Finding the Right Home

When approaching a piece of property you are interested in, look first at the overall picture and then at the details.

NPI Homebuyer Checklist
The perfect house can become the perfect money pit if you don’t take off the rose-colored glasses and take a careful look at the exterior, interior and overall condition of any property purchase. It’s important to take your time, consider the neighborhood, safety issues and maintenance lists you may face in the future.

A systematic approach
When approaching a piece of property you are interested in, look first at the overall picture and then at the details. Begin your review the minute you park the car. Is the home large or small compared to other homes in the neighborhood? What features might hurt/help resale? What is the overall condition of the buildings, landscaping materials and driveways?

Starting on the exterior and working through the interior, work in the same general direction in each space examined – either clockwise or counterclockwise. Examine the structure from roof to foundation and each room from ceiling to floor. Do not overlook closets and cupboards.

Consider the building materials used and the overall condition. Have the walls been newly painted? Are their cracks above doors or windows? Do tree branches overhang the gutter system? Are gutters securely attached? Can you spot holes or cracks in the siding? Are their large bushes or trees next to the home that might provide an easy spot for burglars to hide? Safety is just one item to consider. Other issues might be: the likelihood of water intrusion, general maintenance items, age of mechanical or electrical components, ease of traffic flow, space and energy use.

To help you with your search, we’ve created at consumer checklist for your use.

Home Inspection Checklist

This is not meant to be a complete or exhaustive list of maintenance or safety items. Once you’ve made an offer on a home or business, call NPI for a quote on a full property inspection for your own peace of mind. The checklist is just a great starting point to help you differentiate between several properties you may be considering.

Making a Better Move With Kids and Pets

Help ease the stress of moving for children and pets.

To help children make the transition from an old home to a new home, try to ease some of the initial fear or apprehension by offering information:

  • Look up things about the new home online, on maps or in reference books. Make a scavenger hunt or other game out of the activity.
  • Have a special goodbye or moving party. Make sure to collect addresses and phone numbers. Consider giving older kids prepaid phone cards to help them stay connected.
  • Pack a special moving box for each child with snacks, a favorite toy, pillow and other special possessions. Help them place it in their new room first to help it feel like home.
  • Go on a memory walk inside and outside the home you are leaving as a family. As you discuss memories, it might be easy to point out that most of the memories involve the family and not the walls they live in.
  • Walk the new home. Discuss similarities and differences. Explore the home with interest.
  • Re-establish family routines as quickly as possible. This will reassure children that some things never change.
  • Visit new schools and new neighborhoods as a family to help children acclimate and find friends. Join local activities.

Moving With Pets
Moving to a new home with pets can mean some trying times. Try limiting the pet to a “safe” room. Make sure familiar toys, beds and dishes are available and let the pet explore the house and neighborhood slowly. When you leave, put the pet in that room. Once boxes are unpacked and furniture is in its place, allow the pet to explore slowly. Keep dogs on a leash to prevent meeting your neighbors while searching for your lost pets.

(Part of the above information obtained from the Humane Society of the United States.)

Helping Your Inspector Prepare: Builder’s Warranty Inspections

Have your new home inspected before the builder’s warranty runs out.

Most new homes are sold with a 12-month warranty provided by the builder, although some are shorter, and others may be two years or more. As the end of the warranty period approaches, it’s important to have your home inspected by a professional to ensure that anything covered under the warranty can be repaired before the warranty expires.

An unbiased third-party inspector will look at the exterior and interior of the home, as well as all major home systems. This gives you a better understanding of your home and written information to help smooth communication between you and your builder. To help the inspector provide the most thorough investigation possible, it is important to consider what items might be of specific concern to your home. Consider the following questions prior to your inspection. If any of the items pertain to your home, write down the location of the concern for the inspector:

  • What repairs has the builder done since your move and how satisfied are you with the results?
  • Have you noticed squeaks in the stairs or floors?
  • Have you noticed any windows that don’t work properly, are fogged or are cracked?
  • Have you noticed any faucet leaks or roof leaks?
  • Have you noticed any light switches, fixtures or electrical outlets that don’t work?
  • Are there areas of the home that are warmer or cooler than others?
  • Do you have problems with the shower, tub or toilet?
  • Are there any problems with walls, wall coverings or missing finish touches on wood or fireplaces?

For a printable pdf of these questions and information about preparing your home for an inspection, click here.

 

Pools and Spas

Every year, thousands of people are taken to the emergency room after accidents involving swimming pools or spas. The majority of the injured are under 19 years of age. A pool or spa inspection can alert you to important safety issues.

When buying or selling a home, consider having the pool and its systems inspected. An inspector will look at the condition of the pool, functionality and safety of various components, and will provide you with a written report outlining significant findings.

The inspection will include an assessment of the pool construction, the walking surface, access doors and fences and recirculation equipment. The inspector will describe the pool and all of its components, including the electrical and plumbing system, the pump and filter, and the heater, if present. The condition of each component will be assessed.

To protect yourself and your family when using a pool or spa, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends taking the following precautions:

  • Make sure the pool meets local ordinances, codes and safety requirements.
  • Use non-slip materials on the deck, diving board and ladders.
  • Ladders should be installed at both ends of the pool. Ladder handrails should be small enough for a child to grasp, and steps should be at least 3 inches wide.
  • All electrical equipment should be installed by a licensed electrician in accordance with current safety codes.
  • Make sure the fence around the pool is at least 6-feet high with a locked gate. It should be constructed so that children cannot gain access using either the fencing material, lawn furniture or nearby shrubs.
  • Mark pool depths clearly with floats.

Making Your Home Energy Efficient

A close look at your home systems can improve energy savings. Several options for evaluating your home’s energy efficiency are available.

Consumers who improve their home’s energy efficiency can reap the benefits of energy savings. Several different inspection services are available to help homeowners pinpoint areas of potential savings.

The U.S. federal government offers an online do-it-yourself auditing tool for consumers. Go to http://hes.lbl.gov/and follow the instructions to receive a personalized energy savings report for your home. Collecting the information for the audit can take some time. If you had a general home inspection when you purchased your home, find it. The home inspection report contains much of the information needed to complete the audit.

Certified Home Energy Raters perform an on-site inspection that covers items such as insulation, windows, construction, ducts, heating and cooling equipment, water heaters, lighting, appliances, and thermostats. Blower door tests determine areas of leakage within the home “envelope.”

Measurements and findings are entered into the software, and the homeowner receives a report detailing the current energy rating, recommended improvements and energy savings predictions possible with different improvements. These reports may help the homeowner in securing an energy-efficient mortgage through Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, FHA and VA that includes the cost of energy efficient improvements. New-home builders wanting to qualify for certain tax advantages are required to use raters to check the energy efficiency levels of recent construction.

Raters must meet certain education requirements prior to taking a final exam and then continue to meet education and quality assurance standards set by the Residential Energy Services Network in order to maintain their certification.

Infrared camera inspections are another way to analyze some areas of energy loss in the home. Trained infrared inspectors can use the cameras to locate areas of missing insulation, electrical hot spots and water intrusion.

Home Tune-Ups, a division of CMC Energy Services, offers another version of an energy audit. Tune-Up inspectors perform a visual inspection and provide their clients with a cost and savings report for improvements. The Tune-Up includes access to a database of contractors. CMC trains its own inspectors and offers its own software program for determining energy savings.

Individual states or utilities may also offer weatherization programs or energy audits. Wisconsin is one such state, but these programs very widely from state to state. For more information, try contacting your local utility, state energy office, or sometimes health and human services, which may administer some of the energy reduction program monies.

Information about energy efficiency legislation, programs and standards is also broken down state by state on a new website at http://www.ase.org/content/article/detail/2356 and sponsored by the Alliance to Save Energy.

Reasons for Scheduling a Commercial Inspection Prior to Buying

A commercial property investment requires gathering knowledge and taking a risk. Property inspection increases the amount of information available when it’s most crucial.

The bottom line is that a commercial building inspection gives the client an overall understanding of the general condition of the building. This allows the client to move forward with business planning, negotiations and remodeling or renovation with a knowledge of current systems. An inspection reduces surprises. When it comes to large real estate transactions, that can be a great peace of mind.

For some, that needed knowledge is limited to an inspection of the roof. Others may be more interested in knowing that electrical outlets are safe. Still others want a ceiling-to-floor laundry list of items, noting the good and the bad. Comfort levels are different, but a thorough, unbiased inspection can usually help point people in the right direction.

National Property Inspections professionals have the training and expertise to perform a number of different types of commercial property inspections, including the following:

  • Comprehensive inspections for buyers and sellers
  • Pre-lease or exit inspections for tenants to protect damage deposits
  • Partial inspections of the roof or general structural conditions
  • Inspections to meet lender requirements
  • Walk-through pre-bid assessments for potential buyers
  • Maintenance inspections for property management firms
  • New-construction progress inspections and final inspections

In apartment complexes, inspectors look at a representative number of units, or all of the units, or sometimes just the common areas and the roof. Again, for the buyer, these options help pinpoint possible areas of concern and overall maintenance issues. Sometimes, specialized equipment, such as an infrared camera, helps pinpoint leaking or heat-loss areas and can help with long-term planning.

In some instances, a client may not even be purchasing the building itself but rather the business occupying the building and an attached lease. An inspection in that instance can reassure the buyer that the building is sound and reduce concerns about assuming the lease. It can also make for an unbiased reference for the property management firm overseeing building maintenance, which is more good information for all parties concerned.

 

Commercial Emergency Preparedness

Taking some time today to prepare for an emergency saves times and property later.

It’s impossible to plan for or predict every possibility of water damage from wind, rain, ice or snow. To minimize damage to a commercial building in the event of a roof leak, soaked carpets or basement flooding, make sure staff are prepared to address such situations as quickly and efficiently as possible using the following tips:

  • Schedule regular updates and training on the emergency preparedness plan.
  • Clearly mark the location of all shut off valves to water supply lines.
  • Make responsible staff aware of the location of any tools or instructions necessary to safely shut down major building systems.
  • Plan for a safe shut down of electric and gas supply lines where applicable.
  • Clearly post emergency telephone numbers for fire, police, emergency personnel and systems specialists, including a plumber and HVAC repair company.

Practicing a little preparedness can help reduce structural damage, decrease the number of hours business is interrupted and keep the cost of repair down.

Information for this report was based on brochures from the Institute for Business and Home Safety