"Forsight is Priceless Hindsight is 20/20"
Pre-Purchase Home Inspections, Listing Inspections, 11 Month Warranty Inspections
 Mold Surveys, and Residential Environmental Surveys for Chronic Health Conditions

Serving Merced, Stanislaus, and San Joaquin Counties


Do you or a loved one suffer from a chronic condition or illness that just will not go away? Do you have asthma, allergies, or just don’t feel as good as you should? Is your doctor unable to diagnose the answers to your problems? The answer could be your home. The ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY (EPA) lists indoor air pollution as one of the top five public environmental health risks. This is troubling, especially since children spend approximately 90% of their time indoors. Today indoor air pollution may be 2-5 times (and occasionally more than 100 times) worse than outdoor air pollution. Individuals who are susceptible to air borne contaminates may be adversely affected by the air in their home.

The typical adult male inhales approximately 50 pounds of air into his lungs every single day, and a child breathes twice that amount on per weight basis. Our lungs are little more than biological air filters. It is no mystery that the air we breathe can affect the quality of our lives. I bring a unique perspective to determining the Environmental Quality of your home. As a child I had asthma at a time when virtually nothing was known about the condition. My Dad smoked 2-3 packs of “Lucy Strikes” cigarettes every day. We had a dog and a cat and it was a mystery why I had a breathing problem. Today the causes of respiratory problems are better understood by the medical community but this knowledge is not always passed through to your home. Your doctor cannot know the specific condition of your home. I am not a doctor and do not have any medical training, but I do understand the systems in your home. I may be able to identify problems in your home that may be contributing to a chronic condition for you or your loved ones.

Code Inspections and Home Inspections, what’s the difference?

By Brad Deal

20/20 Home Inspections



I periodically have to stop reading the posts on the various bulletin boards on the Internet.  While there is interesting information to be found on these boards, there is a fundamental misunderstanding of what constitutes a good home inspection. 


After spending a lifetime in the Real Estate business and the last 11 years performing home inspections, I have come to realize that when acting as a consultant for a prospective buyer one must be sure to follow the money.  Home Inspections are the only documents prepared solely for the prospective home purchaser: Not the Loan Company, Title Company, and certainly not for the Realtors and most certainly not for the Home Sellers.  Conflict of interest is rife with conflicts of interests. Home Inspectors stand alone in their duty to their Clients, the homebuyers. 


Codes are an important part of the home inspection business but not the only part.  Codes can be included along with the manufactures recommendations, the quality of the installation, the age and condition of the system. Does it look about right?  Is it broken? Does it leak? Is it burned? Is it used up?  Is it an imminent safety hazard?  These are things a client really wants to know.  Not if a wire is bent too tight.  The inspector can then use his experience and training in combining all this information to give his only client unbiased purchase information.  In my opinion, this requires the inspector to have a superior knowledge of the building codes along with the understanding why systems and components work together in a safe manner.


Home Inspectors as a group have the least amount of influence in the real estate industry. Accordingly, well-trained and experienced inspectors do not receive the industry with wide respect that they deserve.  While inspectors may not have industry wide influence, they do have a definite influence on the client.  What is not commonly known is that the home inspection report is the only document prepared specifically for the client during the purchase process.  Every other document has dual functions to benefit the other participants in the purchase transaction and only protects the client secondarily.  While the client is presented with mountains of agent disclosures, loan documents, transfer disclosure statements, etc. virtually all of these documents are designed to protect the agent from litigation.  It is interesting to note our clients; (the typical homebuyer) do not have representation at a legislative level that they deserve.  They are left to the conflicted interests of their agents.  Lobbyists represent the lenders, title companies etc; virtually every real estate related business is represented. In addition, one of the most powerful lobbies in the nation represents the real estate industry, the National Association of Realtors (NAR).  Even the lowly home inspection industry is represented, barely, but the homebuyer has no lobbyists to protect their interests.  


The basic precept in a capitalistic society is that everyone acts in his or her own best interests.  While real estate law says that an agent must use fiduciary duty when dealing with their clients, it is rare that agents adhere to this duty.  Agents are salespersons in the business of selling property.  Anything that interferes with this process is eliminated or minimized.  Accordingly, the more detailed an inspector, the less likely he is to receive referrals from the agents, particularly the higher volume agents.  High volume agents need to have easy home inspections in order to close the transactions and make their money.  The high volume agents require an inspection that is just enough to convince their clients that an inspection has taken place, but not so much as to jeopardize the close of escrow.  Conversely, the lower volume agents tend to have a more personal tie to their clients and are a little more concerned with their client’s welfare.  These agents usually use a more detailed inspector. This is probably part of the reason why these agents are not higher producers.


Regardless of what any poorly written law says, home inspections should be designed to provide a potential buyer with an unbiased opinion on the condition of the property. The buyer then combines this information with all the other sources of information provided by the Lender, Title Company, Realtors and the Home Seller to Make an Informed Purchase Decision. 


The Home Inspection is a very specific industry.  We provide our clients with a general idea of the condition of the property.  In the limited time available and the minimal fee, it is not possible to perform an in-depth analysis of the property. Many inspectors strive for validation by obtaining various inspection related credentials, but they lack the time required to build experience. They want to be specialists or experts but when held up to the white light of disclosure there are not many inspectors who are truly experts at every part of the inspection.  While there are industries that will try to convince the novice inspector to pay for this certification, or go to this training, and after a few weeks one can be a really good inspector.  This is far from the truth as it takes many years to gain meaningful experience and become a truly qualified home inspector. 


Years ago, I attended a Building Industry Association (BIA) customer relation seminar.  In it, they disclosed that there is over 500,000 pieces of things that go into building a home.  Of those pieces at least 2/3 are hidden inside walls or other assemblies and cannot be seen.  Of the remaining 1/3 portion a trained inspector can see only about 50% on first viewing, and the untrained person can see only about 20%.  So if this is correct then an experienced inspector can only see about ½ of 1/3 of the home; but he can only report ½ of what he sees.  So let me see; 500,000 / 1/3 / 50% / ½ = 41,000 reportable pieces. And if the typical inspection takes 4 hours then we have 240 minutes divided by 41,000 = .05 minutes per piece or .35 seconds per piece.  The real question here, what about the 330,000 pieces that are concealed and uninspected?  A home inspector processes a tremendous amount of information during an inspection.  And this is compounded day after day.  It is virtually impossible to report every condition in any given home. All we can do is reduce the probability of missing anything significant.  This is not an easy business.


The real estate industry is rife with conflicts of interests.  In order to truly understand the intentions of the participants you must follow the money.  Many times it is straightforward but in the Home Inspection business, it is not always so clear.  The schools entice unsuspecting novices to buy training, not to benefit the inspector but to make money for the training facility.  The same is true for the various inspection associations.  You must be a member to stay out of trouble i.e. scare tactics.  There are many other reasons to be a member of an inspection association but they can become costly.  However, the one industry that is constantly overlaid on the home inspection industry is the government building code regulations.  On every bulletin board and in every association there are a handful of individuals who constantly propound the importance of reporting code related issues to their clients.  What is commonly overlooked is that these people do not make their primary income from performing home inspections.  Many times they are either teachers or expert witnesses who are on the periphery of the industry, or come from a code related background.  They experts at codes and have a very biased view of the inspection business.   They are very conflicted and do not understand the real estate industry.  Usually they do not make their living by inspecting homes.  By inserting the building code into the home inspection business these people find validation and personal income but cause incalculable harm to the industry.  These people are hugely conflicted by definition, (sometimes knowingly, sometimes unknowingly), and are leading the novice inspectors in the wrong direction.  More importantly, they drive away intelligent individuals who are offended at this circumstance.


When you try to combine the code enforcement mentality with the informed purchase decision, you find inconstancies and confusion.  There are so many minor requirements in the code that can be arbitrarily applied to any home that it becomes impossible for a home to be considered safe.  When you perform a code inspection on a home and you point out many so-called important code related safety issues and convince your client that only an electrical specialist can review the electrical system; that it is not up to code, the implication being that the home is unsafe.  The client then looks up and down the street and sees similar homes, all built by the same builders, all with the same issues and none of them are burning down due to the electrical problems.  The inspector then loses credibility not only with the client but also with the real estate industry as a whole.  However, what the inspector has really failed to do is to provide his client with the information to make an informed purchase decision.  By including too many code issues, we cloud the client’s ability to make intelligent purchase decision. 


Building codes are not retroactive for many important reasons. If the houses were truly unsafe then the population as a whole would have demanded that every home, new and old brought up to the current code to protect their children.  This is not the case; the older homes are safe, just not quite as safe as new houses.  The ultimate question is how safe is safe enough?


Every inspector must understand that local code jurisdictions have absolutely no inspection liability!  See Harshbarger v. City of Colton (1988) 197 Cal.App.3d 1335, 243 Cal.Rptr.463.  When a home inspector undertakes a code inspection, he takes on all the liabilities of the previous governmental code inspections.  No home inspector should even talk about code inspections when reading this case law!


Section 818.6 of the California Code of Civil Procedure States:


A public entity is not liable for injury caused by its failure to make an inspection, or by reason of making an inadequate or negligent inspection, of any property…for the purpose of determining whether the property complies with or violates any enactment or contains or constitutes a hazard to health or safety.


When a home inspector undertakes a code inspection, he takes on the liability of any deficiencies in the original code inspection:  Deficiencies to which the local code authority is held harmless.  In addition, it is impossible to know if the original builder received a dispensation from the code authority to deviate from the building code. In addition, it is impossible to know which code cycle was being followed at the time of construction without reviewing the permit application.  Moreover, it is beyond the abilities for the typical inspector to keep track of the changes in the code from cycle to cycle.  We just do not know enough about the code for it to be specifically applied.  Ultimately, what is important is that the inspector understands the intent and reasoning that went into of the building code so that understanding may be incorporated into the inspection in such a way as to assist the client in making an informed purchase decision and not clutter the report with meaningless information.


Also, our contracts and our standards of practice preclude code inspections.  On one hand, we exclude code inspections but on the other codes are used as the basis for the inspection.  This in my opinion is especially damaging.


Lastly, the California Association of Realtors Purchase Contract specifically prohibits code inspections.  The seller must approve in writing any governmental code based inspection.  Code inspections would cause a tremendous amount of work, for the sellers, expense and ultimately be impossible to pass.  Building codes are designed for new construction and have a limited value for existing housing.


In order to gain recognition from the real estate industry, recognition so necessary in gaining a legitimate voice in the direction of this industry, we must learn to include the only important issues in the reports, explain why this condition was important and what can be done to fix the problem.  The inspections must provide an important service to the client to enable him or her to make properly informed decisions, not decisions based on biased or hysterical information.


Any comments or questions are welcomed.


Brad Deal

20/20 Home Inspections






Receptacles, GFCI’s, 3 Prong Testers, and the Informed Purchase Decision


I stepped into the bathroom at my wife’s favorite restaurant, and on seeing the electrical outlet with the shiny buttons next to the basin I was seized with an irresistible urge to press the test button.  The black button called to me, “Test me; press the black button.  Go on, you will like it. Try it just one time, it will feel good….” And like a fool I reached over and pressed the black button. 


“Hey! What happened to the lights??”  The large fellow in the stall next to me said with some irritation.


“Don’t worry, they will come back on soon, I’m sure,” I said as I reached over to press the reset button.  It was dark; I mean, really dark as my fingers slipped over the MESRA coated walls.  It was right here. Here, here, no here.  Where is it!!  What is that?  Never mind, just find the stupid button.  Awe, here it is, now push the button, what? Push it again. Damn stupid DEFECTIVE GFCI. 


“Did you do something to the lights?” the menacing voice loomed out of the darkness.  Not so much a voice as a growl emanating from a bear being interrupted from an important bodily function. 


“Beats me.”  I said as I stepped through the swinging door into the sunlight. 


“Excuse me miss, there is a problem with the wiring in the men’s bathroom.” I said to the waitress as I returned to the table.  That’s the last time I would push the test button on a public GFCI…


The home inspection report is the only purchase related document created specifically for the homebuyer. While there are reams of reports created to protect the lender, real estate agent, title/escrow companies, the homebuyer stands alone relying almost completely on his agent’s integrity.  The home inspector is the only instrument by which the homebuyer can obtain a truly unbiased opinion on the condition of his prospective purchase.


 California Real Estate Inspection Law



 7195.  For purposes of this chapter, the following definitions apply:

(a) “Home inspection” is a noninvasive, physical examination, performed for a fee in connection with a transfer, as defined in subdivision (e), of real property, of the mechanical, electrical, or plumbing systems or the structural and essential components of a residential dwelling of one to four units designed to identify material defects in those systems, structures and components.  “Home inspection” also includes any consultation regarding the property that is represented to be a home inspection or any confusingly similar term.


One of the most important components of a home inspection is the electrical system and whether to include the convenience outlets in the inspection. The primary tool for inspecting these outlets has been the basic 3-prong tester.  The three-prong convenience outlet tester is very basic.  It gives us a surface indication of the condition of the convenience outlet.  First, it tells us if power is present, and secondly, if the wiring in the plug, not inside the wall, conforms to the wiring as recommended by the tester’s manufacturer.  It makes no statement regarding any wiring inside the walls or at the panel.  While it is true that the wiring in the panel or in the walls can be inappropriately conformed to trick the tester into reporting a properly wired outlet, the vast majority of improperly wired outlets have been properly reported with this basic device.


Accordingly, there is considerable controversy regarding the proper use of 3 prong testers.  Many inspectors do not use any tester during a home inspection.  California law specifies a “visual” inspection only, and does not require that any tools be used to complete the inspection.  Many inspectors, particularly the franchise companies, do not advocate using the tester.  Non-use of the tester speeds up the inspection, thereby increasing the number of inspections performed each day, which of course, increases profits.  It also decreases the amount of reported issues, thereby keeping the agents happy, thereby increasing referrals. There is a significant, built in conflict-of-interest between the real estate agent and the home inspector.  By refusing to test convenience outlets or locate GFCI’S the inspector is abrogating his primary function to help his client to make an Informed Purchase Decision. 


There are a number of prominent papers written regarding the inherit problems with the 3 prong tester.  All of these papers point out the different ways a tester can be fooled into reporting a properly wired outlet when the wiring is actually hazardous and for that reason the 3 prong tester should not be used during a home inspection.  Some authors have indicated there are up to 120 different ways a circuit can be mis-wired and still be reported as proper by the tester.  What these authors do not address is that by advocating the non use of the basic three prong tester, they cheat the potential buyer out of making an informed purchase decision, the very reason why they hired a home inspector in the first place.  These authors fail to understand the relationship between the homebuyer, their home inspector and the real estate industry. The home inspector’s clients are entitled to at least know whether there is power available to the outlet and that at least a superficial attempt has been made to determine its condition.


There have been some claims that there have been instances of these testers exploding in the user’s hand.  They have even been referred to as “fishing lures” by some prominent inspectors.  I have personally performed somewhere close to 4,000 inspections, each with at least 10 outlets tested for a total approaching 40,000 tests with no explosions. In my previous career I attended countless code inspections where the inspectors used these testers on final inspections with no ill effects.  I can find no recall notices on the Internet in this regard.  I suspect this is an urban legend that has been promoted to inhibit the use of these devices; and to characterize these important tools as “fishing lures” is approaching negligence.


Outlet Circuit Testers and Similar Indicating Devices UL 1436

1 Scope

1.1 These requirements apply to outlet circuit testers, including screwdriver and pen-style voltage presence indicators, for use on 15-, 20-, and 30-A, 3-wire, 125-, 250-, 277-, 480-, or 600-V receptacles, ground-fault circuit-interrupter testers and arc-fault circuit-interrupter indicators for use on 15- and 20-A, 3-wire, 125-V receptacles, and similar indicating devices that are:

a)    Intended to be connected to the receptacle for a period of time only as long as is necessary to note the indicated pattern of lights or other similar indicating means, and

b)    Not intended to be a comprehensive instrument or to determine the quality of the grounding circuit.


The complete listing can be purchased from Underwriters Laboratories for about $875.00.



NFPA 73: Electrical Inspection Code for Existing Dwellings


1.       Receptacles should have proper wiring when tested with a listed receptacle tester. The tester shall provide indications when branch circuit conductors are not connected to the intended terminals on the receptacle.

2.      Where receptacles and branch-circuit conductors are identified for polarization, any installed receptacles must be properly polarized.

3.      All grounding-type receptacles must be properly grounded. Circuits that do not have an equipment-grounding conductor should use a non- grounding-type receptacle or should have a ground-fault circuit-interrupter (GFCI) protection installed. Any GFCI receptacles installed in ungrounded circuits should be marked “No Equipment Ground” on the faceplate. Any receptacles that appear “loose” or do not appear to make proper contact with the plug blades should be reported and replacement recommended.

Most home inspectors are reluctant to use the next step up in testers like the "sure test" as they are cumbersome to use, require a more intimate knowledge of electricity and in my opinion exceeds the expertise of the home inspection profession.  Their use is well outside the scope of a home inspector’s responsibilities.  My position is that the issues properly reported by the tester greatly outweigh the negative aspects of the tester.  The inspector should never forget that this is a basic tool that should not be used without first considering the age of the building, the upgrades, changes or additions to the property, the condition of the electrical panels and their bonding, and whether the wiring was professionally installed.  This information must be determined and reported in conjunction with using the tester.  Usually, this information will be the foundation of the reportable issues with the tester providing only supporting information.  In effect, the tester provides only one small aspect of the information necessary to help the prospective buyer make an informed purchase decision.   


Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters pose a special problem because they are not only convenience outlets; they have the added function of ground fault protection.   There is a fundamental mis-understanding in the home inspection industry between testing GFCI’s and locating GFCI’s.  Every document I have been able to find regarding the testing of a GFCI is to test and reset the outlet’s test button: i.e., take a lamp and go around to see if the power is on.  Nowhere can I find a tester recommended by the GFCI manufacturer to test the GFCI. While there are many so called GFCI testers available, they are not approved by the GFCI manufacturers for testing their outlets.


Testing or Locating?  My position is that by testing a GFCI with a tester, a home inspector has merely located the GFCI and has not actually tested the safety mechanism.  This is an effort in semantics, but it is an important distinction.  Take for example, the exterior outlet next to a swimming pool. Is it protected by a GFCI, or is it not protected by a GFCI?  There is no way to visually determine if the outlet is GFCI protected or not.  If the GFCI protection is not installed in this outlet we cannot determine if it is properly protected.  By using a tester to “test” this outlet what the inspector has really done is to confirm or deny the existence of a remote GFCI that protects that particular location.  While the tester has not properly tested the GFCI safety mechanism, it has confirmed or denied its existence.  The prospective buyer can now use this information to help make an informed purchase decision and protect his family.  The inspector has also protected himself for possible liability should a child be electrocuted in the pool.


Business Considerations:  There are some important drawbacks to locating GFCI’s.  Shutting down important computer systems, turning off freezers, the inability to locate a GFCI for reset, and even safety has been forwarded.  I submit that these issues are either covered by the purchase contract or by simple communication with the owner or listing agent.


Computer systems may lose valuable information if inappropriately shut down.  First, the computer manufacturers do not recommend computers to be placed on GFCI circuits. Second, these computer systems are subject to district wide electrical failures and as such should be equipped with backup batteries to prevent information loss.  Digital clocks, ovens, and VCR’s will need to be reset if they are inadvertently shut down.  The California Association of Realtors purchase contract allows for visual inspections only and prohibits intrusive and destructive inspections.  Testing a GFCI is hardly intrusive and is well within the provisions of the purchase contract and California inspection law.  Every home inspector should be well acquainted with the real estate purchase contracts used in their areas.  Consider a seller who sells a home with a defective GFCI and a child is electrocuted.  The seller almost certainly failed to test the outlet as recommended by the manufacturer.  Next, this seller refused to allow the inspector to test the GFCI because it was hooked up to a computer. The seller not only failed to disclose this defect, he refused to have it inspected.  What defense does he have?  Not much.  Educated sellers should welcome the GFCI testing to limit their own liability.  Educated agents understand the importance of complete inspects and will council their sellers to cooperate with the inspection.


It takes time to locate the GFCI’s.  The time required to review the GFCI system is the real reason they are excluded from home inspections. The ability to perform multiple inspections every day is the lifeblood of franchise inspection companies.  Anything that slows down an inspection is disclaimed in the standards of practice and in the inspection contract.  This is a huge conflict-of-interest.


Every woman is aware of her hair dryer tripping the GFCI. In the old days refrigerators were not recommended to be plugged into a GFCI outlet.  The refrigerator was usually placed in the garage, which sometimes had GFCI protection.   Older GFCI outlets were very sensitive and could misread a spark in the motor as a ground fault and trip.  When this happened the refrigerator would stop resulting in the spoiling of the contents of the unit.  This could happen at any time without any warning.  In the old days it was recommended to be a standard dedicated single outlet reserved for operating refrigerators or freezers to eliminate this problem. 


On occasion a GFCI will fail to reset.  I have had several instances where a GFCI has failed to reset.  This is a difficult circumstance as the seller is sometimes upset at the inspector for “breaking” their outlet.  When this happens I leave a note at the house and inform the seller that the GFCI was defective and that it should be repaired by an electrician. 


“To the owner or occupant: The Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter located at the xxxx failed to trip or reset after by evaluation as allowed by the purchase contract.   Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters or GFCI’s as they are commonly known are an important electrical safety device located near wet areas to protect children from electrocution. Manufacturers recommend these devices be tested monthly to insure proper operation.  I recommend that all the GFCI’s in your home be evaluated and repaired by a qualified electrician for your family’s safety.”

Once the seller is informed they rarely cause trouble.  But if you leave without informing them then they will be upset and the inspector will probably be installing a new GFCI.


In 4,000 inspections I have had to deal with not being able to reset a tripped GFCI several times.  The garage walls were covered with personal items so that the GFCI’s could not be accessed and I had already tripped the breaker. In order to keep the freezer operating I “donated” my electric cord to the household by finding a standard outlet and using it to operate the freezer.  Always remember the inspector can exclude any system for lack of access, so if the walls are covered by personal items then do not locate the GFCI.  Just inform your client of the circumstances and recommend that the GFCI’s be confirmed when access is provided.  I carry a low cost extension cord that can be left at the inspection site just for this purpose so I do not have to return to the job. On older homes, a prudent home inspector would recommend that the GFCI’s in the garage be upgraded to modern units.  Recent improvements to GFCI’s has increased their reliability and reduced their nuisance tripping and recent code changes have eliminated the need for a dedicated outlet.  But always remember, home inspectors do not perform code inspections.


On older homes with a 2 wire, or non-grounded system I will sometimes recommend installing GFCI’s on the circuits rather than installing a ground wire.  This retrofit will approach the safety stands for a modern 3 wire grounded system and is accepted by the code authorities as a reasonable upgrade, and it avoids the cost and inconvenience of installing the ground wire. A label stating “No Equipment Ground” must be attached to each outlet to inform the user that the ground wire is not present. It is interesting to note that the 3 prong tester will not trip a GFCI that is not grounded.  Also it is important to remember that a computer surge protector requires a ground wire to operate properly.  Clients who need a surge protector will have to install a ground to at least that computer location.  Using GFCI’s to upgrade a 2 wire ungrounded system can be very effective but these limitations must be explained to the client.


In order to understand the reluctance that many inspectors have in regards to inspecting GFCI’s you must first have a basic understanding of one of the driving forces in our society, liability.  Liability, for the lack of a better word, is the minimum standard of performance any specialist must meet in order to present a minimum defense in a court of law.  Meeting this minimum performance standard however, does not prevent an inspector from being sued, (anybody can be sued for any reason), just, that he will have a reasonable probability of prevailing in court of law.  Even though an inspector may prevail in court, he will still have to go through the expense, and mental anxiety of putting on a defense.  If he has errors and omission insurance, then the “so called deep pockets” of the insurance company greatly increases the probability of attracting groundless lawsuits. The general population knows that the insurance company will settle the case rather than defend their client.  In a world where profit becomes more important than right or wrong, the standard of practice changes from what is best for the client; to what is the minimum level of performance necessary to decrease an attorney’s probability of easily extorting money out of the inspector’s insurance company.  So in this profit driven system once an inspector is sued he either loses a little, or he loses big, but the important lesson here is that even when the inspector wins, he still loses.  The prevailing thought is that GFCI’s are a high liability home inspection issue, therefore we will disclaim as much of the electrical system as possible to minimize liability. 


I disagree with this assertion.  Rather than trying to limit the scope of the inspection to items that are quickly evaluated, I believe it is better to take the extra time to explain to the client the various systems in their prospective home and teach them why they can or cannot be reported.  I have found that by educating the client to the reasons why things are reported in certain ways we give them the necessary information to make an informed purchase decision, not one based on uncertainty.  An uncertain client is an unhappy client.  Unhappy clients will cause all sorts of problems for everybody involved in the purchase transaction.  The elimination of uncertainty must be an important business consideration for every home inspector.


The building code is not generally understood; it is the minimum level of performance necessary to keep the builder out of court, not what is the minimum level of safety for the occupant.    If it were otherwise we would see far more accidents in our older homes. When the original building codes were instituted it was primarily for fire protection.  The early history of our country is laced with the ill effects of fire. Later electrical, plumbing, and earthquake protection were included in the code.  In the beginning there were real benefits derived from building codes and many lives were saved and many accidents avoided; the building codes provided a real benefit to society.  As the code became more mature, it became more comprehensive and covered not only the obvious safety issues but also issues that were not as obvious and with a lower probability of occurring.  The inevitable course of the building code, as with every governmental institution, is to include every possible safety issue imaginable to the point were people will be required to live in a padded cell for their own protection. In addition, lobbyists have successfully caused some dubious materials and practices to be adopted.  Rather than educating the public as to the requirements and responsibilities of home ownership, we lower our standards to the lowest common denominator; the legal system.  In my opinion, we have reached a point of diminishing return on the building codes where we have ever-increasing burdens on the homebuilder that must be weighed against the cost to the homebuyer.  America’s strength lies with the middle class, and the middle class derives much of its strength from home ownership.   Every effort should be made by the government to promote home ownership and discourage any activity that discourages middle class home ownership. 


Three prong testers are an important tool just the same as a hammer is to a carpenter or screwdriver to a mechanic.  Basic tools for basic applications just be sure you understand its limitations and they will provide a valuable service.


If you have any questions or comments please feel free to contact me at HomeInspect2020@aol.com.


Here are some interesting articles regarding this subject:







Brad Deal

20/20 Home Inspections


Revised 10/12/2009


Inspection Protocol for Garage Doors

Watch out for the last few inches!

By Brad Deal



There is considerable controversy regarding the proper protocol to evaluate a modern roll up garage door and its safety devices.  Inspectors have various ways of disclosing the condition of the door and operator; but there is little consistency in the inspection industry.   In my opinion it is important that every home inspector should be aware of all the potential benefits as well as the risks associated with any inspection so that an informed business decision can be made whether or not to include that system in their inspection report, and if that system is included, how much detail to include in the report. This is a business decision that every inspector must make of his own accord.  The following is the inspection protocol I use when inspecting a garage door.  Since there are many different garage door systems available; my comments are restricted to the typical roll up metal door with a ceiling mounted operator. 


According to the CalNachi Standards of Practice, the inspector is not required to operate the garage door’s safety devices but we are required to visually inspect the garage door for defects. We are required to include the basic operation, much the same as we would turn on the HVAC unit but we are not required to push the operator button as stated in the limitations.  I suspect a case can be made that they are required to inspect the manual portion of the door as they are part of the ordinary user operation, i.e. “the readily accessible systems and components” as stated in section II.  The B&P 7195 requires inspecting “essential components.” But, is the garage door an essential component and can our standards supersede state law?  There may be some conflict between the B&P code and our Standards of Practice.  The law may require pushing the operator button, pulling the emergency rope and checking the manual operation of the door.  How and what to inspect, and how the standards and the law are included in the inspection report are ultimately business decisions that must be made by the inspector.

B&P Code 7195.  For purposes of this chapter, the following definitions apply:

(a) “Home inspection” is a noninvasive, physical examination, performed for a fee in connection with a transfer, as defined in subdivision (e), of real property, of the mechanical, electrical, or plumbing systems or the structural and essential components of a residential dwelling of one to four units designed to identify material defects in those systems, structures and components.  “Home inspection” also includes any consultation regarding the property that is represented to be a home inspection or any confusingly similar term.

 Start Outside

The inspection is divided into two sections: the interior, and the exterior.  First, close the garage door to inspect exterior portions.  Check the door for any impact damage at the door panels. Are there any cracked or discolored windows in the panels?  Check for car impact damage at the lower portion of the door jambs.  Many times a car has pushed the jambs out of plumb and split out the bottom plates.  Look at the brick veneer next to the jambs for indications of being knocked loose from the wall. This is especially important for older detached garages that may be missing the diagonal bracing inside the walls.  Many times these structures are leaning over either side to side or front to back.  This condition can usually be seen by lining up the jamb on the door.  Some inspectors carry a torpedo level to check these types of issues.  Keep in mind that using a level is outside the scope of a visual inspection and that it should be used discretely, if at all.


Stand back and check to see if the garage door header is sagging.  Many times when a hip roof lands on an older header, the header will sag.  This can be readily seen by lining up the header on the straight lines on the door.  Check the condition of the trim at the garage door jambs and the condition of the paint and caulking. Are there any scuff marks on the trim indicating the door is rubbing in these areas? Many times scuffing on the top panel is a clue that the header has sagged. Is there any water damage at the base of the garage door jambs? These conditions may be reportable in another section of the report but this is a good time to observe all of the conditions as all the systems are interrelated. Is there a key pad present for operating the opener? Is the key pad 60” high for child safety?  If a key pad is present, include a prompt in the report for the client to ask the seller for the codes.


Check the concrete to see if there are any indications of water standing or running under the door into the garage.  There should be about a ½” rise from the driveway to the garage floor to keep water out of the garage but not always. Sometimes a conscientious builder will design the concrete in this area so that the door closes in front of the raised lip thereby providing a clean appearance and allow for all the water running down the door to be drained to the exterior rather than pooling on the garage floor under the door. Again, this is reportable in another section but this is a good time to observe for any possible conditions.


After completing the exterior inspection, go into the garage, but do not open the garage door yet!  Carefully check the tracks to insure there are not any dead bolts or homeowner installed screwdrivers, wrenches, and/or mops inserted through the tracks to prevent unauthorized opening of the door. If you attempt to automatically open the door and the door is locked, then there is a high probability of damaging the door.  Open a locked door one time and you will never again forget to check for locked garage doors.


While you are checking the garage door for any locks be sure to look at the condition of the hardware of the door.  Is there any bent or damaged struts?  Is there corrosion at the bottom of the door?  Are any of the rollers missing?  Are all the bolts present and tight? Be sure to carefully check the operator arm. This area is subject to homeowner repairs and can cause trouble for any subsequent safety device evaluations of the door. 


Has the tracks been smeared with grease? Greased tracks are a homeowner repair which is not recommended by the typical manufacturer.  Grease on the tracks will stop the rollers from rolling in the track and will create flat spots on the wheels as they slide over the tracks.  Over time this condition will eventually require replacement of at least some of the parts.  Greased tracks usually indicate an underlying condition that has not properly been resolved, but only covered up.


Next, look at the portion of the garage ceiling that is blocked by the door when it is in the open position.  It is easy to miss ceiling conditions that are blocked by the opened door.  Is there any water staining or damage to the ceiling?  Is there an access opening into the attic? Is the access fire rated?  I always advise my clients that if you place a ladder up to the access while the door is closed there is the possibility of a person being knocked off the ladder when the door is opened by remote control from the outside, or even by a child playing with the operator button.  I recommend that some type of dead man switch be installed at the access that inactivates the operator to protect the person standing on the ladder.  I had a dear friend of mine sustain significant head injuries from being knocked off a ladder when a roll up door was opened from the outside.  He was put on permanent disability.


If the door is blocked by personal items or there is a car in the garage then the inspector must make a decision whether or not to proceed. Sometimes, if the owner is home, I will ask them to move the car; I am hesitant to ask them to move their personal items as it may upset the owner.  My decision is directly proportional to the age of the door, the value of the car under the door and the evidence whether or not the door is regularly operated.  If I am not comfortable with the situation then I recommend in the report that the area be cleared and reinspected.  Be sure to include somewhere in your report that you are to be paid for any reinspections!  Agents will test your business relationship and ask you to perform all sorts of services for free with the implied acknowledgment that it is a requirement for continued referrals.  Whether or not you reinspect for free is a business decision but you should always try to keep the respect of the agents in order to prevent them from abusing your time.  Always keep the option to be paid for your reinspection services.  Do not confuse this service with inspecting a repaired system to confirm whether or not repairs were properly completed.  This is a different business that exposes you to all the liabilities of the entire repair area.  This falls under the heading of a General Contractor, not a Home Inspector.


Once you are assured of being able to safely open the door, check the button.  Is it tight on the wall or loose and hanging by the wires? Check the height of the operator button.  The button should be 60” from the floor to keep children from reaching the button.  On homes with steps or other unusual designs you should look for how a child may try to reach the button.  When I measure, again using a measuring tape is outside the scope of a visual inspection and should be used discretely. I measure from the area where a child is likely to stand when trying to reach the button. 


Now you can finally open the door.  Push the button and observe the door as it opens.  Be ready to quickly push the button to stop the door should the door bind or make unusual noises; being ready to stop the door quickly can save you from causing damage to the door.  Listen to the door as it moves.  Does it make loud noises? Does it pop and clatter? These could be reportable conditions.


Now that the door is open, check to see if the emergency rope is present.  The emergency rope is necessary to operate the door during times the electricity is off or during emergency conditions, like a fire.  Missing emergency ropes are an important safety hazard.


Check the condition of the rubber gasket at the bottom of the door.  Is it missing or badly deteriorated?  What is the condition of the operator? Is it properly wired? There should not be any homeowner installed electric cords or romex (non-metallic sheathed cable) hard wired to the unit.   Sometimes the operator is on a GFCI and will not operate when the GFCI is tripped.  Usually it is not recommended to have a motor on a GFCI circuit. Try to determine the age of the operator.  The older the operator the higher the probability of the unit failing under testing conditions.  If the unit is suspect, then defer it to a specialist and stop the door inspection.


Is there a light sensor at the bottom of the door? If the light is missing then it is a safety hazard and the entire system should be referred to a specialist. This light sensor has been required since 1993.  The light should be no more than 6” above the floor; I prefer 4”.  This light is designed to prevent the door from closing should something be in the way of the light sensor.  Press the operator button and break the light beam with your foot. The door should automatically retract.  If the door closes than the light sensor is defective. This is an automatic referral to a specialist.  Keep in mind the sensor is not located directly under the door, but to the inside by a few inches.  It is still possible for a child to become trapped under the door without breaking the light sensor beam. 

Safety Commission Publishes Final Rules For

Automatic Garage Door Openers



WASHINGTON, DC -- In an effort to reduce the number of deaths to children who become entrapped under garage doors with automatic openers, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) today issued final rules for automatic residential garage door openers. The rules, which will be published in the Federal Register, include revised entrapment protection requirements for all automatic residential garage door openers manufactured on or after January 1, 1993 for sale in the United States. The rules also include certification requirements and recordkeeping requirements for garage door opener manufacturers.

The entrapment protection requirements are part of a Congressional mandate in the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 1990. The legislation requires that automatic residential garage door openers manufactured on or after January 1, 1991 conform to the entrapment protection requirements of the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) Standard for Safety, UL 325.                           .

The legislation also requires that residential garage door openers manufactured on or after January 1, 1993 comply with additional entrapment protection requirements developed by UL.                            .

The rules issued today specify these additional entrapment protection requirements. The revised standard requires that residential garage door openers contain one of the following:

  • External entrapment protection device, such as an "electric eye" which "sees" an object obstructing the door without having actual contact with the object. Another similar device would be a door edge sensor. The door edge sensor acts much like the door edge sensors on elevator doors.
  • Constant contact control button which is a wall-mounted button requiring a person to hold in the control button continuously for the door to close completely. If the button is released before the door closes, the door would reverse and open to the highest position. The remote control transmitter will not close the door with this option.

I read about an incident a while ago where there were some children playing with a garage door.  They would push the operator button and race to crawl under the light sensor before the door closed all the way. In this case the door was out of adjustment and caught one child as he crawled under the light sensor and was crushed to death. The height of the sensor should be no more than 6” high but I like to see it closer to 4” to stop this type of behavior.  The light sensors are so easy to install and test there is very little reason not to have these important safety devices properly installed.


The law that requires a light sensor also includes labeling the door with the appropriate safety information.  I am hesitant to call out missing labels but it is part of the law and every inspector should be aware of the requirements.


OPERATORS--Table of Contents
Subpart A--The Standard
Sec.  1211.15  Field-installed labels.
 (c) A residential garage door operator shall be provided with a cautionary label intended for permanent installation to identify the possible risk of entrapment. The instruction manual shall direct that the label be affixed near the wall-mounted control button.
 (i) ``Test Door Operator Monthly: Use a 1\1/2 inch thick object placed on the floor under the closing door. In the event the door does not reverse upon contact, adjust, repair, or replace the operator.''


Next, push the operator button and close the door about half way.  Pull the safety rope and see if the door tries to close on its own.  The door should stay in position and not fall closed.  Consider the implications of the door falling closed on a child.  If the door is not properly adjusted then it is a safety hazard and should be referred to a specialist.  The reason for partially closing the door is the difficulty in reengaging the safety latch should the position of the chain is slightly out of adjustment.  It can be difficult to reengage the latch and time consuming if the door is not adjusted correctly.  By partly closing the door first, this issue is bypassed.


Many years ago, I had a very experienced concrete foreman (rough as a cob) who for whatever reason got his finger stuck between the panels of the garage door on our storage shed.  Apparent, instead of using the “T” latch in the center of the door he reached up and grabbed the open crack between the hinges on the upper panel.  The door closed, latched and locked with his finger smashed between the panels.  He was trapped in this position for quite some time (nobody knows for sure how long) before he was discovered by his crew.  I never did find out exactly what happened but his finger was smashed flat as though hit with a heavy framing hammer.  The tell tale bumps in the door panels were a source of laughter for the rest of the crew for years afterward but never in front of the foreman for fear of significant personal injury.  The moral is never put your fingers in the hinges of a garage door.


Business and Profession Code 7195. 

For purposes of this chapter, the following definitions apply:   http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgibin/displaycode?section=bpc&group=07001-08000&file=7195-7199

   (b) A “material defect” is a condition that significantly affects the value, desirability, habitability, or safety of the dwelling.  Style or aesthetics shall not be considered in determining whether a system, structure, or component is defective.

There is considerable confusion between the force setting test and the reversal test.  Many years ago I was performing a walk through inspection with a client. When we reached the garage I was explaining about the auto reverse mechanism in the garage door operator.  The homeowner overheard our conversation and placed a 2x4 under the door just slightly off center of the center support strut.  The homeowner hit the button and we all watched the door close.  I explained that the door should reverse when the door “contacts” the 2x4 and open.  The door did not open when it “contacted” the 2x4 but instead crushed over the 2x4 and stayed closed.  Any child caught under the door would almost certainly have been killed.   It made quite an impression on my client and taught me an important lesson never to use a 2x4 block under the door.  Needless to say the homeowner was upset but he placed the block and he pushed the button.  Just about the time he was ready to blame someone his 6 year old son walked in and asked, “Daddy, what happened to the garage door?”  This took all the will out his anger and he just stood there confused.


It should be noted that using a 2x4 block is not mentioned anywhere in the SAFETY STANDARD FOR AUTOMATIC RESIDENTIAL GARAGE DOOR, but it is mentioned in the Door and Access Systems Manufactures Association (DAMSA) web site.  This may be due to the fact that most home owners are more likely to have a 2x4 rather than a 1x4 available for the monthly testing.


This happenstance has since occasioned me to review the design of the garage door to determine how one can reasonably test the downward pressure of the door.  There are clear recommendations from the DAMSA garage door manufacturer’s web site. http://www.dasma.com  They have the “Force Setting Test” where a person grasps the closing door when half way closed and estimates the pressure that it takes to cause the operator to reverse.  It then goes on to recommend using a 2x4 block under the door to test the auto reverse mechanism in the operator.  The door should auto reverse when it contacts the 2x4 block. The term “contact” is vague and subject to interpretation.  This is the “Reversal Test.”   Contact in this context suggests that when the door just touches the 2x4 it should reverse but there is no way to know if the door reverses on just barely touching the 2x4 or when it has squashed the block so hard that water runs out the end grains. 


The auto reverse feature is based on the revolutions per minute of the operator motor.  When the unit senses the revolutions of the motor slowing down (drag) the unit will auto reverse.  The mechanical advantage of the track system increases in the last few inches of travel, accordingly, the effective power of the motor is greatly increased and the auto reverse system is not as easily engaged in the last inches of travel.  It is important that the inspector understands that the downward pressure of the door is greatly increased in the last few inches from the floor.  When you perform the force setting test it is important that the inspector be conservative in the estimation of the downward force!  If you cannot easily stop the door with your arms extended then the pressure is too great.


                          Subpart A--The Standard
Sec.  1211.13 Inherent force activated secondary door sensors.
    (a) Normal operation test. (1) A force activated door sensor of a 
door system installed according to the installation instructions shall 
actuate when the door applies a 15 pound (66.7 N) or less force in the 
down or closing direction and when the door applies a 25 pound (111.2 N) or less force in the up or opening direction. For a force activated door sensor intended to be used in an operator intended for use only on a 
sectional door, the force is to be applied by the door against the 
longitudinal edge of a 1\7/8\ (47.6 mm) diameter cylinder placed across 
the door so that the axis is perpendicular to the plane of the door.  The weight of the door is to be equal to the maximum weight rating of the operator.  (This standard indicates the 15 pound maximum at all heights, not just at 1-7/8” above the floor.)


To the causal observer this appears to be reasonable recommendation but upon careful reflection one must take into account of the mechanical advantage that is exerted on the door in the last few inches of closing.  If you will watch the arm that attaches the chain to the door; during almost all of the closing cycle the relative position of the arm does not change.  Accordingly, there is a one to one leverage placed against the door by the operator.  However, if you watch the door as the last panel moves into the closed position, the relative position of the arm changes and the mechanical advantage of the operator greatly increases.  This phenomenon can be illustrated by closing a mis-adjusted door and pulling the emergency latch. Many times the latch will “pop” because it is under compression.  This condition prevents the door from being re-engaged because the chain has moved too close to the end of the track.  Sometimes this is only a ½” or so but it is still impossible to re-engage the latch. In order to re-engage the chain a considerable amount of force is necessary to force the door down, compressing the bottom gasket in order to allow the latch to slide forward on the chain and engage.  Usually the operator must be partially opened to allow the safety latch to be re-engaged.


In order to demonstrate this phenomenon, I first checked my garage door with my hand about half way closed and intuitively passed the door as being safe (force test).  I next placed my wife’s bathroom scale on some saw horses under the bottom edge of the door.  This would approximate the location of the downward force test recommended from DASMA.  The pressure reached 29 pounds before the door auto reversed, well above the 15 pound recommendation.  I then placed the scale on the concrete and again closed the door.  The scale is about 1-1/2” thick and registered 129 pounds before it auto reversed!  I raised the scale up about 4” and again closed the door.  The pressure this time reached about 60 pounds before reversing.  Clearly, the closing pressure greatly increases as the door approaches the last few inches of travel and my having intuitively passed the door was incorrect!  If anyone questions these assertions, I dare you to place your fingers on top of the 2x4 block to see if the door reverses on contact, or only after squashing your fingers!  The real question is, “How many pounds of down pressure is safe for children?”   Having carefully considered the question, I have come to realize that motor drag activated secondary door sensors are probably not the best system available to protect our children.


Is 15 pounds of downward pressure recommended at 1-7/8” from the floor or from the halfway closed position?


Is 15 pounds a reasonable number for child safety? I do not know. The important point here is that if a door were to trap a child the pressure would increase as the child is compressed, much like a snake’s constriction.


If you do the math where 29 lbs pressure half way closed,

And 129 lbs is the pressure almost completely closed,

And if the recommended pressure at closed position is 15 lbs then:


29 lbs  =  x lbs      Solve for x

129 lbs   15 lbs


X  = 3.3 pounds downward pressure at the halfway point of the door!  This is probably too light to insure reliable operation of the operator.  Accordingly, it may be difficult if not impossible to meet the 15 pound pressure at the floor recommendation for all but the best systems.


I still grasp the door about 48” off the floor to test the reversing system but I now have less confidence in the test.  If the downward pressure is at all questionable I call out the door as being mis-adjusted.  There are two reasons.  First is for child safety, and second is to minimize any dents a mis-adjusted door would put on a client’s car should the car be straddling the sensor lights and the door closed.  The downward pressure should be the absolute minimum to close the door.  Adjusting this safety feature is so easy that there is little reason for not having a properly adjusted garage door operator.  If I could choose, I would pick an alternate type of safety system that could have a more positive testing method to protect my children. 


In my opinion, a garage door can be a significant safety hazard and should not be arbitrarily excluded from an inspection without good reason.  I feel that the operator’s safety features should be evaluated if reasonably available to protect the occupant’s children and to meet the intent of the B&P Code.


Brad Deal

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42 Days of Disaster Inspections


Newspaper article from Oct. 2004

By Brad Deal


FEMA is the Federal Emergency Management Agency charged with administering disaster relief to victims of Federally Declared disaster areas.  In March of 2003 FEMA became part of the U. S. Department of Homeland Security. This additional mission is to lead the effort to prepare the nation for all hazards and effectively manage federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident.  FEMA also initiates proactive mitigation activities, trains first responders and manages the National Flood Insurance Program and the U.S. Fire Administration.  Once a disaster is declared and the location is delineated by the President then it is up to FEMA to locate the disaster victims and provide disaster relief.  In order to provide this relief FEMA employs independent contractors who specialize in contacting the disaster victims and inspecting the damaged properties. 


There are two “Housing Inspector Contractors” that are currently approved by FEMA.  One is Alltech, Inc., and the other is Partnership for Response and Recovery, or PaRR Inspections. These two companies are responsible for all the "Management and Performance of Housing Inspection Services in Disaster Areas Nationwide.”  The FEMA Disaster Housing Program provides grants for primary residents (owners and renters) whose houses have been damaged as a result of a disaster and who have inadequate or no insurance coverage. These grants are for alternate housing rentals and/or home repairs to restore the home to a safe, sanitary, and secure condition. The grants may include the reimbursement of temporary accommodations incurred as a result of the disaster.  I subcontracted with PaRR Inspections.

Housing Inspection Services involve collecting and reporting required information from applicants whose houses have been damaged by disasters. A wide range of information is collected during the inspection, i.e., physical damage to the house, ownership, occupancy, insurance, personal property losses, recommendations on mitigation measures, and other essential information regarding disaster-related expenses and/or existing needs. FEMA then determines the type and amount of financial assistance to give to the applicants based on the information that is collected and recorded on pen-based computers by PaRR Inspectors during physical home inspections.


The primary tool used for a disaster inspection is the tablet computer.  This is similar to a lap top computer but the usual mouse is replaced with a special pen.  The pen is touched to the computer screen to activate the programs.  Using a tablet computer is very much like using a conventional clip board with a pencil.  The computer speeds up the process of collecting information at the jobsite and also allows for the downloading of the next days jobs via the internet.  There is a comprehensive computer program apparently provided by FEMA which requires specific information be provided by the applicant. Throughout my stay the program was periodically updated or changed when the jobs were downloaded.  Each hurricane had its own specific program and required slightly different information from the applicant.  All the responses affect the amount of disaster relief that FEMA would provide. 


The inspectors are not provided with the amount of relief available for each repair item.  Apparently they do not want the inspectors to have this information for fear it may compromise the way they comprised their reports.  This information is kept at the main office where the dispersal decisions are made.  At first this was distressing to me as I felt I could not properly assess the damage without knowing the costs but after a while the shear number of inspections and the brutal hours wear a person down to a point where the only important issue is to complete the inspection in as short a time as possible and try to get through the day. 


Part of the inspection process is to determine if a person is an owner or a renter.  The applicant is required to prove that they are an owner in order to be eligible for repair to the real property and their personal property.  Conversely, the applicant is also required to show that are a renter to be eligible for relief for their personal property. One inspection there was a mobile home that was storm damaged. The applicant at this particular home pulled out some dusty paperwork out of an old shoe box and showed me that they had bought the one acre of land about 5 years ago for $2,500.00 and they had a receipt for the single wide mobile home for $700.00.  The entire family of seven watched me as I performed their inspection.  The home was obviously distressed prior to the storm but the storm had completely ruined their home.  It was virtually uninhabitable so I listed the home as destroyed as required by the FEMA protocol.  Several days later I learned that there is $25,000.00 awarded for a destroyed mobile home.  I cannot be sure if this is accurate but I believe it is close.  Even if the award was half then people in rural Alabama could be making a significant profit from FEMA.  I am unaware if there is any allowance for purchase price.  If there were then certainly some of the very nice homes would be disallowed from any assistance.




My original assignment was on the east cost of Florida in the Fort Pierce area.  This was a middle income area consisting of home owners in the residential areas and retirees in the mobile home parks.  The homes faired much better than the mobile homes.  The homes usually had some lost shingles to the roofs and had leaks inside but the mobile homes sustained far worse damage.  They just were not up to the riggers of a hurricane.  There were multiple examples of destroyed mobile homes.  The picture to the right shows two 2x4’s driven through the wall much like an arrow.  The force of the wind must have been unbelievable.  I believe there were tornadoes that would periodically touch down and cause catastrophic damage whereas the more continuous high winds and water from the hurricane would cause accumulative damage. Both causes of damage are bad, just different.  Most people think of their walls and roofs to be water proof.  This is not at all the case.  These systems are designed to keep water out of the interior systems at reasonable pressures.  When there is a 120 mile an hour wind blowing torrential water at a wall, this is called wind driven rain, then the water will move up and around and through every little crack or hole and spray into the living space on the other side.  The interior of the walls become wet and the possibility of mold damage is greatly increased.


The same thing is true for the roofs.  Roofs are not designed to withstand such a deluge of wind and water.  The water is pushed up the slopes and runs over the back edge of the shingles and leaks into the attic.  Once the lower edge of the shingle is raised then it is broken off by the wind and the whole system is compromised.  The governor of Florida has allowed out of state roofing contractors to work because there is such a back log of damaged roofs through out the state.  There is considerable risk in using out of state contractors because there is no guarantee they will be around for the warranty period.  But the need for a roof today may outweigh the need for a warranty tomorrow.  When the roofs finally failed, the drywall ceilings would collapse into the living space bringing the insulation and all the water onto the personal possessions.  At this point the furniture, clothing and personal items would be a total loss.


Some people lost everything and really needed FEMA’s help.  Other people tried to take advantage.  The next article will be about some of the more interesting inspections.  If you have any questions or comments please sent me an email at HomeInspect2020@aol.com, or give me a call at 209-613-1430.


42 Days Inspecting with FEMA

Part 2


In my last week I shared some of the mechanics of how the Federal Emergency Management Agency operated.  This week I will relate some of the more interesting happenings I encountered.


One of the very first inspections was on the St. Johns River on the east coast of Florida.  There were four residences at the end of the road near the river.  The map showed the road as being paved with some type of resort near the river.  Here I am in the little rented car expecting to see a trailer park with boat ramps with some civilization.  No Big deal.  I found the paved road followed it for some 15 miles.  The terrain went from civilized housing to thick forest with no houses and trees so close together that a person could not walk between them.  Only the occasional pig trail offered any entry into the forest.


By now the road is getting narrower and the forest is changing into a jungle.  I have never seen a jungle, only in the movies; jungle is something that does not exist in California.  A jungle is ominous with dim light, vines, and an odd combination of palm trees and pine trees. The occasional pond of water could be seen along the edge of the road, counted no less then three snakes crossing the road on my way in.  Oh, and not a person nor a house yet to be seen.


Finally the road comes to an intersection. The paved road ends, and a hand written sign says “FEMA THIS WAY” pointing down one of the dirt roads.  By this time the paved road was only single lane wide, and the dirt road was even narrower. I was 2,000 miles from home with absolutely nobody knowing for sure where I was, in a jungle that I had never experienced. If I took three steps off the road I would be lost forever.  This could be the opening for a great horror movie. 


Not to be deterred I entered the dirt road.  The jungle was now more like a canopy that arched over the road and the light was dim.  There was water on both sides of the road with no room to turn around.  It was fascinating to see such a different world. The road was on a raised bank and around the next turn it descended slightly and there was water flowing over the top about 4” deep.  I stopped and walked out to inspect the situation. To cross or not to cross?  Is the road still there? I was already behind schedule and not even to the job site yet.  If I get stuck they may well find my bones next season.  So there was only one way to be sure.  I walked out into the “Stream” to see for my self.  Yes, the road was there and compact.  This was a surreal experience. I could imagine myself in the Amazon River with an Indian guide looking for the lost city.  Time to wake up.  Back into the car to traverse the river and onto my applicants. Another several miles and the road disappeared under the St. John’s River. For nearly 300 yards the road was under what was clearly a moving river much too deep to consider crossing.


Suddenly I hear a guy holler, “He’s here!” and I could see some commotion on the other side. “Stay right there and we’ll come get you!”  After a couple minutes here comes a huge 4 wheel drive Ford pickup raised on special suspension with giant tires.  I could see four or five guys were in the bed passing a bottle around.  “You’re the FEMA guy?” The driver asked in the heavy southern accent.  “I don’t think that city car gonna make it across, need a ride?”  Another fellow said, “Boy are we glad to see you!” 


They offered me the front seat and proceeded to re-forge the river. According to the driver the river was about a half mile away and had risen to within just a few inches of overflowing the flood control banks.  There was a spillway designed to relieve the water but the “Damned Environmentalists” would not let the gates be opened because of damage to the wild life.  “Their gonna let the whole southern part of the State flood just to save some stupid frog or something.”  I refrained from any comment partly because I didn’t know anything about the ecology and because of the bottle the guys in the back of the truck where passing around.


Off we went across the river. The water was actually moving freely across the road and all manner of debris was floating by.  The water was about 36” deep at the deepest before the slope reversed and we climbed out.  “We’re not clear yet, there still more to come.” The driver explained.  The road entered into the jungle again where to water was about 24” deep and more twisting then before. Several times the guys in the back had to move floating trees out of the way.  “What about alligators” I asked.  “Yep, you have to be careful; there are quite a few 14 footers around here.  And with the river being all flooded there could be some really big boys about.”  Just about the time I had digested this information there was another tree in the road, but no one was moving to move it out of the road.  “Lookie here, there’s your gator.”  Ah, where, I’m thinking, not wanting to look stupid.  Suddenly the tree moved and there it was.  Actually it was an alligator lying on top of a tree right in the middle of the road.  It seemed to me it was at least 18 feet long and it moved fast. It kinda wiggled a few times trying to figure out what the truck was doing, and then dove off the tree in a flash. Faster than I imagined a large lizard could move. Faster than I could gotten out of the way.  “Yep, that was just a little one.  Just an eight footer.”  The driver explained. Eight footer plus 10 feet I was thinking.


The guys moved the tree and we moved on.  What about snakes? I thought, when the driver says, “Watch out for snakes, with all the flooding, there are snakes all over.” Oh thank you very much I thought.  The jungle just got very much darker and thicker.  Tell me again why I am here.


After another 2 miles we come to an open area with several trailers apparently floating on the river.  The river is about a mile wide there and flowing freely.  “We’re here!” the drive exclaimed.  The water is about 36” deep around the trailers and they appeared to be ready to float away.  “And what is it you want me to do, exactly?” I asked.  “Inspect the houses.” He replied.  “And how do we reach the homes?” I asked.  “Don’t worry; we have boots, for the city boy.”  The guys in the back passed up a pair of rubber boots about knee high and asked if I wanted a drink.  No thanks, but thanks for the boots.  “What are you guys going to wear?”  I asked.  We don’t need no boots.  One guy took off his pants and shoes and stepped in; another took off his shoes and socks in preparation of getting wet. It was clear my boots were not tall enough but I did not intend to be laughed at by these good ole boys.  One step into the water and my boots were full of water. Oh well, let’s go inspect the trailers. 


The water was about 2” from covering the floors of the trailers and was flowing under and around the foundations. The trailers could literally be floating at any minute but there was no damage that I could report inside the units.  I reported the units as inaccessible with almost certain water damage that will be discovered when the river subsides.  The power was off and no utilities. Later, I got a call from the FEMA auditing office asking why I put down the unit as inaccessible if I was able to gain access to the units.  The training manual says reasonable access.  In my opinion this was unreasonable to expect a person to access a property in this manner.  FEMA is rife with bureaucrats.


Anyway, these turned out to be very friendly people.  They were trying to keep their spirits up after being flooded out of their homes.  After testing me to see if what type of person I was, they were friendly and hospitable.  Surprisingly there were educated men from diverse backgrounds who came to the river to retire and get away from city life. They were very thankful for any help that FEMA could provide.  This was my most fun I had working as a contract inspector for FEMA.  Usually the work was brutal and unrelenting. Next week I will related on some attempts to defraud the system.-


42 Days Inspecting with FEMA

Part 3


Last week I shared the most interesting day working for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.  This week I am going to share one of the more blatant (and scary) attempts to defraud the Agency.  Part of the inspector’s job is to determine whether an applicant has a legitimate need.  Many times an applicant is not sure if they have a legitimate claim and asks for an inspector to come out to the property to make a fair determination.  After a while it becomes pretty easy for the inspector to determine if the applicants are trying to cheat.  The cheaters are a very small percentage of the overall applicants and they provide some of the more memorable inspections.  Here is the best story.


In Alabama the forest is so dense it is impossible for a man to move through the growth. Many of the homes are located deep in the forest off the paved main roads.  The dirt roads through the forests what the locals call a “Pig Trail.” These roads are somewhat like a fire road one would see up in our foot hills, only not so well maintained.  Many times these houses are located up to 10 miles out in the forest with a dirt road as the only access.  The locals don’t seem to mind the remote areas, but to me, the lack of an all weather paved road is an important safety hazard.  Most of these roads would be impassable for a fire truck.


There was this one inspection where the applicant indicated there was no way I could find his “Pig Trail” (Named after the trails that wild pigs make in the forest) and wanted to meet me at an arranged place and follow him in.  He showed up driving a beat up old van and told me that my car would not make the trip and I should ride with him.  Luckily I declined and told him I would go as far as I could in my car.  I followed him down this winding dirt road that in one place actually had a stream flowing over the top.  After about 10 miles we came to a clearing that had 2 trailers.  One trailer was occupied by this guy “buddy” and the other was his.


Upon approaching the trailer there were all sorts of debris laying around.  Toys, discarded appliances, used up cars were all around, and a very large garbage dump behind the unit.  Surprisingly there was no storm damage to be seen.  After finding my way to the interior there was clothing and all manner of household goods strewn about the floor. The beds were upended with the bedding strewn about.  There were cockroaches and dog feces everywhere.  It was clear this was the result of drug use and not storm related.  All the while the applicant kept up a running commentary on how the storm ruined the roof, how the wind has blown all his personal belongings about the yard, and how the trailers contents were water damaged.  By this time I was very aware of the remote location and the very large knife hanging on the applicant’s belt.  It was clear by his demeanor that it would be wise to get back to civilization as soon as possible. 


“Don’t you think I need a new roof?” he said.  “Yep, the roof is ruined,” I replied and made sure to make entries into the computer looking like I was reporting damage.  “Don’t you think all my stuff is ruined?” he stated.  “Yep, the storm really beat you up.” I replied.  This was repeated until the applicant seemed satisfied.  “How long before I get my check?” The applicant asked.  The standard response is “7 to 10 days you should hear something from FEMA.” I replied.  “They usually just send out a check.”  By this reply  the applicant smiled and watched me as I got back to my car.  “Good Luck” I said as I drove off.  Once I got to the paved road I checked the box “No Storm Related Damage” and went to my next job.  I was reasonably sure I would never see this guy again; I should be reassigned to a new area before the 10 day time period expired.  I am sure that if I had confronted this guy with the proper inspection protocol the situation would have turned ugly and given the remote location I was totally alone and vulnerable to physical harm.  Not so good.  Agreeing with this guy was a survival tactic.


This was the most obvious attempt to defrauding the system. Usually it was more of an applicant pushing the limits and trying to be sure every little issue was included in the storm damage.  In my opinion this is not cheating, just being sure to get all the relief that is available.  FEMA really did help a lot of deserving people.


I am glad to be home and go back to regular work in order to get some rest.  Remember, a FEMA inspection is not a Home Inspection.  If you need a home inspection be sure to use a California Real Estate Inspection Association Certified Inspector to be sure you have all the systems in your home properly inspected.  I can be reached at HomeInspect2020@aol.com. Or call me at (209) 613-1430.


Pest Inspections and Home Inspections:


By Brad Deal



In my opinion, a Home Inspection is incomplete without including a Structural Pest Inspection.  While Home Inspections and Pest Inspections are two completely separate documents many of their reported issues overlap. Pest Inspectors do not comment on mechanical systems but they do comment on water intrusion issues and infestation issues.  Home Inspectors are not allowed to comment on pest issues (wood destroying organisms) but we are required to comment on water intrusion issues.  Water intrusion issues are an important part of Pest Inspections. While the reports are different in nature they do compliment each other to the benefit of the Buyer.  Together they will provide better information than if each is taken separately. I always recommend a pest inspection be performed on a prospective purchase even if the there is no contractual requirement for a pest inspection.  Some homes are sold “As Is” for cash and do not have the usual lender requirement for a Pest Report. In these instances the Real Estate Agent should advise their Client to obtain a Structural Pest Report to limit their liability and best serve their customer.


The Pest Inspection Company to be used for the Pest Inspection is identified in the purchase contract.  The Pest Inspection company to be used can be negotiated prior to signing the purchase contract.  It is important that the Buyer’s Agent be informed as to the nature of the company selected.  I have learned from experience that there are “Listing Inspection Companies” and “Buyer’s Inspections Companies.”  While each Registered Structural Pest Control Company is governed by strict standards, each company takes on the personality of the company’s management.  Some companies receive their work from agents who want a minimum inspection.  These companies count on receiving continued work for providing a minimum inspection but do not best serve the interests of the Buyer.  On the other hand there are companies who provide a more inclusive pest inspection, which I characterize as “Buyers Inspections” who routinely discover an increased number of infestation issues.  I have had instances where I have discovered water intrusion issues that were missed repeatedly by a particular pest company.  Once an Agent becomes aware of the differences in the quality of the pest reports it becomes very clear which companies should be recommended.  I recommend all Agents be informed of the qualifications, experience and personality of the local structural pest inspection companies in order to protect themselves from possible “negligent referral” actions.


Another issue I have experienced is that a Listing Agent may know a particular system on a home that is infested or water damaged. Usually it is the Listing Agent who orders the Pest Inspection and uses this opportunity to exclude various garages, out buildings, decks, or patio covers from the pest report.  The Pest Inspector can only proceed on the instructions given; they have no way of knowing what the purchase contract requires and must rely on the Listing Agent for proper guidance. I always recommend that the Buyer review the purchase contract to be sure the pest report includes all the components listed in the purchase contract. I routinely find water intrusion issues in out buildings or other peripheral systems that were excluded on the pest inspection but were required on the purchase contract. In addition, only the pest inspection company named in the contract should be providing the pest report.  Any changes in the selection of the pest company must be agreed to in writing.


It is important that the Buyer understands exactly what buildings or systems are included in the Pest Report by the purchase contract. It is important that the Buyer understands what a pest inspection includes and what it does not include.  Buyers should be aware that there are Section 1 and Section 2 items in structural pest reports.  Section 1 items are issues of current damage or infestation and are usually required to be repaired by the lender prior to funding a purchase loan.  Section 2 items are issues that may lead to future infestation or damage and are not usually required to be repaired by lender.  Sometimes specialty loans require Section 2 items to be repaired the lender.  It is important that the Buyer’s Agent be informed as to the type of loan the Buyers are intending to obtain in order to be sure if the Section 2 items will need to be repaired prior to funding so that it can be included in the purchase contract.  It is customary for sellers to pay for the Section 1 repairs and sometimes the Section 2 repairs prior to close of escrow.


All current Pest Inspection Reports on the property must be disclosed to the Buyer. Occasionally there will be two pest inspections on the same property in a very short period of time.  More than once I have discovered two pest inspection tags from different companies on the same home only several days apart. One time, when I brought this to the attention of my Client it was discovered that the Listing Agent had found the first report as being too picky and ordered a second report from another “Lister Friendly” company.  The first report was never disclosed to my Client.  This was a blatant example of misrepresentation and manipulation by the Listing Agent.  My Client and the Buyer’s Agent was very upset by this and passed on this home.  There could have been a complaint made against the Listing Agent’s license through the Department of Real Estate but to my knowledge it was never pursued.  All the reports must be disclosed to the Buyer, not just the one with most favorably reported issues. 


Home Inspectors routinely discover dead animals in the crawlspace or the attic. This is rarely reported by a pest inspection but routinely reported in a home inspection as a health safety issue. There is the possibility of anthrax being present in the soil under dead animals along with other health safety issues.  Dead animals require the removal by a qualified specialist.  Another important related issue is the discovery of rodent droppings; particularly in air supply ducts.  At its worst rodent droppings can produce the deadly Hanta Virus, which is an important respiratory health safety issue.  When the rodent feces turns into dust it can be distributed though out the home causing allergic reactions, respiratory problems, and possible immunological problems.  The standard recommendation is for the area to be evaluated and cleaned by a qualified environmental specialist.  These symptoms sometimes combine with mold issues to compound the health problems. On one house I found bats in the attic.  Upon disclosing this to my Client I learned her husband had been bitten in her previous house by a rabid bat. The husband contracted rabies and died.  She was devastated at my findings but to my surprise proceeded with the purchase anyway.  She had the bats professionally removed and occupied the home.  Upon learning of her experience I was shaken and her Agent was mortified.   My point being is that the pest inspector is very specific to wood destroying organisms and is not required to report on animals or animal droppings. Pest does not include animal related issues, it means wood destroying issues.


Always use an inspector who is a member of the California Real Estate Inspection Association to be sure the Standards of Practice are followed.


If you have any questions about my comments or anything else regarding Home Inspections I can be emailed at HomeInspect2020@aol.com >.


Brad Deal

20/20 Home Inspections

Inspector Member CREIA


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Be careful what you watch on TV!

By Brad Deal



Last week I was watching CSI, the popular TV show “Crime Scene Investigation” and they had a story about a disgruntled electrician who rigged a special electrical safety device is called a GFCI or Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter to electrocute his boss.  The story was very entertaining and went on in great detail how the electrician used his specialized knowledge of the GFCI to set a trap for his boss.  He made sure the ground was wet in order to conduct the electricity better and that the boss’s boot had a nail through the rubber sole to insure the electricity would penetrate into his foot. And to be sure of his bosses demise the electrician cut off the ground prong on the electric cord in order to disable the GFCI.  With all this technical planning the boss’s fate was sealed and ultimately the crime scene investigators came in foil the unscrupulous electrician’s plans.


I was working on an inspection report while my son was watching the program.  When I hear the “GFCI” word my interest was peeked and I watched for a few moments.  The program was very well done but it was WRONG!  The GFCI is designed to protect against every one of the faults the program described.  The only way that the GFCI could have failed is that the unit was defective, which would be very apparent after the disaster, or that the unit was miss wired at the terminals which would also be obvious to any investigator.


In the early 1960’s residential wiring systems were upgraded from the old fashioned 2 wire system to the more modern 3 wiring systems.  The old fashioned 2 wire systems are still considered safe but they require a little more specialize knowledge in order to use properly.  The 3 wire, commonly known as the ground circuit was added to help insure a breaker would trip before the electricity would go through one’s body.  The next upgrade came in the mid 1970’s.  The ground fault circuit interrupters were first installed in the garages and the exterior plugs.  A GFCI is the square outlet with the little red and black buttons in the center that pops when your wife uses the hair dryer. Over the years their use has been recommended at any outlet were there is the possibility of touching the plug and touching water at the same time.  There is an electronic circuit chip in each GFCI that measures the current coming into the unit and the current going out of the unit; when the current is off by just 5 milli amps (really tiny amount of current) then the breaker opens and the circuit is turned off.  Under the right conditions it takes only 15 milli amps to stop your heart, the GFIC will open the circuit before you can feel the shock.  It is unknown how many lives this system saves every year but some estimates say they are second only to the smoke detectors for saving lives. 


If you have GFCI’s in your home you sure press the black test button every month or so to be sure the unit is working.  GFCI’s do wear out over time and will need periodic replacement. If you do not have GFCI’s you should upgrade your system.  They cost only about $15 apiece and an electrician can install one in just a few minutes.  An entire home can be upgraded for several hundred dollars.  If you have an older home with a 2 wire system GFCI’s can be installed to upgrade the safety of the system to equal or exceed the safety of a modern system. 


Lastly, be sure to check the qualifications of anybody working on your home.  While the TV program sounded very good and would convince anybody who was not educated in the subject and gave out improper information, the same can be said for many unscrupulous contractors and technicians.  Any Home Inspector who is a member of the California Real Estate Association can give you good advice regarding your home. In order to be a member a candidate must pass a written exam, attend regular chapter meetings and obtain a minimum of 30 hours of continuing education each year. If you need a home inspection be sure to use a CREIA member.  If you have any questions I can be reached at 613-1430

Be Careful with your Christmas Tree!

By Brad Deal



I remember one time when I was a kid we were cleaning up the Christmas tree after having opening all the gifts the night before.  My mother and sisters were gathering up the wrapping paper and burning it in the fire place.   The loose paper generated a fire that was substantial; the heat could be felt across the room.  The women than got the idea to cut the Christmas tree up into little pieces and add them to the blaze.


The tree was several weeks old and had dried out.  The heat from the Christmas lights surely added to the combustibility of the tree limbs.  In just a few minutes the fire burning too brightly.  I remember my mom and sister just kind of stopped and looked at the fire; they realized that something was not right but did not know what to do.  About that time my brother came into the room and shouted, “What are you doing?” “Stop that, Where is Dad?” and ran off in a huff.


We had a home made metal fireplace in the middle of the family room. It was like an upside down funnel and was about 6 feet across with a circular brick hearth below.  It had a special air cooled thimble where the flue when through the ceiling to protect the roof from the heat.  The metal flue pipe had actually turned a dull red color at the ceiling from the heat generated from the tree limbs. 


After a few seconds my Dad came in with my brother.  “What are you women doing, I told you not to burn the tree in the fireplace!” My father said in a huff.  “Go get the water hose.”  My brother went to get the garden hose and dragged it into the room.  Dad started spraying the flue at the ceiling. There was steam generated and a terrible mess made around the hearth below.  Then my Dad told my brother to climb up the tree and go onto the roof.  “We’re going to spray the roof too!  The ceiling is too hot and I don’t want to burn the house down!”  Luckily it was a vaulted ceiling with no attic.  I will never forget my mother inside the home spraying the fireplace flue and my brother on the roof spraying the wood shingles.  My brother said he could see some of the shingles beginning to smoke.


My father was furious. He ran from inside to the outside and back again. The whole thing was over in just a few minutes but the mess took the rest of the day to clean up.  My mother was mortified and for once in her life did not say a word.  After the danger had passed and the family collected its wits, we all started to giggle, and finally laughed out loud for a long time.  My father’s anger evaporated like the steam off the pipes and could not stay mad.  He finally joined in with the rest of us and laughed.  The real funny thing was that my mother really got the gift she wanted, new carpet in the family room….I have always wondered if she planned the whole thing.


Factory built fireplaces are generally rated for 20 to 25 years depending on the manufacturer and the way they are used; metal fireplace have a limited life span and they do wear out over time.  The inner flue pipe is made out of a stainless steel alloy in order to keep the flue from rusting.  When the flue is overheated the tempering in the stainless steel is lost and the flue will begin to burn (rust). When the flue is overheated it will first show a dull gold color and then turn blue as it gets too hot. It is possible to ruin a chimney flue by overheating the system, like my mother and sister did to our flue.  The danger is that the flue will rust through over time and you can have an unknown failure.  Once the flue is overheated it greatly reduces its life expectancy.


Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations when you operate you fireplace.  The flames should never be allowed to touch the metal surfaces, especially the damper. Don’t burn papers and especially Christmas trees in your fireplace or you may have to get out your garden hose or worse; the fire department.  Most people do not give their fireplace the proper respect that a fire burning system deserves.  Always get your fireplace cleaned and inspected every year to be sure you do not have any problems.


 And remember; if you hire a Home Inspector be sure to get the most qualified inspector you can find.  Always start with an Inspector Member of the California Real Estate Inspection Association (CREIA) to be sure you have an inspector who has passed an substantial entrance exam, has completed at least 30 hours of continuing education each year, follows the CREIA ethics guidelines and most importantly, follows the CREIA Standards of Practice which is accepted by the State of California as the minimum requirements for a Home Inspection. CREIA is the foremost inspection association in our State.  If you have questions or comments I can be reached at HomeInspect 2020@aol.com. Or called at 613-1430

Merry Christmas From Inspector Brad

By Brad Deal



It is the Christmas season and the Christmas lights are out in force.  The contest is on for the neighborhood fathers to see who can install the brightest and most intricate Christmas lights, complete with motorized ornaments and speaking Santa Clauses. Is that a word?  There is usually a network of intricate wiring that rivals a NASA space ship preparing for take off.  The multiple circuits require outlet splitters, and then splitters on the splitters, and in the case of one homeowner, a third splitter so that the necessary power is supplied; one guy even tapped directly into his electric panel in order to be sure his lights are the brightest.


In the daylight the light cords remind one of the barbed wire in a WWI battle field but when darkness falls the yard turns into a wonderment that draws visitors from miles around.  At the exact moment as the daylight turns to dusk you can almost hear the generators at Don Pedro bog down with the extra load and the main utility lines buzz just a little louder, trying to keep up with the extra demand. The community dims, just for a second as the power is adjusted for the extra load.  Computers flicker as the voltage drops and backup files are created.  Astronauts can see the outline of Turlock from space and can imagine a hearty “Merry Christmas” from its citizens.  The little white wheels in the electric meter begins spinning around their axles counting the kilowatt hours of power being used; on some houses these wheels are almost flying.  As the power hits the first splitter everything is fine. The lights go on and the motors are whirling.  As the power hits the second splitter the lights go on and the motors whirl but there is some heat in the connection and the heat creates some resistance in the cords but the lights go on, even if they are not quite as bright as they should be: the breaker only popped or once or twice…


The third splitter is smokin.  There is only so much power that can be sucked out of any one circuit and this home is at the outer edge of the envelope.  During the initial tests the homeowner discovered the circuit breaker could not take the load.  “No problem, just install a larger breaker.”  We’ll just use the oversize one we installed last year.  That way we can use more lights!  And the good thing is that this breaker did not pop one time…


Now we have the Chevy Chase of Turlock.  He is going to have the brightest and best Christmas lights of anyone in the city.  He doesn’t even bother with breakers.  Direct wiring from the panel is the best.  But he doesn’t want the power drain from the buss bar; he is tapping the lugs at the outlet side of the meter.  Power straight from the power plant is the best.  “We’re going to have the best Christmas ever!”  The switch is thrown and the lights come on.  But the lights are not the only thing glowing. The wiring is overheating and the splitters and melting.  But everything is fine, the lights are on and all is good with the world.  Lets all hope that it does not rain.


The electrical systems in your home are designed with dual backup safety systems.  One system can usually be disabled and you can still have a relatively safe system.  When the second system is disabled then there is a real chance of something going wrong.  When the home is constructed, even the older homes, these safety systems are in place and working.  It is only when the electrical system is changed by an unknowledgeable person, like Mr. Christmas Lights, can the safety systems be disabled.  This is usually done with the best intentions but the results may not show up for quite some time and be disastrous.  Almost everyone has heard of installing a penny under a screw in fuse in the older panels to keep them from blowing out without ever discovering the underlying reason the overloaded the circuit.  Sometimes breakers have been oversized for the same reasons.  Properly sized breakers are probably the most important safety system in your home. The rating in the breaker must match the rating in the wiring in order to be safe.  When the current exceeds the safe operating range of the wiring the breaker will open or “trip” before the wiring overheats and a fire is started.  Be sure to have properly sized breakers in your home to insure your family’s safety.


A Home Inspector can help you identify safety and operational issues in your home.  If you do happen to need a Home Inspection be sure to use a qualified inspector.  The California Real Estate Inspection Association is the premiere inspection association in the State of California.  Certified Inspector Members must pass a written exam, attend regular chapter meetings and obtain at least 30 hours of continuing education each year. Each inspection report is written to the standards of practice to insure the client of have all the required systems evaluated by the inspector.  Look for the CREIA badge for a good home inspection.  If you have any questions about your home I can be reached at 613-1430 or emailed at HomeInspect2020@aol.com.

Construction Defects, Real or Imagined

By Brad Deal



I am periodically asked to perform a home inspection on a new home.  The request usually comes very near the end of the one year warranty period when the Client is having trouble convincing the builder to repair the defective issues in the home.  This call usually comes in from a frantic customer telling me about all the terrible problems they are having with their new home and want to know what I can do to help them resolve their conflict with the builder.  I usually reply with the statement, "All I can do is provide you with accurate 3rd party information which you and the builder can use to make informed decisions.


Most home buyers do not understand the complexities of the home building business.  There are two basic types of home builders; the production builder and the custom builder.  The production builder typically builds in volume producing variations of the same home design.  The custom builder usually builds unique homes in a limited number.  The two building styles require different personalities to be successful.   Rarely does one see a production builder who also builds a truly custom home and even more rarely does one see a custom builder build a successful production project.  Production building and custom building are similar but distinct building businesses requiring different skills.  The main thing for the consumer to understand it that both businesses are extremely high pressure and stressful.  Anything the consumer can do to make it easier for their warranty issues to be addressed by the builder will help lead to a more satisfactory experience by the consumer, and the builder. 


I spent the first several years of my career as the customer service representative for a custom builder.  As part of the purchase agreement we would have explicit instructions regarding the request by a customer for warranty repairs.  We would provide a form asking for specific information.  Things like the nature and the location of the problem, address and phone numbers.  Basic information to give the repair people an idea what to expect.  It was the exception to receive a request for repair in the format as required in the purchase contract.  Usually there was enough information to get started on the request and it was company policy to make the extra effort to keep the customer happy.  Later in my career, when I was involved with production building, there were smaller profit margins and tighter schedules.  Again we had specific guidelines regarding customer warranty issues asking for specific information.  I found it far more difficult to control the warranty issues in production work compared to custom work.  The sheer volume of customers in production work make it hard enough to keep track of the repairs current and the inability of the customers to follow directions make it even more difficult to keep track of what was repaired and what was not repaired.   The customers who provided the best written information, and made the home available for repairs were the first ones to get results.  The ones who left a voice message on the phone rarely were acknowledged. It was company policy not to respond to phone messages unless they were an emergency.  When we did receive written notification it was many times vague and hard to understand.  These repairs would not be given the same importance as a request that were thoughtful, courteous, with accurate information.  It is human nature to work on the easiest problems first.  Usually the customers and the builders manage to muddle though the warranty work with a reasonable degree of professionalism but sometimes there is the customer who does not understand how to interact with the builder and expects more service than is realistic.


Every house ever built has some problems. It is unrealistic to expect a system with over 250,000 individual parts to function together without any problems. Sooner or later there will be a customer who expects everything to be perfect and expect instant response from the builder. Even though some customers may have unrealistic expectations, they can still have some legitimate warranty issues.  When the customer blends impossible requests with reasonable requests they may lose their credibility with the builder. As the customer's attempts to convince the builder of their concerns and are ignored, they begin to escalate their requests with all types of assertions of building code violations and so called expert opinions.  When the builder learns of these assertions they quickly decide to respond or to pass this customer off as an "unreasonable."  While the customer may very well have some legitimate issues they may be placed at the bottom of the list for the repairs.  When a builder is confronted with a difficult customer like this they sometimes take the opposite position from the customer and thereby become “equally unreasonable" in the opinion of the customer.  This cycle becomes worse and worse until there are threats of a lawsuit.  By this time both the builder and the customer are not sure what are legitimate issues and what issues are superfluous.  The home inspection can be a very powerful tool to resolve the issues between the builder and the customer. The builder gets 3rd party information from a qualified source, and the customer gets the validation of at least some of their concerns by a qualified professional.


I always recommend that every new home have a home inspection, do not be misled by code inspections. In the larger cities there are reports of as few as 20% of the homes are receiving complete code inspections. The sheer volume of houses has overwhelmed the building departments so that they have resorted to "spot" inspections.  Only a representational portion of the new homes being built are being completely inspected.  Not every home receives a complete code inspection.  In addition, code inspections cannot address cosmetic or functional issues.


After having seen so many silly issues escalate into poor customer relationships I would recommend that builders hire a qualified home inspector to inspect their homes prior to occupancy as a quality control measure.  I find that the builder's quality control people are as overwhelmed as the code inspectors.  Any overlooked issues can be identified and repaired prior to the customer even learning of the problem.  If a builder takes the position that all of the issues will get fixed sooner or later than why not fix it sooner and keep the customer happy.  I know as a builder I would have gladly paid the cost of a home inspection to help keep my customers happy.  My grandfather had a saying, "some guys will spend a dollar to get a customer but won't spend a nickel to keep a customer."


Conversely, if a new home buyer would obtain a home inspection prior to moving into the home then most of the issues would be identified prior to occupying the home with proper documentation that the builder can understand.  Rarely does a builder refuse to repair reasonable issues identified in a home inspection report.  The issues in the report are usually things the builder has over looked due to the tight scheduling and the limited qualified labor pool; things they would have repaired anyway if they were made aware.  But these things can become a problem if not addressed in a timely manner.  Many times the customer doesn't even realize that some things are not correct, until there is a problem, usually at a much later date.  A home inspection will help eliminate the uncertainty in the homeowner experience. 


Here are some suggestions to help obtain proper customer warranty service.


1)         Make it in writing; make sure it is legible and accurate

2)         What address?  Don't laugh, the address is left out more times than you would expect

4)         Contact phone numbers

5)         What is the problem?  Include a picture if possible

6)         Where is the issue located? Which room? Which corner? What sink?  Be specific

7)         How important is the problem?  Is it likely to cause additional damage?

8)         When are you available for access to the house?  Do not ever miss an appointment, if you cannot be present then hire a sitter to be present so the repair people can perform the work. Do not be so petty as not to pay a few dollars to help resolve your issues.

9)         Do not try to convince the builder that you are some kind of expert or have special training unless it is true.  Unqualified assertions will diminish the customer’s claims. Builders are very experienced and will quickly identify unqualified assertions. 


And remember; if you hire a Home Inspector be sure to get the most qualified inspector you can find.  Always start with an Inspector Member of the California Real Estate Inspection Association (CREIA) to be sure you have an inspector who has passed an substantial entrance exam, has completed at least 30 hours of continuing education each year, follows the CREIA ethics guidelines and most importantly, follows the CREIA Standards of Practice which is accepted by the State of California as the minimum requirements for a Home Inspection. CREIA is the foremost inspection association in our State.  If you have questions or comments I can be reached at HomeInspect 2020@aol.com.

Did you know that insurance companies keep a secret history of your home?

By Brad Deal




I recently did an inspection where I discovered some suspicious water damage and recommended that my Clients ask the Sellers for the history and circumstances of the damage.  As it turns out the Sellers had had a leak in the water heater 2 years ago and turned in a claim for over $5,000.00 for repairs and the Seller did not disclose the insurance claim on the Transfer Disclosure Statement as required by California Real Estate Law.  In addition, the repairs were never fully repaired and the insurance money was apparently diverted to installing tile floors and other interior improvements rather than repairing the water damage as was intended.  Now the Sellers have the home in escrow, anticipating a very large proceeds check and now discover that their buyers cannot obtain any property insurance on their property.  Even if the buyers do find an insurance carrier who will insure the home it will be at a substantially increased rate. 


What most people do not realize is that the insurance companies keep track of insurance claims on their insured properties and this information is apparently shared between the large companies.  I even had a Client who one time just called their insurance agent and asked about a leak in their roof and they had a rate increase on the next payment cycle.  There seems to be two ways the insurance companies keep track of any claims; the first is to keep track of the claims on any one particular property and the other is they keep track of any claims on the individual.  Before anyone turns in a claim on any damage they should first consider how it may affect their future ability to obtain insurance coverage. And in the case of a person who is considering selling their home they should be very careful because it could affect their home’s marketability and final sales price.  Many people turn in frivolous claims which result in higher prices for the rest of us.


The Transfer Disclosure Statement or TDS as it is known by the Realtors is a very powerful document which requires the Sellers to disclose all the know issues with their home to the potential Buyer.  There is a section of the TDS specifically asking about any insurance claims in the past 5 YEARS!  If the Seller fails to disclose any past insurance claims and it becomes a problem for the new buyer, then the Seller can be held responsible for any damages caused by this non-disclosure.  It is very important that everyone involved with the purchase transaction be very aware of the importance of the TDS, if the Seller does not disclose what they know about the home then they can be held responsible for any damages caused by the non-disclosure.


In this case my Clients were concerned that the Sellers misrepresented the condition of the home.  If they did not disclose the insurance claim then what else did the not disclose?  They backed out of the purchase contract even before I could deliver my inspection report the next day.  If I had not been hired to inspect the home this may well have turned into a legal nightmare.  I always recommend that you obtain a home inspection on any home you are considering.  And when you hire a Home Inspector be sure to get the most qualified inspector you can find.  Always start with an Inspector Member of the California Real Estate Inspection Association (CREIA) to be sure you find an inspector who has passed an substantial entrance exam, has completed at least 30 hours of continuing education each year, follows the CREIA ethics guidelines, and most importantly, follows the CREIA Standards of Practice which is accepted by the State of California as the minimum requirements for a Home Inspection. CREIA is the foremost inspection association in our State.  If you have questions or comments I can be reached at HomeInspect2020@aol.com.


Dust Mites??

By Inspector (Indoor Environmentalist) Brad



I had asthma as a child before there was any significant understanding of indoor air quality.  My Dad used to smoke “Lucky Strike” cigarettes without the filter. I will believe to my dying day that second hand smoke greatly attributed if not was the only cause of my asthma.  Second hand smoke is definitely an important indoor allergen.  Once a youngster is exposed to an increased level of any irritant there is a higher probability of that kid developing a reaction to the environment, typically known as an allergy.  When there are multiple different irritants in the environment the child may well develop sensitivities to some or all of the irritants.  The irritants may combine to make the child’s allergy symptoms worse.  Determining how the environment affects a child quickly becomes very complicated and difficult to understand.  


Almost everybody is aware of the San Joaquin Air Quality Control Board and how they are trying to lower the particulate levels in our valley.  The EPA has rated the air in the San Joaquin Valley to be among the unhealthiest places to live in the nation.  We have days where you cannot use your fireplace, and the farmers must institute dust control measures in order to lower the PM 10 levels.  Particulate Matter of 10 microns is so small it can find its way into one’s lungs bypassing the filtering systems of the nose and lodge in the tiny little air sacs of the lungs causing all sorts of problems.  I can remember as a child one could see the Sierra Mountains crystal clear everyday from the school yard; now it is the exception to even see the outlines.  All one needs to do is drive to Yosemite and compare the air there to our valley air and it becomes clear that the residents of the valley need to understand our air is not as good as it could be and that some extra effort may be required to protect our families.


Individually there is very little a person can do for the outside environment but there is quite a bit you can do for your indoor environment.  If you have a child who has asthma or other respiratory problems it is important that you know about at least some of the more common irritants that can be found in the average home.


Dust mites are a little bug too small to see that is found everywhere.  All they need to grow is some dust (food) and a little humidity (water) and a safe place to grow (your pillow).  Dead dust mites and their fecal matter can become a significant portion of the weight of your pillows over time.  What you think is the little fluffy stuff inside the casing may not be so fluffy!  It is not the dust mite that is allergenic; it is the fecal matter that causes all the problems.  Their fecal matter (poop) is about the size as a grain of pollen and can float in the air the same way as does flower pollen.  When you drop your head on the pillow all the fecal matter is pushed into the air as a dust cloud where you breathe.  Many times a person will blame a sneezing or a coughing attack on laying horizontal on the bed allowing your lungs to fill with liquid, where the real blame lies with the dust mite fecal matter.  Yech!   My personal opinion is that the dead bodies of the dust mites will turn to dust and contribute to the problem much the same way a cockroach does but I cannot prove it.  It is virtually impossible to remove all the dust mites from your home, all you can do is try to control them by washing the bedding in hot water and detergent weekly, using the plastic covers over the pillows and mattresses and most importantly lowering the humidity level of your home to 50% or less.  Dust mites cannot live in anything less than about 50% humidity so installing a dehumidifier may be necessary in some situations.


Cockroaches are another important source of allergens.  It is estimated that 20% of all households that show no visible evidence of cockroaches do have them present and that the allergens can be measured in the air.  If you can see one it means there are a whole lot more present that are out of sight.  Cockroaches deserve their nasty reputation, their saliva, feces, and body parts are allergenic.  What is not commonly known is that when a cockroach dies the body will eventually become desiccated and become part of the environmental dust.  Now as I watch my daughters dust the house, (this only happens once in a blue moon) I wonder how much of it is regular dust, whatever that is, and cockroach dust.  Household dust is made up mostly of human skin cells that have naturally shed off the body. But the skin cells are a perfect food for the dust mites and for the cockroaches……


Anyway, another important source of allergens is your cat.  The saliva of the cat is the main source of allergens but the thing is that the cats are always licking their selves so that there is an extra amount of saliva that is available to be shed into the environment.  The saliva is sticky so that is stays on the shed hair and the carpet or anywhere where the cat may touch.  Because of this the allergen stays in the environment longer than some of there other allergens and can stay in your house for years after the cat is gone.  Cat allergens can be measured for years after the cat has been removed from the house.  Just taking the cat out of the room does virtually nothing to stop an allergenic response for a sensitive child.  I personally believe that the breath from a cat can actually cause an allergic reaction.  The water and salvia in the cat’s breath must become aerosolized when the cat breathes and can be breathed into a child’s lungs, and if it is sticky then it can become attached to the kid’s clothes to be an irritant after the kid goes home.  I am unaware of any research in this area but I bet you dollars to dough nuts it is true.


Dogs can be allergenic but not as much as cats.  Dog salvia can be allergenic and their skin cells can cause some reactions.  Dogs are much less allergenic than cats.  I knew there was a reason I was a dog lover.


Rats and mice allergens are found in their urine and feces.  It is especially important that these rodents be kept out of the heating and cooling duct systems because the urine and feces will turn to dust and spread through out the home. Not only is this dust allergenic it can also cause some serious diseases.  The Hanta virus is found in mouse feces and can be fatal if not diagnosed quickly.  Histoplasmosis is a fungal infection that can be found in bird and bat droppings. Sometimes these animals are found in attics and can find their way into the ductwork.


Mold is another important irritant that can range from sniffles to brain damage.  But the important thing to understand is the dose is what causes the damage, not just the presence.  A single aspirin can relieve a headache but 20 aspirins may well be fatal.  One cup of water can quench your thirst but you can drown in a swimming pool.  The same is true for mold.  The mold spores must be contained in an enclosed area so that the concentration becomes higher than what would naturally occur.  As the concentration increases the chance of some people being affected increases.  Some people react to lower concentrations and some people can withstand a higher concentration of mold.  It also depends on the type of mold present, or on the combination of different molds present.  It can also depend on whether the mold is in a non-stressful environment (happy) or in a stressful environment where they are competing with other molds for a food source (unhappy).  Molds will excrete mytco toxins (thus the term toxic mold) as a defense mechanism against the other molds that can greatly contribute to an allergenic response.  These toxins can be very potent and have been used by the Russians to develop nerve gas.  How do you tell if a mold is happy?  Testing for these mytco toxins is extremely difficult.  I suspect that the odor from these toxins would chase you out of the room before anything could adverse could happen.  It is easy to see why molds are so mis- understood and unfairly blamed for so many problems.


For most people these things are not a problem, but if you are allergenic then you will definitely benefit by understanding the allergens that can affect your health.  I have been toying with the idea of evaluating homes for families that have allergies or asthma.  This is an emerging science and there are no guidelines or protocols for this type of evaluation but I suspect there may be protocols in the future.


If you are suspicious of your home it is best to start with the basics first.  A good home inspection will help identify important issues in your home.  A certified inspector member of the California Real Estate Inspection Association can help you identify some of these safety issues.  Check out the website at www.CREIA.org to find a qualified home inspector in your area.  If you have any questions I can be reached at HomeInspect2020 @aol.com or at 613-1430.


Don’t Trust That Refrigerator

By Brad Deal




Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters or GFCI’s are an important electrical safety device found in modern homes. They can be identified by the little red and black buttons in the center of the outlet.  These are the outlets that commonly “pop” when your wife uses the hair dryer.   It is a very sensitive circuit breaker that is designed to open whenever it senses a “Ground Fault” in the electric circuit. The breaker is so sensitive that it opens the circuit before the potential victim can feel the shock.  The system has been in use since the mid 1970’s and has saved countless lives.  It is unknown how many lives the device saves each year but it is estimated that it is second behind the smoke detector for saving lives in residential housing.


What is not commonly known about GFCI’s is that the breakers are not designed to operate electric motors.  Because that are so sensitive they can mistake a spark in the electric motor for a personal safety ground fault and open. It only takes 5 milli amps of current to trip a GFCI.   Many people routinely operate a refrigerator or freezer in their garage which is protected by a GFCI.  The danger is that when the electric motors begin to age they can trip the GFCI and turn their selves off.  This can be costly when one comes home from vacation and finds the food in the refrigerator has spoiled.  The same thing can happen on the landscape timers.  The timer drags for some reason and turns off and then the landscaping goes without water until the problem is discovered.  Many old timers will remove the GFCI’s for this reason.  Many electric tools will trip the breaker and cause difficultly for the homeowner handyman so they remove the GFCI and abandon the safety that the system provides.


The proper way to run your electric motors is to provide a single outlet dedicated just for that one motor.  As long as there is only single outlet, don’t be confused with a dual outlet as you would normally see in a home but just a single outlet for a single plug in, it is considered safe.  If there is a dual outlet then the unused second outlet would not be GFCI protected and could be a safety hazard.


A Home Inspector can help you identify safety and operational issues in your home.  If you do happen to need a Home Inspection be sure to use a qualified inspector.  The California Real Estate Inspection Association is the premiere inspection association in the State of California.  Certified Inspector Members must pass a written exam, attend regular chapter meetings and obtain at least 30 hours of continuing education each year. Each inspection report is written to the standards of practice to insure the client of have all the required systems evaluated by the inspector.  Look for the CREIA badge for a good home inspection.  If you have any questions about your home I can be reached at 613-1430 or emailed at HomeInspect2020@aol.com.

Home Inspections are a “Buyer’s Appraisal.”

By Brad Deal




Home Inspections are the most important disclosure document prepared during the home buying process.  It is the only disclosure document addressed specifically to the buyer, and provides information that the buyer could only discover after living in their new home for quite some time, even years after the close of escrow.  The purpose of a Home Inspection is to fill in the information gaps between the appraisal and the various disclosures provided by the Realtors.


With over 25 years in the Real Estate Industry with the last 5 in the Home Inspection business I have come to realize that Home Inspections are under utilized and misunderstood by the general public.  While Home Inspections are not characterized as an appraisal and do not meet the strict guidelines required by the State, they are in fact an appraisal, just in a different form.  When an appraisal is prepared on a property it is generally accepted as the “Fair Market Value” of the property, but the appraiser makes certain assumptions that the home is within accepted conditions to sustain the value.  The Home Inspection takes the appraisal process further and identifies issues that are beyond the appraiser’s ability to discover. 


A properly trained Home Inspector will identify “Material Defects” which can affect the value of the property.  It is important to understand that the Home Inspection is a “Negative Appraisal.”  When a potentially costly defect is discovered it can only detract from the appraised value.  If the appraisal is generally accepted as the uppermost value of a property then when the Home Inspection identifies defective systems, the costs of repairing these defective issues can only detract from the appraised value.  The key is to understand that the costs for repairing the defective systems is determined by the buyer, or the specialist hired by the buyer to evaluate issues and determine the costs of repairs.  It is these costs of repairs that become the negative value determined by the Home Inspection.  It is up to the homebuyer to decide if these costs of repairs are prohibitive. 


The appraisal is prepared for the lender, based on guidelines designed to protect the lender’s investment.  Appraisals are not prepared for the buyer.  Most buyers never see the appraisal on which they make the largest purchase of their lives.  A buyer must request the appraisal in writing within a certain number of days in order to be eligible for receipt.  The lenders have a built in margin of error that account for unknown defects. This margin many times represents the equity in the home for the buyer. If the buyer discovers a defect after the close of escrow it almost never affects the lender but it can most certainly negatively affect the buyer.  I always recommend obtaining a copy of the appraisal on any home purchase.


The educated buyer will always obtain the most detailed Home Inspection available in order to make a properly informed purchase decision. 


This is the first in a series of articles regarding the various issues pertaining to Home Inspections.  Any questions or comments can be emailed to HomeInspect2020@aol.com and will be answered in following articles.


Brad Deal

20/20 Home Inspections


Homeowner’s Exemption

By Brad Deal


When I was a boy my Dad always said that most people live from paycheck to paycheck.  The average person has little opportunity to make any important investments, particularly when they are first starting. “They are too busy making a living to make any money” was one of his favorite sayings. They are severely limited in their choices.  Typically the best investment opportunity for the new family is to purchase and own their home.


The first thing a homeowner needs to understand is that after living in their home for two years there is no taxes on the gain up to about 250,000 for single owners and $500,000 for married couples.  And there is no obligation to reinvest the proceeds. I am not unaware of any other investment where there is no State or Federal income tax. The importance of this cannot be overstated!  In addition the monthly interest paid on the loan can be deducted from your income to lower your income taxes.  So in effect the government is subsidizing your house payments and lowering the interest rate on your home loan while you can pay down the principle balance. 


When you couple the government subsidy with today's rapidly rising homes prices then it is clear that while the beginning investor may be limited to their investment choices, they do have access to maybe they best investment available anywhere.  I would advise a beginning home owner to sell their home every two years in order to take advantage of the tax exemption.  By reinvesting the sales proceeds into the next home it increases the likelihood of owning your home outright in the not so far away future.  I call this the "Home Owner Plan."


One thing that can ruin this plan is buying a defective property.  While investing in your home is a good idea, it will not make up for choosing a problem property.  Always keep in mind you make your money when you buy, not when you sell.  If you buy a home with unknown defects then your "home owner plan" may be postponed.  Be sure to look at a minimum of 20 homes before you make your first offer to learn the property values.  Be sure to learn the neighborhood to know where the schools and shopping are located.


Immediately after the offer is accepted and before any effort is put into closing the transaction you should get the best home inspection available. Always use a California Real Estate Inspection Association Inspector Member to be assured of obtaining an inspection based on the State Standards; you do no want to buy someone else's problems. The inspector will evaluate each of the systems in the home to determine their condition.  This information can be used to develop an estimate of how much money it will cost to repair the defective systems or possibly replace those systems in the future. Remember, these costs are not reflected in the lender's appraisal but they do directly affect the value of the property.  I characterize a home inspection as a buyer's supplemental appraisal.  Sometimes a home inspection turns up a defect that may be too costly to repair and may terminate the transaction but usually it provides the investor with a guide to help plan which issues to repair and which issues to defer.  This helps the investor to budget their money.  In addition, the issues in the home inspection can be used to negotiate with the seller for a better price.  Home inspections are almost always free to the buyer.  After the home inspection is complete and the issues negotiated with the seller the transaction process can be completed with a high probability of a successful closing.  "You Make Your Money When You Buy, Not When You Sell!"  Following these steps will increase your probability of owning your home outright in the foreseeable future.


If you have any questions about Home Inspections I can be reached at 20/20 Home Inspections 209-613-1430 or emailed at HomeInspect2020@aol.com.  My website is www.HomeInspect2020@aol.com  And remember; always use an Inspector Member of the California Real Estate Inspection Association to be sure you are getting the best inspection possible. CREIA.org. Good Luck in all your investments.

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