Tag Archives: home warranty

House of Horrors: 6 Things a Home Inspector Might Not Catch

bathroom shark attack

Before buying into a monthly mortgage payment, 77% of home buyers hire an inspector to go through their new digs with a fine-toothed comb. This is a very good idea.

That extra set of eyes gives buyers peace of mind that a new house won’t have a leaky roof or cracked foundation. Or something even worse. But what you might not realize is that countless conundrums go unnoticed during a home inspection simply because the inspector doesn’t look for them.

And those undetected flaws could add up to expensive repairs.

Here’s the deal: Home inspectors aren’t regulated by federal guidelines. Each state has its own licensing and/or certification requirements. They vary from Texas, whichrequires 130 classroom hours of real estate inspection training, to Georgia, which requires an inspector have a business license and a letter of recommendation—and little else.

That means home buyers have to do their own homework to make sure they’re working with a reputable and thorough inspector. Make sure to verify an inspector’s references and ask to review the checklist of items covered during an inspection.

And, once you’ve done that, ask your inspector to check for these budget busters.

Runny appliances

If you’re buying a home for the first time, you’re probably swooning over the idea of having your own washer/dryer or dishwasher. And to make sure your new BFF won’t break—and break your heart—an inspector should run these kind of appliances to check for functionality and leaks.

But inspectors don’t always go over all the bells and whistles on appliances.

“Checking the water dispenser for issues on a fridge isn’t standard,” says Tom Kraeutler, a former home inspector, author of “My Home, My Money Pit: Your Guide to Every Home Improvement Adventure,” and a syndicated radio host.

That oversight could mean you walk into a flooded kitchen if the seal on the water dispenser is faulty or the ice machine springs a leak.

Leaky faucets

To put a home’s plumbing through its paces, all faucets should be turned on; toilets should be flushed multiple times; and drain pipes—even if they’re under the house—checked for leaks while the water is running.

When it comes to sinks, the faucets need to be run long enough to fill them before draining in order to spot a leaky pipe or drain. In the shower, an inspector will need to block the drain pan with a washcloth or rubber jar opener and fill the shower to the top of the “pan” or floor, The water should sit for 15 to 20 minutes to test for leaks in the drain, Kraeutler says.

“That also helps spot if the shower pan is faulty, which is a super-expensive fix,” he says.

Another thing: Leaky shower tiles happen when gaps form in the tile grout or caulk. And they show up only when wet. To simulate showering, the inspector needs to splash his hands under the water and check the integrity of grout and caulk.

Cracked sewage and drainage pipes

Home inspections are always limited to what is visible and accessible, Kraeutler says. So cracks in underground or buried pipes and drain lines will be checked only if your inspector conducts a camera inspection.

That in-depth look into your drain will cost you extra. But the additional few hundred dollars are a drop in the bucket compared to the thousands you’ll shell out repairing or replacing faulty sewage and drainage pipes.

Corroded central air conditioning

Did you know that air-conditioning units can’t be tested in certain temperatures?

It has to be at least 55 degrees Fahrenheit outside in order to run a unit—temperatures lower than that can cause damage to the air conditioner, Kraeutler says. That means inspections done in cool temperatures could have an inspector ignoring the AC altogether.

So if it’s too cold to run the unit, ask your inspector how he looks for potential problems. You’ll want to make sure the inspector examines all connections and looks for signs of damage, says Will Hawkins, owner of All Pro Drain in Austin, TX.

And, if the temperature is 55 or higher, make sure the AC is run for several hours to test the functioning of the unit’s condenser coil.

“We’ve had customers notice condensation or water seeping through the walls in a few hours [of turning on the air conditioner] or overnight,” Hawkins says. “And unless the AC is run for several hours, that’s something a home inspector would be hard pressed to see during his run-through.”

Dangerous DIY improvements

It might be tempting to spruce up your home with some DIY projects before putting it on the market. But if those home improvements are completed with low-quality materials or not installed properly, a buyer could face an exorbitant—and unexpected—renovation.

A DIY renovation could be dangerous, too. If a basement or attic is finished without proper permits, electrical and plumbing work might not be up to code. And that could mean potential damage—or even danger—to the residents.

Although many home inspectors check for construction permits with the local municipality, Kraeutler suggests verifying that step isn’t overlooked.

Damp porches, decks, and balconies

You might not think of decks and balconies as sources of expensive leaks. But costs of damage can surge up to $100,000, according to Bill Leys, owner of Division 7 Waterproofing Consultants and a deck inspector in San Luis Obispo, CA.

“A deck or balcony can also have serious safety issues and be at risk of collapse,” he says.

Asking your inspector about cracks, rusted flashing, and soft areas around drains can help keep water from seeping into your home.

One final tip: Most home inspections are performed at least two months before closing. A lot can change in that time—especially if a house is vacant, Kraeutler says. Consider having a follow-up inspection the day of (or no earlier than the day before) closing to ensure you’re not purchasing a money pit. 

Source: Realtor.com by Gina Roberts-Grey has been covering real estate news since 2000

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Legal battle pushing Vaughan homeowner into poverty

Sydney Walters in the backyard of his Vaughan home. Walters' home is now vacant, and he lives in a rented apartment as the home is now contaminated with mould and inhabitable.

Sydney Walters in the backyard of his Vaughan home. Walters’ home is now vacant, and he lives in a rented apartment as the home is now contaminated with mould and inhabitable.

Every weekend, Sydney Walters spends hours mowing the lawn, and cleaning up the yard of a home he owns but hasn’t lived in for years.

His family fled the semi-detached home in Vaughan four years ago, when mould spread in his home due to the missing insulation in the attic. But he returns to the home every few days, to keep it looking habitable.

“I don’t want it to look unkempt,” said Walters. “It’s a beautiful house from the outside, but inside it is hell.”

The Vaughan resident says it breaks his heart when he sees the neighbours near his home on Hollywood Hill Circle sitting on their decks, enjoying the weather and holding barbecues with their families and friends.

Sydney Walters pulls a lawn mower over the grass in his Vaughan home's yard.

COLE BURSTON/TORONTO STAR

Sydney Walters pulls a lawn mower over the grass in his Vaughan home’s yard.

“That should be me. That should be my family,” said Walters. “But instead, we are on the verge of losing everything.”

For Walters, “everything” refers to the home he bought in 2004, in the hopes of giving his family a taste of the suburban dream. But it’s a dream that has become entangled in a web of lawsuits, that Walters says have brought him to the brink of bankruptcy and will soon cost him the only asset he has.

In the meantime, Walters has been living in a cramped one-bedroom basement apartment a street away, with his wife and teenage son — who sleeps on the couch. The burden of paying for and running two households is proving to be just too much.

“I’m still paying my mortgage, and we pay almost a thousand dollars to rent this,” said Walters, pointing at the small apartment around him. “Our monthly insurance fee is so high. It’s just a matter of time before the bank will take possession of the house,” he said.

The Star profiled Walters in 2012, when he was living in a tent in the backyard of his home because of the mould inside. He had just filed a lawsuit against the city of Vaughan, the builder Villa Royale Homes Inc., and Tarion Warranty Corporation — alleging the parties are responsible for the damage to his home as a result of the bare attic and should be responsible for the costs of the cleanup.

In 2013, Walters initiated a new lawsuit against the parties, seeking $2 million in damages to their home and personal injuries. The lawsuit has sparked a handful of others, with the city suing the builder and the builder suing the city, the original homeowners and a subcontractor, who in turn sued the insulation company.

With the agreement of all parties, the claims against Tarion and the insulation company were dropped after recent mediation.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

Since then, the case has hit a standstill as nobody can agree on who is at fault. And each party Walters is suing says the other should pay, if a judge rules in his favour. Court mandated mediation failed in June. Walters’s lawyer, Wendy Greenspoon-Soer, says the case is headed to trial early next year.

 “Our monthly insurance fee is so high. It’s just a matter of time before the bank will take possession of the house,” Walters said.

COLE BURSTON/TORONTO STAR

“Our monthly insurance fee is so high. It’s just a matter of time before the bank will take possession of the house,” Walters said.

According to the lawsuit, Walters and his wife Olivia bought the home in 2004 for $320,000 from the original homeowner, who bought the new build in 2002.

As first time buyers, Walters admits he was naïve. Because it was only two years old, he moved in without a home inspection. He dutifully paid heating bills — upwards of $400 a month — even though he noticed the home was “extremely hot during summer months and extremely cold during the winter months, with poor ventilation and ice buildup where the walls meet the roof,” according to the suit.

In the winter, when he turned up the furnace, heat would escape through the top and melt the snow and cause leaks. In the summer, the house was hot, and the mould began to grow and spread because of the moisture.

According to his claim, the family began to have health issues, and specialists and doctors advised Walters and his family to move elsewhere. Even now, he says he enters the home only if he’s wearing protective gear.

Walters complained to the city after a contractor he hired said the attic lacked insulation. During legal examination in 2011, notes from a city of Vaughan building inspector confirmed that “no attic ceiling insulation” was ever installed.

As a result of the investigation, the city of Vaughan sent Walters and Villa Royale an order to complete the insulation in 2011.

In a statement of defence, the city claims any damages should have been rectified by Walters, and that he has “exacerbated their own damages by suing Vaughan rather than fixing the problem.” They also say the damages were caused by the negligence of Villa Royale. Vaughan cites an independent contractor who said the cleanup and repair would cost around $15,000.

In the reply to defence, Walters says his house will need to be completely demolished and rebuilt. He blames the builder for not installing the insulation and the city building inspector for failing to ensure it met the Ontario Building Code.

Neither Villa Royale nor its lawyer responded to a request for comment for this story. Last week, days after the Star started asking questions about the matter, Vaughan’s legal counsel sent Walters a settlement offer “to retain and pay a contractor to complete interior repairs to his home… including the installation of attic insulation.”

Walters said he can’t comment on the offer.

Since 2011, Walters says he has gathered documents that try to find answers to how his house was approved, if insulation was never installed. A city document Walters obtained through an Access to Information request show a city inspector approved the home, including its insulation, a day after the house was sold. Normally, a home must pass city inspection before it is cleared for sale.

The city did not respond to questions about whether any internal investigation was conducted as a result of Walters’ 2011 complaint, as is required by the building inspector’s code of conduct protocol created in 2005.

The city of Vaughan said it could not comment on the matter because it’s before the courts.

“Our family, we are living in poverty. We are not poor. We are hard-working people, but we have no money. We go to bed hungry some nights,” said Walters, his eyes wet with tears. “We have a house, but we are living in these substandard conditions,” he said.

“That is just not right.”

Source: Toronto Star By: News reporter, Published on Wed Aug 19 2015

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