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(Below) The style of this house is Split Level
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The style of this house is Ranch
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The style of this house is English Tudor
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The style of this house is Colonial
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The style of this house is Contemporary
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The style of this house is BIG!!
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(Below) I encountered this on one of the foreclosure appraisals and inspections I did for a bank. The prior owner had spent his money on building an indoor basketball court, indoor swimming pool, sauna and Jacuzzi room, along with some other luxurious and expensive additions to the house and site. The problem was, that after he spent all this money he couldn't pay his mortgage payments and the bank had to foreclose on the property! I guess you could say that it wasn't "money well spent" (or should I say it was "money spent down the well").
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Can you see what I outlined in this photo? The picture is dark because it was overcast on the day of the appraisal so you might not be able to see the image clearly. It's a metal statue of a very large eagle standing on a globe with it's wings spread out wide (side view). The frontal view photo of this statue is below. This is one of the eagle statues from Grand Central Station in New York City. I don't know how the homeowner of the property got a hold of this statue, but I'm sure you won't find many of these during your inspections! This thing was about 20 feet high.

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No, it's not a junkyard or auto salvage site. It's actually the yard of a home I had to appraise and inspect for a client. I doubt you'll ever encounter a situation like this one. However, if you do just remember to tell the client to get estimates to remove all of this junk before closing on the house.

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This is what you'll see on most home inspections - a home filled with furniture and personal items ...

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... So why did I include two photos of an empty home? Because this is how you have to picture the interior of a house, condo or building in your mind when doing your inspections. Remember, you're inspecting the building - not the appeal and condition of the furniture and personal items!

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P 202. Let's see how well you paid attention when you read my book:

Can you name all of the items you see in this picture of a heating system?

Can you describe what each part does and how to inspect it?

(OK, so I didn't talk about how to inspect a flower pot watering can in my book. I'll include that section in the next edition!)

Underneath the oil burner is a pan with cat litter in it. Sometimes you'll find this on an inspection. The cat litter is used to catch any oil that drips out of the burner.

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P 203. Instead of raining on his parade, it rained on this guy's heating system!
This is why you need caps and screens on the top of all flue stacks and chimneys. All of the water stains and rust you see on this flue pipe and heating system is due to the flue stack missing a cap above the roof line. When it rains or snows, the water runs down the flue stack and has rusted this heating system. Buying a cap for a flue stack is a lot less expensive than buying a new heating system.
(Some Realtors may try to tell you "these old rusty furnaces just need a coat of paint and they're as good as new. Trust me, I've been a Realtor for 10 years and see these all the time.")

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P 204. Fire resistant sheetrock is installed above and on the side of this heating system for safety.

Examples of circulator pumps installed on the return heating pipes for forced hot water heating systems.

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P 205. Clean-out pit at the base of a flue stack. You can see how the sediment, debris and soot has built up inside the pit. These need to be cleaned out periodically to ensure proper operation of the flue stack and chimneys.

This oil tank is located inside a basement and is in good condition. The scratches on the outside of the tank are just a cosmetic problem. The thin, copper oil supply pipe along the floor needs to be protected so it doesn't get damaged and then leak oil. Often these oil pipes will be covered with a layer of concrete for protection.

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P 206. The temperature setting dial and gas assembly unit for a water heater.
The flexible gas pipe supplying the water heater should be replaced with approved black iron gas piping for safety.

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P 207. Have you ever heard the saying "reach out and touch someone"?
Well that's what these wires are trying to do! This open electrical junction box is a safety hazard in this attic. The exposed wires should be properly capped and the junction box sealed.

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P 208. This house has a steel "i beam" for the main girder in the lower level area. This is a superior material than wood.

PVC piping, which is a plastic material, is seen in this photo below. PVC has a white or black color with letter markings on the sides. The joints are slip-on sections that have an adhesive to hold them together. It's used only for drainage lines and is a noncorrosive, lightweight and easy to install piping material. Some local plumbing codes do not allow the use of PVC piping. The main drawback to PVC is that a poisonous carbon monoxide gas is created if there is a fire.

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P 211. The tiles and the grout between the tiles is in excellent condition in this bathroom shower area. This will prevent water from getting behind the walls and causing problems.

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P 212. This house had an addition and roof put on that probably didn't get town hall approvals. At the very least, the contractor cut a lot of corners (literally) or the homeowner didn't want to spend much money on the work. In the attic you can still see the old roof structure and shingles. Most building codes would require this to be sealed or removed properly.

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P 213. An old brick chimney stack in an attic that was installed at an angle. You can see the water stains due to old or missing flashing around the chimney on the roof area.

This attic stairway has a railing to help prevent someone falling down the steps when in the attic.

The air ducts for this house A/C system are insulated for energy efficiency in the attic area.

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P 214. Here are two gable vent fans in the attic area. These fans help to cool the attic in the summer months which helps keep the whole house cooler. The fan on the right is covered in plastic during the winter time. However, it's generally better to leave this fan uncovered even in the winter. This will allow the moisture in the warm air created by the heating system to escape.

Another example of a vent tube/pipe discharging in the attic area. Vent tubes/pipes must discharge outside of the house to prevent moisture and humidity problems from building up in the attic area.

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P 215. There is a roof ridge vent at the crest of this roof. The asphalt/fiberglass roof shingles are in good condition.

This is an extreme example of granule loss and old age of an asphalt/fiberglass shingle roof. You don't need to be a home inspector to know that clearly this house needs a new roof!

This is an extreme example of cupping, curling and old age of an asphalt/fiberglass shingle roof. You don't need to be a rocket scientist to know that these shingles need to be replaced.

(Don't let any seller's tell you "The roof isn't leaking water so it doesn't need to be replaced. The roof shingles have looked like that for 8 years. If it ain't broke, don't fix it!")

Real Estate Training Expert Home Inspector Appraiser Contractor Builder HandymanRoof shingles worn out 2 granule lossRoof shingles worn out 3 cupping and curling

P 216. What don't you see in this photograph of a roof?
Answer: Footsteps on the snow covered roof. This is the home of a dishonest Realtor (which isn't hard to find) and Santa Claus passed by this house without stopping on his yearly sleigh ride since this Realtor (along with many other Realtors) was on Santa's "naughty" list.
In northern climates you may find wires along the bottom edges of the roof. These wires are used to heat the show and ice so it melts off the roof without causing an ice dam. An ice dam refers to ice and snow that has frozen at the base of the roof above the gutters. Since the ice is trapped by the gutter, it gradually melts and the water goes underneath the roof shingles. This leads to water problems in the house. Some homeowners don't like wires in their roof, so instead flashing can be installed under the bottom few rows of shingles to help prevent water leaks from ice dams.

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P 217. In northern climates where there's snow, you might see snow guards along the bottom rows of slate shingles, like you have in this photo. Snow guards are small metal fins that stick up from the slates. Their purpose is to stop snow from falling off the roof so it doesn't drop to the ground with excessive force. Large amounts of falling snow could hurt someone or damage cars and other objects located below the roof line.
(Yes, they're even designed to protect dishonest Realtors from getting hit with snow.)

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P 218. Caps and screens are required at the top of all chimneys and flue stacks to prevent water, leaves, and small animals from getting in the house.

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P 219. Some brick chimneys have a stucco covering for cosmetic reasons. The stucco on this chimney needs to be repaired. Falling sections of stucco are heavy and can hurt someone. Antennas attached to the chimney or roof need to be caulked to prevent openings that allow water into the house. If the antenna is no longer in use, then it should be removed. Antennas add stress to the roof and chimney when they move around in the wind which can create water leaks.

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P 220. Here you have louver doors for a gable vent located in an attic area.

This is wooden clapboard siding. Wooden Clapboard siding can be installed vertically or horizontally. The majority of the time wooden clapboards are installed horizontally. Horizontal installations make the house appear lower and longer. Vertical installations make the house appear taller and are used more often on one-story houses. Check the condition of the siding to see if it needs to be painted or stained. Check for an excessive number of knots in the wood, or if there are any damaged or rotted sections.

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P 221. Asbestos-Cement Shingles are made by combining asbestos fibers with Portland cement under high pressure. This siding is a very rigid material and you'll generally find some cracked and damaged shingles. It's not used for newer construction and is found on older houses. Often it can be found under aluminum or vinyl sidings.
Some areas have requirements that Asbestos-Cement Shingles must be removed by an EPA licensed contractor. This is due to the asbestos fiber content in the shingles. If they're removed improperly, the fibers can blow around in the wind and create health hazards.
(So don't let any Realtors tell you "hey, no problem just rip it off the house yourself, people do it all the time.")

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P 222. The exterior of condominium units need to be evaluated just like the exterior of a house. Even though the exterior maintenance of condos is paid for by the common charges of the whole condo complex, you still need to determine if there are any problem conditions. Repair costs are assessed to all owners in the complex.

This downspout section has disconnected and the rain water will drain next to the foundation. Underground drainage pipes should drain water at least 5 feet away from the house.

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P 223. Here's an example of a patio that needs repointing in between the slate sections. In winter time water gets in the cracks, then freezes and expands to buckle the patio slates. There is also a section of the flashing missing that needs to be installed at the base of the patio where it meets the siding.

This patio is in good condition. All the sections are repointed and there are no uneven areas that would create a tripping hazard.

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P 224. The support posts for this deck have metal brackets that keep the wood post from touching the concrete foundation. This will help prevent rot from water that settles on top of the concrete foundation area. It would have been better if the far post was centered correctly over the concrete foundation.

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P 225. The large tree truck and roots are causing this fence to move out of alignment. This often happens with walkways, driveways, fences and walls. As tree roots grow, they have tremendous strength to create uneven settlement.
All fences need to be checked for sturdiness.
Often a homeowner or a neighbor will have a fence, wall, or shed installed and the contractor will just guess where the property line is. This can lead to an "encroachment" on someone else's property.
(Yes, the Realtor will always tell you the attorney, appraiser, and title company all check the survey for encroachments, so you don't have to check. Once again - the Realtor is wrong!)

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P 226. Sometimes you'll find a dry stone retaining wall as the boundary for the property line. Don't assume that walls, fences, sheds, and driveways are the correct indicators for the property line. Often a homeowner or contractor will just guess where the property is and they end up creating an encroachment.

Want to learn more about "encroachments" and a lot of other important stuff that affects the market value of a property? Then read my book Real Estate Appraisal From A to Z. You'll learn everything you need to know about how the pros estimate the market value of real estate.

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P 227. This concrete block retaining wall has mostly collapsed due to the pressure exerted on it from the soil it was designed to retain. Retaining walls should be secured into the soil they are built to retain by the use of "dead men" and tie-rods.
"Dead men" and "Tie-rods" refers to metal or wood beams used to anchor structures, like retaining walls, into the soil. They are installed in a "T" shape with the perpendicular end attached to the wall and the parallel end embedded in the soil to form the "T" shape.

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P 229. This garage door opener was installed by a contractor who didn't know what he was doing or else he didn't care. The lower portion of the wood beam was cut to make room for the garage door opener track. This wood beam is now weaker and may start to bend over time.

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P 228. Exterior structures like storage sheds need to be checked using the same methods as the house inspection. You can see there is green mold and moss growing on the top right side of this shed roof. This is caused by tree branches blocking the sunlight for long periods. Mold and moss will decay the roof shingles.

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P 231. There are two kinds of houses:
Houses that have termites, and Houses that will have termites. That's a fact. All houses will get termite damage of some sort eventually. Sometimes builders will install a termite shield along the top of the foundation wall (as seen in the bottom two photos). Termite shields are similar to the cap plate used at the top of concrete block walls (as seen in the first photo). A termite shield is a small metal guard. However, these shields do not prevent termites. The only benefit from them is that they might deter termites or make it a little more difficult for them to reach the wood.

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Jack and Jill went up the hill, to fetch a pail of water,

But because the homeowner didn't properly seal up the well,

Jack fell down and broke his crown, and Jill came tumbling after!

So you see what happens when you don't take the advice in my Home Inspection From A to Z book?

Jack and Jill ended up getting hurt because of the negligence of the property owner.

(I wonder if Jack and Jill got an "ambulance chaser" attorney to file a lawsuit against the homeowner?)

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Is this what they meant when they said:

"A man's home is his castle"

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That's me, the author, doing a home inspection and appraisal for a client - in 3 feet of snow!
NET photo of GC

 

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