Thursday, December 8, 2011

If you are selling your home consider this.

If your house is on the market, or you are thinking of putting it on the market to sell, be warned. As a home inspector, we see items and conditions everyday in homes that cause potential buyers to walk away from the house, for the fear of what that malfunction may bring.  With proper maintenance of a home, many items can be corrected. Here is a list of some of the more common items that scare buyers.
  • Mold
  • Asbestos
  • Underground Oil Tanks
  • Lead Paint
  • Unsafe Stairs
  • Radon
  • Problems in the Attic
  • Overhanging tree branches
These of course are not the only problems that arise in a home, but typically what buyers are fearful of according to Nick Gromicko, founder of the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors.
By addressing these type of items prior to listing your home, you will most likely have a greater chance of selling your home fast.  You may even want to consider a Pre Sale Home Inspection.  You can read the complete article here about these unexpected home issues.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

First Time Home Buyer Tips

For a first time home buyer, our current real estate market may look very frightening, but its really quite the opposite. Mortgage rates continue be be at historic lows, and there is an abundance of homes available, both by homeowners and banks.  Both offer tremendous deals with proper due diligence and hours of walking through homes to find the one that is right for you. Here are some tips from investopedia to help make your first time home buying experience a pain free one.

  • What type of home best suites you. Maybe you want a condo/co-op where you won't have much responsibility for maintaining the home. Or maybe you want a fixer up house that you can get a good deal on but will require hours of sweat equity. Or, maybe you want a no hassle home that is in move in condition.
  • Before you start looking at homes, know your finances.  How much home can you afford, how much of a mortgage can you qualify for.  Don't waste time falling in love with a home that is simply out of your financial reach.
  • Do you want to go about the home search buy yourself, or use the experience of a real estate agent.  A good real estate agent to help steer you in the right direction for many issues.
  • You found your home now what. Make sure you have a good real estate lawyer and a good home inspection company.  Both can help save thousands of dollars and help avoid a real estate nightmare.
  • Be prepared and know what the appropriate closing costs are. There is nothing wore than sitting at the closing table and being blind sided for fees that you had no idea you would have to pay. A good attorney and mortgage lender will help with that
  • Be prepared to put money into your new home.  There is no doubt that something will go wrong in the home, or you will want to upgrade items in the home.  This is where a good home inspection report will help you.
  • Enjoy your home and don't worry about the housing market.  If you plan to stay in your home for a number of years. the housing market will stabilize, but don't expect to make a killing on your home like in the past.
The process of buying a home can be overwhelming and time consuming, but with the right help, and with maximum knowledge, now is probably a great time to buy. To gain in depth knowledge about buying your first home, read through this article by Investopedia.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Holiday Safety Check

As the holiday season starts, some safety conditions need to be thought about.  This is the season when the extension cords come out of the closet or boxes to help make the season bright. With this in mind, here are some safety tips for properly using those extension cords.

  • Check that extension cords are correctly rated for the amount of electricity they are to carry.
  • Check all electric cords for visible damage. Cracked or frayed cords can be a fire and shock hazard
  • Make sure all electric cords are not nailed or stapled in place.
  • To avoid excessive wear and damage, do not run cords under rugs or have furniture resting on them.
  • Outlets and wall switches that are unusually warm to the touch may indicate an unsafe wiring connection and should be checked out by a licensed electrician.
With some common sense and safety measures, you can enjoy a safe holiday season.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Essential tips for preparing your home for fall.

As the cool weather of fall rolls in, homeowners should have a laundry list of items to attend to in securing their homes for winter months. To help keep your home running smoothly throughout the winter, here are some winter maintenance tips composed from Realty Times. areas to address are cleaning the gutter, cutting back tree branches close to the house, storing the outdoor furniture, checking for leaks around the windows, and having the heating unit serviced for the winter season. Addressing these areas, as well as more maintenance tips, you can help assure that your home will make it through the winter season.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Aluminum wiring in the home

Aluminum branch circuit wiring

As coincidence would have it, this past week we inspected two houses that both had some Aluminum wiring used for branch circuit wiring. The danger with aluminum wiring is this.  Homes built, or rooms added between 1965-1973 may contain aluminum wiring due to a shortage of cooper during this time period. According to U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), aluminum wire is more than 50 times more likely to have one or more connections reach electrical "Fire Hazard Conditions" than a home wired with copper. Aluminum is softer than copper and reacts (expands and contracts) to fluctuations in temperatures. Because aluminum is more reactive than copper, there is a higher probability the electrical connections made in your home will become loose. When connections are loose, they create an electrical safety and fire hazard. Aluminum wiring is allowed in some residential application, however, the concern is with the branch circuit wiring going from the electrical panel to each room of the house. 
If you think your home may have aluminum wiring  you may be asking yourself if it is safe. If you are unsure if you have aluminum wiring or want to have it checked for safety purposes, I recommend calling a licensed electrician to examine your homes wiring.  Just because you do have aluminum wiring in your home, doesn't mean that it isn't functional. As long as the connections are secure and checked periodically, your home should be fine. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

First time homebuyers mistakes

The current real estate market may give two distinct views.  Its either a great time to be buying real estate, because there are tremendous deals and bargins to be found out there in the marketplace.  On the other hand, some may feel that because of the economic uncertainty, its a terrible time to jump into buying a home, especially if it may be your first home.  If you are a first time buyer and have the ability to put down the down payment and qualify for a mortgage, this is surely a once every few decade chance to buy real estate. However, many first time buyers often make some mistakes during there first purchase.
Here are the top 10 tips from MSN Money that first time homebuyers make:

1. Not knowing what you can afford - Don't borrow more than you can afford
2. Skipping mortgage qualifications - Get pre qualified for a mortgage.
3. What about those additional expenses - Property taxes, Utilities.
4. Don't be to picky- To much of a wish list can be limiting.
5. Open your eyes and have vision - It may not look pretty now... vision goes a long way.
6. Don't be fooled by what you initally see - Control your emotions
7. Compromise - Be flexible for what you want
8. Don't pass on the home inspection - we can't agree more on this.
9. Have your own agent.
10. Not thinking about the future - What you want now may not be good for you later.

Dig deeper into these top mistakes by reading the MSN Money here.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Inspections are for Sellers

We have been preaching for a while now that home inspections are not just for the buyer of a home, but for the seller as well.  A Pre-Sale Inspection can be a valuable tool to help the seller realistically evaluate the home that most probably means a great deal to them.  In fact, a popular TV home show host agrees as well.  Mike Holmes, the popular DIYer, say that a Pre-Sale home inspections can:
- Set the right price for the home
- Help the seller know where their house stands
- Help to market the home properly
- Help to show good faith
You can read more about what he has to say here.

We at How's My House Home Inspections have been actively performing Pre-Sale Home Inspection on Long Island, also known as Move In Certified, and the sellers couldn't be happier with taking some of the anxiety out of the selling process. Additionally, many Realtors won't take a listing unless their client agrees to a Pre-Sale Inspection. To see more information and the benefits of a Pre-Sale Inspection, take a look at this presentation.
To find out more, or schedule about a Pre-Sale Inspection, contact us at 516-732-7595.

Friday, September 23, 2011

A Home Inspection Checklist

Are you looking for a inspection checklist to get an idea of what is covered during a home inspection, or maybe you want this when you look at house to get an idea of what you should be looking at? We have found a simple, comprehensive list courtesy of Here is the list. Of course, this should not remove the use of a licensed home inspector. A home inspector will evaluate the true condition of the home. Contact How's My House Home Inspections today for your home inspection .

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Benefits of a sellers inspection - Video

We have spoke about the benefits of a seller having there own home inspection performed prior to listing the home.  We have seen firsthand how sellers can save thousands of dollars in contract negotiations by knowing the true condition of their home. Here is a simple video that will help explain the benefits if a seller getting that inspection.  And when your ready, contact us here, because we do these to.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Hurricane Irene has caused some flood's help

Hurricane Irene came and went this weekend, leaving behind debris, damage, and tons of waters in some folks homes.  A question many ask themselves, is where to begin.  For some, it will be a painstaking task, but it must be done.  Here is a guide to help with the cleanup of a flooded home. I hope this helps.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Preparing your home for the Home Inspection

 Several times a week, I enter a stranger’s house to perform what’s become an expected part of most real estate deals --- a home inspection.  Yet I find, too often, that while a seller may have gone to great lengths to make a house ready for a real estate agent to show, it’s not always ready to inspect.  From my observations, as well as conversations with agents, buyers and sellers, there are a few minor repairs and maintenance chores that sellers can do to reduce the number of defects that will show up on the inspection report.

Here’s a checklist that can help your house inspect as well as it shows:
Expect the inspection to take 2-3 hours for an average size home (1000-2500 sq. ft.) Don’t rush it.

__Clear out all storage items from the oven
__The dishwasher will be run, do not run it just before the inspection.  You can put soap in it if you like.
__ Place all breakables, antiques and other valuables out of the way.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

You found your sure to ask the seller questions.

It may have taken months or longer to find the perfect house for your needs, you had your home inspection, and now your ready to close.  Many home buyers (especially first time buyers) will have many questions about their new home and community.  A great way to get answers to these questions is directly from the seller.  Most of the time, sellers are extremely willing and want to help.  Some of the most important questions should be about the home.  Whats this for, what does that do, and so on. has published a nice list of basic questions many new buyers ask. They are:
1. Whats the story of the house.  Everybody likes a little history of there home.
2.Where to go and who to know.  If your new to the community this can be a lifesaver.
3.What surprised them when they moved in.
4.Where it is and how does it work.
5.Is there anything you'd like to leave.
6.What did I forget to ask you.

Homeowners have trove of information, let them help out. You can read the complete article here.

Monday, May 16, 2011

May is Deck Safety Month, have you checked your deck lately?

May has officially(or maybe unofficially) become deck safety month.  With the winter thaw, and the spring bloom of flowers, many homeowners with decks begin to clean off the winter residue in preparation of outdoor living for the spring/summer.  However, a unsafe deck can lead to accidents and perhaps fatalities.

The North American Deck and Railing Association is dedicated to increasing public awareness of the necessity for regular inspection and maintenance of existing decks and proper installation of new decks, and we would like to help pass along this safety message.  To an untrained eye, simply looking at a deck, it may appear that everything looks fine.  However, over time, components of the deck such as the deckboards, railings, banisters, or stairs may decay, split, rot, or simply become loose.  Look for missing or loose connections as well.  These are all warning signs.  Furthermore, many older decks may not be in compliance with newer building codes.  All these are potential safety concerns.

To begin with, take a look at this deck safety checklist.  How does your deck stack up? Does it seem that your deck may have potential issues? How about annual maintenance? Has your deck been kept up? If it seems that maybe you have more than a few issues going on, maybe a professional deck inspection may be needed.

Deck failures can be avoided. It's a matter of making the consumer aware of the necessity of choosing a professional deck contractor, regular maintenance and inspection, and knowing the limits of the deck structure.

If you haven't check your deck lately, join deck safety month, and do it this May.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Avoiding Shortsale and Foreclosure pitfalls

According to, roughly forty percent of homes on the market today are either shortsales or foreclosures.  While this may be a buying opportunity to the savvy and patient buyer, purchasing these type of distressed properties usually come with one headache or another.  If these are the type of properties you are looking at, the best defense to becoming stressed, is to educate yourself of the common pitfalls that come along with these transaction.

So what are the common issues.  To begin with, buying a shortsale of foreclosure can take a long time to close.  The banks usually require more paperwork and approvals than a typical home sale.  Then there is the belief that banks will take almost any low ball offer.  Usually not true.  Banks still have a responsibility to getting the best price they can for the shareholders.  Most are not giving away their property.  It's important to sit with your broker and present and reasonable offer that move the sale along.

Another major complaint, the last minute cancellations or postponments of the deal.  You may think that everything is done, but at the last minute the bank needs more information.  Staying flexible is key to not being stressed.  And that leads to what Trulia calls the "Banks Black box."  Trying to get answers on an offer, or what documents are needed can take not only tremendous effort, but can also take days or weeks to get your answer. And finally, the Banks double standard.  They can generally take as long as they want with their process, however, when they are ready, they are ready to get the deal done and you the buyer, need to be ready to sign the documents and hand over your funds.

These are the top five complaints of dealing with Shortsales and Foreclosures, and you can read more about these, and how to handle the stress here.

And, as for every home you buy, whether it is a distressed property or not, a home inspection is always recommended to avoid getting more than you bargained for.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

For Sale By Owners take note

In todays tough economic times, many sellers are taking a stab at selling their home themselves, maybe to save some money on the commission that they will have to give up.  But many of those FSBO homes sit longer than homes marketed by a real estate agent. If you are a FSBO, there are some things that you can do to help.

To start with, A FSBO may want to invest in a Pre Sale home inspection.  This can help determine the true condition of the home and identify any problems that exist which may turn away buyers.  This Pre Sale Inspection will give you the opportunity to repair those issues before buyers start coming around.

Some other common tips are:
Price Accurately and be aware of your competition
Market aggressively with the various fore sale by owner sites out there
Make a good first impression of your house
Declutter the living space and fix up the interior
Create a backyard oasis that a potential buyer can envision themselves being in.

You can read a complete list of 101 tips for selling your home here.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Don't buy a distressed property without this....

With all of the distressed real estate available out in the marketplace(REO's, Short sales, etc) one might find it very tempting to jump in and try to snap up some bargain properties. Whether you are a seasoned real estate investor, or a newcomer to the field, caution must be taken when evaluating the property. Unless your intention is to completely tear down what you are buying, a complete home inspection is a requirement.

Many of these REO's and Short sales are advertised "As-Is". With this in mind you may say to yourself that there is no negotiating with the bank, so why bother with a home inspection. The answer is very simple. First off, a home inspection is not really meant to be a tool for negotiations on the property. It is indeed less of a negotiating tool with a foreclosure property. A home inspection will give the buyer a complete picture and understanding of the true condition of the property. For example, with today's conditions, many foreclosures sit empty for many, many months, sometimes even years. With the lack of maintenance on that home, numerous issues may certainly arise. Some common trouble spots found are:

Moisture intrusion and mold 
Termite damage in main beam
Non functioning mechanical system
Cracked or burst water pipes
Missing piping due to vandalism (cooper mainly)
Electrical issues
Structural damage

A recent foreclosure we inspected revealed a main bean that had been severely compromised due to termite damage and definitely needed to be replaced.

The bottom line is that just because a home is being sold "As Is", and the bank won't negotiate on its already low low price, doesn't mean that it is a bargain. Many of the foreclosed homes we walk into, have so much damage and repairs needed, that the buyers ultimately realize that its a project that will be to big, and much more costly than they could have even imagined. Buyer no forgo a home may cost you much more that the inspection fee.

How's My House Home Inspections serves your full inspection needs for distressed properties. We work with out of state investors and serve as eyes and ears for those transaction.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Get the facts on foreclosures from the horses mouth

Not a horse literally, but from the mortgage giant Freddie Mac.  They may be blamed for a portion of the mortgage and real estate mess that this country is experiencing, but it seems they are stepping forward and putting together a series of You Tube videos to talk about the facts surrounding homeowners that have gone through a foreclosure or are in the process.  The series titled "Foreclosure fact from fiction" reveals some of the misconceptions surrounding foreclosure, such as, not being able to own a home again.  There may be some pearls here to help your clients.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Rehabbing a home- the 203(k) loan

The Section 203(k) Program is HUD's primary program for the rehabilitation and repair of single- family properties. As such, it is an important tool for community and neighborhood revitalization and for expanding homeownership opportunities. Since these are the primary goals of HUD, it believes that Section 203(k) is an important program and intends to continue to strongly support the program and the lenders that participate in it. Most mortgage financing plans provide only permanent financing. When a home buyer wants to purchase a house in need of repair or modernization, he or she usually has to obtain financing first to purchase the dwelling, additional financing to do the rehabilitation construction, and a permanent mortgage when the work is completed to pay off the interim loans.  The Section 203(k) Program was designed to address this situation. The borrower can get just one mortgage loan, at a long-term fixed (or adjustable) rate, to finance both the acquisition and the rehabilitation of the property. To provide funds for the rehabilitation, the mortgage amount is based on the projected value of the property with the work completed, taking into account the cost of the work. To minimize the risk to the mortgage lender, the mortgage loan (the maximum allowable amount) is eligible for endorsement by HUD as soon as the mortgage proceeds are disbursed and a rehabilitation escrow account is established. At this point, the lender has a fully-insured mortgage loan.

To be eligible, the property must be a one- to four-family dwelling that has been completed for at least one year. The number of units on the site must be acceptable according to the provisions of local zoning requirements. All newly constructed units must be attached to the existing dwelling.
This program can be used to accomplish rehabilitation and/or improvement of an existing one- to four-unit dwelling in one of three ways: 
  1. to purchase a dwelling and the land on which the dwelling is located and rehabilitate it;
  2. to purchase a dwelling on another site, move it onto a new foundation on the mortgaged property, and rehabilitate it; or 
  3. to refinance existing indebtedness and rehabilitate such a dwelling.
Mortgage proceeds must be used in part for rehabilitation and/or improvements to a property. There is a minimum $5,000 requirement for the eligible improvements on the existing structure(s) on the property. Minor or cosmetic repairs by themselves cannot be included in the first $5,000, but may be added after the $5,000 threshold is reached. 

In order to determine the maximum mortgage amount, the 203(k) valuation analysis consists of two separate determinations of value; a as-is value, and a value after rehabilitation.

Home buyers who purchase a property with cash can refinance the property using 203(k) within six months of purchase, the same as if the buyer purchased the property with a 203(k)-insured loan to begin with.

For complete details of the 203(k) loan program, visit the HUD site.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Ice Dam Danger

With temperatures warming up just a bit more during the days, those snow covered roofs are beginning to thaw, the snow is melting and making its way down to the gutters.  A big concern with this, is that as the water collects it has the potential to refreeze during the colder nights and cause an ice dam.

An ice dam is a ridge of ice that forms at the edge of a roof and prevents melting snow(water) from draining off the roof.  The water that backs up behind the dam can leak into a home and cause damage to walls, ceilings, insulation, and other areas.  The main culprit of ice dams occurring is when the temperature in your attic is above freezing. When the temperature in your attic is above freezing it causes snow on the roof to melt and run down the sloping roof.  When the snow melt runs down the roof and hits the colder eaves, it refreezes. If this process continues over a few days, the ice dams up, water ponds, and can back up under the roof covering and leak into the attic or exterior walls of the house.  So the real culprit here is heat escaping from the living quarters and entering the cold attic. Some steps that should be taken to ensure you don't encounter ice dams is to check and improve attic ventilation, and improve attic insulation to prevent heat from escaping.  Even if water doesn't seep into the attic, ice dams are still dangerous, as moisture can enter the attic and mold could develop.  If your house has persistent ice dams, it may be time to call a qualified professional to asses the problem.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Are your pipes protected

As the harsh days of January continue, we are finding record low temperatures across the country.  Most areas have not been spared, even the deep south.  This time of year, with freezing temperatures persisting for days on end,  homeowners need to be very aware of the potential threat of...yes, the dreaded pipe burst due to it being frozen.  According to State Farm Insurance, roughly a quarter million homes across the country are effected by pipes freezing and bursting each year.  A costly issue for the homeowner.  As the water freezes in the pipe, it creates pressure in the pipe and can cause a slight burst.  Most people assume that the pipe just bursts open.  In fact, most often, the culprit is a slight tear. An eight inch crack in a water pipe can spill 250 gallons of water a day.  A small hole, but a lot of water. Much reason for concern.
So what should a homeowner do?  To start, the pipes that are most likely to freeze are those that are located on the outside wall of the house. Although exterior walls should have proper insulation, the cold air still may find its way into the space and travel up the pipe, causing a freeze.  Pipes that run through the attic, garage, basement, and crawlspaces are also areas to identify.  These pipes should be insulated if they pose a threat.  Foam tubes can be purchased and wrapped around the pipes.  Pipe insulators will help keep the pipes warm, making it less likely that they will freeze.  Heat tape can also be used to wrap pipes.  Next, seal leaks that could allow cold air to reach pipes. To further reduce the risk of pipes freezing, disconnect garden hoses and, if practical, use an indoor valve to shut off and drain water from pipes leading to outside faucets. This reduces the chance of freezing in the short span of pipe just inside the house.  If you have pipes that are located on an outside wall, such as a kitchen or bathroom sink, experts suggest opening the cabinet doors to expose the trap and pipes to the warmer interior air.  During  extremely cold periods, or if you are located in an area that remains below freezing for extended periods of time, it is also suggested that you leave the faucet open slightly, so that water is dripping out, both hot and cold.
What if your pipes freeze? Don't take a chance.  If you turn the faucet on and nothing comes out, the pipes may have frozen. Leave the faucets on and call a plumber.  Never use a torch to try and thaw the freeze. 
The thought of frozen pipes is a homeowners nightmare, however, with some simple maintenance and precautions, this can be avoided.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Beware of attic insulation that may be harmful

Keeping your home warm in the winter and cool in the summer requires attic insulation.  That is a general fact. But did you know that some attic insulation can be harmful to your health, especially if you have an older home, particularly in the northern parts of the country.  Some attics may be filled with Zonolite Attic Insulation.  I was asked by Kristen Davis who is working with Mesothelioma Symptoms to share their link on our company website as a general resource. It is also beneficial to help get the word out about this potentially harmful insulation, which contained asbestos, which can be deadly.

So what is Zonolite? Zonolite is a brand of vermiculite insulation which was sold by W.R. Grace as attic insulation for millions of homes from 1963 through 1984, and is known to contain asbestos.  Zonolites vermiculite was taken from a mine in Libby Montana,which was found to contain high levels of asbestos, and closed in 1990. The dangers of asbestos is highly publicized, and a real health hazard.

Homeowners can easily identify vermiculite attic insulation. Vermiculite is a loose pebble like substance that is lightweight.  The color is most likely gray, as the color has changed over the years from the original golden or light brown.

What should you do if you have this type of insulation? Generally, the best advise is to leave it alone and not disturb it.  If the asbestos fibers are not released into the surrounding air, there is a minimal risk to exposure and the potential hazards such as lung cancer and mesothelioma. However, if your someone that regularly is in the attic, moving around boxes and stored items, you should be cautious, and not disturb the insulation.  Common dust masks will not prevent you from breathing asbestos fibers.  If you choose to replace the Zonolite insulation, professional help is required, and can be expensive.

There is a lot of news about Zonolite out there.  If you want more, you can see some here.  You can also visit the Mesothelioma site for additional information and resources.

And of course, if you are buying or selling an older home, make sure to have a qualified home inspector check the attic and determine the type of insulation in there.