There’s a lot of instances where people don't understand the need for a home inspection. Most of the general public believes the only time they need a home inspection is during the purchase or sale of property. Nothing could be further from the truth! Inspections are needed during repairs, maintenance, storm damage, high energy bills, the list goes on. But one of the areas that is often left out is during a divorce.
Divorce is a hard thing and tensions can be high (I’ve been there myself so I sympathize), having an appropriate value of property and personal assets helps smooth over the process. If one spouse gets the house and the majority of the worldly possessions distaste and anger can ensue. One of the best ways to avoid this is to have an accurate representation of property value.
The home inspection for a divorce is in all reality an inspection similar to those conducted during a real estate transaction. A list will be generated for the repairs needed and recommendations made to complete all repairs. The steps in appraising your house are fairly straight forward but don't forget the overlap between appraisers and home inspectors.
Appraisers will devalue a home based on certain defects and a lot of that is subject to their expert opinion. As a home inspector nothing is more frustrating to me then when I perform an inspection and then the appraiser dings the sale with trivial defects that do no affect the function of the home.
First, you need to order the appraisal, once complete make sure you get a copy of the report with all his findings annotated, don't forget to get their contact information you will need this later. Present the report to the inspector so he can review the findings from the appraiser, then let the inspector get to work on the house.
Treat the inspectors report like a checklist for things to get done and start speaking with service contractors. Some inspectors can even manage the project for you for a small fee. Once all the repairs are complete call the inspector for a re-inspection and another report. This fee is usually relatively small and varies by the amount of time the inspector has to put in to the inspection. Typical charges range around $150 depending on the service, at Timberline Inspections we charge a flat rate of $125 and waive the fee if it’s a small re-inspection (anything less then an hour usually).
I’ve seen some inspectors that charge minimal fees to cover their expenses and some do it for free. Be wary of these inspections as they are usually not very thorough. Then speak to your appraiser to get him to redo the appraisal and provide you a new value.
Lets plug some numbers in! The appraised value of the home is initially $200,000, with repairs whether selling or keeping the home your value drops to $180,000. The appraiser charges you $300, the inspector charged $375 and $100 for the re-inspection, the appraiser charged $300 for the second appraisal, and the contractor charged $10,000 for all the repairs. During the second appraisal the value came back at $210,000. You invested $11,075 in the home and each walked away with $99,460 assuming a 50/50 split on value and splitting the price of inspections and repairs.
Had you taken the original value you each walked away with only $90,000! However, if you failed to get the home inspection one party walked away with $100,000 while the other party walked away with $80,000. In making things fair one person took a $15,000 loss while the other person only gained $5,000.
Obviously this is a hypothetical example and some houses will be better while some are worse. In the amount of houses I’ve inspected I have never seen a house that would not benefit from at least getting the inspection, including new construction homes.
Business owners tend to be some of the most intelligent minds in America but it never ceases to amaze me how few of them get inspections on their property. One thing I’ve learned managing my own inspection firm is that you should always ALWAYS contract out the work you are not an expert in. It wastes more time and money when you try to do it yourself and it is always a benefit to have a professional do it for you.
As a business owner you would never do your own taxes or legal work and generally we try to hire out our marketing, when we can see a direct benefit. I have enough mechanical knowledge to take my truck apart and put it back together again, but when it comes time to do repairs I pay a professional because my time is better used elsewhere. The care of your largest asset should be no different, and it is even more important to inspect it right using a licensed organization.
Two things we can discuss in todays post, 1st is whether you need an inspection (you do) and what will be included in that inspection, 2nd is whether you should be on a maintenance program.
If you're buying a commercial warehouse, a commercial kitchen, income properties or virtually any property that can (or should) be purchased under the veil of a corporation you need to have an inspection done. It removes liability from you in the event that an employee or visitor is injured due to a fault in the property. Imagine the lawsuit you open yourself up to (and even just the loss in wages and workmans comp claim if no suit entrails) in the event that someone is injured walking on a broken mezzanine. Why didn't you have it inspected Mr. Business owner? Said the judge.
Second, do you know how to check, water lines? what about pressure checking gas lines? or evaluating a 440 volt 3 phase electrical panel? Or measuring output of an HVAC system? A lot of DIYers (which a large percentage of business owners seem to be) have walked around with an inspector and thought they could do the same job when purchasing a residential home, the reason they have this misconception is because what they see and what actually is going on are separate things.
When the inspector turns on the bedroom light he's not just testing the light switch and the fixture, he's mapped out the circuitry in his head so he has a better idea what to look at in the panel, he's checking the ceiling for water stains and evidence of asbestos, lead and Chinese drywall, when he tests your outlet he's load testing the entire circuit, when he opens the windows he's checking for caulking and broken seals in the window. Much more is actually going in to each step then you are seeing and the same (with much more severe consequences) holds true with your commercial property.
When you look at your commercial property you might be spending $200,000 or $1,000,000 everyones budget is different but the percentage of effect is similar it is the single largest asset your company will likely ever purchase. Knowing the issues before hand can assist you in lowering your price for negotiation, have repairs done before establishing, and even make the sellers pay them. It can also tell you if this is a property you need to walk away from. Imagine a commercial HVAC system, they can literally cost $100,000 or more and repairs can be astronomical, doesn't it make sense to throw a couple hundred bucks towards a specialist to check it out?
We all know it’s stupid to perform your own legal work and this can be potentially more costly. I used to work for a roofing company that specializes in commercial roofing, do you have any idea how much a commercial roof costs?! Labor alone is out of this world because they have to compete with Davis Bacon wages on the government buildings. Imagine purchasing a building and immediately having to shell out $30,000 because you didn't want to fork over the money initially to have it inspected.
Ok so how much does it cost? That’s the question that the budget savvy business owner wants to know. How is this going to affect their bottom line? Well some companies charge by the square footage and that seems to be a pretty common method. At Timberline Inspections I do things slightly different and I actually tailor the plan to fit your budget. I’ll make my recommendations but in the end if you (the business owner) tells me you want to spend $500 or $10,000 on the inspection I’ll make a plan that fits. Keep in mind that when you cut price, things get cut out of the inspection; if you tell me to take $600 of the first bid that means you lose the specialist to inspect the HVAC unit. I would advise that this is a mistake, and you can take my word on it, as unbiased because I don't make anymore from the inspection whether you use my HVAC contracts or not.
Keep in mind for those of you reading this at a distance outside of Alabama, if you have a building in a different state it may be worth hiring an out of state inspection firm (Timberline Inspections) to perform the inspection because paying the travel fees is often cheaper then paying for the cost of living.
For example, the average price of a home inspection in Birmingham is around $400 depending on who you use, in New York you can pay between $1500 and $2000 for the same inspection. That means you could literally find the best inspector in Alabama pay the premium fee of $450 then $500 for the plane ticket and a $400 bonus for traveling and it would be cheaper then you could get the worst home inspector around for. Now it obviously is not that simple and there’s other fees to consider but you get the point, plus licensing and insurance come into play; it would be worth while for commercial properties buyers to look outside your local market.
Ok so you’ve agreed to get your inspection and we’ve come up with a plan to get your building inspected properly. Now we can look into an annual maintenance program. Maintenance programs make sense for all properties, whether you're a home owner, investor, developer, or property management firm getting your annual maintenance inspection will save you 10’s of thousands over the course of owning the property
The best clients I get with this service and the ones that receive the most benefit from the inspection, are the ones that come to me and say “Mackay I’ve got 10 properties, I want you to make me a list of whats wrong with them.” These clients truly want to know what’s wrong with their house, and they will get it fixed and more times then not they will ask me to manage the projects for them.
Here’s how I work this aspect, I recommend for the first year the properties have a residential home inspection complete with a mold test (usually including 3 samples). At this point they will sign an annual maintenance plan (basically this is just a lasting inspection agreement it does not lock you in to an agreement to force you to have them inspected annually so don't panic!). The annual maintenance plan will give me and them some options, we can setup when you want them to occur and I will schedule them at my convenience provided it works for you, in return you receive a discount. This allows me to fill up my slow season with work and you get to capitalize on my cutting you a discount for being an off season. We will perform a mold test every five years and after any water damage is reported in the home. All properties where the land lord pays the utilities on will receive an energy audit with the first inspection. So what kind of price are you looking at?
This varies a lot on the size, age and features of the home; for example a 2000sqf house built in 2000, with a slab floor will run you roughly $350 - $400 in Birmingham, lets say $350 for sake of argument; 3 mold tests will run you an average of $350 for a total of $700 minus your %20 discount for setting up an annual inspection plan. Your total is $660 the first year and $280 each year after that; don't forget too that you get more discount if you have multiple properties. That changes based off the specifics of the property but as an example I recently made a deal with an investor to inspect all 10 of his properties for $2500 ($250 each).
Now back to the inspection agreement for annual maintenance. It can be written two ways, we can write it as a running agreement (basically the standard liability agreement) or a lock in for an annual plan. Why would you lock it in you ask? Because then you get to lock in the price at todays rate of inflation! You might agree to pay it for 5 years but you also agree to the price for five years. It also gives you negotiating room for the price, if you just verbally agree to have them inspected I’ll do it for $300 per house, but if you put it in writing I might do it for $275. If you have a commercial building and you know you will be running that factory for the next 10 years, why wouldn't you lock in the price at todays rate?!
To determine the best course of action you need to look at your specific needs. The plant manager of a factory once told me his monthly electric bill was $8,000! Now a large portion of this was the machinery which there really isn't much we can do to help that, but if we put them on an annual maintenance plan and perform an energy audit the first year we can cut that drastically. This property had 3 HVAC systems that were each the size of a semi trailer, how much juice do you think that was drawing each month? If we tighten the buildings envelope through an energy inspection we can reduce that drastically. Lets say the energy audit costs $10,000 (likely much cheaper unless it’s a huge property), then another $10,000 in upgrades, but I can save you $2,000 a month on electricity alone you would literally pay for the inspection before this years budget is complete and then you have a surplus next year to spend on productivity and quality! I’m hearing promotions in your future.
The bottom line here is that it always makes sense to get an inspection and a maintenance program built, and it usually makes sense to get an energy audit. Do yourself a favor and call an inspection firm that can get you setup right and ensure your property is ready to meet the needs of your business.
Before we talk about some home owner remediation techniques lets address very briefly some preventative maintenance. Realize that water is the greatest enemy your home will ever face, and too often moisture issues go unnoticed or simply unbothered. Either the home owner doesn't see it or they seam to have some disillusioned idea that it will go away naturally. To start, if the water damage has occurred and you're willing to tackle the task dry everything quickly.
Carpet absorbs moisture and mold spores, providing a breeding ground for bacteria and fungi (which is why carpet should never be used in a bathroom). If it’s a lot of water, as in it needs to be measured in gallons, use a shop vac to pull the moisture out. I once had a pipe burst (my dumb fault not the weather) during a remodel project; in the time it took me to get the rusted water main turned off (it’s about 200 Meters from my front door) my house had 25 gallons of water rushing underneath all the hardwood floors. At this point in time it was too late for preventative maintenance I simply had to get the water cleaned up. The first step was the shop vac and sitting there for several hours syphoning the water up. Once it’s underneath the hardwood it was a matter of creating enough suction so I could pull the water from the living room through the opening in the bathroom.
Ok so now we have the majority of water cleaned up. Mind you if this had happened on carpet the pad and rug would have retained a larger percentage of the water, so you would not have been able to vacuum as much water out.
Next step was to get as much of the remaining moisture out as possible within the first 48 hours. Much like the crime show on television after 48 hours you're looking at a significant mold problem because in the time it took you to vacuum everything up… You've already got mold!
Forget the electric bill with the AC or heat you're going to have to sacrifice there. Depending on the size of your spill open up the windows surrounding the area and turn on any exhaust fans immediately available. My particular incident involved the half bath and the living room with the connecting hallway, so all windows in the living room and the exhaust fan in the bathroom were opened (for good measure I opened a few more, better to error on the side of caution).
The bottom line here is we have now increased the relative humidity (RH) in the air and it will continue to stay high and transport water unless we can get it out of the house. Keep in mind that water will travel in the air through walls and then you have a condensation and MOLD issue behind your walls, so don't be stingy open the windows. If you're really lucky you've got a wood stove going and its winter so not only do you have exceptionally dry air but a heat source to crank up and aid in drying. Mine was unfortunately in the middle of the summer in Alabama.
Next stop you need to hit the local hardware store and get some fans and ideally a dehumidifier (If it’s a bad spill you will need to hire a professional with a large industrial sized dehumidifier). Once you are set up to get the air circulating and the moisture removed from the structure you've done about all you can. If it’s hardwood go ahead and remove the trim work so you have plenty of room for expansion and cupping of your boards. They will typically settle back eventually but it may take several months! and until then you need to leave room so boards wont push up and damage the moulding.
Any water damage on drywall can typically dry in place provided there is no swelling and the seams aren't pealing. However, if either of the above are true go ahead and remove the drywall and get a fan on the opening to let it dry. You can come back and fix it the next weekend after it has thoroughly dried. Keep in mind that it may be worth your peace of mind to pay an inspector to come out with his moisture meter and measure the moisture content (MC) in the wood before you put drywall back on; for that matter it’s definitely worth getting a mold test done before you start any repairs.
If you're house has shiplap siding or lauan board from the 70’s go ahead and put your pry bar behind it and peal it back a touch to let the air reach behind. If it’s lauan or another type of wood paneling that is not shiplap I recommend complete removal for aesthetic sakes!
Insulation is usually best if it is just tossed and replaced; it retains a lot of water, it’s hard to dry, and rarely performs as well after having been wet. If it’s just little damp you can try to get away with a fan on it but I would make sure it’s completely dry before putting up new drywall.
Keep in mind that the remediation techniques I’m talking about are for potable water only. If you have a grey or black water spill you need to call a remediation company to handle it for health, safety, and legal reasons.
Now for the question you asked to begin with… what about mold? before you can treat the mold you have to identify the kind and amount. Basically we are relatively certain you have mold, you may have even seen a bit but you should know the extent and the mold test will tell you the types of spores in the air and the amount present. Basically this can tell you if it’s something you can handle as the do-it-yourself warrior or if you need to hire a professional industrial hygienist.
Mold jobs are broken down into three different sizes: small - less then 10 sqf, medium - less then 100 sqf, or large - more then 100 sqf. Anything in the large category needs a mold remediation professional pretty much regardless of what the test results show. This is where it is somewhat redundant to get a mold test if you see it and it’s this large, but again it can make a difference to the hygienist for the treatment options. The only exception is to know the type so it can be treated appropriately.
If you elect to work on it yourself it’s important to take into consideration your personal protective equipment. Now you’re not attempting to be a professional remediation service and I’m not attempting to guide you in to that realm, but here are a few tips to keep in mind with your PPE. I’ll make mention that it is always best and safest to hire a professional company this is only for those cheap skates out there that wont listen to that advice.
Tyvek suits cost about $8 and provide some degree of protection from spores and contaminants. Not typically the same as what the pros use bit it will do for your home remediation project. Gloves are every bit as important and you can purchase mold and bacterial specific gloves however a set of rubber dish gloves can go a long ways for the DIYer.
In truth, you could probably get away with the N95 mask from the hardware section but I would recommend you just purchase the respirator. Ensure you get one that has a good seal around your face and has the appropriate filter. 10 years ago I could have listed out the types of filters but now there’s so many, just read the back of the box at the store and it will tell you. Go ahead and purchase one that has a 99% particulate rating. You can reuse the respirator next time you paint or sand something so don't feel like it’s a waste of money. Over-booties can help but if you have trouble finding them just duct tape the ankle of your pants around the boot.
Now we move on to containment. You have to be able to keep the mold spores from spreading throughout your house. containment can vary depending on the size and shape of the room but the general concept is to create a negative pressure room that keeps spores out of the house. Grab yourself a roll of painters plastic, duct tape, and a fan. You might need some PVC pipe and fittings too but we will come back to that in just a minute.
If the room is a stand alone room like a bedroom turn off the HVAC (you don't want it to circulate the spores throughout the house). Get all your tools inside the room so you don't have to leave and a few contractor bags and a handful of zip ties. Close the door and cut a piece of plastic to fit all the way around then duct tape the seams. You can leave the floor portion un-taped to circulate new air in to the room. Next Seal of any vents or openings entirely and brace the fan (blowing out) in the window. Then seal it the same way leaving only the back of the fan exposed.
If everything is done correctly when you turn on the fan the door seal should pull inwards like it’s trying to collapse, and you should have a decent draft of air coming underneath the door. Do not let that get lose though you shouldn't have much gap at the bottom; you need to ensure that no spores can make their way back in to the house.
Now if the room is a large open great room then you may need to build a box to work in, out of PVC pipe and cover the entire thing in plastic. If you're in a bathroom without a window you can use the exhaust fan but it may not be powerful enough to provide good suction, and if the pipe is long it will get mold spores in it, so be sure and vacuum it when you are finished.
Now start cutting out all the bad components wood, drywall, etc. don't try to pour bleach on porous material and hope its treated, it wont work. If a piece of wood has sentimental value it’s better to have a professional take care of it. Once you've gotten everything removed now bag it in the contractor bags and zip tie the end, then double bag it and zip tie the next one.
If possible remove the bags through the open window to avoid dragging spores through the house. Make sure they are disposed of in a manner legal and appropriate with your jurisdiction. A pro will likely leave an air scrubber working in the room for several days or at least during the remediation but without that option make sure everything is vacuumed viciously.
Once everything is dry and all the dust has been vacuumed you can begin rebuilding. Do not rush this step or you'll be starting over! leave any openings exposed for a week or two to let everything air out, keep the containment up and the fan running during this time to transport the remaining spores to the exterior. When you're ready move the plastic and fan through the window, if that’s not an option bag them in contractor bags and dispose of them as you did the construction debris.
One final note before beginning the rebuilding process, it is worth it’s weight in gold to hire an inspector to perform another mold test to ensure you have removed all the contaminants. This may be expensive depending on what needs to be done. Ideally, you will take an exterior sample as a control and an indoor air sample in the room affected. However, if you want to take true diligence and ensure it is gone the inspector can take a sample behind the wall and a surface sample on any areas affected. I have a biased opinion but don't skimp here or you will be starting over in a few months of allergies.
Maybe you're listing the house and want a pre-inspection, maybe the buyer has scheduled there’s, or maybe you’re just trying to use one of the many ancillary services we offer; whatever the case take the time to prepare your house for the inspection. There’s many things that can get in the way of an inspection addressing these issues can save a lot of heartache on both ends for the buyer and seller.
Put the animals up. This should be fairly obvious but it’s amazing how many people put the dog in the back yard and don't realize the inspector needs to go back there. No area of your house is going to be off limits for the inspection and it’s important that the inspector be able to access everything because they will (or at least they should).
Granted the lizards and fish aren't usually an issue unless a large tank is blocking a specific area that the inspector needs access to, and for the most part cats aren't too bad but some can still bite and claw. But dogs are the main worry here and even ones that have never bit anyone should be put up because at the least they will be curious to the intruder and slow the inspection. More then that as a dog lover I have to try and be understanding that not everyone that comes to my house thinks my shepherd is as adorable as I do.
Multi inspection firms can have a company policy that their inspectors cannot access areas that have animals. This is for several reasons, 1st it opens the home owner up to a law suit from the individual which is bad for business. (believe me a good business owner doesn't want to be involved in a suit even if they are in the right because it is simply bad for business). 2nd If the employee gets injured it becomes a workmans comp claim and that employee could potentially sue the company which is obviously not desirable. Remember too that even not being aggressive dogs can scratch and nip when they get excited which can lead to infections. Save the inspector a headache and save yourself any liability from a vicious dog.
Clean your house. A dirty house hides issues, or makes the appearance to the buyer that you are hiding issues, it also can make things impossible to inspect because you have a mound of debris in the way. In which case that inspector will snap a picture and record it, that buyer may then ask the inspector to come back out and charge the sellers the re-inspection fee.
You’re moving anyways so your realtor should tell you to make the house presentable. Inspections are tedious and adding in additional obstacles only slows it down. If things are really bad they will get reported on the inspection report and can cause you to pay in the end. Animals inside with urine and feces on the carpet can and will be reported on the inspection as unhealthy living conditions and could force you to purchase new carpet. However, if you had paid a professional cleaning service to take care of it then you would have saved a significant amount of money.
Make sure your appliances are viewable. Insulating blankets on hot water heaters need to be removed. Sometimes they cannot be taken off without the inspector cutting them off, which is not allowed because you do not have the sellers permission to do it. I’ve been asked numerous times by buyers if I can cut it off and unfortunately I have to tell them “No” because it is not yet their house.
On that same note, ensure that if it’s in a closet or behind a piece of drywall the cover needs to be removed so nothing is damaged upon removal. For that reason the inspector may or may not do it (typically not supposed to though I’ve made the exception if I think I can do it without damaging anything).
Please clean the clothes around the laundry room. I get it everyone lets the laundry area take the hit for the mess in the house, but unfortunately that is one room that really can't be inaccessible during the inspection. The inspector will check the vent, plumbing fixtures, etc. and cannot have a bunch of dirty clothes blocking the area.
Turn it ON. Power, water and all appliances should be turned on! I cannot stress this enough, I’ve come across so many houses that did not have the water turned on and it is a huge liability for the inspector to turn it on. If there is a leak in the line and water damage occurs the inspection firm is liable and most licensing organizations prohibit the act regardless. Funny enough the same holds true with the shut off valves below toilets and sinks so make sure those are on too.
Power may not seem like as large of an issue but when power is off turning it on could create a fire hazard and the inspector may not feel comfortable powering it up. Bottom line it’s his or her safety and reputation on the line so it’s not your call as the buyer and that can be very frustrating.
Make sure the appliances are all turned on and running. Some houses have kill switches for certain appliances which can cause them to not respond and the inspector may not see the switch in which case the inspector will note it as not functioning. Inspectors are trained in building science not locating hidden switches, each house is different and only the home owner will know those details.
In a nutshell that’s it. There’s other little things we run across that aren't so common but in reality this covers the basics and the common issues. Bottom line up front is prepare your house as if you are having a dinner party. Keep it clean and tidy and ensure everything is function and the pets are put away.
I am a United States Army Veteran with over 10 years construction experience prior to my service. After my time in the military I enrolled in InterNACHI's rigorous course work to become a certified member and prepare for the National Home Inspectors Exam. I continue to push inspection courses and education, attaining and exceeding the required continuing education courses