Wednesday, August 29, 2012

What A Home Inspection Is Not

What A Home Inspection Is Not

Every home inspection conducted should begin with an explanation to the client describing the scope of the inspection. It's very common to run into misconceptions about expectations. 

It is also important to understand what a home inspection is not. Generally speaking, the home inspection is general in nature. That's why it's referred to as a General Home Inspection as opposed to a Technical Home Inspection. 

It's not technically exhaustive, nor is it intrusive or invasive, in that components are not disassembled or wall coverings removed to diagnose problems. The inspection is visual in nature with all systems or components operated using operator/homeowner controls only. The inspector may be likened to the general practitioner in medicine—he performs general exams but refers you to a specialist when repairs are indicated.

The general home inspection is not an inspection of code compliance or violation.  It is an inspection of commonly accepted building standards and safety compliance.  Code inspections are performed by officials of the local city/county governmental inspection office. The local jurisdiction building inspection departments, in fact, only enforce and conduct code inspections on new construction or renovation/addition projects that must meet current codes. Housing that is older or being renovated only need to conform to the codes that were in effect when the residence was constructed.  There is no requirement to update or upgrade existing housing to meet the current codes until a point in time when major renovation is undertaken. Many code violations, however, can be related to safety considerations, which the processional inspector will point out.

A home inspector is not expected (and is not permitted in most, if not all jurisdictions) to offer opinions relating to areas of expertise that are reserved by law to licensed professionals in specific trades.  For example, a home inspector is not expected to perform methods of design, load calculations or offer opinions relating to the suitability, strength or effectiveness of alternate materials and systems; this is an area of expertise reserved by law for a professional engineer, and the licensing of professional engineers is strictly controlled by state boards of professional engineers.  

As another example, a home inspector is not expected to disclose the presence of wood destroying organisms such as termites, fungus, carpenter bees, wood boring beetles, etc.  This is an area of expertise reserved by law for a licensed pest control operator, and the licensing of pest control operators is strictly controlled by state Structural Pest Control Boards.  Anyone not duly licensed as a professional in a designated field of expertise cannot legally render opinions related to that field of expertise.  A home inspector may alert an individual of conditions (structural and otherwise) that appear peculiar and recommend a further evaluation by a professional in the designated field of expertise.  A home inspector may likewise alert an individual to the possible presence of wood destroying organisms with the recommendation of a further evaluation by a licensed pest control operator.

Home inspections are not appraisals.  A professional home inspector will always refer a potential buyer back to the professional handling the real estate transaction when asked about the perceived value of a home.

General home inspections do not offer warranties or guarantees.  A professional home inspector performs a 'point in time' inspection.  The inspector will confirm the system or component is performing satisfactorily during the inspection.  He/she may even determine the current age of the major appliances and their expected manufacturer's life span to help you budget for replacements.  However, the general home inspection is not able to accurately determine how much longer an appliance will live, nor should he/she be required to.

And, lastly, home inspectors do not validate the repairs called out during the general home inspection.  Home inspection contracts will specify that all defects be attended to by licensed or certified trade technicians.  Their receipt or invoice presented when the repair is completed is the validation necessary to properly convey the repair was does correctly and in compliance with locally acceptable building practices.  For this reason, it is not necessary to ask your home inspector to return to the property at a later date.

Understanding what is and what is not provided with a general home inspection is a very important part of the process of choosing the right home inspector.

Article courtesy of U.S. Inspect.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

April 2012 Northern Virginia Real Estate Market Statistics

Northern Virginia Association of Realtors and RBI have released sales numbers for April 2012.  In summary (for that time period), there were fewer active listings (homes on the market) than in April 2011.  At the same time the number of sold homes and homes under contract rose.  As a result, home prices are increasing and sellers are seeing less time on market.  Buyers need to act quickly to make offers on homes that they like.  Visit RBI to see complete statistics...
Real Estate Market Statistics for Northern Virginia Association of REALTORS® (NVAR) | RBI

Monday, March 19, 2012

What to Ask When Shopping for Homeowners Insurance

What to Ask When Shopping for Homeowners Insurance

Being an informed consumer means not only reading your homeowners insurance policy closely, but also asking experts what constitutes the right type, and amount, of coverage you need for your home, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).

A qualified insurance agent or insurance company representative can guide you in your choices. Here are six basic questions the I.I.I. advises everyone to ask before buying or renewing a homeowners insurance policy:

How much would it cost to rebuild my home in its current location in the event of a total loss? Your homeowners insurance policy should cover the cost of building a new home from scratch. Your insurance agent or insurance company representative will have knowledge of your neighborhood, and familiarity with the construction materials used when your home was originally built and can accurately calculate this cost. In general, homeowners policies cover partial or total damages caused by fire, hurricane, hail, lightning or any other disaster listed in your policy. Flood and earthquake-related losses must be insured separately because both perils are excluded in standard homeowners insurance policies.

How much is the personal property in my home worth in the event of a total loss? Your homeowners insurance policy should cover the cost of replacing all personal property (furniture, appliances, clothing) should it be stolen or destroyed by fire, hurricane or another insured disaster. Most companies provide personal property coverage equal to about 50 to 70 percent of the amount of insurance you have on the structure of your dwelling. So if you have $100,000 worth of dwelling protection, most insurers would recommend $50,000 to $70,000 worth of personal property coverage. The best way to determine if this recommendation is appropriate for your specific situation is to conduct a home inventory. Consider using the I.I.I.’s Know Your Stuff® - Home Inventory app in the iTunes App Store.

How much liability protection do I need? Liability covers you against lawsuits for bodily injury or property damage that you, or your family members, cause to other people. It also pays for damage caused by your pets. The liability portion of your policy pays for both the cost of defending you in court and any court awards—up to the limit of your policy. You are also covered not just in your home, but anywhere in the world. Liability limits generally start at about $100,000. Most insurance agents and company representatives recommend that you purchase at least $300,000 worth of liability protection. If you have significant assets and need more liability protection than is offered under the standard homeowners policy limits, ask your agent about umbrella liability.

What level of additional living expense coverage do I need? The Additional Living Expenses (ALE) provision is found in standard homeowners insurance policies. It pays for the costs of living away from home if you cannot reside there due to damage from an insured disaster. ALE covers hotel bills, meals and other expenses over and above your customary living expenses. ALE coverage differs from company to company. Many policies provide coverage equal to about 20 percent of your dwelling protection. For example, if the structure of your home is insured for $100,000, you would have $20,000 of ALE coverage. Some companies impose a time limitation, such as 12 to 24 months.
Should I buy a separate flood and/or earthquake insurance policy? There were numerous flooding events and earthquakes in the U.S. in 2011, but relatively few Americans had coverage for either type of natural disaster because these perils are excluded from standard homeowners insurance policies. Check with your insurance agent or insurance company representative to see whether you might need specialized coverage beyond your standard homeowners insurance policy.

Do I qualify for any discounts? If you have smoke detectors, burglar alarms and/or dead-bolt locks in your home, you can often get a premium rate discount. Sophisticated sprinkler systems and alarms that ring at monitoring stations often reduce your homeowners insurance premium, too. Ask your agent or company representative about discounts available to you. If you are at least 55 years old and retired, for instance, you may qualify for a discount of up to 10 percent at some companies. If you have completely modernized your plumbing or electrical system recently, a few companies may provide a price break.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Fairfax County Recycling Events

Free Recycling Events in March
Fairfax County will host three free recycling events for county residents to recycle old and unwanted materials in March:

Household Hazardous Waste Clean-up Event
Saturday, March 24, 2012; 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
South County Center, 8350 Richmond Highway, Alexandria

This event is for disposing of hazardous materials generated within Fairfax County households. They will not accept business or commercial waste, lead acid batteries, automobile batteries or propane tanks. Electronics will not be collected at this event, please bring your electronic devices to specified "Electric Sunday" recycling events. For a complete list of household items qualifying as hazardous waste, please visit

Electric Sunday
Sunday, March 25, 2012; 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
I-95 Landfill Complex, 9850 Furnace Road, Lorton

Residents may recycle old televisions, computers and peripheral electronics such as speakers, printers, scanners, etc. Also, residents can recycle unbroken fluorescent tubes and light bulbs.

Secure Document Shredding Event
Saturday, March 31, 2012; 8 a.m. to noon
South County Center, 8350 Richmond, Alexandria

Residents may shred up to 5 boxes of personal documents per household at no charge. Please remove all paper from binders and remove binder clips, plastic page covers and binding. Information stored on film or computer disks will not be accepted – paper documents only. All documents will be securely shredded on-site by a private contractor and the shredded material will be taken to a local recycling facility for processing. This event is not for medical service providers – it does not fulfill Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, requirements for document destruction.
Complete details for these events and other recycling opportunities planned for 2012 can be found on the Fairfax County Solid Waste Management Program's web site at, or by calling the Recycling InfoLine at 703-324-5052, TTY 711.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

How To Spot A Mortgage Scam

How to Spot a Mortgage Scam

While the landmark $25 billion National Mortgage Settlement was just announced last month, scammers have wasted no time capitalizing on the vulnerability of desperate homeowners.

The settlement with the nation’s five largest mortgage servicers was signed by federal and state officials Feb. 9, and will provide assistance for homeowners in order to compensate for the faulty foreclosure practices offered by mortgage servicers following the housing market crash. According to the nonprofit credit-counseling agency Money Management International (MMI), although real compensation is still months away, there have already been numerous reports of scam operations popping up across the country.

“While the government has been cracking down on foreclosure scams, it is important for you to remain diligent in keeping your personal information safe,” advises Jo Kerstetter, vice president of education and community relations for MMI.

Kerstetter offers the following tips to help avoid a scam:

Don’t panic. Mortgage scams are effective because the scammer is able to exploit the fear of a person who is in a desperate, vulnerable state. Don’t let fear cause you to make irrational decisions.
Never act under pressure. Don’t sign a contract or disclose information before doing your research. You can always request to receive any information in writing.
Trust your gut. If someone is offering you something that sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Stay informed. Make sure you obtain detailed information about your foreclosure deadlines. If you want to know if you qualify under the Settlement, contact your bank or loan servicer directly.
Don’t release any personal financial information. If you are contacted by someone who claims to be from your financial institution and wants you to “confirm” or help them identify your personal account information, it is likely a scam. Rather than releasing information, ask for their contact information and tell them you’re going to call them back.
There is no fee involved in the National Mortgage Settlement. If you are contacted in any way from someone asking for money in return for a speedy settlement payment, they are scamming you.
For more information about mortgage assistance relief scams, visit If you have questions or concerns about your mortgage loan, consider meeting with a HUD-certified housing counselor to discuss your options.

Friday, January 20, 2012

7 Smart Strategies for Kitchen Remodeling

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Kitchen remodels are a great way to add new life into your home!! The kitchen is the hub of your home and probably sees more activity than any other spot in your house... here are some great tips to keep in mind when planning a remodel.

7 Smart Strategies for Kitchen Remodeling
Article From
By: John Riha
Published: March 25, 2011

Kitchen remodeling can turn a ho-hum room into your home's pride and joy. Here are strategies to help your project run smoothly.

Home owners spend more money on kitchen remodeling than on any other home improvement project, according to the Home Improvement Research Institute ( And with good reason. Kitchens are the hub of home life, and a source of pride.

A significant portion of kitchen remodeling costs may be recovered by the value the project brings to your home. Kitchen remodels in the $50,000 to $60,000 range recoup about 66% of the initial project cost at the home's resale, according to recent data from Remodeling Magazine's Cost vs. Value Report (
A minor kitchen remodel of about $20,000 does even better, returning more than 72% of your investment.

To make sure you maximize your return, follow these seven smart kitchen remodeling strategies that will help you come up with great kitchen design ideas (
1. Establish priorities for a kitchen remodel

The National Kitchen and Bath Association ( (NKBA) recommends spending at least six months planning your kitchen remodeling project. That way, you won't be tempted to change your mind during construction, create change orders, and inflate construction costs. Here are planning points to cover:
•Cooking traffic patterns: A walkway through the kitchen should be at least 36 inches wide. Work aisles should be a minimum of 42 inches wide and at least 48 inches wide for households with multiple cooks.

•Child safety: Avoid sharp, square corners on countertops, and make sure microwave ovens are installed at the proper height-3 inches below the shoulder of the primary user but not more than 54 inches from the floor.

•Outside access: If you want easy access to entertaining areas, such as a deck or patio, factor a new exterior door into your plans.

A professional designer can simplify your kitchen remodel. Pros help make style decisions, foresee potential problems, and schedule contractors. Expect fees around $50 to $150 per hour, or 5% to 15% of the total cost of the project.

2. Keep the same footprint
No matter the size and scope of your kitchen remodel, you can protect your budget by maintaining the same footprint: Keep the walls, locate new plumbing fixtures ( near existing plumbing pipes, and forget bump-outs.

Not only will you save on demolition and reconstruction costs, you'll cut the amount of dust and debris your project generates.

3. Get real about appliances
It's easy to get carried away during your kitchen remodeling project. A six-burner commercial-grade range and luxury-brand refrigerator ( may make eye-catching centerpieces, but they may not fit your cooking needs or lifestyle.

High-priced appliances are worth the investment if you're an exceptional cook. Otherwise, save thousands with trusted brands that receive high marks at consumer review websites, like ( and (, and resources such as Consumer Reports (

4. Light your way
Good kitchen lighting helps you work safely and efficiently.
•Install task lighting, such as recessed or track lights, over sinks and food prep areas; assign at least two fixtures per task to eliminate shadows. Under-cabinet lights ( illuminate cleanup and are great for reading cookbooks. Pendant lights over counters bring the light source close to work surfaces.

•Ambient lighting includes flush-mounted ceiling fixtures, wall sconces, and track lights. Pair dimmer switches with ambient lighting to control intensity and mood.

5. Be quality conscious
Functionality and durability should be top priorities during kitchen remodeling. Resist low-quality bargains, and choose products that combine low maintenance with long warranty periods. Solid-surface countertops, for instance, may cost a little more, but with the proper care, they'll look great for a long time.
If you're planning on moving soon, products with substantial warranties are a selling advantage.
"Individual upgrades don't necessarily give you a 100% return," says Frank Gregoire, a real estate appraiser in St. Petersburg, Fla. "But they can give you an edge when it comes time to market your home."

6. Add storage, not space
Here's how you can add storage ( without bumping out walls:
•Install cabinets that reach the ceiling: They may cost more--and you might need a stepladder--but you'll gain valuable storage space for Christmas platters and other once-a-year items. In addition, you won't have to dust cabinet tops.

•Hang it up: Mount small shelving units on unused wall areas and inside cabinet doors; hang stock pots and large skillets on a ceiling-mounted rack; and add hooks to the backs of closet doors for aprons, brooms, and mops.

7. Communicate early and often
Establishing a good rapport ( with your project manager or construction team is essential for staying on budget. To keep the sweetness in your project:
•Drop by the project during work hours: Your presence broadcasts your commitment to quality.

•Establish a communication routine: Hang a message board on site where you and the project manager can leave daily communiqués. Give your email address and cell phone number to subs and team leaders.

•Set house rules: Be clear about smoking, boom box noise levels, available bathrooms, and appropriate parking.