with renovation experience that can recognize patterns like this.
These FAILS are all from my home inspection reports, Many of these situations look harmless from the outside but in at least one example in every Fail the related damages in the finished walls, basements and crawl spaces caused the buyers to back out, In most cases the sellers lowered the asking price, sometimes by tens of thousands of dollars. All of these issues could have been prevented for cents on the dollar. If you are buying, selling or maintaining please read on and if your home is within 40 miles of Asheville consider calling us for an inspection.
FAIL #9: Splash blocks, perforated drain pipes and other fails:
Run-off should be directed at least 6 feet away from the house and splash blocks are inadequate for this purpose. An exception might be at a concrete or asphalt patios/driveways that are well-sloped away from the house. Downspout drain pipes should slope downhill and away from the house. The downspout drain pipes should not have any holes in it. The perforated types are for French drains only.
In Asheville rain catchment systems are a popular and eco-friendly way to capture and use rainwater- primarily for irrigation. The main advantages are that the water doesn’t contain chorine/fluorine added by county treatment plants and the homeowner can reduce their public water consumption and expenses.
Unfortunately most of the installations that I see while performing home inspections in the Asheville area are defective and can, if left un-repaired over many years, cause structural issues, water penetration, mold, rot, and air quality issues in the crawl space/basement. Before installing a rain catchment system homeowners should understand that they are modifying important components of the house drainage system- the downspouts and sub-surface drains- which are designed to protect the home from water damage. It’s not enough to run downspouts into a barrel because they will inevitably overflow during big rain events. Improperly installed systems will negate any water savings by causing expensive foundation repairs which is why a licensed landscaper and/or a rain catchment specialist should install these systems. Owners of these catchment systems should budget for regular maintenance and repairs and they should inform gardeners/maintenance workers, and renters/occupants about how the system works so they don’t move or damage the components.
The picture was taken at the Asheville Earth Fare at the Westgate Mall (a local institution and one of my family’s favorites).
According to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau's data, an American's median net worth at age 70 is $225,000, but excluding home equity that number drops to $69,000. As the graph shows, Home Equity is, by far, the largest contributor to our net worth across all age categories.
This is why Buying, Selling and Maintaining a home are the most important financial decisions we make in our lifetime.
A house is a sanctuary and can also be a vehicle to real wealth if we take care of it. Unfortunately homes with undiscovered issues can lead to financial calamity. For example, un-checked water penetration and structural issues in a finished basement can lead to repairs in the 6 figures (quite common in our area). These costs could wipe out a homeowner's entire retirement savings.
Beyond considering location, valuation, timing, and cash flow Americans should consider the 3 Don'ts of Real Estate to enjoy the full financial benefits of home-ownership and minimize risks:
The 3 Don'ts of Real Estate:
Before buying or selling a home, or letting another year go by without a maintenance inspection, a home owner should hire a qualified Home Inspector to prevent and anticipate expensive issues When it comes to an objective and knowledgeable evaluation of a house, the independent Home Inspector is the homeowners best ally. Not all home inspectors are the same-- a good home inspector has real renovation and construction estimation experience and can recognize the difference between easy fixes and costly repairs.
Once defects are discovered, the home owner should work with a qualified general contractor to help prioritize, budget and to generate a repair plan.
It's hard to put a price tag on the enjoyment we get from our home but statistics also show that more than any other asset class every dollar and drop of sweat invested in our homes will pay us huge dividends later in life, especially for those that buy, maintain and sell well.
An Asheville area Real Estate Agent and Home Inspector tackle the question