Rear view of a male plumber writing a repair order while crouching in front of a kitchen sink

Pre-Market Inspections

Pre-marketing inspections can make the buyers inspection process go smoother and put more money in the seller’s pocket.

Here’s how it works: before the house goes on the MLS, a pre-marketing inspection takes place, and the findings of the pre-marketing inspection are explained by the inspector and reviewed with the seller and the listing agent. In addition, a detailed report is generated by the home inspection company. If defects come up as a result of a pre-marketing inspection, the seller has the opportunity to take 1 of 3 approaches,  1) disclose it, 2) fix it, or 3) do nothing.

Here’s a short video explaining it

  1.  Here’s the first approach, disclose it and sell “as is”. Let’s say the roof is 30 years old and deteriorated. The seller can disclose it to the buyer and sell it on an as is basis (having disclosed the defect). So, when the buyers inspector says the roof needs to be replaced, the buyer would say “yeah, I know, the seller already told me”. This avoids an attempt by the buyer to negotiate the roof issue and could save the seller money and aggravation.

  2.  Here’s the second approach, fix it. Let’s say the pre-marketing inspection discovers termites. This gives the seller the opportunity to get a termite
    treatment and take the issue off the table. Let everybody know up front that there was a termite treatment, the issue disappears. Otherwise, it could be a real sticking point with the buyer. This approach can be used for a plumbing leak or an electrical safety hazard, for example.

  3.  Here’s the third approach, do nothing. The pre-marketing inspection report recommends GFCI outlets in the bathrooms and kitchen. The seller can let it ride and do nothing because it’s so minor. Many times, very minor issues come up during an inspection for which the seller need do nothing but anticipate that it may come up during the buyers inspection.

 Sometimes during a buyer’s inspection an issue comes up that surprises everybody. Sometimes, the surprise can cause the buyer to walk away. Pre-marketing inspections eliminate surprises.

Pre-marketing inspections can reduce negotiations and put more money in the seller’s pocket. Pre-marketing inspections can eliminate surprises. Pre marketing inspections can make the buyers inspection go smoother, with less aggravation.

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Large beige stucco house

Selling Your House: A Timeline of what to expect

by Julia Weaver from Redfin

Selling a home has many moving parts, and whether you’re a first-time home seller or seasoned seller, the process can be daunting. In a perfect world, the home selling process would be stress-free, where you can list your house, find a qualified buyer, and collect payment.  Unfortunately, selling your home involves many more steps. So, how long will it take to sell your home? The reality is that the time it takes depends on your situation, your house, and your local housing market. Luckily, we’ve put together a typical timeline for selling your house so you’ll know what to expect throughout the home selling process.

Three months before listing your house

Decide if it’s a good time to sell your house

The first thing to do in the home selling process is to evaluate your finances and your budget. Meet with a financial advisor and tax accountant to assist you with this. You’ll also need to collect your loan payment information for your mortgage to find out how much you owe so you’re able to calculate what your proceeds will likely be. Anticipate paying commissions, closing costs, taxes, and other fees so you’re not caught by surprise on closing day. It’s also crucial to research the housing market and find out what similar homes are selling for in your area. Is it a seller’s market or a buyer’s market? This information will help you determine if it’s a good time for selling your house.

Two months before listing your house

Hire a listing agent you trust

Your agent will support you through the home selling process. Ask friends and family for recommendations, and evaluate a few agents. Ask each one which houses they have sold in your area, how they’ll market your home, how long they’ve been in the industry, and what they charge in fees. You’ll be working closely with this person throughout the selling process, so it’s important to find the right match. (See more on how to choose a real estate agent)

Pick a date for selling your house

Before deciding when to sell your house, strategize with your agent about when to put your house on the market. Consider your schedule, the academic and holiday calendar, time of year, and day of the week. What’s the best day to list your home? To sell for the most money you should put your house on the market on a Wednesday. To sell the fastest, list on a Thursday, and avoid listing your home on Sunday as it can be the worst day to attract buyers.

Hire an inspector 

Scheduling a pre-sale home inspection will allow you to catch any necessary repairs before your home hits the market. Being proactive and scheduling a pre-inspection will alert you of any problems that you weren’t aware of and will allow you to address them before listing your home. A pre-inspection will not only prevent any delays or surprises from happening when an interested buyer hires a home inspector, but it will also highlight the positive traits of the property. A pre-inspection will also allow you to factor the repair costs into your budget, and give you the time to finish depending on how many areas need updates.

Make repairs 

After you’ve received the inspection report, you’ll be able to work on repairing some of the issues listed before selling your house. Do you need to patch a small hole in the wall or fix some peeling wallpaper? This is the time to make those fixes. Make sure the roof, electrical systems, plumbing, foundation, drainage, and windows are all in optimal condition before selling your house. If neglected, these are the types of things that will reveal themselves and may be deal breakers for potential buyers.

One month before listing your house

Have your home professionally decluttered

Selling your house can be stressful and is a multi-step process. Hiring professionals to assist you with some of the tasks can help ease the process for you. Potential homebuyers want to imagine themselves making your house their home. Hiring a professional to help clear off countertops, make beds, remove any personal items or keepsakes from your home, and completely reorganize your space will help make your home feel larger and pristine.

Keep your belongings in a storage unit

Once your home is decluttered, pack unused items that you plan to keep and store them in a secure storage unit or portable storage unit. Research nearby storage companies and compare rates, size of storage units, and additional services offered, if necessary. Keeping your belongings stored elsewhere during the home selling process will prevent any distractions during house tours and open houses, and will help buyer’s focus on your home, not the items in it.

Hire a cleaning company

With sight and smell, it’s easy to detect a dirty home from a clean one. After most of your belongings are moved out, consider hiring a cleaning company to make every inch of your home shine. They’ll wash the floors, wipe down baseboards, scour the kitchen, dust the blinds, and much more. A clean home is one of the easiest ways to stand out from the competition and create an appealing interior.

Determine how much your home is worth and set the listing price 

While you may have an ideal number in your head, you don’t want to overprice your home or you’ll risk losing out on potential buyers. You can use a home-value calculator to get an idea of the value of your home, but you should also receive a professional estimate from your agent and a comparative market analysis.

Two weeks before listing your house

Hire a professional home stager

A home stager will arrange furniture in a way that enhances the space. It’s important to stick with neutral tones, remove personal items, and avoid flashy decor. A professional home stager can help transform your space and make your home appear bigger, brighter, and cleaner. They’ll be able to give your home the extra touch it needs to stand out from the rest.

One week before listing your home

Get professional photos taken

Now that your home is decluttered, cleaned, and staged, it’s time to get professional photos taken. Though you could take photos yourself, professional real estate photography can help your home sell faster and for more money. After all, the listing photos will be the first thing a potential buyer sees of your home. Consider getting aerial photography of your house as well. This gives potential buyers the chance to see the property as a whole beyond the beautifully-staged interior. It can also be a great way to make your home stand out. Once you’ve had these photos taken, you’re now ready to list your home.

After listing your house

Review offers and negotiate 

You’ve staged,cleaned, and sanitized your home for open houses and house tours, and the offers begin to roll in. Your agent will present all of the offers received, advise you on counteroffers, and guide you through negotiating prices and terms if needed. You should consider all the terms of the offer, not just the final listing price, to make sure you get the best deal.

Consider hiring a real estate attorney

In some cases, it makes sense to hire a real estate attorney to prepare and review documents and contracts related to the transaction. Sometimes, hiring a real estate attorney is required by the state or lender. Or, as a peace of mind, having a lawyer by your side can help give you the confidence you need. They’ll be able to spot issues that could hold up your sale.

Accept the offer and gather paperwork for closing 

Once you’ve received an offer that meets your needs, it’s time to accept the buyer’s offer and begin the closing process. Sometimes, the buyer will include a home inspection contingency as part of the final offer. Once this is complete, you’ll make any final repairs. It’s now time to sign the finalized purchase agreement, including the closing and move-in dates. Unless discussed and agreed upon, once you hand over the keys to the buyer, you should have no possessions left in the home.

Prepare for a final walkthrough 

The final walkthrough will give the buyer’s a chance to take a look at the property and confirm that all the agreed-upon repairs were made, and that the property looks in the same condition as before with no new problems. At the time of the final walkthrough, your home should be clean and completely empty, except for items that were part of the agreement.

On closing day

Sign the final documents and hand over the keys 

Work with your agent, lender, and the title or escrow company to ensure a smooth transfer of ownership to the buyer. Bring all keys, garage door openers, and codes to pass off to the new owner.

What to do between buying and selling your house

Congratulations, you’ve sold your home. Now you may be wondering what to do between buying and selling. In most situations, it’s best to sell your house before buying a new house and only start looking once you’ve accepted an offer on your current house. This way, if your house doesn’t sell as soon as you’d anticipated, you won’t be stuck paying two mortgages. If you need a place to stay for a period of time, your best option is to look for extended stay hotels or corporate housing.


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Is Vermiculite the same as Asbestos?

Every once in a while, we see vermiculite during our inspections.  Vermiculite is a natural mineral that was dug out of a mine in Libby Montana until 1990.  Unfortunately, there was also an asbestos mine at the same location which mixed in with the vermiculite.  As a result, the EPA now considers vermiculite and asbestos-containing material.  Asbestos fibers can cause cancer and other diseases.

Vermiculite is very light and is “friable” which means that disturbing it can cause fibers to be released and float in the air.  If the vermiculite is in an attic, vermiculite dust can collect on various surfaces and become airborne because of air currents in the attic.

If you have vermiculite insulation in the attic, it’s very possible that you have it in the walls as well.  So let’s say you have an electrician come in to install an electrical outlet and he has to cut the wall open. Is he going to release fibers into the air?  If you’re doing a renovation make sure you get a New York State licensed Asbestos Investigator to give you the best advice possible before the renovation.  For more information from the EPA click here:

Here’s what vermiculite looks like:

Hopefully, this will be of help to you in your own home or if it ever comes up during an inspection.

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Asbestos wrapped on a pipe

Asbestos Pipe Insulation

Exposure to asbestos, especially long-term exposure can lead to asbestosis and lung cancer.  Even though asbestos was banned for most products in 1978, it is not required to be removed (abated).  However, there is a caveat, if the building is going to be demolished or pending construction will disturb existing asbestos, the asbestos must be dealt with ahead of time.

Of course, As you can imagine, there are tons of government rules and regulations as to how to deal with asbestos. Asbestos was commonly used in floor tiles, insulation around pipes and boilers, in ceiling tiles, and plaster, and on many other surfaces including steel trusses and the underside of the steel supporting roofs, and floor tiles.  Asbestos was used in literally thousands of construction materials so obviously, there are too many to be named here.

The picture above shows some deteriorated pipe insulation which is considered “friable”.  Friable means the material can be crushed with your hand thereby releasing fibers.  This kind of deterioration is quite common in buildings and homes that have not been well maintained.  Most people will want to have friable asbestos removed for safety reasons.

New York State licenses Asbestos Investigators who must be certified in assessing and investigating the presence of asbestos-containing material (ACM).  These licensed individuals are trained to know what materials may contain asbestos and how to collect the samples safely.  The samples then go to a lab where they are analyzed for asbestos and a report is created for the owner or occupant of the property.  Plans for how to deal with the asbestos can then be made.

If you want to learn more about how to deal with possible asbestos in a building or home, the first thing to do is contact a New York State Licensed Asbestos Investigator. For your information, Safe Harbor Inspections Inc can provide this service.

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Warm handprint on a cold wall

Infrared Cameras

The pictures below show what our infrared cameras can see, (radiant heat) which can be very useful in real estate inspections.  For example, it’s very difficult to determine if a radiant floor heating system is functioning, especially in the summer.  But our cameras can pick it up quickly.  They are so sensitive that they can even pick up the warmth of a handprint radiating heat on a cooler wall.  The heating elements in an oven are immediately confirmed as working.  Warm radiators are extremely easy to see.  Bottom line is, they are great tools for inspectors!

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a hot water radiator
warm handprint on a cold wall
hot water pipes in a radiant heated floor
heating elements in an oven
heating elements in an oven

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Lawn Sprinklers

Lawn sprinkler systems are often part of our home inspections.  Some of them are small with only a few zones and some of them can have 30 or 40 zones (for larger luxury Properties).

As I’m sure you realize, lawn sprinklers have to be “blown out” at the end of every season in order to avoid freeze ups and broken pipes.  The blowouts usually happen in November in preparation for freezing temperatures in winter.  It’s usually fairly economical ($100 or less for average properties) to blow out sprinkler systems.

In the spring, it’s a good idea to have a sprinkler company turn the system on and check for proper operation on all of the zones.  This is also fairly economical.

We often find sprinkler systems running too long making the ground soggy and prone to disease.  According to the SCOTTS website recommendations, approximately 1 inch to 1 ½ inches of water every few days is a good rule of thumb.  A few days between watering can make the grassroots go deeper and be healthier.  In order to measure how much water your sprinkler system is delivering, you can put some cans at various locations in the yard the yard, then run the sprinklers until the water in the cans is 1 or 1½ inches deep and keep track of the time.  That is the amount of time you should set sprinkler system to run.  Of course, all lawns are different, some soils contain a lot of clay and some soils contain a lot of sand.  So water demands can be different.

Although it’s not code everywhere, it’s a good idea to have a backflow preventer on the sprinkler system.  A backflow preventer stops water from reversing its flow from the lawn and back into your own drinking water as well as the public water pipes.  A backflow preventer is typically installed close to the main water valve by a plumber.

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Electrical Closet

Is your main Electrical Panel safe?

During our inspections we often see main electrical panels that have been recalled and are recommended to be replaced.

The main electrical panel takes the electrical power from the street and distributes it to all the circuits in the home. Each circuit is protected by a circuit breaker. The circuit breaker is intended to stop the flow of electricity before a wire inside a wall overheats and becomes a fire hazard. Obviously, the functionality of the circuit breakers is especially important to avoid a potential fire. Unfortunately, some defective and unsafe circuit breaker panels were installed in homes over the years and this presents an electrical safety hazard because the circuit breakers may not do their job and consequently start a fire.

I recommend that you look at the panel to figure out who the manufacturer is. If it’s one of the following manufacturers, contact an electrician for further evaluation and advice.

The following panels should be replaced period, end of story.

1) Federal Pacific
2) Zinsco
3) Sylvania
4) ITE/bulldog Pushmatic

Secondly, electrical panels may be unsafe just based on age. A good rule of thumb is 30 years. Usually you can locate the date of manufacture on the inside of the panel door. If you can’t get a date, we recommend calling an electrician for an evaluation. Remember, Circuit Breakers are electrical/mechanical devices which age and can become faulty over time. Faulty circuit breakers present an electrical safety concern.

Better safe than sorry!

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Basement Tiles

What about Asbestos Floor Tiles?

Up until the 1980s, VAT (vinyl asbestos tiles) were widely used in residential and commercial construction. In the 1980s, vinyl asbestos tiles were phased out. So how do you know if the tiles
contain asbestos? If they were installed prior to the 1980s, more than likely they contain asbestos. Typically, they are 9 x 9” tiles or larger square tiles. BTW, often the mastic/glue holding the tiles down contains asbestos.

If you want to know for sure if they contain asbestos, contact a New York State licensed Asbestos Assessor who will properly collect samples and send them to a laboratory for testing.
So, what do you do if you have vinyl asbestos tiles?

1) If the tiles are in good shape and not crumbled or severely cracking, the authorities recommend that they be left in place because they are not “Friable”. Friable means that the material can be
crumbled in your hand when squeezed. If they are in good shape, you can leave them just as they are and be careful not to disturb them. Or you can cover them with carpet, ceramic tile,
floating floors, hardwood floors, etc. (Do your research to find out the proper way to cover asbestos floor tiles.)

2) If the tiles are cracked or crumbling and sound like they’re breaking when you walk on them, they might be emitting fibers . That means they should be evaluated by a New York State
Licensed Asbestos Assessor who will likely recommend removal, a job for which we recommend using an New York State Asbestos Removal Contractor. This is not a DYI project.

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How hot should your Water be?

Domestic hot water should be approximately 115 to 120°F. Much hotter than that can cause scalding, especially with children and the elderly. You can check your water temperature with a common kitchen thermometer.

Sometimes we see hot water well above the standards. Even up to 160°. So let’s say you turn on the faucet in the shower and the temperature is too cold. So you turn on more hot water. You’re under the impression that the temperature is right but in reality it’s much hotter than it should be. A child climbs into the shower and gets burned.

The temperature of the hot water on most water heaters can be adjusted with a dial. But sometimes with a “tankless coil” water heater, located inside the boiler, and not installed properly, there is no way to adjust the temperature. This is where we see the temperature so hot that it can cause burning. The temperature on these water heaters also fluctuates a lot when somebody turns on a second faucet or the clothes washer turns on. If you’re experiencing this condition, we recommend getting a licensed plumber to do what needs to be done to correct the water heater temperature.

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Washing hands under water faucet

Whole house Water Filter Systems are awesome!

How would you like to have crystal clear, wonderful tasting, water at each faucet and shower in your home?

It seems like the public street water taste and smells worse and worse as time goes on. Water can contain chlorine, fluoride, bacteria, viruses, pesticides, lead, nitrates, to name a few. Sometimes when you run the shower you get a strong odor of chlorine and chemicals. I’m not a scientist, but it seems to me that if chlorine is added to our water to kill the bad stuff, what is it doing to our bodies when we drink and wash with it? Every time you take a shower whatever contaminants are in the water get absorbed through your skin. It can’t be good for you!

I personally have a whole house water filter system and love it. The water tastes like spring water. There is no chlorine taste or odor. The oils on your skin don’t get dissolved from chemicals. With a whole house water conditioning system, all of the showers, tubs, faucets, water taps etc., deliver much better and safer water than what you get straight from the public water system.

As you would expect, you get what you pay for. There are simple cartridge filters that improve the water quality to an extent, and cost under $400 installed. There are higher quality more effective water conditioning systems that cost upwards of $4,500. Again, you get what you pay for.

We recommend that you do your research and talk to some of the companies that sell and install water filter systems and take it all into consideration and see if one of these systems is right for you.

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