Thursday 23 May 2019

Inspections.. more than meets the eye

Anyone who knows me as a real estate agent, or has worked with me, will not be surprised to hear that I think home inspections are an important part of the home-buying process. 

When it comes to [what makes a good inspector], one of the most important traits is their ability to explain things and put them in context. I've seen purchases killed by an inspector who didn't fully explain something or what it takes to correct it.  Every inspection will find flaws (that's their purpose), so it's important to also get an idea of how serious they are.

Of course, that's not to say that knowledge and thoroughness are not important.  One of the challenges with a home inspection is that we are limited to what can be observed.  But a professional inspector knows there can be 'more than meets the eye', similar to a huge iceberg with only a small part showing at the top.  Inspectors are trained to see things most of us won't.. little hints and clue that there might be something more serious hiding. 

A [good home inspector] will also come with a complete tool kit to help them explore a bit further than the naked eye allows.  A couple of tools whose value shouldn't be underestimated are the moisture meter and a thermal camera.

The moisture meter is a handy little tool that can help to identify potential leaks in foundation, plumbing or roof.  You place it against a surface and it will give a moisture reading.  What a 'normal' reading is will depend on the material (drywall, plaster, wood panel, etc), and knowing what is typical allows the inspector to interpret the reading and know whether there is a potential issue.  However, the moisture meter is limited in that you have to touch the right spot to find a problem. It's possible to use one and still miss something because you just didn't happen to get the right spot.

Enter the thermal camera.  I love this gadget.  Without getting too technical, a thermal camera reads surface temperature and presents a visual reading showing the temperature ranges on a digital screen. A good one is sensitive enough that it will show your hand print if you touch a wall for a few moments, because your hand leaves behind some heat.  Using the thermal camera, an inspector can do a quick and easy visual sweep of walls and ceilings to identify missing/flawed insulation, air leaks, and even moisture problems - all of which can result in a variation in temperature.

And I can say from personal experience that these tools come in handy.. I've recently been on an inspection that went fairly well.  But then near the end, between the thermal camera and moisture meter, the inspector identified a likely plumbing leak hidden behind the dining room ceiling.  In this case, the buyer proceeded with the purchase but they were able to do so as an informed decision... that issue can be fixed in a timely fashion rather than coming up as a surprise when a piece of the ceiling falls off.

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