New white kitchen

Should the Seller be present during an inspection?

Usually sellers leave on their own before the inspection, often at the suggestion of the listing agent.  Most inspectors are fine either way, whether the seller is there or not.

We feel that it is better for all concerned if the seller is present.  Why?  Because there are often questions that can easily be answered by the seller if they are present.  For example, we can’t get the gas fireplace to operate because we can’t find the remote control.  The seller knows exactly where it is and can turn it on to demonstrate that it functions.  Sometimes there are multiple thermostats throughout the house, some of which are air conditioning and some of which are heat.  The seller typically knows exactly how they’re set up.

Let’s say there is a stain on the ceiling that may be a plumbing leak.  We ask the seller who explains that yes, there was a leak, but they had a plumber fix it.  There is a depression in the yard which looks like it may be a cesspool issue, but the seller explains that they had a tree stump removed.  We suspected inground oil tank because oil feed lines go through the foundation wall near the boiler.  The seller explains that they had the oil tank abandoned and they have the paperwork.  We see signs of old termite damage; the seller explains that they had it treated and it’s under guarantee.

Sometimes there are issues that we discover that the seller wasn’t aware of, for example a leak developing in the water heater.  We bring it to the seller’s attention, and they get a new water heater because we explained that it could get worse quickly and even flood.

If the seller is not present, all these questions will likely end up in the inspection report which can make the report longer and more concerning than it needs to be.  Conversely, if all the questions are answered during the inspection it’s better for the seller, the buyer, and the agents!  We regularly see transparency between the buyer, seller and agents.  Often, everybody leaves the inspection on the same page, which is obviously a good thing!

These are just our observations over the years for your consideration.

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Which side should the Vapor Barrier or Insulation face?

During our inspections we very often see insulation installed improperly in the attic. Insulation has a vapor barrier which is intended to avoid moisture and mold buildup and stop airflow
through the insulation. If the vapor barrier is facing the living space the moisture is stopped before it gets to the insulation. If the vapor barrier is installed upside down (not towards the living area) often it deteriorates the insulation and the vapor barrier and makes the insulation less efficient.

If the house is occupied, there is a substantial amount of moisture in the air from cooking, bathing, washing, and even breathing. So, we want to keep that moisture in the living area of the house rather than having it go through the ceiling, through the insulation and then hitting the vapor barrier where it can condense and build up moisture, causing the issues as explained above.

So, the moral of the story is, install the insulation with the vapor barrier facing the living space of the house.

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Those pesky Termites are insidious!

Webster’s dictionary defines insidious as “ having a gradual and cumulative effect: subtle, developing so gradually as to be well established before becoming apparent.”

Often, termites are present but not apparent.  As examples, in a slab construction house, all the wood framing is usually covered with sheet rock.  In a colonial with a finished basement, only a little wood is exposed.  So, we may see no signs of termites but it’s very possible that termites are present and active but not visible.

In many cases, we see termite “mud tunnels” or other signs of termites without seeing any live termites.  In fact we very rarely see live termites, because they are insidious.  A wall can look completely normal and yet when the sheet rock is removed, massive termite damage can become apparent.

Sometimes termite damage is minor and simple to repair.  But sometimes termite damage is very extensive and expensive to repair.

There are too many possibilities to discuss them all in this email, but, our strong recommendation is, every wood structure should be protected with an annual termite inspection.  Even if somebody says “we never had a problem” they should still have an annual termite inspection. The inspection cost is minimal compared to potential repair costs.

I recently called some extermination companies for pricing information.  Annual termite inspections cost range from $100-$135 per year.  Termite treatment ranges from approximately $600-$1,200 depending on the size of the house.  Feel free to reply to this email if you would like an extermination company recommendation.

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Real Estate expected Useful Life Chart

When it comes to real estate, people often talk about the “expected useful life” of components.  So, I thought it might be helpful for you to have chart that gives some actual time frames.  Keep in mind that because there are so many variables, expected useful life numbers are just best guesses.  This one is from Florida but it’s still pretty good.

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Equipment and Material Life Expectancy Chart

Air conditioning compressor 12 to 15 years
Asphalt driveways 20 to 25 years
Fiberglass/asphalt roof shingles 20 to 25 years
Architectural fiberglass/asphalt roof shingles 25 to 35 years
Boilers, hot water or steam 25 to 40 years
Brick and concrete patios 15 to 25 years
Brick and stone walls 50 to 100 years
Built-up roofing, asphalt 15 to 20 years
Cast-iron sinks 15 to 20 years
Central air-conditioning unit 15 to 20 years
Clothing dryers 10 to 15 years
Clothing washer 12 to 15 years
Concrete block foundations 100+ years
Concrete walks 10 to 20 years
Dishwashers 10 to 15 years
Electric ranges 10 to 15 years
Exhaust fans 5 to 10 years
Faucets 10 to 15 years
Fences 10 to 15 years
Floor tile 30 to 40 years
Forced air furnaces, heat pumps 15 to 20 years
Freezers 10 to 20 years
Garage door openers 8 to 12 years
Garage doors 20 to 25 years
Garbage disposals 8 to 10 years
Gutters and downspouts 15 to 20 years
Microwave ovens 10 to 15 years
Ovens and cooktops 10 to 20 years
Poured concrete foundations 100+ years
Refrigerators 10 to 15 years
Rooftop air conditioners 15 to 20 years
Siding, aluminum 20 to 40 years
Siding, vinyl 30 to 45 years
Siding, wood 25 to 40 years
Slate roofs 40 to 100 years
Smoke detectors 10 years
Sprinkler systems 10 to 15 years
Stucco 20 to 40+ years
Sump pumps 5 to 10 years
Swimming pools 15 to 20 years
Termite treatment 5 to 7 years
Termite treatment, bait Stations Indefinitely if being maintained
Waste pipes, cast-iron 50 to 70 years
Water heaters – conventional

Water heaters – indirect fired

Water heaters – high efficiency

8 to 12 years

12 to 20 years

12 to 15 years

Window AC units 5 to 10 years
Wooden decks 10 to 20 years


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Commercial Building

Commercial Building Roofing Costs

While performing our commercial building inspections, we often run across roofing systems that need replacement due to leakage and old age. Dealing with leaky or old commercial building roofs is one of the most expensive maintenance items that building owners have to deal with on a periodic basis (today’s roof materials typically have a life expectancy of 15 to 25 years.) Roof installation costs vary from $3.50 per square foot to $7.50 per square foot. So, a 15,000 SF building roof could cost in the $100,000 range (more or less). The cost can be substantially higher depending on many factors including the condition of the roof deck, the location of the building, ease of access and total square footage of the job.

There are many different types of roofing materials and methods of installation. The 3 most common types of roofs installed these days are Bituminous, EPDM and TPO.

Modified Bitumen roofing systems have been in common use for commercial properties for many decades. This type of roof is also known as “torch-down” or “built-up”.

EPDM (Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer) it is commonly known as a rubber roof and is a single-ply membrane that consists of a synthetic rubber. EPDM has been used on commercial facilities since the 1960s and is considered a tried-and-true system.

TPO (Thermoplastic Polyolefin) is also a single-ply roofing membrane and is becoming a very common roofing material used on commercial properties these days. This roof is a single layer of synthetics and reinforcing material for flat roofs.

So I hope this little bit of information is helpful to to you in dealing with commercial buildings. Feel free to call if you have any questions or if there is anything I can do for you.

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Silver Wire

The truth about Aluminum Wiring

Builders started using aluminum wiring in the mid-1960s due to the high cost of copper at the time.  Over the years, problems frequently developed, so builders stopped using aluminum wires in the late 1970s.  Aluminum wires can cause overheating, and on occasion, fires.  Since the 1970s, many houses have been “pigtailed” which is an approved method of dealing with aluminum wires.  However, some houses have not been attended to and may present a safety hazard.

During our home inspections, we remove the cover to the electrical panels and look at the wires.  If we see aluminum wires, we recommend that a licensed electrician perform a more detailed evaluation and suggest the appropriate solution.  Rewiring the house is not necessary. But, an evaluation by an electrician is necessary.  If the electrician recommends correction/repairs, it will likely be “pigtailing.”  Pigtailing consists of connecting a splice of copper wire to the aluminum wire with a special connector.  After the repairs are done, an inspection by an independent electrical inspector should be done.

I recently contacted an independent electrician (HEH Electric), for pricing.  They charge approximately $300 for the initial assessment.  The cost for correction is highly variable but a safe range is $2,000-$4,000.  It can be cheaper if some corrective work has already been done.

By the way we never quote pricing during our inspections, rather, we recommend evaluation by a licensed professional.

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Air conditioning units

Air Conditioner Replace Costs

During our inspections, we often get asked about the cost to replace an old central air conditioning system. So, I contacted 2 HVAC contractors (T.F. O’Brien – Heating & Air Conditioning and Perillo Brothers) about the average cost in a typical house such as a four-bedroom 2 bath colonial.  Because there are so many variables, the range of potential costs is large, i.e., how sophisticated and efficient do you want the system to be, does it need new ductwork or smart thermostats, does it require complicated work in a difficult to access attic, are the electrical connections adequate, 1 zone or 2 zones?

All in all, a safe ballpark range is  $7,000 to $16,000

Our policy is not to quote prices in our inspections, rather, our advice is to get a licensed and qualified contractor to evaluate and price the job. As a disclaimer, we have no financial interests with any contractors at all, period.

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

Avoid some of the most common inspection issues

Here are 8 things that as an inspector I feel make sense for a seller and listing agent to be aware of when selling a house because of the potential issues they may cause. Talking about these things with your seller in advance may be beneficial.  I realize this is extremely condensed and I would be happy to elaborate on any thoughts/questions you may have. Just reply to this email or give me a call.

  • Roof leaks – fix it, repair or replace.
  • Aluminum wires – hire an electrician.  Repair if needed (pig-tail).
  • Possible Asbestos – consult with a removal contractor. Depending on type, do nothing, encapsulate, or remove.
  • Mold- remove it, get a dehumidifier.
  • In-ground oil tank – convert to gas, and/or abandon tank. Or disclose in advance.
  • Basement water leaks – fix it. Check gutters and leaders, get a water proofing contractor if needed.
  • Old HVAC – consider updating, or disclosing upfront, or do nothing.
  • Get a termite inspection and annual contract/guarantee. Treat if needed.

Please feel free to respond back with any thoughts or questions on any of these items.  Let’s talk!

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Mirrored building

Commercial Property Inspections by Safe Harbor Inspections Inc.

I wanted to make sure that you knew Safe Harbor Inspections Inc. has been inspecting commercial property since 2004.  Non-alarmist, experienced and professional.  Reasonably priced.  Each inspection appropriately manned with the right number of inspectors for an expeditious high-quality inspection.  Verbal summary immediately following the inspection.  Detailed photographic reports online within 24hours.

In my previous career as a commercial property manager, I was employed by Cushman and Wakefield, Coldwell Banker Commercial, Jones Lang LaSalle, Schroder Real Estate Associates, and Meringoff Properties.  We have performed thousands of commercial real estate inspections.

  • Areas serviced: throughout Long Island and New York City
  • Types of Buildings Inspected: warehouse, industrial, retail, office, medical, mixed-use, brownstones
  • Types of Inspections Available:
    1. full building inspection includes:
      • roof
      • HVAC, mechanical
      • Electrical
      • Plumbing
      • Structure
      • exterior façade
      • roadways and parking areas
    2. Phase 1 inspections available
    3. asbestos inspections
    4. mold inspections
    5. termite inspections
    6. bulkhead inspections

So, if you have any questions or if we can be of any assistance, please feel free to call and we will do what we can to help you.

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Cracked cement

Is that crack in the basement floor a structural problem?

During our inspections we often see cracks in basement floors.  Are these cracks a structural problem?  No, we don’t consider typical cracks in basement floors to be structural issues. The foundation around the perimeter of the floor is much more important because it supports the structure.

Cracks in basement floors are typically more of a nuisance because they can enable water seepage (rarely). They can be sealed if necessary. If there is water staining, a mason can seal it. If there’s no staining don’t worry about it.

Very often we get these questions from buyers, so now you know the answer!

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